Shopping campaigns, or Product Listing Ads (PLAs), as they were once known, have proved revolutionary for AdWords e-commerce. They combine a visually engaging experience on the search results page with the ability to instantly compare prices across retailers.
In fact, these ads have been such a success that Google has continued to invest in them, and as a result, we’ve seen them evolve into an absolutely vital tool for any online retailer.
In 2014, Google actually started putting Shopping results above text ads on the search engine results page (SERP), as you can see in the example below. This reflected what they’d started to see in their data and hear from advertisers: Shopping was often outperforming traditional search.
Meanwhile, TrueView, the YouTube advertising platform, has been more of a slow burner. TrueView campaigns have only recently moved from their own interface to sit alongside other AdWords campaigns, meaning before now it was easy to overlook them as an option.
With four billion views on YouTube every day, there’s no denying the fantastic reach it provides. Its position in people’s lives provides a unique opportunity for advertisers to connect with users as they are living their lives online, rather than just when they’re going online looking for a product.
With the same fairly broad targeting options you’d see on the Google Display Network, I’ve personally never found it an appropriate tool for generating direct response; if you want reach, views and increased brand awareness, however, then TrueView could be the answer. (But if you’re not in a financial position to be running activity without a strong return, perhaps not.)
So what if we could combine the reach we see from TrueView with the selling power of Shopping? Well, Google has.
As you can see in the screenshot below, whilst users are watching your ad, they also have the option to click through to particular product pages on the right-hand side.
Setting up these campaigns is very simple. Create a new video campaign within AdWords, and you’ll be provided with the option to make it a Shopping campaign. Then you just link it up to your Google Merchant Center feed, as you would any other Shopping campaign.
The usual rules apply here. Your feed and campaign must be targeting the same country, and currencies within the feed must correspond with those on your site.
Although the option for a Product Filter appears in the settings, this isn’t currently functional, so unfortunately, there’s no way to select which products will appear alongside your ad.
However, there is the ability to use dynamic remarketing to serve your previous visitors the products that they’ve been browsing on your site. Simply apply audience lists in the Video Targeting tab as you would with any other YouTube remarketing campaign.
At Periscopix, a Merkle Company, we’ve trialled TrueView for Shopping campaigns for some of our large retail clients and seen some very promising results.
For one value clothing brand, we had previously been running in-stream TrueView ads to promote their Spring/Summer and Back-to-School collections. By using a combination of both interest targeting and remarketing, we were gaining a wide reach and achieving a strong return. But by adding this shoppable element, in the space of just a month, conversion rate increased by 40 percent, and cost of sale decreased by 58 percent.
We also saw that the view rate of the videos increased by 15 percent, despite the content of the videos themselves not changing at all. By using that combination of prospecting and remarketing alongside product listing ads, the campaigns managed to achieve more than 100 million views and £138,000 in revenue at a cost of sale of just 9 percent.
Another client, this time a luxury toiletries brand, ran TrueView for Shopping to promote a special “friends and family” event they were running over a weekend. Again, the team saw significantly higher view rates, conversion rates and returns than that of traditional TrueView activity run in the past. It became clear that by choosing TrueView for Shopping, they were making people more inclined to watch the whole video and also to click through to the site and purchase.
Although these early results seem to indicate TrueView for Shopping is a highly effective tool for improving the performance of your YouTube campaigns, there are a few things to consider.
Google has specified that product listing ads will not show up alongside your video every time a TrueView in-stream ad is served. But at present, they’re not offering any visibility over just how often that is occurring. Without this knowledge, it’s hard to judge precisely what kind of impact the shoppable element is having.
The results I’ve specified above could well be the result of the PLAs only appearing half the time, in which case these are slightly watered down. Of course, even so, it’s clear we’re seeing an impact — but for accurate reporting, it would be helpful to know exactly how shoppable that TrueView for Shopping campaign really is.
One would hope that as more advertisers start implementing these campaigns and seeing success from them, Google will opt to serve the PLAs alongside video content more often, and we’ll have even richer data to hand. Or at the very least, the addition of a “percentage served” metric or similar would be extremely helpful.
Another key thing to remember is that, unless you’re using dynamic remarketing, you’ve got no control over which products are appearing alongside your ad, as product filtering still isn’t working. For an advertiser who just sells one type of product, like clothes, showing all products might not be a problem.
But if you have a wide range of varied products, TrueView for Shopping might only be appropriate for fairly generic, brand-led video content, rather than anything product-specific. Your users are going to end up confused if they’re watching an advert about children’s toys and suddenly a set of PLAs for washing machines pops up.
This is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting developments for TrueView campaigns in years. The gap between a potential customer browsing video content and purchasing on your site just got a lot smaller, thanks to TrueView for Shopping.
If you’ve run campaigns on YouTube before and been disappointed with your return, it could be time to give it another go. And if you’re already seeing success promoting your video content, get your feed linked up and see if you can’t also boost conversion rates and return from those campaigns.
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