Mar 02, 2014

Countdown to Catalyst Americas: Google, eBay, Amazon and more

Catalyst 2014Catalyst Americas is right around the corner, and we've got all the big names and players in e-commerce coming.  Check out sister blogs for details about some of the upcoming Catalyst highlights: 

Catalyst Americas is almost sold out, but there’s still time to sign up.  Check out the 10 Reasons Not to Miss Catalyst, and see the full agenda and register for Catalyst Americas 2014 today.

Dec 05, 2013

New Search Marketing Blog: Google PLAs Coming Out On Top….

Don't miss the new blog over on Search Marketing about Google Product Listing Ads coming out on top in search results!  Read all about it here and find out what it means for retailers. 

 

 

 

Nov 05, 2013

The Feed Doctor Blanks Out

Breaking Blank
The Feed Doctor at Halloween, "Breaking Blank"

People are frequently asking me to explain the difference between the two functions IFBLANK and ISBLANK. It’s confusing for several reasons. Obviously, the names are nearly identical. Also, the most common use for ISBLANK is inside an IF function!

Here’s how I explain ISBLANK and IFBLANK – plus some tips on keeping them straight.

IFBLANK

Let’s start with IFBLANK. This function takes in two to eight inputs, and outputs the first one that isn’t blank. This is useful if you want to output an attribute that’s populated in most of your items but might be blank in some. Therefore, you’ll want to have one or more fallback values. The name “IFBLANK” was chosen because the rules (in English) that use it often look like this: “Output attr1; IF that’s BLANK, output attr2; IF that’s BLANK, output attr3,” etc.

A good example of an IFBLANK is on our Amazon template. There’s a field called Product ID, where you specify each item’s ID, which can be a UPC, an ISBN, an ASIN, etc. We often have sellers who have UPCs for most items and want to use that for the Product ID. For some items, though, the UPC is blank. For those items, sellers want to use the item’s ASIN for Product ID. In English, this rule would be: “Output the item’s UPC; if that’s blank, output the item’s ASIN.” In a business rule:

IFBLANK($itemupc,$itemasin)

ISBLANK

While IFBLANK directly outputs one of its inputs, ISBLANK outputs either true or false values. We call this a Boolean function. Of the various Boolean functions you can use, about half begin with “IS”: ISBLANK, ISINLIST, ISNUMERIC, ISZERO. That’s not an accident: This is what we in the software world call a naming convention. A function that begins with “IS” probably returns a true/false value. You can think of these functions as answering a true/false question: “IS this value BLANK?” “IS this value IN that LIST?”

One of the most common uses of ISBLANK that I see is in a rule to send a “Product ID Type” to Amazon. This has to be a text value, such as “UPC,” “ISBN,” “ASIN,” etc. The text value for each item’s product ID type has to match the Product ID you’re sending. As I mentioned above, some sellers use UPC, with ASIN as a fallback value if UPC is blank.

For items where the Product ID is a UPC, Product ID Type should be the actual text “UPC,” and for the other items, the text should be “ASIN.” The rule for this (in English) is: If the item’s UPC value is blank, output “ASIN.” Otherwise, output “UPC.” Or in a business rule:

IF(ISBLANK($itemupc),”ASIN”,”UPC”)

I had a colleague ask me to write that rule so many times, it was becoming the bane of my existence. So I had the rule printed on a baby sleeper and gave it to her as a baby shower gift. True story.

  The Feed Doctor draws a blank

 Which Is Which?

So you know the difference between the two functions, but how do you remember when to use each one? Our business rule validation will help you out, because ISBLANK allows only one input, while IFBLANK requires more than one.

But if you want a simple mnemonic device, here’s what I suggest. Remember that IFBLANK outputs the first non-blank input, and is used to define fallback values. So when you think “first” or “fallback,” think “F” and go with the function that has an “F” in its name: IFBLANK.

Blogpost by Anthony Alford, ChannelAdvisor Technical Lead, a.k.a. The Feed Doctor

Oct 15, 2013

5 Consumer Behaviors Changing Online Marketing

5 Consumer Behaviors Changing Online Marketing and What Retailers Can Do to React

Lets go back in time—circa 2000—and imagine you needed a new camera.  Using the internet as a research tool, your search probably started with “camera.”  From there you navigated to review sites, phoned friends and visited stores.  Once you decided on that snappy Canon advertised by a longhaired Andre Agassi, you visited a comparison shopping site to find the best price.  Sound familiar?

Today’s busy consumer, caught in a whirlwind of information, has little patience for such a convoluted purchase path. Instead, they want their search to yield exactly the information they need— validation, reviews, specs and price.  To ensure they get the results they desire, consumers have modified their behavior in five distinct ways:  using more sophisticated search queries, relying on product images, reading recommendations, researching the facts and finding the best price. Based on these behavioral changes, retailers must in turn adjust the way they think about search marketing and online advertising.

1. Consumers shift to More Sophisticated Queries

As the internet and e-commerce have evolved, consumers have been conditioned to be more specific about what they are searching for online.  This increases the chance of finding the exact product they desire.  For instance, the search “camera” yields a generic result.

Google Camera

If the search changes from “camera” to a specific model such as “canon rebel t4i,” the results are more consistent with shopping rather than browsing. 

Google canon rebel

Studies consistently show that search queries are becoming longer.  Hitwise reported that queries that were less than three words were declining and those between four to eight words were growing year-over-year from 3%-20%. What’s more, the longer the query the more likely the searcher was to convert.  

2. Consumers Embrace A Visual Culture

Whether consumers are shopping for a camera, shoes or a specific bolt, one way to verify what they are getting is through imagery.  Shoppers, bombarded with data, seek the simplicity of images as short hand.  Images validate and capture interest, hence the rise of sites like Pintrest, Instagram and others.  According to the Search Engine Journal, images ranked higher than product-specific details, descriptions, ratings or reviews in driving purchase decisions.  Yahoo’s recent billion-dollar acquisition of Tumblr reaffirms that search and content companies believe this is the way of the future.

3. Consumers Rely on the Opinion of Others

While images help validate that shoppers have found the right product, reviews and recommendations validate the quality of the product that consumers are shopping for. HubSpot found that 71% of people were more likely to make a purchase based on friends’ social media suggestions and 70% trusted consumer reviews.  Social media and reviews engender consumer trust.

4. Consumers Want the Facts

Armed with the information gleaned from social networks and reviews, consumers want specific details about products quickly. Moreover, they want data—not marketing spin. 

Customers would rather see “18-mega-pixel” than “crystal clear images.” This information ensures that the shopper is getting exactly what they want, not an imitation or variation of the product. 

5. Consumers Feel that Price Matters

Queries, images, reviews and specs, guide consumers along the purchase path.  However, price is critical to that last step—purchase.  Consumers are willing to put some effort into this step as is evident by the emergence of programs like Red Laser and the recent trend of showrooming.  Whether browsing in store or online, consumers don’t want to overspend. 

How Retailers Should Respond

 There are a number of things that retailers can do to combat this shift in consumer behavior and meet these new expectations. These days, retailers should focus on long tail keywords, product images, recommendations, relevant data and price comparison. That seems doable, but that’s not all. As consumer behavior has changed so have the search engines.  Online advertising has become more complicated, and in order to maximize online exposure, retailers must adapt to the evolving requirements of online channels. So how can a retailer ensure that they are capturing and converting traffic in such an ever-changing industry?

Retailers Should Embrace Product Data Feeds

As the queries become more specific and consumers become more visual, Google found that a page full of blue links was far from compelling.  Therefore, they introduced Google Shopping to improve the online shopping experience. Google Shopping and other advertising programs across search and shopping engines are relying more and more on product data feeds that offer retailers the ability to create long tail keywords, display images and generate more gripping ad copy to help perfectly align a product with the search query. 

An optimized data feed is the key to meeting new consumer expectations and converting a browser into a shopper. Expert feed management has typically been necessary to make shopping programs successful.  Those managing search advertising had expertise around keywords and knew little about the feed.  Now, the lines between those two functions are blurring, and the data feed includes all the information—long tail keyword, detailed product information, images and price—that is required to appeal to the curious shopper. In 2013, successful search marketers need to understand data feeds and start thinking about how these programs can work together to improve brand image and online sales.

Blog post by Sheridan Orr, Director of Product Marketing, ChannelAdvisor

Present1Interested in finding out more about what consumers trends as it relates to the holiday season?  Check out our on-demand webinar "3 Trends Retailers MUST Capitalize on This Holiday Season"

Jun 07, 2013

Is a Higher ROAS Always Better?

To some, it seems obvious to stretch your ad budget further by maximizing your Return On Ad Spend (ROAS = how many dollars in revenue you get for each dollar spent). Becoming obsessed with and achieving a 5-to-1 or even a 10-to-1 return may seem like it will make your marketing efforts shine, but at what cost? Today we’re taking a look at a common question from a slightly different view.

Which result would you rather have?

Spend            Revenue       ROAS

$1,000            $10,000          10:1

$5,000            $40,000            8:1

$10,000          $60,000            6:1

 

From the table, you’ll notice that the difference in spend becomes incremental when compared to the higher revenue that’s possible when your business advertising program is thoughtfully managed.

Lets think about the network effects (other than higher revenues) that result from more sales:

  • Better pricing from wholesale suppliers when more quantity is purchased
  • Improved rates from fulfillment partners when more shipments are made
  • Enhanced ability to optimize processes, with the greater volume of metric data is available from broadened results

Measuring tape via wwarbyObviously, some retailers have margins that wouldn’t allow them to stay in business if their marketing programs had a 6:1 ROAS across the board.

Despite this fact, I encourage you to ask the question in regard to measurement: Is ROAS the complete story? 

Which products feature higher margins? Can we take a lower ROAS on those products? 

Third-party software can enable you to maximize sales on products you can afford to. For example, with ChannelAdvisor’s Inventory Driven Search program retailers can dynamically create Paid Search content and keywords for each product—allowing them to optimize spending using business rules tied to these products and inventory quantities. For Comparison Shopping channels, business rules and automatic bid adjustments can ensure a similar strategy is in place.

Does a new customer have a high lifetime value?

If a strong relationship is established with a new consumer, you can usually count on that buyer to come back and purchase time and time again. This may justify taking a lower margin on the first purchase from new customers. Using advanced tactics, such as remarketing, can assist in securing a purchase from a shopper on the verge of converting.

Are there worthwhile conversions other than purchases?

Shoppers looking at your website may complete a valuable action other than purchase on their first visit. Visitor actions such as catalog downloads, newsletter sign-ups and promotional video views indirectly promote sales by establishing trust, developing relationships and educating potential buyers about your products and the trustworthiness of your brand, and should all be considered justification for advertising costs. These actions are important touch points for customers on the way to a purchase. ChannelAdvisor’s custom event tracking software can help you measure these non-revenue conversions and assign appropriate value to them.

Conclusion

These are just a few considerations to make when structuring your advertising budget and performance goals. Bear in mind that while maintaining a high ROAS is an important component of your strategy, it’s not the only detail that matters.

Ultimately, many retailers find that bringing in more revenue is a desirable result, even if it comes at a lower margin. The key is making sure you have enough visibility and automation that you can control your advertising program rather than letting it control you.

Blog post by David Monterroso, Senior Solutions Consultant, ChannelAdvisor.

Image Source: wwarby

May 24, 2013

The Feed Doctor Foils…Himself

Today I was helping out some of my colleagues with a very clever, but tricky, rule. We were using classification name (or “class”) to map to Amazon browse nodes. We had decided to manage the maps in several lookup lists: one for each class…almost. Each of these lists maps some keyword (which is found in the product title) to an Amazon browse node. Here’s a first pass at the rule:

LOOKUP($itemclassificationname,$itemtitle,”partial”)

There’s just one problem: we don’t have lists for some of the classes, so this lookup will give us an error for those classes, since we’re trying to do a lookup in a list that doesn’t exist. No problem: we can make a “master list” of classes that have a list, then check the master list, and if the class was in that list, then we do the lookup. Otherwise, we’ll output a default value. Here’s the updated rule:

IF(ISINLIST(“Master List”,$itemclassificationname), LOOKUP($itemclassificationname,$itemtitle,”partial”), “Default”)

Let’s say we have three classes: Shirts, Shoes, and Shorts. We have lookup lists named “Shirts” and “Shoes” (otherwise, we’d get no service, right?), but not one named Shorts. The master list then contains two entries: Shirts and Shoes. When this rule runs for products in the Shirts and Shorts classes, the ISINLIST returns true, and we do the lookup. We’d expect for products in the Shorts class that the ISINLIST returns false, and we get the Default value.

There’s just one problem: when I ran this rule for products in class “Shorts,” I got an error: “No list named ‘Shorts.’”

What happened? The ISINLIST was false, so we should have gotten the Default value. It turns out I forgot one of the little idiosyncrasies of the business rule engine: every function gets evaluated; in programmer-speak, we say that all the “code paths” are executed. That means that even though the ISINLIST was false, we still did the LOOKUP, even though its output was ignored. And so, the LOOKUP happened for a list, “Shorts” that didn’t exist…and gave us an error.

