Read This Before You Try Google’s Smart Shopping Campaigns

Can we trust Google A.I. to get the best possible results? We decided to put Smart Shopping to the test.

Generally speaking we’re usually against automation on Google: auto bidding, broad match, ad rotation, optimize highest performing ad, maximize conversions, any and all of Google’s “recommendations”, and don’t even get us started on Adwords Express.

But we want to! We want to be able to trust Google to make good campaign decisions, it would honestly make our lives easier. Google has some of the most advanced machine learning and A.I. capabilities in the world. Have you seen what Google Assistant will do in the next year or two? Hey Google, order my favorite Thai food! Every time we test Google’s new auto/enhanced/ai driven features the results fall short of expectation and we’re able to produce superior results through manual optimization. Manual bidding, single keyword ad groups (SKAG), bid stacking, the list goes on.

When Google announced the new Smart Shopping campaigns in May 2018 the team was excited. Anything we can do to improve campaign performance is welcome with open arms. So, without further ado here’s an honest review from the team at Fetch & Funnel.

What Are Smart Shopping Campaigns? How Do They Work?

Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns are automated shopping campaigns that optimize toward goals. Smart Shopping campaigns automatically optimize ad delivery across Google’s ad networks to achieve the advertiser’s defined conversion goal value, such as conversions or return on ad spend (ROAS).

Bids and placements are also automatically adjusted based on the determined likelihood that an ad click will result in the advertiser’s stated goal. It’s sort of like optimizing for conversions on Facebook.

Smart Shopping ads will run on multiple networks, not only search. Placements will be shown on Display, Shopping, YouTube and Gmail networks. Unfortunately you won’t be able to break network placements out for reporting purposes, nor can any be excluded from being run which is a big downside given that ad performance always varies across different networks. Ads on the display network generally have lower CTRs and lower conversion rates, while ads on Gmail and Search usually perform better optimizing for conversions.

Throughout our testing we continually found pros and cons with our Smart Shopping campaigns. Sometimes performance declined, and other times we saw healthy improvements in comparison to existing Shopping and Dynamic Remarketing campaigns.

One thing is certain, when activating Smart Shopping you will lose control and place your faith in the hands of Google A.I. 

Google is also teaming up with third-party e-commerce platforms to make it even easier to get started advertising. To start, let’s talk Shopify. Shopify users will be able to set up Smart Shopping campaigns directly from within Shopify. 

Smart Shopping Campaigns: Pitfalls

Although Smart Shopping Campaigns are very easy to set up and sound fool proof in theory, there are limitations to be aware of:

  • Negative Keywords – These are extremely important with traditional Shopping campaigns, and losing control here should make you uneasy. You could end up wasting valuable budget on completely irrelevant search traffic.
  • Location Targeting – You can set the country of sale, but you can’t target a specific region or exclude a city.
  • Ad Scheduling – Google will figure out the best times and days to spend your budget. Quick example being you have no ability to tell Google to stop showing your ads between 2-5am if this is when sales typically slow down.
  • Device Targeting or Bid Adjustments
  • Audience Targeting – Target audiences will now be selected for you. 
  • Granular Reporting of Display, Shopping, YouTube and Gmail to see where sales are coming from. 

Smart Shopping Campaigns: Best Practices

As with all Google innovations, you’ll have to test and apply best practices to see how they perform.

  • Start with a specific product group and leave the others running in normal Shopping campaigns. In fact, Smart Campaigns have priority over existing campaigns for the same products so they will disrupt normal ad activity and performance.
  • Run your test for a minimum of 15 days and evaluate performance afterward. If all looks good, begin adding other product groups until the full product catalog is eventually migrated over to Smart Shopping.
  • If you plan to include your full product catalog within a Smart Shopping campaign, Google recommends pausing existing traditional Shopping and Dynamic Remarketing campaigns in order to avoid over-serving and wasted budget.
  • Understand the difference before selecting a bidding strategy. The difference between Target ROAS and Maximize Conversion Value can have a significant impact on campaign performance. Maximize Conversion Value tends to maximize ROI within a given budget, whereas Target ROAS sticks to the target you set.

Problems may arise when you have a large catalog with many different products. Some products might have strong competition resulting in higher CPCs, which in turn generates a lower ROI without an increase in sales. Other products might have lower CPCs or higher price points, therefore returning a better ROI if sales volumes remain constant.

Therefore, if you want to use a Target ROAS strategy, we recommend segmenting products into separate campaigns in order to assign individual ROAS values. 

  • Segment your products into several product groups, even within the same campaign, and even when targeting the whole catalog. Doing so will enable you to get granular reports and properly gauge campaign performance across each product group.

You might discover that certain products are better off remaining in separate campaigns in order to better control budgets.

Smart Shopping Campaigns in Shopify

If you’re on Shopify it couldn’t be easier to set this up! It’s definitely worth a test, and you don’t need to start with a large budget. You can synch your products, run a Google Smart Shopping campaign, and track results — all from Shopify.

Regarding setup, first add the Shopify official Google Shopping app:

Then set up Google Shopping Settings and be sure to connect your Google Ads account and then go through the Google Ads checklist. Make sure you have billing set up in Google Ads.

Then you’re ready to click Create Campaign:MYY

Next up, set your daily Campaign Budget hit Save –

Smart Shopping Campaigns: Our Conclusion

If you’re not an advanced advertiser and don’t have a whole lot of experience running campaigns, Smart Shopping is worth a test as it could potentially be your best option. Smart Shopping campaigns launched in May 2018 and it’s still a bit early to tell if they’ll be able to consistently outperform regular Shopping campaigns. In Google’s blog post, they review early testers that had promising results. We recommend taking these results with a grain of salt.

The only way to find out if they make sense for your business is to test everything. Trial-and-error is essential for every successful marketer. One thing is certain though. Smart Shopping Campaigns will save you time, and they are the easiest way to get started in Google’s ecosystem for any eCommerce brand if you’re able to easily set up a Shopping Feed.

Shopping campaigns are usually the most profitable campaigns we run for clients on Google and performance comes from meticulous control. Without that control our CPAs would be significantly higher and results would suffer. We’re still in the early stages of testing Smart Shopping campaigns, and thus far results are a mixed bag. 

If you’re looking for an easy way to run Google Shopping, we recommend trying your hand at Smart Shopping campaigns. They could definitely be the way to go! If on the other hand you find the above daunting, give us a call and we’ll make it even easier and do it for you! 


Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on reddit



Get ready to discuss fresh ideas and proven strategies unlike any you've ever tried. We're often able to lower CPA while doubling, even tripling your sales...while continually scaling results within just a few short months.