By Ian Dailey
Digital giant bets big on shoppable ads, cross-app campaigns and real-time intelligence.
There were a couple of telling stats from this week’s Google Marketing Live event, which included many digital ad product announcements and was attended by around 5,000 industry players in San Francisco. In a Google-led study, the tech giant sussed out one particular shopper who wanted to buy a single pair of jeans—the person spent 73 days looking and interacted with more than 250 digital touchpoints (searches, video views and page views) before making a purchase. The modern customer journey can be long and complicated, indeed.
This reality underscores the need for a wide range of customer intelligence—from social media listening and email insights to call data—so brands can act with as much relevance and real-time empathy as possible. Google, as much as any martech or adtech player, understands this need all too well and wants to make it easier for marketers to meet customers where they are at in the shopping cycle.
Now that Google Marketing Live is coming to a close, let’s take a look at the new ad products, stats and takeaways that marketing practitioners need to know.
Ads get more visual across apps
Google Discover, which has been the search engine’s news feed since September, now offers brands ad placements that are swipeable, carousel-style images that Instagram initially popularized a few years ago. Marketers can place the ads on not only Google Discover but also the YouTube home feed and the Gmail promotions tab.
Google also promises that these ads will get smarter and smarter due to machine learning. All told, these developments should be attractive if you’re a brand marketer who wants to run cross-app initiatives that strategically use the Alphabet-owned platforms’ wealth of data.
Advertisers should also pay attention to Gallery ads. Also similar to Instagram’s carousel ads, they are designed to be visually stimulating promos and will render at the top of mobile search results. They entail a scrollable gallery that will include four to eight images and up to 70 characters available for every photo. (Search Engine Land first reported on the emergence of these ads in February.)
Advertisers gain control over KPIs
Notably, Google has made moves on the data front to help ad buyers feel more in control over their campaigns. You can now choose what kinds of conversions (sales, lead-gen, email signups, webinar registrations, etc.) you want as your key performance indicator (KPI) at the campaign level.
Additionally, you can adjust conversion values based on the audiences you want to target. This ability will let you better tweak your ad bidding, which should improve ROI.
Ad tools improve efficiency for marketers on the go
The entire digital advertising ecosystem has gradually moved toward the smartphone mindset, letting you manage your campaigns from almost anywhere. In a growing number of instances, all you need to build and buy ads is a wireless signal. These mobile features help busy, often-traveling campaign managers get their work done in an efficient way.
With all of that in mind, Google now lets you build responsive search ads directly from its Google Ads mobile app. En route to a client meeting across town in a taxi cab but need to launch a last-minute holiday campaign? Google’s Android and iOS app now lets you write the search copy, optimize the headline, place bids and set budget constraints from your smartphone.
Timely data and alerts boost performance
Once again, Google recognizes that marketers aren’t always going to be in front of their laptop or at work. The Google Ads mobile app will now send notifications that alert you of a campaign’s performance as well as when better ad opportunities may be afoot.
Google clearly wants ad buyers to make use of their real-time intelligence. For instance, when certain keywords are performing poorly, you will be able to pause part or all of a campaign. And the app will offer you recommendations that can help drive sales. As one possible example, if you are a sneakers retailer and inventory for the white-hot shoe “Nike Air Presto” is unusually abundant—and therefore lower in cost on the bidding platform—the app will ping you to let you know of the opportunity. Google ad buyers of all sizes should appreciate such information, and the feature underscores how data is transforming all of marketing.
Local ads prove successful
While more and more sales happen online, 88% of all retail still happens offline. Therefore, retailers want their digital ads to not just drive e-commerce but also foot traffic to stores.
In recent years, Google, Facebook, Snapchat and other digital platforms have been working to prove that their ads help drive bricks-and-mortar sales. So, it was intriguing to see Google trot out brand-based statistics ahead of Google Marketing Live and during the show. The most impressive data point offered: Quick-serve giant Dunkin’ increased monthly store visits in some locations by 400% with Google’s location-based advertising.
Such revelations signal that hyperlocal marketing has gone multichannel, and advertisers of all sizes are now using digital to not only drive store visits but also sales in other offline channels like inbound phone calls.
Retail ads expanded
It’s clear Google wants a bigger chunk of retail advertising budgets as it competes with Amazon’s growing ad business.
Google revealed that its Showcase Shopping Ads, first debuted in 2017, have gone from being available for regular search results to the image search results, the discover search results and YouTube.
Showcase Shopping ads are similar to Galley Ads in that they offer the ability to include multiple product images that are scrollable from left to right. The ads also offer an easy way for consumers to click through to a product page and then commence to check out.
Marketers: stay ahead of the digital game
Google Marketing Live 2019 shows the brand marketing community continuing to march toward shoppable ads, tools for the mobile-minded practitioner, and improved targeting that leverages location data and granular performance metrics. For Google’s part, the ad products shown off represent the search engine giant’s desire to become a bigger player in retail.
It’s clear that Google is trying to advance how competitive it will be with Facebook, Amazon, and others for brand marketers’ ad dollars in the coming months—especially the holiday season. For all nearly all marketers, it’s imperative to keep pace as the available tools and best practices change at lightning speed.
By Ian Dailey
Ian Daily is Sr. Director, Product Marketing at Invoca. He has worked at the intersection of technology, marketing and media since 2003.