It took me several frustrating, hair-pulling minutes to figure this out. The fix was easy, though: turn the rule inside-out! That is, I just put the IF inside the LOOKUP, like this:

LOOKUP(IF(ISINLIST(“Master List”,$itemclassificationname),$itemclassificationname,”Dummy List”),$itemtitle,”partial”))

Notice that if the class is NOT in the master list, we lookup the title in the “Dummy List.” And this is a new list I made that has pretty much nothing in it…but it IS a list that exists.

Because these kinds of errors can be tricky to figure out, a lot of our functions are very forgiving with their input, and instead of errors just give you blanks. This is sometimes called a “silent failure,” and they’re not always appropriate. But in this case, I was wishing I had made this failure a silent one. There are some other functions that don’t fail silently. Besides the list-related ones, the most common culprits are the date-related functions (such as ADDTODATE).

So to sum up: the next time your business rule gives you an error you can’t figure out, maybe it’s a “code path” you thought the rule wouldn’t take, and try fixing it by turning your IF statement inside-out.

Post by Anthony Alford, Technical Lead at ChannelAdvisor.

May 06, 2013

The Feed Doctor's Catalyst After-Action Report, or “Catalyst: I Love You Man!”

The Feed Doctor at CatalystI just flew back from Las Vegas, and boy are my arms tired...because I spent the flight typing up this blog post. *Rim Shot*

But the truth is that I had such an experience at Catalyst, and learned so much from interacting with our attendees, that I just couldn’t wait to talk about it. During the two-and-a-half days of the conference, I spoke with over two dozen attendees, listened to over a dozen presentations, and lost more than…well, you get the idea. And while those numbers are just a fraction of the total attendees and talks, it’s overwhelming for us engineers to be that social.

Before I go further, I just want to say that my workload was a cakewalk compared with what the rest of the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst Crew handled. The Marketing team in particular deserve a special recognition, of course (they’re also editing this post…), but everyone there put in an almost superhuman effort.

Though the biggest thanks go to YOU, our attendees. I’ve been to every US event so far (I was talking about this with Marshall Smith: he calculates he’s been to at least 15, including some in the UK), and I love seeing long-time customers coming back each year, and also seeing how many new faces we add each year. Both of these things—loyalty and growth—make me proud to work at ChannelAdvisor.

Not everything is sunshine and roses, of course. Almost everybody at Catalyst has some kind of business challenge he’s trying to solve, and our job is to help him do that. I made it my mission to try to help everyone I spoke to solve at least one problem, even if all I could do was point out somebody else who was the expert on that problem. I also made it a point to ask if there was anything about our software that we could change to help make their lives easier.  And, of course, I had the opportunity to help quite a few folks write some business rules. I’ll write about one of those in the near future.

Once again, thanks to all who attended. To those I met and spoke with, it was certainly a pleasure. Come back and see us again next year!

Blog post by Anthony Alford, a.k.a. The Feed Doctor

Apr 16, 2013

Google Shopping Outperforms Google Product Search

Recently we compared US Google Shopping March 2013 numbers against Google Product Search results from March 2012.  We looked across our clients for which we are tracking their Google Shopping campaigns and found that their revenue soared, averaging 3X more revenue with Google Shopping in 2013 versus with Google Product Search in 2012. 

ChannelAdvisor calculates these trends based on the gross merchandise value (GMV) processed through the ChannelAdvisor platform by CSE customers that have been using ChannelAdvisor software for at least a year, removing any customer additions or attrition.

There are several factors that have contributed to these results:

1)    More PLAs on main search results

Google has focused on delivering more Product Listing Ads (PLAs) on Google.com.  PLAs show up for more queries, in more page locations, and frequently in greater number than prior to the change.  If you are not in the US, you are probably experiencing this now.

2)    Amazon is not advertising on PLAs

Amazon certainly commanded a lion’s share of Google Product Search traffic in the US.  Now, that traffic has been distributed to other retailers.

3)    More difficult economics for other marketplaces

In addition to Amazon, other marketplaces had a lot of shelf space in the free Google Product Search.  Now that they have to pay, the margin may not be there to pay for placement for many of their listings.

4)    Less competition due to fewer retailers

How many retailers never made the change to the paid model, either by choice or the inability to get started? Further, how many retailers just put one low bid on All Products to earn the Google incentive but have never optimized their data or bids?

Adding it up:

With more overall traffic and less competition, opportunities are there for retailers with a budget and the means to manage it.  A good product target strategy and tools to monitor performance and adjust bids have been key tools for successful retailers. 

We’ll keep an eye on how our retailers continue to perform and report interesting information as it arises.

Blog post by Jim Dechow, ChannelAdvisor Product Manager


Google-shopping-whats-next-cover
Wondering how you can improve your sales on Google ShoppingDownload our free Tip Sheet: Google Shopping: What's Next, for 7 tips to get your Google Shopping strategy on the right track.

Download Now

Mar 28, 2013

It’s almost the 12th April, have you signed up for the Google Shopping incentive?

GoogleBack in February, Google announced the international rollout of its new Google Shopping model, replacing the free Google Product Search program. The result was that ten more countries began the transition to a new experience built on Product Listing Ads, with a complete roll out of Google Shopping to be completed by the end of June.

A Product Listing Ad is an AdWords ad that appears on google.co.uk’s commercial site and also on google.co.uk/shopping. Whenever a customer searches for a product, Google will show several PLAs that include the picture, price and store name for that product. Users who click on the Product Listing Ad will be taken to your website where they can complete the purchase or shop for other products. Ranking in Google Shopping, when the full transition is complete in the countries listed above, will be based on a combination of relevance and bid price.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past couple months and you don’t know about Google Calendar this--or if you just haven’t had the chance to get up to speed with Google Shopping --you can find everything you need to know on our Do You Understand Google Shopping blog from last month.

If you haven’t begun thinking about how this transition will impact your business, then you need to begin today. The PLA ad format has been around for two years, meaning that some retailers have the advantage of experience and have optimised listings already in place. Others began experimenting when the transition occured and are experiencing success today. Consider the impact on your business; how will you cope with the drop in traffic to your site once the free Google Product Search program is pulled? Have you allocated a marketing budget to maintain traffic in this new paid program? Have you a strategy in place for PLAs?

To entice retailers to get the ball rolling on their Google Shopping campaigns, Google have an incentive running until the 12th April 2013. Merchants in the UK, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland who create a PLA campaign listing all of their products that are already in Merchant Centre may be eligible for a £75 credit. Eligible merchants with a Product Listing Ad campaign will also receive a monthly credit for 10% of their total Product Listing Ad spend from 15 February 2013 to 30 June 2013.

This transition occurred in the US last year, and data from our platform indicates that our retailers, on average, more than tripled their revenue using Google Shopping as compared to the same time last year when they were using Google Product Search.  We highly recommend you begin experimenting with PLAs and availing of this Google incentive today. This will not only help you save on your Feb-June advertising spend, but it will also help you avoid a loss of traffic as Google Product Search is phased out. 



12 Tips for Google Shopping Success cover
If you’d like to learn more about Google Shopping you can download our Top 12 Tips to Google Shopping Success tip sheet.

 

Feb 25, 2013

And the Oscar goes to…The Feed Doctor for his work on REGEXGET

The Feed Doctor AwardSince there was nothing on TV this weekend except the Oscars, The Feed Doctor decided to write some award-worthy business rules. 

Often I get requests for help extracting data from a larger text field. For example, people want to get image URLs from a large block of html. REGEXGET is useful for this, since the image tags follow a definite pattern.  For example, let’s say the description attribute looks like this:

Stuff <img URL=’http://www.mysite.com/image1.jpg’ /> and more stuff

We know we need to look for the img tag, so we could do this:

REGEXGET ($description,”img URL=’[^’]+’”)

This pattern matches the text “img’, the space, the text “URL”, the equal sign, the quote, then any number of characters that aren’t a quote, then finally the closing quote.  Perfect, right? Except, here’s the output:

img URL=’http://www.mysite.com/image1.jpg’

It’s almost what we want, but not quite. We still need to do some more processing to remove everything that’s not the actual URL. Now, we could change the pattern to just match the URL, like this:

REGEXGET ($description,”http://[^’]+”)                                         

But what if there’s, say, a hyperlink in the description before the image tag? And for that matter, what if there’s more than one image tag? REGEXTGET only gets the first match, so if you really wanted the second image tag (assuming there were one), what would you do?

The good news is that regular expressions are extremely flexible, and so this weekend I updated REGEXGET to have two new optional parameters.

The first parameter is the “match index.” This is for the case when your pattern may occur more than once, and you want something besides the first one. Let’s say the description has two image URLs:

Stuff <img URL=’http://www.mysite.com/image1.jpg’ /> and more stuff. More stuff  <img URL=’http://www.mysite.com/image2.jpg’ /> etc

If you want the first image URL, the rule we’ve got will work. But what if you want the second? Let’s update the rule:

REGEXGET ($description,”img URL=’[^’]+’”, 2, 1)

The 2 is the match index. It tells REGEXGET to get the second piece of text that matches the pattern…if there is one. But what’s that 1 for, after the 2? That’s the “group index.” If you’ve done some serious regex stuff, you’re probably familiar with capture groups and back references. Capture groups are a way to mark off parts of your pattern as “reusable” chunks. The way you do it is with parentheses, and it’s how we’re going to pull just the URL out of the image tag. Let’s update the rule one more time:

REGEXGET ($description,”img URL=’([^’]+)’”, 2, 2)

Two things are different. First, I put parentheses in the pattern; notice how they are just inside the quotes, which means they surround the part of the pattern that matches the URL. Next, I changed that last input parameter from a 1 to a 2. This means to get the second capture group. Well, the first one is always the entire thing that matched the pattern. The second is just the part that matched what’s in parentheses; in this case, the second image URL.

I had a big long list of people to thank, who helped make this happen, but the music is playing now and I have to get off stage. Just one reminder: this change will be released with our next update, in March.

For more information on Business Rules, check out the SSC guide to Using Text Functions Business Rules

Blogpost by Anthony Alford, The Feed Doctor

Feb 11, 2013

Do you understand Google Shopping?

Google Shopping Bundle image (1)
With just two days until the transition to Google Shopping begins around the world, many retailers are still unprepared for this drastic change. Many others have overlooked this update until after the Christmas and January rush and are only now considering the impact on their business. If your business is reliant on Google Product Search campaigns for traffic, you need to begin ramping up your Google Shopping presence as soon as possible in order to maintain your momentum.

So what is Google Shopping and how will this impact your business? In layman terms, Google Shopping is a new, paid advertising format from Google. This advertising format will be highly visual and focused on improving the customer experience. This format was rolled out in the US in 2012 and will now begin transition in the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands.

The reason this change is so important for retailers is that Google Product Search traffic will soon fade away and that in the near future all Google Shopping traffic will be paid. Also, for many retailers this change of format means action is required in order to participate.

You will begin to notice a shift in traffic in the coming days, so an understanding of your campaigns and this program is vital. We’ve compiled a description of the core elements of Google Shopping along with advice to help you get started.

Capture2Product Listing Ads

Google Shopping is driven by Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which are visually compelling product advertisements that include product information such as image, title, price and merchant name. A Product Listing Ad is a unique ad format that Google offers to promote specific items alongside text ads on Google search results pages. PLAs are displayed when Google matches a search query to information in a retailer’s product data feed. This ad type is typically priced on a cost-per-click (CPC) bidding model, where you are charged based on the number of clicks your advertisement receives.

The Product Listing Ad format works on “product targeting” technology, meaning that once you have submitted your product data feeds Google accesses that data and matches search queries to the most relevant products. Which products are shown in the PLA is Google’s decision and ranked on CPC and other factors familiar to search auctions like quality score and click-through rate. Google pulls the image URL from your feed in order to display a product image along with the product title and any optional promotional text that you enter.

Feeds

A product data feed is a list of individual products that includes product details such as name, price, product page URL, product image URL, description, category and more. PLA success starts with product data feeds that are accurate, comprehensive and delivered frequently. Take a look at the quality of your data; are all relevant fields present, is it accurate and up-to-date? By optimising your content you will ensure that the data available to Google contains all the relevant information for a Product Listing Ad.

Targets

Targets, or product groupings, identify which products from data feeds will trigger Product Listing Ads for related searches. Target fields allow you to group products together based on characteristics such as “sale.” This grouping action enables you to control bids across multiple products based on set qualifications, (e.g. all products characterised as “sale” should receive a bid of 75 pence). Since bids are controlled based on these targets, be sure to have a reliable bidding strategy in place.

Promotions

Promotions refer to the optional ad copy, such as “free delivery,” that can be attached to Product Listing Ads. While PLAs already offer more product information than regular text-based ads, adding this additional text can help differentiate your ads from competitive offerings. It is crucial to strategically create targets since promotional text is attached to all products within a target.

Reporting

Visibility into PLA performance is essential for retailers to obtain a return on their investment. By reviewing your campaign performance you should go back to your feeds and make necessary adjustments to further optimise their data for better visibility within Google Shopping.

 


12 Tips for Google Shopping Success cover
We’ll be updating this blog with helpful advice and strategies as this transition takes place, or if you’d like to learn more about Google Shopping you can download our Top 12 Tips to Google Shopping Success tip sheet.

