With the introduction of things like automated bidding and Smart Shopping Campaigns, Google has made great strides to reduce manual processes and simplify the management of ad formats on their platform. Continuing this trend, they began rolling out changes to their Showcase Ads format on April 1st.
Showcase Ad campaigns will cease to exist as a standalone ad format and will be consolidated and served directly from standard Shopping/PLA ad groups on mobile. Part of this change includes Google retiring the “Showcase” name as both a product and ad format and replacing it with the new “Merchant Carousel".
Since retailers will be unable to opt-out of Merchant Carousel, what exactly do these changes entail, and how will they impact your advertising ROI? While Google has made this change quite seamless with a gradual rollout, there are a handful of things you should keep in mind when adjusting your marketing strategies accordingly.
Why the Change to Showcase Shopping Ads?
Depending on the granularity of a standalone Showcase campaign strategy and how frequently retailers are refreshing ad copy and swapping out images, Showcase Ad management could become time-consuming very quickly. Some retailers may have considered the requirements or strategies too heavy of a lift due to either higher priority projects or lack of direct ROI.
This change to Showcase eliminates the tedious setup/creative refresh. It simplifies management by removing Showcase-specific bids and modifiers while maintaining broader efforts to help retailers meet their goals, like new customer acquisition.
The New Google Merchant Carousel
About a year ago, Google introduced a change to the layout of Showcase Ads when shown on the SERP. The change shifted the experience to resemble standard PLAs but grouped products in a carousel by retailer. This change moved away from an immersive experience but surfaced more important information on the initial display. It shifted to a one-click model and took shoppers directly to a retailer's website.
Despite all of these changes, the Merchant Carousel will still capture and funnel broad mobile searches to retailers.
This new iteration also brings changes to the model used to bill retailers. Instead of continuing the cost-per-engagement model (an engagement includes things like clicking an ad, mouse over an ad for 2 seconds, watching a video, expanding the ad, etc.), Google is now utilizing a cost-per-click model exactly like standard Shopping ads.
What Happens to Showcase?
All things must pass, but the spirit of Showcase lives on. With Merchant Carousel ads now serving directly from PLA ad groups, all existing Showcase campaigns will be disabled and stop serving ads. Historical data for these campaigns will remain, however.
Like Showcase, Merchant Carousel will still trigger when Google determines that particular format will provide the best user experience; therefore, the standalone Showcase campaign budget should be considered when setting budgets for standard PLA shopping campaigns. No action is required for campaigns without budget caps.
How will this Affect Advertising?
The change that has the biggest impact on advertising and strategy is the loss of format-level reporting. As previously mentioned, the Showcase legacy campaign performance will remain but moving forward, there will be no Merchant Carousel-specific reporting.
Changes to performance will likely be marginal but considering Showcase's focus on higher funnel traffic and that traffic now being served from Shopping ad groups, some retailers may see an impact on conversion rate or efficiency metrics. Additionally, an increase in new customer acquisitions from their Shopping campaigns should be expected.
Retailers within verticals such as Apparel, Consumer Electronics, and Home Goods may experience a more significant impact on traffic volume share based on previous benchmarks for Showcase ads within those verticals. As a result, consider any modifiers that were previously in place for standalone Showcase campaigns.
Leveraging New Systems for Future Growth
Merchant Carousel will function very similarly to existing PLAs. For retailers who were not previously running Showcase Ads, this is a welcome opportunity for their brand to reach new customers in the early stages of their shopping journey. Retailers who were previously running Showcase Ads may now consider duplicating their Shopping structure. This process involves excluding past purchasers and previous page viewers from one set of campaigns to measure and optimize to new customers in another.
If you’re a brand or retailer that needs support navigating Google’s new Merchant Carousel, our expert team at Adlucent is here to help. Contact us today and learn more about how you can leverage Shopping campaigns and our management services to drive customer acquisition and achieve full-funnel success.