Marketing

Google's ad upgrades: More visuals, loyalty and YouTube Shorts

We're rounding up the announcements from Google Marketing Live 2022.

A man standing on a stage

Inside Google Marketing Live. (Photo via Google)

With each passing event this spring, the advertising capabilities that Google is offering to brands and retailers grow stronger.

As the most-used search engine, the company has long held a key role in ecommerce. It’s the place where many online shopping experiences begin. Across its platforms, Google says it sees more than one billion shopping journeys every day. So brands turn to Google Ads to make their products more discoverable within that space. Google Shopping, which now offers free listings to brands, has additional capabilities to showcase products. Following increased adoption of ecommerce in the pandemic, the platform is making upgrades to align with shoppers that increasingly want better online experiences. In a series of announcements timed with ShopTalk earlier this year, the company rolled out upgrades to store listings and retail search that were designed to upgrade the tools available for brands.

Google is also the owner of YouTube, which has an advertising business that accounted for 11.2% of the company’s revenue in 2021. For brands, YouTube expanded shoppable ads in recent years. Now, it looks poised to make bigger moves into ecommerce with new features set to roll out this year that build on live shopping capabilities launched in November.

It’s in that context that Google Marketing Live 2022 arrived on Tuesday. At the event, the company made a slew of announcements across ads and commerce.

Here’s a look at the areas where the company is set to add new capabilities, sourced from the Google Marketing Live feed, Google's announcements and help pages, with some insights of our own:

Shopping ads

Google is working to make search results more visual, and that has lots of implications for shopping. For a consumer, being able to see a product can play a big role in determining whether they want to buy it. Already, Google has been adding visual-first results to apparel queries in recent months.

Later this year, Google is rolling out more visual ads. These will be clearly labeled, and Google is setting aside dedicated ad slots where they will appear throughout a search results page. The company is also rolling out new ways to showcase multiple product images within Shopping ads in the US, as well as adding information such as product descriptions, reviews, and product availability. For these latter items, the company says no further action will be required of advertisers.

The ads will appear alongside organic search results in one swipeable experience.

Our takeaway: Upgrades to Google search results will make them more shoppable. It makes sense that ads have a role. With the additional product detail components, they become more like ecommerce listings.

3D model ads

Adding further dimension, the company will also introduce the capability for brands to show their product as a 3D model in an ad. These ads will be visible in Google Search. Brands will be able to provide 3D content feeds, or update feeds in the Google Manufacturing Center.

Our takeaway: It’s an example of augmented reality tools becoming more widely available, and shows how shopping is a key area where they will be integrated. Being able to explore an item from all sides holds a lot of promise for improving the shopper experience. It’ll be interesting to see how many brands and retailers have the tools to take advantage of this, and how easy it is for them to provide images.

Loyalty

"get free shipping and earn points."

An example of loyalty inside a Google ad. (Photo via Google)

In the coming months, Google will add capabilities to promote the benefits of loyalty programs, like deals, free shipping and points, to ads. This will be done in two ways:

  • Integrating loyalty programs in Merchant Center, where free listings can display loyalty benefits to existing program members who have opted in to see them.
  • Google is piloting the capability to attract new members to loyalty programs when they use Performance Max campaigns for online sales with a product feed. “Using Customer Match, you’ll upload your loyalty lists to advertise your programs to potential new loyalty members only,” Google said.

Our takeaway: On the surface, the initial rollout of these capabilities appear to have more narrow uses than others announced today. But the fact that Google is adding loyalty programs seems to underscore their growing importance of to brands’ strategy. They're seeking repeat customers and first-party data in a world of rising CACs and privacy-oriented advertising shifts.

Buying journey

With another new feature, the company is getting ready to pilot the ability to navigate from a Google listing directly to the checkout flow of a brand or retailer website.

“Once there, they will see the chosen product already in their shopping cart and can checkout on your site with whatever payment method they select,” Google writes.

This will be piloted on Google and YouTube with select merchants. Google said it “will share more information as we’re ready to take on additional partners.”

Our takeaway: Creating more seamless checkout experiences is an oft-stated goal of technologists working in ecommerce. This isn’t one-click, but it makes the process of completing an order easier. Once at a brand's website, there may also be opportunities to encourage shoppers to sign up for additional offers, or even purchase additional items.