Feb 07, 2013

Analysis of Google's acquisition of Channel Intelligence

Yesterday (February 6, 2013), Google announced that they are acquiring Channel Intelligence (CI).  In this post, we'll share some thoughts on 'why?', what we are hearing from retailers and what we think this means for Google long-term. Disclaimer: we historically have periodically competed with CI in the comparison shopping management space.

E-commerce is forecasted to be a $1T industry by 2017 and Google has publicly said that 40% of their revenue is in the retail/e-commerce vertical, so the stakes here are very high. Before we dive into what's behind this acquisition, it's important to look back at Google's historical efforts in e-commerce.

A brief history of Google's e-commerce efforts

Here are the headlines from the last ten years of Google's efforts in the e-commerce space:

  • December 2002 - Google introduces Froogle (consumer facing front-end) and Google Base (back-end)
  • June 2006 - Google announces  Google Checkout
  • April 2007 - Froogle is rebranded as Google Product Search (GPS for short) and the Google Base nomenclature is dropped.
  • 2007-2012 - Google improved GPS with international rollouts, local features, Google Checkout integration, item pages, parent/child, attributes, images, product reviews, etc.
  • November 2009 - Google introduces Product Listing Ads - a program that charges a CPC on top of GPS.  This program did not receive much traffic/query exposure.
  • May 2012 - Google announces the end of the free GPS in the US and merges in the PLA program renaming the combination as Google Shopping (GS).
  • July 2012 - After lackluster adoption, Google renames Google Checkout to be part of the mobile-facing effort, Google Wallet
  • October 2012 - Google moves 100% of queries away from GPS to GS in US.
  • February 2012 - Google moves from GPS to GS in UK, DE, AU and 7 other regions.

The other bit of background we need to cover to understand what's driving this acquisition is the history of friction between Google and Amazon.

Google / Amazon friction

Industry lore suggests that 10+ yrs ago when Google first started their project to scan books, Amazon's Jeff Bezos realized the two firms were on a collision course.  Since then there have been a number of friction points.  This smoke became a fire in the last year as the mainstream press caught on, ignited by a spark from Forrester.  Here are some highlights:

  • July 2012 - Forrester  releases study showing that 30% of consumers start their product searches at Amazon vs. 15% at Google - only 2yrs earlier, the trend was reversed.
  • September 2012 - The NY Times publishes an article that proclaims: "Google Struggles to Unseat Amazon as the Web's Most Popular Mall."
  • November 2012 - Amazon withdraws all products from Google Shopping, but does stay in the Adwords program.  Shortly after, eBay follows suit, significantly hobbling Google Shopping's breadth of product selection.
  • December 2012 - Google acquires Bufferbox, a Canadian startup that offers an Amazon Locker type service
  • December 2012 - Amazon is widely known to be entering the advertising business that Google largely dominates today.

Why CI? (follow the data... and the revenue/ad spend)

Within the context of Google's mixed efforts in e-commerce and their increasing friction with Amazon, Channel Intelligence offers Google one strategic thing that it desperately needs to even hold its ground against Amazon: transactional data. 

  • Amazon sees every transaction in its ecosystem. Google sees no transaction data, just clicks unless Google Analytics is installed and even then, the data isn't tied to specific products (complete closed loop that Amazon has).
  • Amazon has built a very deep and wide catalog of the entire World's product catalog.  Google has scattered high-level data and lacks a robust product catalog.
  • Google would like to know exactly what is happening (costs, conversions, etc..) at competing comparison shopping engines (shopping.com, shopzilla, pricegrabber, Nextag, etc.) 
  • Without visibility into the full transaction loop at a sku-level (e.g. what products are selling and what price), Google is partially blind to the value they are providing and maybe leaving click revenue on the table.

Acquiring CI gives Google access to pieces of this data for those customers currently using CI.

An interesting side note: eBay (with its marketplace and PayPal businesses) is the only other company that comes close to the level of transactional data that Amazon sees.

In addition to access to closed loop transaction data, Google's goal is to increase ad spend.  If you know that someone is paying $.50/click (CPC) and it is converting at 4% for an ASP of $100, you can easily calculate that there is a lot of room to grow in the CPC and move the cost up based on that knowledge.  With the lack of Amazon and eBay who are top adwords advertisers, not only is selection challenged, but it has a less robust competitive market than the similar adwords 'auction'.  

In conclusion, CI gives Google transactional data that has numerous uses, the top use being increasing ad spend.  Google has made a ton of revenue (our conservative estimate at the time of the announcement was $130m in the US alone) by turning a free program into a paid program and this acquisition will enable them to have access to transactional data that will keep the ad spend dollars flowing.

Retailer reaction

Historically, many retailers (especially larger top 200 retailers) have been reluctant to share their transactional data with their e-commerce channel partners.   As Google folds in the CI business, it will be interesting to see if retailers are ok with Google having significant, deep new insights into the performance of their products at a detailed SKU-level and non-google channel performance details. Ironically, transactional data protection and control is the number one reason that retailers don't sell on Amazon.

I don't see retailers pulling the plug on Google Shopping, but we do recommend that retailers go into this with their eyes wide open and ask questions such as:

  • Will Google use CI transactional data to source new sellers? "Wow, ProductX is really selling, let's go recruit 3 more retailers that carry ProductX..."
  • Will Google build a product catalog that other retailers can utilize using your data?
  • What will Google do with your sales data from other comparison shopping engines?  You could picture someone saying: "I see you are spending $X/month over there, how can we move that to Google Shopping?"
  • Will Google have access to your cost or margin data?
  • Will Google use your performance data to increase prices and click costs?
  • Will Google continue to support non-Google sites that CI currently supports, like Amazon Product Ads, Nextag, Shopping.com (owned by eBay), PriceGrabber, etc.? Or will Google's focus and efforts be biased towards Google owned-and-operated properties?
  • CI's tag solution allows the company to see all of a retailers traffic and conversions - seo, sem, direct, email, etc.  Will retailers be ok with this going forward?

Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling has an interesting take on Google's interest of supporting non-Google engines: "CI works with other product distribution channels and shopping engines. That’s probably unlikely to continue over the long term." A view we share, so most likely the concern over what Google does with sales data from other channels will be moot.

Longer-term Google speculation - building a marketplace?

The increasing speculation from Wall St. and other areas is that to really compete with Amazon, Google will need to build a marketplace, especially as mobile adoption continues to skyrocket.  We have been suggesting for quite a while that Google has many of the pieces it would need to build a marketplace:

  • Consumers/Traffic 
  • Retailer relationships/advertisers  
  • A checkout system (Google Wallet)
  • A monetization mechanism (PPC)
  • Trust/safety program (Google Trusted Stores - launched last year, minimal retailer adoption over data-sharing concerns)

All that Google lacks to make this a reality is a product catalog, and a strategy to differentiate from eBay and Amazon.   It's possible that long-term CI could help Google with the catalog missing puzzle piece.

Interestingly, Wall St. is starting to feel that Google needs to go down the marketplace path as shown in the following exchange from the Google Q4 earnings call:

Ben Schachter - Macquarie: ... Google Shopping, the PLAs and the interface changes, I think significantly improve the user experience, but the consumer still needs to leave the site to transact. Do you anticipate a mechanism whereas users can actually transact on Google Shopping without having to leave? You know, as you said sort of no extra work needed? Thanks.

Larry Page - Chief Executive Officer, Director: Google Shopping, I guess you are asking about Product Listing Ads I think that we are also in the early stages of that. We just rolled out Google Shopping. We’ve seen tremendous uptake from merchants and from users and I expect that quality of the site, the ease of buying things will improve over time and I am really excited about that. I am not going to comment on details about that, but we’re always focused on making our user experience better. 

That's definitely not a yes, but it's also not a 'no', but only time will tell if Google feels enough pressure from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay that it feels it needs to dip its toes in the marketplace waters to improve the consumer experience to the levels delivered by eBay and Amazon.

Stay tuned and we'd love to hear your thoughts in comments.

Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, wrote this blog post. eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor.

 

 

 

 

Dec 19, 2012

A Holiday Gift from The Feed Doctor

Anthony santa

The other day someone asked me for help writing a rule. She had text with “accented” characters, and wanted to replace them with the non-accented version. For example, she wanted to change the word “Résumé” to “Resume.”

But it was even worse than that. Her text was actually “html encoded.” This is a way of converting “special characters” so that web browsers render them properly. For example, the ampersand is a special character, so it might look like &amp; in an html file. In her case, instead of “Résumé” she actually had “R&eacute;sume&eacute;”

It turns out I couldn’t think of a good solution, and I hate it when that happens. So I sat down and wrote two new functions: HTMLDECODE and TRANSLIT.

First, HTMLDECODE will convert the encoded special characters into their true form; e.g., it converts “R&eacute;sume&eacute;” into “Résumé.” Next, TRANSLIT (which is short for “transliterate”) converts the “accented” characters to non-accented ones; so it would convert “Résumé” to “Resume.”

Now, I could have made a single function that does both, but just in case you want one and not the other, I made them distinct. You can of course combine them, like this:

TRANSLIT(HTMLDECODE(“Résumé”)

These functions will be available with our January software update. Enjoy!

Blogpost by Anthony Alford, The Feed Doctor

 


Us-wp-top-5-cse-myths-emailLooking for more information on Comparison Shopping?

Comparison Shopping Misconceptions: Don't Let These Missteps Trip Up Your Strategy

This white paper covers common comparison shopping misconceptions to make sure you're not making mistakes with your CSE strategy.  




 

Dec 12, 2012

The secret to reviewing your Google Shopping queries

As the holiday season picks up, you've no doubt seen an increase in traffic on your Product Listing Ad campaigns and might be looking to optimize your spend through the program. Many traditional methods of optimization no longer apply due to the lack of keywords. However, with a few caveats, you can still review the queries triggering your ads and make changes to your negative keyword lists to manage the matches. If you're looking for the queries in the usual place, under your keywords tab, you won't find them. This seems to be an area of confusion, with even major search marketing blogs reporting that it's not possible.  The savvy marketers at ChannelAdvisor know that you can indeed find these queries by navigating to the dimensions tab of your AdWords account and selecting search terms under the "view" menu drop down! 

Google Shopping blog post screen shot 12-2012

Download the Top 12 Tips for Google Shopping Success tip sheet for more information and to make the most of your Product Listing Ads.

Blog post by Jackie Jenkins, Paid Search Product Manager

 

Dec 11, 2012

Quick Tips Before you Finalize your E-Commerce Budget

A look at online holiday success to help guide your budget

It’s that time of year that every finance geek loves and the rest of us loathe: budget time!  As you’re wrapping up your final budget plans for the year, check out where ChannelAdvisor customers found success during some of the busiest shopping days of the year to help guide your financial plans.

1. Keep Google Shopping Top of Mind

12 Tips for Google Shopping Success coverGoogle Shopping has thrown a lot of retailers for a loop this holiday season; however, our retailers experienced a strong showing on Cyber Monday with Comparison Shopping same-store sales trending at 20% year-over-year growth. 

Evidence of Google Shopping’s success is also supported by the Paid Search SSS numbers, which were essentially flat for the Cyber Five.  We’ve attributed this to the broad coverage and high placement and click-through rate of Google Shopping. 

Use this handy calculation to estimate your costs:

Traffic:  Clicks x Average Cost Per Click

GMV:  GMV/ROAS

For further tips download our Top 12 Tips for Google Shopping Success one pager.

2. Amazon isn’t just the biggest river in the world...

Us-wp-lps-sell_more_amazonAmazon continues to be a behemoth, growing at 2X the rate of overall-commerce (according to comScore predictions that e-commerce will grow at 17% this holiday). This year Amazon came in at 37.7% SSS growth for the Cyber Five, and 42.4% for Cyber Monday.  

We conducted a spot check of top-selling items in most categories throughout the Cyber Five (using www.nowinstock.net) and found that Amazon was out of stock for many, thus suggesting an increase in third-party sales as backfill for an out-of-stock Amazon.

Make sure that you have budget next year to ensure your products are found by Amazon shoppers--download this tip document that outlines how to sell more on Amazon.

3. Make Mobile a Priority

Au-ebook-retailer-guide-mobileAccording to data aggregated from a group of ChannelAdvisor customers, mobile accounted for 30.7% of Cyber Five sales! A dramatic nearly 80% jump over last year’s 17.2%.  Tablets exactly doubled from a 7.2% share to 14.4% and smartphone share grew from 10% to 16.3%. 

We found the highest percentage of consumers shopping via mobile devices on Thanksgiving Day, slowly declining over the course of the weekend as more brick-and-mortar shops opened their doors. 

As you are plotting ways to earn your share of this mobile traffic, check out our Retailer's Guide to Mobile for some quick tips of the trade.

4.  Don’t Count Out eBay

Us-ebook-lps-ebay-unlocking-the-powerWe’ve documented many aspects of eBay’s turnaround on our eBay Strategies blog, most recently The New eBay: Serendipity+faster transactions=win for sellers.  It seems, however, that eBay has lived into its claims, at least from a Cyber Five (the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday) perspective.  Coming in at an impressive 38.3% year-over-year same-store sales (SSS) growth for the total Cyber Five, eBay experienced 5X growth on Cyber Monday over last year. 

If you aren’t selling on eBay, or if you are and want a refresher, check out our Unlocking the Power of eBay eBook, debunking all the common misconceptions about selling on eBay. 

While there is rarely enough budget to do everything you want to do, invest in these four areas and you’ll start 2013 on the right foot and be well prepared for Cyber Five 2013.  

Nov 30, 2012

Highlights from Google Shopping Webinar

GoogleLast week we held a Google Shopping webinar to help retailers get their heads around the upcoming changes to Google Product Search. In case you couldn’t make the session, we’ve compiled the essential tips and key dates:

On November 15th, Google made the announcement that they are extending the rollout of Google Shopping across Europe. The transition of Google Product Search to a paid model was transitioned initially in the US in May. This transition ended last month and now the same program will be implemented in the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Italy, Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands.

PLAs are at the core of Google Shopping, so a key lesson from the webinar was to make you as familiar with their function as soon as possible. A Product Listing Ad (PLA) is a unique ad format that allows you to include specific product information like an image, title, price, and your store or business name. Product Listing Ads appear in their own box on search results pages, separate from standard text ads. Google anticipate that PLAs will allow merchants to have more control and predictability over their advertising campaigns, will have better opportunities to differentiate themselves, and that the traffic driven through will be more qualified. 

Essential Timelines

15th November: Google announcement was made. Google will begin experimenting Calendarwith the single unit format for products on Google.co.uk and will also begin testing commercial offers on Shopping property.

13th February: Launch of Google Shopping with commercial offers promoted, however free offers will still be included. Retailers should expect a drop in free traffic to product landing pages and a corresponding increase in paid traffic.

End of June: By the end of June, all campaigns will be transitioned to a fully paid experience on Google Shopping.

Lessons Learned From The US:

A benefit of the US transitioning earlier in the year is that we can learn from their experience and identify the essential tips to begin following. Here are the 4 top lessons learned from that region:

Lesson 1:

Begin testing Product Listing Ads straight away, opting in all or part of your feeds with at least the minimum bid. This will allow you to learn and refine how PLAs work from the beginning and give you a competitive edge to late-adopters. If you are already using PLAs, you can take it a step further by focusing on optimising your feeds.

Google will soon announce an incentive for early adopters to reward those prepared for the transition. Details of this will be released by Google in December.

Lesson 2:

Make Google Shopping an important part of your 2013 marketing plans and budget. Estimate your costs by measuring your traffic and GMV. Use the equations below to calculate these core facts and try to add them to your plans for next year.

  • Traffic:  Clicked x Average Cost Per Click
  • GMV:  GMV/ROAS

Lesson 3: Data, Data, Data!

With Google Shopping, data is more important than ever before. Optimise your content and work toward making it a better quality. This will allow a better user experience and drive more qualified clicks to your website.

Lesson 4: Develop a Target Strategy

Product Targets are central to Google Shopping. Targets, or product groupings, identify which products from data feeds will trigger Product Listing Ads for related searches. Target fields allow retailers to group products together based on characteristics such as brand. Grouping products by target enables retailers to control bids across multiple products based on these qualifications, (e.g., all products characterised as brand should receive a bid of 75 pence). Think about how you measure your business, specifically around your product catalogue; should your target be based on brand, product type, margin or price? Identify a strategy that works for you and build your strategy around this.

Uk-googleshopping-bundleIf you want to learn more about Google Shopping you can download our Google Shopping bundle:

Nov 16, 2012

Dates for Google Shopping European Transition Released

Google
Back in May, Google announced it was rolling out changes to its Shopping feature, starting with the US. This transition was completed on the 17th of October, and today Google announced the next phase of this transition will take place in Europe.

Google Product Search will be sunset in Europe in 2013, and a commercially based replacement will take over in the shape of Google Shopping. Google Shopping is different in that it is built on a fee-based model of PLAs (Product Listing Ads), which gives retailers greater control over where their ads appear and the opportunity to get more consistent levels of high quality website traffic. Product Listing Ads create a more engaging user experience while making it easy for retailers to promote their entire product line to Google. The visual element of this type of ad, along with price, “pre-qualifies” clicks more than traditional keyword searches and improves conversion rates since the shopper has more information on that specific item. When the full transition is complete, ranking in Google Shopping will be based on a combination of relevance and bid price.

Retailers in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, Australia and Switzerland will begin to see this change on 13 February 2013, and the transition will be complete by June 2013. This gives retailers the opportunity to optimise their campaigns and prepare for the change. However, Google will be offering incentives to those who adapt earlier.

This move to a fee-based model will be a dramatic shift for many brands and retailers, and will have both financial and strategic implications for their online businesses. We will be hosting a “Google Shopping: The Inside Scoop” webinar on Tuesday, 20 November 2013, to help European retailers understand this important transition. ChannelAdvisor Director of Product Management Link Walls will host the webinar and will discuss the new Google model, key dates for European retailers and lessons learned from the US transition in September. 

 If you would like to attend this webinar, register now: http://ar.gy/googleshopping 

Sep 06, 2012

The 2012 Autumn Release

Us-autumn-release-logo

As we prepare to usher in Q4, and all of the excitement and chaos of the holiday season, we’re pretty excited about everything that our 2012 Autumn Release has in store for retailers to help them make the most of the holiday season and the New Year! 

The big highlights of this launch include:

  • ChannelAdvisor’s Google Shopping offering – We’ve developed a holistic technology to help retailers manage and optimize their Google Shopping presence, all through a unified platform.     
  • The Revamped Repricer – We’ve enhanced our Repricer with industry-leading preview and frequency capabilities, all to improve retailers’ chances of winning the coveted Amazon Buy Box.   
  • Marketplace Enhancements – We’re providing additional support for established marketplaces like eBay as well as new and emerging marketplaces such as Newegg, Sears, OneStopPlus.com, TradeMe and Best Buy.  

 

We’ll be hosting a series of webinars for a crash-course in our  Autumn Release and how retailers can implement these new technologies. The topics to be covered include:

  • Google Shopping and Repricer
    Tuesday, September 18, 2012
    11:00 am EDT Autumn Release webinar series
    Learn about the numerous enhancements across the platform, including new features with Google Shopping and Amazon.
  • Google Shopping
    Thursday, September 20, 2012
    2:00 pm EDT
    Discover how to create powerful campaigns using ChannelAdvisor's new Google Shopping technology.
  • Tools for Success on Amazon
    Tuesday, September 25, 2012
    11:00 am EDT
    Get an in-depth explanation of the newest Repricer innovations and functionality.

Register today and find out everything you need to know to have another great holiday season.  

Aug 10, 2012

It’s almost August 15th! Are you signed up for Google Shopping?

Well, we’re just 5 days out from Google’s deadline for sending your complete data feed to Google Shopping to cash in on the 10% discount incentive. If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past couple months and you don’t know about this--or if you are a just a procrastinator--you can find everything you need to know on our Retailer’s Roadmap to Google Shopping Success.

On this past week’s Tuesday 20 Jon Venverloh from Google joined Mark Vandegrift to discuss Google Shopping.   Jon will join us next Tuesday as well to discuss Campaign Structure and Bidding Strategy--it’s not one to miss as you plan how to get ahead with Google Shopping this holiday season.  

We’ve also run some additional numbers to take a look at the traffic levels that a sample of our retailers are experiencing.  The red line represents Google Shopping traffic from non-PLA sources, and the blue line Google Shopping traffic through PLA.  Clearly the two are inverting with the cross-over taking place in late July.  

PLA traffic August 2012

We expect this trend to continue until October 1 when all traffic will convert to the Google Shopping paid model that’s driven by PLAs.  

Some other observations:

Google is increasing effectiveness with PLAs:

  • Historically, PLAs have been less effective than other areas of Google Shopping in terms of Revenue / Click.  However, in July they became equally effective.  Starting at the end of July, PLAs became substantially more effective than other areas of Google Shopping.
  • From April 1 to date, Orders per Click has doubled for PLAs.
  • From April 1 to date, Revenue per Click has tripled for PLAs.


If you haven’t started listing your full data feed on Google Shopping yet, stop dragging your feet! Give us a call at 866-264-8594 and we’ll help you out.  

Blog post by Link Walls, Director of Product Management, ChannelAdvisor (@linkwalls)

 

Aug 03, 2012

New Functionality from The Feed Doctor for Partial Matches

The other day I got an email from Allyson Thomas in our UK office, asking for some help writing a business rule:

What I want to do is look at field A and see if the text within it contains one of the words in my lookup list. Then if one of the words is contained, I want to return a certain value for that word.  The scenario is that field A is a description which includes a brand I need to find out which brand it includes and then based on the brand, add a suffix to my Product URL So I'll have a lookup list with brand in column A and the suffix for the URL in column B. Can you do an IF CONTAINS with a lookup and then return a matching value?

This is a lot like the LOOKUP function, except LOOKUP requires that the keys in the list match the input text EXACTLY. However, there is a way to "loop" over each row in the list, using the REDUCELIST function. Then you can do just about anything you want with the data in the list. Here's what I wrote for her:

REDUCELIST(FUNCTION(VARS(@X,@Y,@Z), IF(CONTAINS($description,@Y),@Z,@X)), Brand Lookup", "")

Then Allyson hit me with this gold-medal winning idea:

This question about a rule like this has actually come up a few times recently, is there any chance that this would become a function in its own right?

So I decided to modify both LOOKUP and ISINLIST to support the idea of "partial" matches. For this example, let's say we have the following description: "This is my description." And we have a list called "my list" that contains this data:

Name

Value

Is

was

If your rule is ISINLIST("my list",$description), that returns false, and LOOKUP("my list",$description) returns blank. But now you can write ISINLIST("my list",$description,"partial"), which returns true, and LOOKUP("my list",$description, "partial") which returns "was". You can also use "regex" instead of "partial," in which case the data in the lookup list is treated as a regular expression, and if that regex matches your input text, then ISINLIST will return true and LOOKUP will return the list value.

This new functionality will ship with our next software update in mid-August.

Blogpost by Anthony Alford, The Feed Doctor

Jul 27, 2012

Google Shopping Proves Successful for Retailers Using PLAs

GoogleShopping
We’re counting down the days until it’s time for the deadline to sign up for Google Shopping and receive the 10% discount incentive (August 15th).  In the meantime, we’ve taken a look at what our retailers are seeing from a data perspective to give retailers a benchmark for what to expect from Google Shopping.

First, it should be noted that Google Product Search (GPS) is historically the largest comparison shopping engine our retailers have worked with—generally responsible for anywhere from 15-60% of CSE traffic—though the level of traffic tends to be unpredictable and varies widely. 

Over the last 60 days (especially after the 28th of June, when the new user experience launched), we’ve seen a corresponding drop off of GPS daily traffic.  At the same time, Product Listing Ads traffic has jumped dramatically, so while this is in line with what we’d expect, the dramatic inversion of these programs has been remarkable.

Take, for example, the image below, which looks at the traffic pattern for one of our retailers that is representative of most.  The green line represents Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and the red line represents traffic not from PLAs, as in Google Product Search. You can see that right around the time that Google launched Google Shopping there was a dramatic shift in traffic levels.

  Google Shopping PLAs

In case you needed another reason to go ahead and launch your PLAs, here are some other insights gleaned from our statistics.

Looking at all of our customers, the gross merchandise value (GMV) driven by Google Product Search for customers that are NOT using PLAs continues to drop.  However, for those using PLAs, the GMV driven by GPS has risen slightly.  What does this mean?  Apparently those customers using PLAs are doing better on the existing free GPS than their counterparts who aren’t using PLAs. 

Further, for our customers using PLAs, their Google Shopping traffic is up incrementally, but their Google Shopping revenue is up significantly.

One last point, for those customers who are not yet using PLAs, year-to-date Google Shopping revenue growth is flat (these customers would have ads showing up through the existing GPS or Google Extensions).  However, for those customers who have implemented PLAs, year-to-date revenue on Google Shopping is up more than 2X!

We’ve got another Tuesday 20 Webinar on Google Shopping this Tuesday, as well as an opportunity to apply for a free assessment to see how you could be best using Google Shopping. 

We’ll continue to take a look at these figures and will update this blog with meaningful information, so check back often.

Blog post by Link Walls, Director of Product Management, ChannelAdvisor (@linkwalls)

 

 

Jul 17, 2012

Get Ready for Google Shopping


GoogleShopping
If you are a retailer that is feeling 100% comfortable and in the loop with what's going on with the transistion to Google Shopping, then you're likely in the minority.  

For everyone else who needs a little more insight on the sunset of Google Product Search and transition to the new, commercial-based Google Shopping, (and specifically, what it means for you), you should check out our Retailer's Roadmap to Google Shopping Success

We've culled a bunch of resources to keep you as informed as possible.  

First, you won't want to miss our Getting Started with Google Shopping Webinar taking place tomorrow, July 18th at 2pm ET. This webinar will walk through all the details about Google Shopping and key deadlines you don't want to miss. 