Direct customers from Google to an app

Google also wants to make it easier to navigate to the app of a company with an ad on Google’s site. For customers who already have a company’s app installed on their phone, the Web-to-App Connect toolkit allows a path to be created that opens that app directly from Google. According to Google Ads, this capability delivers two times higher conversion rates, on average.

Our takeaway: Platforms typically want users to stay on their properties. With the last two initiatives, it’s interesting to see Google making it easier to move away from its sites.

YouTube Shorts

Ads are coming to YouTube’s short-form video format. Google’s video action campaigns and app campaigns will now extend to YouTube Shorts. Later this year, advertisers will also be able to add product feeds to the short-form video content, meaning it’s easier to import product images. YouTube is also set to add shoppable features to Shorts.

Elsewhere in short-form video, Google it is exploring ways for advertisers to bring short videos to the Discover feed, where users discover personalized content.

Our takeaway: YouTube Shorts is the platform’s answer to TikTok. Given the success that brands have been reporting in early tests on that platform, it’s logical that YouTube wants to create more monetization opportunities. If user numbers continue to rise, it could be an enticing option for brands, especially if TikTok gets more crowded.

CTV 

Google added new Connected TV capabilities that allow advertisers to reach users on streaming platforms. This includes extending Google audiences, its tool for targeting, to connected TV. The company is also opening up more inventory in Display & Video 360.

Our takeaway: More advertising options are coming to streaming platforms for brands. Being digital platforms, streaming has the benefit of tech tools that make the experience much different than placing an ad on cable. Tools like Google's can help companies target the right audience, and do so across different platforms.

Performance Max campaigns

Performance Max is a goal-based campaign that allows advertisers to access all inventory across Google in one place. It’s for advertisers who want to go beyond Search campaigns, and tap into ads on YouTube, Display, Discover and other apps.

Today, Google listed the following six updates, which it is planning to make:

1. More tools for experimentation, like A/B tests to see how Performance Max is driving incremental conversions.
2. Expanded campaign management support in Search Ads 360 and the Google Ads mobile app.
3. Support for store sales goals to optimize for in-store sales, in addition to store visits and local actions.
4. Maximize impact with burst campaigns for a set time period to help meet in-store goals during seasonal events.
5. New insights and explanations, including attribution, audience and auction insights so you know what’s driving performance.
6. Optimization score and recommendations so you can see how to improve your campaign.

Our takeaway: There are hints of a move toward enabling omnichannel marketing here with the features for in-store sales optimization and goals around specific time periods. At the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo earlier this month, a Google Commerce exec Martha Welsh pointed out how many Google searches are seeking out items in stock near a user. It reflects how proximity is playing a key role in commerce as the physical and digital worlds blend. What starts online can move offline, and vice versa. Brands and retailers can think that way, too.

Insights page

Google is using machine learning to provide personalized data on trends and identify consumer demand.

With this rollout, it is offering three new reports. Again, we’ll share Google’s descriptions:

1. Attribution insights show how your ads work together across Google surfaces — like Search, Display and YouTube — to drive conversions.
2. Budget insights find new opportunities for budget optimization and show how your spend is pacing against your budget goals.
3. Audience insights for first-party data show how your customer segments, like those created with Customer Match, are driving campaign performance.

Our takeaway: Getting customers the right item at the right time is key to satisfaction. Offering tools that harness Google’s search data to identify interest in products can only help this effort. Plus, attribution is often key for marketers. The more Google can provide, the more powerful its tools would seem to become.

Chances are high that this won't be the last announcement of the year from Google. We'll continue to follow these developments, and what they mean for ecommerce professionals, as they emerge.

A few more announcements

Responsive display ads for mobile (Screenshot via Google)

Here's 'a few more new offerings from Google:

  • Responsive search ads will gain automatically created assets that are created out of content from landing pages and existing ads. The system can display a combo of automatically created assets, and the assets an advertiser provides.
  • Responsive display ads will feature mobile first-layouts, available to display in full-screen portrait ads. This year, Google also expects to introduce scrollable ads and videos based on product feeds.
  • Asset Library: This offers a central place for advertisers to store digital creative assets. This will include video ads using YouTube-optimized templates.
  • Optimization Score, which helps advertisers get a sense for how well their campaign is set up to perform, will extend to more campaigns.

Chances are high that this won't be the last announcement of the year from Google. We'll continue to follow these developments, and what they mean for ecommerce professionals, as they emerge.

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