If you've got the basics down, you'll want to tune in to our new Tuesday 20 Webinar Series.  (Sidenote: The Tuesday 20 is a new series we're launching that will cover all the topical happenings in e-commerce, as they happen. These webinars will last 20 minutes with 10 minutes of content and 10 minutes for Q&A.)  The first Tuesday 20 series will focus on Google Shopping and will take place every Tuesday at 2:00 pm ET from July 24th-August 28th.  

Here's the Tuesday 20 Schedule: 

7/24 2:00pm ET Understand Google Shopping
7/31 2:00pm ET Effectively Managing your Google Feed
8/7 2:00pm ET Optimizing Your Feed Content for Google Shopping
8/14 2:00pm ET Targets and Promotions
8/21 2:00pm ET Bidding and Negative Keywords
8/28 2:00pm ET Review and Looking Forward

We've also got some great resources for ChannelAdvisor customers available on the Strategy & Support Center at the following link: http://ssc.channeladvisor.com/google-shopping

Finally, we'll continue to update this blog with important information and dates.  

Bookmark the Roadmap to Google Shopping Success and partner with ChannelAdvisor and we'll make sure you're good to go on Google Shopping. 

 

Jul 06, 2012

More Google Shopping news: Comparison Shopping Engines are in the mix!

One of the e-commerce experts at ChannelAdvisor uncovered some interesting data that led us to an important discovery about the new Google Shopping / PLA.  Before we jump into the details, let me explain how we discovered it, the CSI work that led to it and then what it means for retailers.

How did we discover this?

Here at ChannelAdvisor, we provide our software-as-a-service offerings for Search, CSE, Marketplaces and social in two formats:

  1. Self service – this is where the retailer directly uses the software to manage a variety of e-commerce channels on their own.
  2. Managed service – where the retailer outsources the management of the channel to one of our e-commerce channel experts.

One of the managed service folks noticed some very unusual data this week:

  1. First they saw the GPS traffic go to near zero as Google switched over the one box from GPS to Google Shopping.
  2. Google Shopping / PLA traffic went up some.
  3. PriceGrabber.com traffic went up a a ton.

Usually when we see any kind of data move more than 10% (with the exception of holidays of course), we try to understand what is happening from a user experience standpoint or with the CSEs, we also look at any changes in distribution.

Our software allows us to look back several levels of referrals and when our expert dug in they found this weird trail:

Retailer product page -> PriceGrabber.com - > Google Shopping

That’s a weird referral chain because historically Google did not allow ‘aggregators’ (A  catch all term for CSEs and affiliates) to participate.

What exactly is going on?

After seeing this one chain, we knew what we were looking for and here is what we are seeing: (unfortunately I can’t show a screen shot as we don’t want to reveal any client-specific strategies):

  • Google definitely is showing a couple top CSEs in the Google Shopping results.
  • When they are displayed in the new user experience, they are branded as if they are from the retailer directly – in other words, it says retailer.com not PriceGrabber or shopzilla
  • The CSE is paying google and the retailer is paying the CSE – so the CSEs appear to be participating in the PLA auction.

What we don’t know

There’s a lot we can tell from the data (above) and there’s some things that are still a mystery:

  • This is probably a google experiment – perhaps they are using CSEs to augment their selection in Google Shopping?
  • How are the CSEs paying – CPA, CPC or ?
  • What if a  retailer is in both – you would assume google takes the highest bid (retailer-direct or cse), but who knows.  It seems that CSEs would be able to bid their rate card minus a bit for margin -  a pure arbitrage game – because it is essentially a click-pass-through.  To be clear, the consumer NEVER lands on the CSE, they are passed through via redirect to the retailer and never see the CSEs brand.

What does this mean for retailers?

The inclusion of CSEs in Google Shopping has some interesting implications (positive and negative) for retailers:

Pros:

  • For smaller retailers, the CSEs could provide a valuable service – grouping small retailers together and acting almost like a co-op – helping them bid more together than they could individually.
  • If you don’t want to get involved in Google Shopping at all, you can effectively outsource it to a CSE and they will manage it like a portfolio of traffic sources.
  • CSEs have had a tough couple of years. Changes in both Google paid and organic programs such as Panda and Penguin have caused significant pain for CSEs.  Perhaps this is a light at the end of that tunnel?

Cons:

  • Channel conflict – Many times in internet marketing it makes a ton of sense to run two ads.  The idea is that if one ad works, then two should work as well.  We call that a shelf space strategy and most retailers employ it.  The challenge here is that instead of getting two spots (the direct and CSE), the retailer is competing with the CSE for one spot.  This will likely cause channel conflict and most large retailers may pull their listings from the CSEs (either all together or just for Google Shopping if allowed).
  • Control – While convenient, having someone else running ads for you can make it hard to have your brand 100% represented.  Remember the consumer sees retailer.com on the GS entry, not the CSE.com.  What if you are running a promotion? What if the price is incorrect?  What if you want more control over the product, image, etc.?
  • Lack of data – Last, but not least, in our corner of the World, data is king.  The CSEs will be collecting all of the data and Google Shopping ‘know how’ and all you will see is the pass through CPC.  It may not be prudent to be removed from the data needed to get an edge on this program.

Conclusions:

This is a very new development (literally about 48hrs of data), so it’s too early to make a recommendation on what retailers should do.  That being said, we do recommend keeping a very close eye on this and starting to think about where you stand on the issue from a macro standpoint :

  • Do you want to effectively compete with your CSEs for Google Shopping spots?
  • Do you want to do both?
  • Do you want to participate in Google Shopping primarily through non Google CSEs?

If you are leaning towards not wanting to effectively compete (full disclosure: we are leaning this way in our recommendation for large branded retailers and manufacturers.)

 

Then you should call your engines and ask if they will be able to exclude your listings from the Google Shopping source. E.g. talk to your CSE account rep and tell them you do not want your items distributed via the CSE to Google Shopping.  We’re not sure they will allow this, but it’s worth asking.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this going forward and keep you posted on any new developments.

 

SeekingAlpha Disclosure - I am long Google and Amazon. eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor where I am CEO.

 

 

 

 

Jun 28, 2012

NEWSFLASH: Google turns off Google Product Search in One Box....

Starting yesterday, June 27, our data indicated that Google started to send the bulk of the “one box” traffic for commercial searches to the new ‘step 1’ Google Shopping experience.  In calls with retailers we are getting a ton of questions about the change(s) going on at Google, so wanted to continue sharing common questions and our answers along with news updates as they happen.

What is One box traffic?

Internally at Google called the integration of product search and main search is called Universal Search, and externally One Box – this is where historically the product results from Google Product Search (GPS) were integrated right in with the organic and paid search results.

Examples:

For pretty much every commercial/product search you will now see this new treatment.  Here are some examples.

Here's the search for 'electrical generator':

Gs_generator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's the result for 'mascara':

Gs_mascara

Here's the result for 'samsung phone':

Gs_phone

Why does this matter?

The original timeline that Google published for the beginning of some testing of traffic was June 1 with July 1 as the ‘change over begins in earnest day’ and Oct 15 as the move is complete day.

This abrupt change in traffic on June 27, indicates that Google has moved that July 1 date up.  In fact, many retailers were thinking there would be a slow change from July 1-> Oct 15, but this one box move signals that the bulk of the traffic will now flow through the new system.

Is GPS totally turned off?

There are still a couple of paths that consumers can take to get to the old GPS experience and thus generate free traffic to retailers.  The first path is through the new One Box Google Shopping Experience.  In the PLA below, if the user clicks any of the product images, or retailers, they are taken to the retailer an the PLA CPC is incurred.  However, if they click on the green ‘shopping.google.com’ link they still go to the old GPS.

The two other paths consumers can take to the old GPS:

  • Direct URL navigation to shopping.google.com
  • Clicking on the shopping tab from Google SERPS or home page

How much traffic is now diverted?

By our measure, the one-box delivered 80% of the traffic to Google Product Search.  While you could argue that there is still a path there from the onebox, we have seen traffic drop about 80%, so we believe that not many consumers are actually clicking on the green shopping link.  This makes sense because the other options are much more visual and appealing.

What should retailers be doing?

We continue to have a lot of  retailers calling us with a lot of questions on the changes.

Here are our recommendations:

  1. Education – First it helps to fully understand the changes and what they mean for your business.  We have a lot of content here on the CSE Strategies blog and ChannelAdvisor also had a Google co-hosted webinar that was an excellent source of information.
  2. Become a Google Shopping and PLA expert – The PLA system has flown under the radar since 2009 and we’re finding a lot of retailers have not understood the program very well nor have they optimized it.  More information on common misconceptions is below. 
  3. Start Optimizing Google Shopping and PLAs – While we haven’t seen the complete secondary and tertiary experience roll out yet (except for tents),  even with this big first step change in one box, you can start optimizing your PLAS.

Google Shopping + PLAs are not search marketing

One common mis-perception we are finding is that retailers assume that because a) this is Google and b) it’s CPC and c) you manage part of it in the adwords user interface, this is another program just like Adwords.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Here are some of the reasons it is NOT like adwords and therefore should be managed differently:

  1. The User Experience is a CSE – See our walk through here for details.
  2. Products not keywords – Instead of thinking at a keyword+ad levely, you have to optimize at a target+product level.  Google’s Adwords system has no concept of products.  You  control the product-level information via the datafeed which you have to produce.
  3. Targets?!– The atomic level at which you bid in PLAs is the target.  You group products into targets and then assign a bid to that set of products.  This creates some important and strategic questions:
  •  
    • Should you group products by brand?
    • Should you group by category?
    • Should you group by ASP?
    • Should you group by promotional activity?
    • Should you group by margin?
    • Should you group by ROAS?
    • Should you group by Conversion rate?
    • What do you do if a product goes out of stock - keep it in the target?
    • Maybe you should group by ‘price competitiveness’?

Here’s the trick – the answer to the above questions is sometimes yes, sometimes no and sometimes it changes on a daily basis.  Most frequently you want to matrix and optimize against 2-3 factors.

  1. Datafeed – The way you create and optimize targets is via datafeeds.  You’re going to want to create as tight a loop between your optimization strategies and your datafeed.  If you have to go to IT every time you want to optimize your datafeed for PLA, you will get eaten alive by competitors that can out cycle you.
  2. Target transparency – you will want to be able to ‘look into’ the targets to see the metrics on a per-product level.  Google does not allow you to do this, SEMs don’t understand products and will not be able to help you here.
  3. Search bid optimization strategies won’t work.  In the keyword search world, some advanced strategies have been developed (that are generally questionable for retailers to begin with, but we’ll save that debate for a later day).  These approaches do not make sense with Google Shopping and PLA:
    • Efficient Frontier For CPA-based business models, where you are focused on acquiring a customer or an event (e.g. a mortgage) it makes sense to overpay for some leads and underpay for others and optimize your budget.  This makes no sense in PLA – what if you overpay for a target that is lower margin products and underpay for a target that has higher margin costs?
    • Portfolio bidding – Actually this is very applicable and is essentially what google has implemented.  Targets are your different portfolios and you treat them differently with different bids.
    • Predictive bidding – These approaches allow you to ‘simulate into the future’ and answer questions such as: If I bid $X, how much more traffic will I get and consequently revenue?  This approach doesn’t work, because unlike a keyword/ad combo in Adwords where you know if I bid on the keyword “lcd monitor” I will show up, in PLA, you don’t know what target will show up for which search and you also don’t know which product within the target did/would/could show up.  In other words, by its very nature, PLA is unpredictive.  You would do much better looking at past performance than trying to predict the unpredictable future performance.

(Note: Typepad won't let me fix the numbering above.)

Ten questions to ask your Google Shopping/PLA solution provider

We’ve suggested that retailers use questions like the following to help understand if your current PLA or proposed provider is going to be able to really help you with this program:

  1. How should I set up my Targets?  What is your initial recommendation?
  2. Will you need us to make frequent datafeed changes?  How much time will you allow/need?
  3. Can you provide sku/product level details on PLA/GS performance?  (sales/sku, cost/sku, CR/sku, margin/sku, etc.)
  4. How do you plan to optimize - against spend, revenue, margin, ?
  5. Do you have business rules that automatically change datafeeds?
  6. What is the ROAS your e-commerce clients are seeing with GS/PLA?
  7. Do PLA's convert worse, or better than adwords?
  8. If I have a fixed budget, what % should be adwords and what % PLA?
  9. If a product I don't want is showing up for a GS result, can you turn that off or optimize the product that does show up?
  10. What are some common optional attributes I need to make sure my feed has to improve my GS/PLA performance?
  11. What's an example where you would bid-down a Target?
  12. How does predictive modeling work with GS/PLAs?

 

Examples of unoptimized retailers that are burning money on Google Shopping/PLA

One step you can take immediately is start doing searches for your top selling products.  You will start to see some very interesting behaviors which really points out the importance of tightly managing this program.  Here are a couple of examples we have found that are interesting.  When talking about the ads, we use a numbering system from left to right like this:

 

Example 1:  front loading washer lg:

In this example, we are looking for a front-loading LG washer.  You can imagine for a $1000+ appliance, you would be willing to pay a pretty big CPC, so to compete for this type of product, you have to be bidding north of $5/click most likely (assuming the market is rational).  If you are paying that much, you want to make sure you are showing a high-end product:

Front_loading_washer

Here advertiser 5 would not want to pay a high CPC to have their $160 product.  When you see these large swings of ASP in one set of results, it usually points to a program that is running on autopilot and the retailer is probably losing not only a lot of $ on a cost/product basis, but most importantly the opportunity cost is very high.  What if they had the WM2250 at a competitive price?

 

Example 2: Lawn sweepers anyone?

One of the top selling outdoor items is a lawn sweeper (who knew?!). Here's a search result:

Lawn_sweeper

One of these things is not like the other....Yes, you guessed it, Amazon (well Google) has served up a floor sweeper and not a lawn sweeper.  Again, you would think the economics would take are of this.

 

Example 3: 42 inch TVs

Here, we are starting to look for a 42 inch TV and are looking at panasonics:

42_inch_panasonic

Spot number 2 looks like a great price, but the image is a little weird.  When you click through, this is some kind of an internal part for a panasonic 42" TV.  What you'll find is that due to their complex and unorganized catalog, eBay has some of the wackiest things they are advertising in Google Shopping.  It will be interesting to watch and see if they keep this level of spend up or not.  Also, Google has to realize it is a bad user experience at some point and do something about it.

 

Example 4: Mustang bumpers

Here we have been in a bit of a fender bender and are looking for a new bumper for our classic Mustang.  Boy there sure are some great deals!  BTW, this one wins the 'biggest swing in ASP' that I have found - a whopping $1,665!

Mustang_bumper

Conclusions

Based on what we are seeing, here are some closing thoughts:

  • Google seems to be moving faster here than anyone initially thought
  • A lot of retailers are really scrambling
  • Unfortunately many are mistaking the new Google Shopping CSE as another search offering
  • They will be at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Heading into Q4, this creates a big opportunity for cutting-edge retailers to get ahead of the competition and get aggressive with this program (and smart) and take some serious share.

Are you seeing your GPS traffic drop off a cliff? Have you seen any wacky PLA examples? Sound off in comments.

 

SeekingAlpha Disclosure - I am long Google and Amazon. eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor where I am CEO.

 

 

 

 

 

Harnessing Social, Local and Mobile to Improve your Online Strategy

The convergence of social, local and mobile has changed the world of e-commerce. With the rapid adoption of smartphones across Europe and changing customer habits, perfecting your strategy for these three trends can close the loop on your online strategy. For retailers looking to expand their business internationally, these three tips will give you a competitive advantage and help you stand out from the crowd. 

Social

Facebook is one of the most powerful tools for retailers looking to broaden their brand awareness globally. With a user base of over 900 million, and over half of those users logging in to their account daily, the potential to reach new customers is vast. Facebook is not limited by borders; users across the world are “Liking” brands and retailers they admire. In fact, 33% of the Facebook audience are fans of a brand online. The desire to interact with products certainly exists amongst Facebook users, but this does not necessarily mean that your Facebook page should be an extension of your webstore. Many retailers fall into the trap of forgetting the social aspect of social media; instead you should engage with your fans in a meaningful way to create a successful social media strategy.

Facebook Fans

Incentivise those users who are fans of your page through exclusive offers or competitions and  an engaging page that they can enjoy browsing. Understand your audience and keep up-to-date with local events or holidays or shopping habits. By acknowledging their local and cultural identity, and placing timely posts, you will establish your business as a trusted name.

Local

Google LocalIn terms of going global we advise retailers to think of local in two ways. For retailers who have an established overseas presence, embrace local by offering a store locator on your website and displaying your location on Google Maps. 50% of smartphone shoppers in Europe will use a GPS or mapping app to find a retail location. Get your store-level inventory optimised to attract potential customers and ensure that your products are compatible with barcode scanning apps such as RedLaser. 

However, local can have a different meaning in the global sense and this applies to retailers of all sizes. When going global, the key to success is acting like a local business. Rather than trying to adopt a one size fits all global expansion strategy, take a step back and understand the nuances of each potential market. From customer shopping habits to culture, local language to regulation, every country has unique characteristics. Even in English speaking territories such as the US, Australia and UK there are differences in language and culture. For example, with different product names across these regions, trying to rehash your PPC keywords can cost valuable, potential revenue. Before expanding internationally, localise all of your offering, understand your target audience, country regulations, culture and language. By understanding your target audience and localising all of your efforts you will be able to compete with local businesses and see success. 

Mobile

Europe is leading the way with smartphone penetration with a 42% adoption rate across the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. Pair this with a 39% adoption rate in the US and it is clear to see that globally the rise of mobile adoption rates is causing a seismic shift in consumer behaviour. 13.6 million people across Europe accessed a retail site via a smartphone last year, an increase of 112% in just 12 months. Customers are now researching and buying more products online, scanning barcodes to compare prices and check in-store availability.

Take advantage of this trend by creating a mobile-friendly website with up-to-date inventory levels, an easy checkout process and an enjoyable browsing experience to convert browsers in to shoppers. For retailers with a global presence, offer a native language site where possible, and at a minimum make your delivery conditions easy to find so as to avoid cart abandonment. 

Finally...

Social, local and mobile are three of the key themes in e-commerce today. Whether you optimise your performance across these three areas to improve your online strategy or expand your business globally, keeping up with these key topics will have a positive impact on your bottom line. 

 

Jun 22, 2012

FIRST LOOK: The new complete Google Shopping / Product Listing Ads user experience!!

Today, we discovered that Google has one keyword live that exhibits the complete new user experience for Google Shopping, powered by Product Listing Ads (PLA).

It's all about the tents

If you've been following the big Google news (we started here, and have a webinar here and Q+A here and more blogs coming), you may have noticed that there are two types of examples that Google has given for the changes coming to the new Google Shopping: telescopes and tents.

One the folks at ChannelAdvisor had an idea, and ran a search for 'tent' to try and see the PLA screen shots live in the wild.  Much to our surprise, she discovered that the entire new Google Shopping experience is live (your results may vary as it seems they have turned it off again). 

In this post, I'll take you on a tour of the complete new GS experience.  At the bottom (skip to that if you want to understand that first) I analyze what this new User eXperience (UX) means for everyone thinking about their GPS/PLA/GS strategy going forward and introduce the Top 5 reasons you should not manage PLA/GS as if it is search (or the top 5 reasons you should manage PLA/GS like a CSE).

Notes and disclaimers:

  • Click any any image to expand it.  If you are reading this on a feed, you may want to head to csestrategies.com to go direct to get the best formatting.
  • This experience quickly went away after we found it. It's our feeling that it seems like an entirely new and detailed experience and probably represents where Google is going with GS.  That being said, Google is known for a ton of testing and it's possible this could have been a random test.  The level of investment and curation for this UX is very large which is why we are leaning this way.

GS One Box Experience for 'tent' (step one)

The 'one box' or Search Engine Results Page (SERP) integration of GS for 'tent' looks like this:

Tent1

This is very interesting.  Instead of the usual presentation where you immediately see products, we are given a complete integrated buyer's guide for tents.  Step one of that buyer's guide is picking the type of tent - camping, backpacking, beach, canopy, mountaineering or ice-fishing (who knew?!).

When the user clicks on one of these 'types' of tents they are taken to step two of the experience. 

GS Step Two Experience for 'tent'

In step two, we are now out of the SERP and into the GS experience (note that the navigation on the left is branded Shopping).

Here's what step two looks like:

Tent2

At this point in the experience, we are at a filtered navigation type system.  The filters available are:

  • Sleep Capacity
  • Brand
  • Price
  • Seasonality
  • More
  • Sort type (relevance, etc.)

What's really slick (and an innovative new UX) is that some of these still have a very clean 'guided shopping' type approach, for example, here is the sleep capacity:

Tent3

After filtering, the user is presented with a variety of different 'models' of the product that appeared to be sorted by some kind of sales rank (Amazon style).

GS Step Three Experience for 'tent'

When we click on the first product, we are now taken to a good old fashioned product page as illustrated below:

Tent4

 

Here GS has gone with a traditional paid CSE experience (shopping.com, shopzilla, pricegrabber, etc) where the 'initial' sort on the item page is not by price.  If the end-user wants to sort by price, they need to click the price column two times (the first click inexplicably does highest to lowest, then the second click does lowest to highest).

Also, notice that Amazon and eBay are both participating.  In fact, eBay has 3-5 entries based on eBay's BestMatch Algorithm (see the sidebar) and condition.  Note that the seller is 'new-sealed', that is not explicitly the condition being surfaced.

Once the consumer clicks here, they are taken to the retailer and the CPC (or CPA) is incurred.

 

Sidebar: eBay's Coleman 14x10 tents...hmmm

One unusual entry you may have noticed in the results above is that eBay's best new 10x14 coleman tent is $579 and Amazon's is $229 - could Amazon really be that much less?  When you click through the eBay listings, you see what a challenge eBay's data problem can cause as they try to participate in programs like this:

Ebay_tents

Here, eBay's algorithm has tried to match all of these tents to the Coleman 14x10 tent.  What has happened is the >$500 tent is the only one that is actually what the consumer is looking for -the other tents that eBay has matched aren't the right size.  I guess eBay is smart enough not to erroneously report those to Google, but they do erroneously group them for the consumer and it can be confusing and end up in the unalert consumer buying the wrong size.  Since eBay has no catalog for tents, this automated approach is prone to failure.

What's really painful is that it appears that eBay has a lot of $200 tents here that are Coleman instant 8-person 10x14 tents, but because of data quality issues, isn't sending those to Google and thus eBay doesn't appear competitive.

The 'tent' GS Experience - what does it mean for retailers?

That concludes the front to back new user experience for Google Shopping.  It's actaully extremely enlightening and shows what a game changer this new program is going to be for retailers and how dramatically it is going to change the PLA program.

I also think that to Google's point, this is a huge upgrade in the user experience which always is good and results in higher CRs and AOVs at the end of the day.

Frist, let's recap what we saw of note in the UX walk-through from a PLA perspective:

  • There was no 'traditional PLA' (right rail) on the initial SERP
  • There wasn't a CPC/CPA PLA 'charge' until step 3 of the process - the item page.

What's most interesting when thinking about how to strategically approach this new user experience is the item page.  With most traditional CSEs, we have found that overwhelmingly (80% plus) of the time consumers do sort by price.  What that means strategically is that you may not have to bid aggressively when you have the lowest price on a product.

Look at that initial step-3 UX - as you bid more, you are paying to move up that ladder, but if the consumer does a price sort and clicks while you have the lowest price, why would you pay more?

Five reasons that Google Shopping/PLA is a CSE and not AdWords.

This first look into the new Google Shopping user experience really highlights why retailers need to manage this program as if it were a CSE.  Here are the top five reasons you do NOT want to treat this as another adwords program (instead treat it as a steroid-amped CSE):

  1. Google Shopping/PLA is a CSE -> Well, it is a Comparison Shopping Engine - look at this UX - CSE, CSE, CSE.  Product matching, attributes, SKU-level optimization, etc. all of that is going to be super important.  Don't drop the ball here.
  2. Item page price sort - Some innovative vendor is going to create some solutions based on this experience that save smart retailers a TON of ad spend (ahem, you can bet your bottom dollar we have a big team on this already).
  3. Datafeeds - the way you manipulate this program is with datafeeds.  What if you are a tent seller and aren't providing google today with capacity, size, or one of the other ~10 attributes that Google has added to the user experience?  Well, you'll need to add those to the datafeed ASAP or you will get zero, yes zero exposure - because it doesn't matter how much you bid - if your product isn't categorized right, it won't be seen.  Period.
  4. Target transparency - PLA targets are designed to be big black boxes.  With a CSE mindset we can smash open that black box and see what is going on inside of there.  This will give you a competitive advantage over retailers that treat PLA like a search program.
  5. Target/datafeed/optimization loop- Let's say you see a new UX like this and want to change your strategy.  PLA is driven by targets which are configured in the....datafeed.  If you have to login to your adwords account to configure some new targets, then run to IT to change your datafeed (for new targets or attributes, or to exclude products) and then after X days measure that (which you can't do because you can't see into the targets), then you try to iterate, you will be 10 steps behind a retailer that is optimizing this like a CSE.
  6. Ok it's a bonus - GMV and margin vs. spend. Agencies manage based on spend.  You manage CSEs based on sales (GMV) and margin - if you manage PLA+GS on spend, you are going to get eaten alive.  It is going to be very easy to let the spend run and generate very low sales with almost no accountability (see Target transparency).

That's what we learned from the new UX - I think it's a net very positive for retailers - especially those that treat the new Google Shopping/PLA like a CSE.  For those retailers that think of it as an extension of search, you are going to be bringing a knife to a proverbial gunfight.

P.S. You saw it here first folks ;-)

SeekingAlpha Disclosure: I am long Google and Amazon.  eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor where I am CEO.

 

 

 

Jun 04, 2012

Questions and Answers: Google Product Search to Product Listing Ad / Google Shopping Transition

On Friday, June 1, 2012, we hosted a webinar to help retailers: (You can see a replay of the webinar HERE).

  • Understand the history and inner workings of Google Product Search, Product Listing Ads and Google Trusted Store programs  
  • Understand the changes coming to GPS and the new Google Shopping
  • Evaluate the impact from the GPS-> Google Shopping changes
  • Start thinking about remediation and next steps in a three-phase program.

Unfortunately we only had an hour and there were a LOT of questions we were not able to get through. As we started reviewing the questions, we thought it would be helpful to post the answers for all to see as there are a lot of common threads and similar topics have come up in our individual discussions with customers.  You can see a replay of the webinar here – in answering the questions, we assume you have a basic understanding of the overall changes and it would be optimal if you review the webinar.


Google also graciously agreed to help us answer some questions, so they have added content in here where you see ‘Google Answer/clarification.’  

Download the recording of our joint webinar with Google for more information about the changes and for additional answers to your questions. Register for the recording here.

Given the volume of questions, we have sectioned them into these five sub-sections:

  • General Google Shopping questions
  • Product Listing Ad questions
  • SEO/Organic search questions
  • Marketplace questions (eBay and Amazon)
  • Misc

You can read these straight though and get a really good feeling for the changes coming, or if you have specific areas of interest - e.g. eBay, you can use your browsers search function (control-f/apple-f) to jump to the specific area of interest.

After today's Google webinar, we will continue with part II and III of our series of blog posts around the big GPS changes.

*******************General Google Shopping / Google Product Search Questions

 Q: Are the shopping feeds still free? Will the Google Shopping site still be free?

A: Between now and October, Google will be changing GPS to Google Shopping and it will move to a pay system. Google is replacing the current free system (Google Product Search) with a new fee-based system called Google Shopping.  Google Shopping will use an existing program called Google Product Listing Ads (PLA).  Based on our data from the PLA program, we estimate a 19.85% effective take rate for the program.  It is impossible to predict the actual costs; because every merchant is different and because it is an auction, we cannot know the pricing across the program as a surge of new supply (retailers) and demand (buyers coming in via the new Google Shopping) hit the system.

Q: Do you think this will end all the crap companies that put up false prices. i.e Making more opportunities for the honest merchants?

 
A: Yes, in fact Google cited problems with the quality of products in GPS among one of the top drivers for this change. Merchant center feed policies do state that prices in feeds must match the retailer’s site.  That policy has been in effect and the issue is that it is very hard to monitor/enforce. Going forward, hopefully the fact they are paying for non-converting traffic will make this practice go away due to economic incentives being more aligned.

 

Q: Are policies concerning prohibited product types going to be changing to accommodate the new program?  Example:  Prohibited products in product Ads - Alcohol.  Currently allowable in Product Search.

Google Answer/clarification:  

Whereas Google Product Search and Product Listing Ads previously had separate policies and feed specifications, Google Shopping will use a single set of policies and feed specifications.

In order for your products to continue to appear on Google Shopping, your feed must comply with our feed specifications, currently available at: http://support.google.com/merchants/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2626314 

All of the items in your feed must comply with the Google Shopping policies, currently available at: http://support.google.com/merchants/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2632553 

Merchants who will be affected by policy changes should expect an email notification from us in June 2012.  Enforcement of the new feed specifications will roll out gradually over the course of Q3, but the policies will be enforced as of July 1. 

 

 

Q: Have you heard anything about Google Checkout contributing to the algorithm for the new Google Shopping, it sound like Trusted Stores will eventually play a role, but wasn't sure about Checkout.
A: Defer to Google on this.

 Google Answer/clarification: Google Wallet (formerly known as Checkout) is not intended to be a factor in ranking.

Q: How will Google rank the product listing ads merchants?

 
A: While the specifics of how Google ranks search results are impossible to know, they do disclose contributing factors in programs like AdWords.  Our expectation is that the ranking for Google Shopping will share some of that framework – specifically that quality will be important.  In AdWords that is done through Quality Score which is an important factor (along with bid and others) in determining the paid results for any given search.  The result is that high quality ads that consumers find appealing (and therefore click) do better than those that aren’t useful to consumers.  For products, these same fundamentals exist – quality will matter and this only increases the importance of building a quality data feed to send to Google.

 Google Answer/clarification: 

When the transition to Google Shopping is completed this fall, ranking will be based on a combination of relevance and bid price, similar to Product Listing Ads today.  This should give merchants greater control over where their products appear on Google Shopping.  

 

Q: Will this only affect "Google Shopping"?
A: This will only directly impact the program called Google Product Search (GPS), which is currently accessed via the one-box results and the shopping tab.  It will not impact other comparison shopping engines (CSEs).  If you use the Google program called Product Listing Ads (PLA), there will be side effects as Google is changing the display of that program to ‘merge’ it with GPS.  We also expect the economics will oscillate as a lot of new supply and demand hits that system, which has been relatively stable.

 

Q: Will rich snippets have any impact of product listings?

A: Google has not indicated anything regarding Rich Snippets will change.

Link to rich snippets info: http://support.google.com/merchants/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1068046

Google Answer/clarification:
There is no change to the Rich Snippets program.

 

Q: Will the display format of PLAs change as part of this?  Will multiple advertisers' listings be consolidated into one listing (e.g. see more vendors link)?
A: Yes – if you check the original Google Commerce blog post, you will see some notional examples of how Google will modify the user experience.  Please be sure to join us on our Google Webinar to see more examples.

 Google Answer/clarification:
Google is constantly experimenting with new ad formats in its effort to provide the best user experience and performance for our partners.  As a part of the transition to Google Shopping, we will experiment with a variety of commercial formats, including larger product images or the ability to refine a search by brand or product type.  

We also will experiment with different formats, depending on the granularity of the query.  For example, if the user searches for “digital cameras” then it makes sense to show a variety of products with options for the user to browse and find more.  For a more granular product query, such as “Canon Powershot S100,” we’ll likely show more in-depth information about the specific product with a list of merchants from whom to buy.

Q: Can manufacturers/brands restrict sellers from bidding on their products?

A: The Google AdWords policies around trademarks apply and we have seen product listing ads get disapproved for this reason. Google has not given any indication that these policies are changing.

Google Answer/clarification:
The Adwords policies will apply across Google Shopping, both in the new “commercial unit” that displays on Google.com and on Google.com/shopping.

 

*******************Product Listing Ad (PLA) Questions*******************

 

Q: As the transition to PLA occurs July forward, will there be a way to know how our search profile and products are being affected? 
A: During this transition we recommend closely monitoring the traffic and revenue coming from your Google feed and specifically measuring the amount that is coming from traditional Google Product Search versus Product Listing Ads.  This ratio will rise over the transition period and is the best way to get a feel for how much of your search volume is being served by the new Google Shopping.

 

Q: How can a company place bids based on individual products? Without having that ability, how can mass merchants or marketplaces place appropriate bids when 1000's of similar products exist on their systems, all of which have different prices and conversions rates?
A:  Google does not currently offer a method to place bids at the product level.  Bidding is done in AdWords at the Target level.  Targets are a way to associate groups of similar products together and manage via a single bid.  Your first step should be to evaluate the performance of your product catalog across Product Listing Ads and then segment your catalog (by performance, margin, conversion rate, etc.) to employ a performance-based optimization strategy.  ChannelAdvisor provides this level of data to evaluate the performance of each product on PLA.

 

Google Answer/clarification:
Product Listing Ads offers a number of ways for advertisers to organize their products for bidding purposes.  Advertisers can choose from existing attributes in their product feed, such as product_type, brand or condition, or they can tag their offers using custom adwords_labels or adwords_grouping attributes, which can either represent one or many items in the product feed.  For most advertisers, we generally recommend starting more broadly at the category level and then bidding more granularly as needed. 

Q: Will there be a need for 2 URL’s after full transition?

A: Assuming this question is referring to the ability to include an optional Redirect URL in the data feed then the answer is yes this will still be possible.  The Redirect URL field enables various tracking options to differentiate PLA from traditional Google Product Search.  As GPS goes away this may prove to be of lesser use but we anticipate the flexibility remaining.

 Google Answer/clarification:
Yes, please review the new Google Shopping Feed Specification, currently available at http://support.google.com/merchants/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2626314


Q If only PLAs, does that means that PLA guidelines will rule Google Shopping?  

A:  Effectively, yes – they are called Google Shopping policies, but seem to duplicate PLA.

 All of the items in your feed must comply with the Google Shopping policies, currently available at http://support.google.com/merchants/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2632553

 

Q: Can we send redirect url’s? Or does it have to be domain name url’s? 

A: No, PLA does not allow for redirects. Yes, the adwords_redirect URL currently allows for redirects. Thus far, no indication has been given by Google that this will change.

Google Answer/clarification:

Please see previous answer re: 2 URLs. 

 

Q: How do product listing ad CPCs compare to regular Google search CPCs?
A: Here is a table based on ChannelAdvisor’s proprietary data that shows the three programs in tabular format:

Google_programs

Note: It’s important to note that we do expect the PLA program to change dramatically with the sunsetting of GPS as the number of competitors in the auction will increase dramatically. Also keep in mind that the current take rate we see is an aggregation across many merchants each with their own goals, margin profile, etc.  One of the benefits of a CPC-auction based program is that it allows the retailer to set bids according to their goals.  Obviously the realities of the marketplace kick in here but it is certainly possible to pay far less than 20% albeit at a lower revenue volume.

 

Q: If our PLA program right now is CPA, do you believe it will change to CPC? (asked 4 times)

A: No, there has not been any announcement about this ending the PLA CPA program.

 

 Google Answer/clarification:
CPA will continue to be offered to merchants who are whitelisted and add the necessary code that enables transaction monitoring.  CPA is a whitelisted process, due to the level of involvement required to implement the conversion tracking properly with the advertiser.  For more information, please see:

http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2456107.

 

Q: In the Merchant Center, we have products that are disapproved for Product Listing Ads because of trademark policies. This hasn't been a problem for us yet because they don't effect Google Product Search, but going forward will this be something we need to look closely into in order to appear in Google?
A: Yes – in the new Google Shopping, your items will not be shown if they show errors in the Merchant Center because PLA is the underlying system of that new user experience.

Google Answer/clarification:
We will enforce policies regarding trademark, family-safe products and other standard ads policies. 

Q: Is the back-end management for Google Shopping still going to take place on BOTH Merchant Center and the Adwords dashboard as opposed to one unified dashboard?
A: Yes

Q: So basically we should account for a 20% commission to Google for a sale!? That is insane. 

A: Based on current economics that we see across a broad customer base, that is the effective revenue share.  Every merchant is unique and as stated, we do expect the PLA action to change dramatically as this program rolls out – CPCs could go up or down.  Stay tuned. As with any CPC program the % commission is really a function of how aggressively you bid.  Google has stated that they will have the option for products to be bid at a very low CPC ($.01) but of course that may limit  your traffic potential.

Q: Sorry you said PLA is cost per click? 

A: The PLA program offers both CPC and CPA.  For CPA, you have to install a Google Conversion tracker.  Some retailers have expressed concern with installing this as it does give Google details about your conversion rate, product order details, and average order value.

Q: How many retailers do you expect to use CPA for the new Google Shopping? 

A: It’s hard to predict, based on our current set of customers in PLA – about 30% at a merchant level are CPA vs. 70% CPC – CPC is much more popular because many retailers already understand the format due to the AdWords system.  However, we have found those merchants coming into this from the world of marketplaces have a preference for CPA.  It’s the same auction, so it is really up to the retailer to decide which is best for them, though our understanding is that Google has to approve merchants into CPA pricing.

 

Q: in Google Merchant Center a lot of my products are disallowed for product ads but there is no explanation or obvious reason why. Is there a way to figure it out?
A: Hmm, usually we have seen a reason indicated- please contact ChannelAdvisor support (ssc.channeladvisor.com) and we’ll have one of our experts look into it for you.

 

Q: What is the benefit of CPA bidding versus CPC bidding for PLAs?
A: As with any decision, there are pros and cons to each.  We are gathering a list from customers for both programs and will feature that on a future blog post (csestrategies.com) – some of the previous questions have indicated some of the pros+cons.

Google Answer/clarification:
CPC bidding is recommended for merchants whose top priority is traffic.  CPA bidding is recommended for merchants whose top priority is sales.

Q: Do you think overall conversion rates will rise with the merge?
A: It’s always hard to predict conversion rates (and CPCs) because of the dynamic nature of the ‘traffic marketplace’.  If Google implements a GPS-like CSE experience, we expect CRs to at least stay stable and there is definitely up-side. Based on our initial review of the user experience it seems to be a much more cohesive experience which should favorably impact conversion rates.

 

Q: With this change, what happens to the Google Merchant Center feeds that tie into PLAs?
A: Those will become the feeds that drive Google Shopping – so what has changed is currently you have two ‘consumers’ of your feeds – GPS and PLA – going forward only PLA will consume the feeds.

Google Answer/clarification:
We recommend that merchants continue to submit their entire inventory in their feed, as they have done to date, and place at least the minimum bid on all products in their feed.  The process of submitting feeds is not changing with this announcement and, while we will continue to streamline the bidding process, the current bidding interface remains in place.

 

Q: Will unification still play a part in Google shopping? If so, how would that work with a CPC model?
A: We assume that by ‘unification’, you mean the current GPS combination of merchants onto one product page. Based on screen shots we’ve seen, we think the answer is yes. Bid would then play a role in how each offer is ranked within that product page/grouped display, much like on CPC CSEs like Shopzilla.

Google Answer/clarification:
Yes.  Product Pages, which unify all information about a product (including offers from multiple merchants), will be a key feature of Google Shopping.  Offers for a single product will be ranked using a combination of relevance and bid. 

 

*******************SEO/Organic search questions***********************

 

Q: Any thoughts on this change causing an increase competition in SEO efforts and need to commit greater resources to maintain organic search engine result positions?
A: It is too soon to tell the overall impact on organic search results.  One thing that has happened over the last few years as Google has increased the amount of real estate given to Sponsored Listings as well as programs like Google Product Search and Product Listing Ads is that the organic listings on many search terms have been pushed further down the page.  There is a possibility that as the product results consolidate into a unified user experience (PLA + One Box results) that this pulls up Organic listings slightly.

 

Q: Will there still be natural search on the front page?

A: -While this is the first time a free program has converted to paid, Google has not announced plans to make the same move on the organic/natural/SEO results.

 

Q: What does this mean for traditional SEO?  Will Google suppress products from organic results?
A: See previous Answer for the first part of your Question.  For the second part, that’s a good question.  With the advent of Panda and Penguin which are designed to remove duplicate data, fewer and fewer products are showing up in SERPS, but we do not know of anything in this change that will impact that.  We did do a study recently for commercial/e-commerce terms and discovered that ~54% of results were paid and 46% were ‘free’ – that was before the GPS change which will move that more toward 56-60% paid, 34-40% free.

 

Q: Will products still show up on Google organically?

A: See previous Answer. 

 

Marketplace questions (eBay and Amazon)

 

Q: Currently, Amazon and eBay show up in almost every product search. This has helped us to double or even triple up on our search results, since we sell on both sites, as well as our own website. Do you think these companies will pony up the CPA to remain in the search results, and if so, won't they have to pass that increase on to the merchants?
A: As you know, at ChannelAdvisor, we are strong advocates of a strategy that puts your products on a very diverse set of channels (search, cse, marketplaces, social, etc.) and as you point out a nice benefit of this is you do get extensive Google SERP coverage.  While we have no inside information on how Amazon and eBay will react, we do know that they are in the same boat as everyone – as best we know they are not getting a free ride.  I suspect they will make their own choices on the economics and bid accordingly.  It is possible this will result in fee changes there, but nothing has been announced.  One eBay marketing person has commented in the press: (AuctionBytes: http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y12/m06/i01/s01)

 

eBay's head of Internet Marketing Robert Chatwani said eBay was one of the earliest adopters of Google's Product Listing Ads at scale. "We've developed sophisticated capabilities to generate strong buyer demand for our 25 million global sellers through our relationship with Google. We are evaluating the impact of today's announcement, but we also plan to fully participate in the new Google Shopping offering, and continue to harness the power of Google's ad offerings on behalf of our sellers and merchants."

 

Some Wall St. Analysts have calculated that only 5-10% of eBay and Amazon’s traffic comes from Google Product Search, so most likely this will not have a material impact.

 

 

Q: How will this affect listings on Amazon and other channels? Will they be required to CPC?
A: They will definitely be required to make the change like all other merchants.  They are Google’s largest advertisers and may have some special arrangements, tools, APIs, etc.  Given the competition between the companies, we would speculate that eBay and Amazon would not want Google seeing their data, so they most likely are in the CPC program and not CPA, but only Google/Amazon/eBay know for sure.

 

Q: If Amazon has to pay for Clicks to have any relevance, will this in fact help the smaller etailers?
A: You could argue this either way.  One argument is that this strengthens Amazon because they have the largest selection/catalog and they tend to have the lowest prices across a broad basket of goods.  So they will enjoy more clicks and lower CPCs (long tail) and selection/price help with CR.  The other side of the argument is that at a 10-12% Take Rate, Amazon will not be able to afford the 20% ETR that we see in PLA, clearing the deck for smaller merchants that are willing to pay that much.

 

Q: What happens to individual Ebay stores?
A: Currently in GPS, you can see the name of each individual store, we are not sure what the new treatment will be, or if eBay will charge extra or give you some form of control over the datafeed or PLA options.  We never believed that it made sense to pay eBay essentially for free GPS traffic.  Now that GPS is no longer free and given eBay’s 10-12% take rate, it has become a great deal and many smaller sellers may want to play Google Shopping that way.

 

*******************ChannelAdvisor Questions******************* 

Q: In ChannelAdvisor where can I see PLA reports currently?
A: Report Center – Google Product Search Detail is the name of the report. 

 

Q: I have been a ChannelAdvisor customer for about a year.  We have just launched our premium webstore and have successfully been selling on Amazon and eBay with you guys.  I need some direction and help in ways of building traffic to the webstore and formulate an approach budget etc. Who should i talk to at ChannelAdvisor?
A: Congrats on the success so far!  Once you have your webstore where you want it, the logical next steps from marketplaces are:

  • Add more marketplaces – We recently announced support for NewEgg and Sears and more to come.  Marketplaces represent 27% of e-commerce and are a great starting point.
  • Comparison Shopping Engines –If you products sell well on eBay and Amazon, we have found they will do well on CSEs for most categories (CSEs represent 10% of e-commerce)
  • Search – Finally, paid search is the largest channel (40% of e-commerce) but also the most complex.
  • One of the benefits of being with ChannelAdvisor is we have an entire suite of these solutions you can grow into.

 

Miscellaneous (do not fit in the above)

Q: How can they manage the trusted store based on shipping times.. they don't receive the data like ebay / amazon do?  are they only going by Ratings?
A: This program requires the merchant send detailed information about orders placed as well as shipping times to Google so they can measure the merchant’s performance against the service levels.

Google Answer/clarification:
That’s correct.  The performance ratings are based on real data from the merchant.  There are 3 steps to integration:

  1. Javascript on every page to display the Trusted Stores badge
  2. A conversion pixel on your order confirmation page
  3. A daily data feed with your shipping tracking numbers


During our pilot program, most merchants completed integration in about 1 day of work. Full integration details are now publicly available here: http://support.google.com/trustedstoresmerchant/?hl=en

 

Q: I joined late, will this webinar be posted?
A: Yes, we will send all attendees a link to the recording, and you can check here.

 

Q: You show Yahoo! Shopping, but I thought that was closed down?
A: To quote Mark Twain: “News of my death is greatly exaggerated.”  Yahoo! Shopping is alive and well.  What has changed is it is now powered by PriceGrabber.  You can see the experience at shopping.yahoo.com.  It is a paid program and PG allows bidding down to zero zero cents, though bidding that low will likely ensure your listings do not appear in Yahoo Shopping or any of PG’s other publisher partners.

**End***

Jun 01, 2012

Where to go for more information on Google Product Search / Google Shopping / Google Product Listing Ads changes

We have had a flood of questions from retailers of all sizes in regards to the big changes at Google Product Search.  To help everyone get their heads around the changes and plan accordingly, we have a variety of information coming out shortly (webinars, blog posts and in-person at IRCE.  Here are the details:

Webinars

We have two complimentary webinars planned, anyone is invited:

  1. Assessing the Impact of the Recent Google Product Search Changes - Thiswebinar is Friday, June 1 at 1pm ET.  You can register here.  Google will not be on thiswebinar.  Click here to register.
  2. Introducing Google Shopping - co-presented by Google - This webinar will be Monday, June 4 at 4pm ET.  Google will be co-present and be available for Q+A - this webinar will focus mostly on Q+A with Google. Click here to register.

Blog

Going forwad, we will be posting all information related to Google Product Search and Google Shopping at our comparison shopping engine blog - CSEStrategies.com

IRCE

As usual, ChannelAdvisor will have a large presence at the annual Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago next week June 5-7.  Our booth is 1401.

As you come in the exhibit hall through the right entrance, it's a ginormous booth right there.  Here's a handy map in case you can't find us.

Our booth will be staffed with experts that are able to talk to you in detail about these changes and any of your other burning e-commerce questions/needs.

Irce_map

Finally, I will be speaking at IRCE about Pinterest and it's impact on e-commerce.  The session is Thursday at 4:15-5pm in the social commerce track.

If you have any questions you want answered, feel free to post in comments as well.

Scot Wingo

CEO and Co-founder

ChannelAdvisor

 

 

 

 

May 31, 2012

RIP Google Product Search (Froogle) - What it means for the Google and the e-commerce Industry

Rip_gps
**UPDATE: We'll be hosting a webinar with Google on Monday and a webinar tomorrow to help guide retailers through this transition. Register now for both of these webinars.**

  • Part I - Details on the death of Google Product Search. (you are here)
  • Part II - What does this mean for Google and the industry?
  • Part III - What should retailers do? Mitigation strategies

RIP Google Product Search / Froogle - What it means for Google and the E-commerce ecosystem

Part I - Details on the death of Google Product Search.

Today,  Google has made an announcement that will have the biggest impact on retailers since they launched Google Adwords - the end of life of the Google Product Search (Also known as Google Shopping or Froogle - for this series of blogs we will call it GPS for brevity).

The details are available in this blog post on the Google Commerce blog, but here's our quick summary: Everything you need to know about the death of GPS:

  • The new name will be Google Shopping
  • Free goes away
  • Free is replaced with Product Listing Ads - aka PLA - PLA is a program that has been around for a while that puts the image and price on the right gutter of normal search results.
  • There will be an incentive for retailers that sign up for PLA early and move everything early.

Here's what the new UI will look like->

New_gps_ui


Timing

This is still a bit fuzzy, but what we are hearing:

  • Today - announced (May 31, 2012)
  • June - Testing of new UI commences
  • July 1 - Shifting traffic to PLA at scale
  • Oct 1 - All results will be PLA (I bet this happens faster and this is a worst case - I'd plan on Aug 1 - more on this in the retailer mitigation post)
  • This is the US schedule, the other countries will follow through 2013.

What does this mean for Google, E-commerce and online retailers?

We've put together a detailed analysis using our proprietary data on both the GPS and PLA programs.

The headlines are:

  • Google Product Search drives ~$650m in annual sales (or Gross Merchandise Value) in the US. 
  • Google Product Search drives > $1.3B in global sales
  • If you replaced that lost GMV with PLA spend, you would have to spend $130m in the US/yr or > $270m/yr globally.   

The analysis

This table shows how we arrive at the $650m / $1.3b in global GMV using ChannelAdvisor's proprietary data and Comscore's data on Google Product Search:

Gps_gmv_calc


The second table shows how we arrive at the PLA cost to replace that free GMV:

Pla_cost_calc


Conclusion:

This change is going to create a substantial shift in the e-commerce ecosystem.  Google is clearly the winner, generating possibly > $250m in new revenue into the PLA system and dramatically increasing the monetization of every e-commerce query.

That's the surface impact, in the next post, we will explore the secondary and tertiary impact on the industry.  In the third post, we will discuss mediation strategies for retailers.

(Note to ChannelAdvisor customers: we are hosting a series of Webinars and strategy calls to help everyone with remediation strategies around this very impactful Google change).

SeekingAlpha disclosure - I am long Google and Amazon, eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor where I am CEO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 18, 2012

ChannelAdvisor's Developer Choice Days: Two Winners!

One of my favorite traditions at ChannelAdvisor is something we call “Developer Choice Days.” Every quarter we set aside a few days for the engineers to work on anything they want. Lots of tech companies do something similar; Google’s “20% time” is probably the most famous example, but our program is more like Yahoo’s “Hack Days.”

Like Yahoo, we also have a review where the engineers show off their work and compete for prizes. We have a panel of “celebrity judges” who hand out a Best Project prize. Then there’s a prize for the project that is most useful to our services and support teams. Finally, there’s the “people’s choice” award, voted on by the audience members (generally the other engineers).

We’ve been doing this for four years now, and while the format and frequency have changed slightly over the years, we always have lots of innovative projects, many of which “ship” as part of our production software. In fact, we’ve shipped nearly 50 of these projects, and while many of them are infrastructure changes or internal tools that aren’t visible to most users, quite a few are customer-facing features---big ones, in some cases.

Our latest Dev Choice review was Episode XXIX (which gives you an idea of how long we’ve been doing this). The celebrity judges were celebrities indeed: CEO Scot Wingo, President & COO David Spitz, and Directory of Global Services Greg Ives. We had 10 projects, most of which are going to production in a month or two. While all the projects were excellent, we all know There Can Be Only One. Well, in this case, four.

Developers Day
There was a two-way tie for Best Project: QA Engineer Sean Miller’s project (Left in Picture), a “test grid” that speeds up our automated testing; and Database Administrator Justin Jaeschke’s project (Right in Picture), a demonstration of SqlServer Reporting Services for internal reporting. Runner-up for Best Project was Software Engineer Marshall Scott’s prototype of an integration with Fulfillment by Amazon. The winner of the Most Useful Project for Support and Services was Web Developer Jeromie Walters’s project, an internal tool for examining checkout error logs. And the People’s Choice award also went to Sean Miller’s test grid: we love projects that save time!

Our next episode of Developer Choice Days is scheduled for early August. Stay tuned!

Blog post by Anthony Alford, The Feed Doctor.