All digital advertising channels are experiencing the shift towards more visually stimulating content. Customer choices are driving this shift, with click and engagement rates proving their preference for experiential and immersive placements. In fact, over 65% of shoppers claim that highly visual content such as video helps inform their ideas of products to purchase. Historically within the paid search and shopping space however, ad formats have been overwhelmingly… boring. Highly restrictive character limits were the only opportunity to interject personal brand style and voice until the launch of Showcase Shopping in late 2017; this introduced longer character limits, lifestyle creative, and an immersive first click experience.
As stimulating as this ad format is for customers and as much as it excites paid search managers (who can finally leverage more than 90 characters to convince a user to click to site), it also surfaces a slew of questions. The most pressing to investigate being:
How do you measure and optimize?
Q1 brings lots of annual planning, the majority of which is based on the performance of the year prior. A pre-requisite to successful 2019 planning is successful 2018 measurement. Unfortunately for Showcase campaigns, the stereotypical last-click paid search approach fails us when it comes to accurately valuing higher-funnel ad formats. So, without investing in an expensive attribution platform, here are two ways to both measure and optimize showcase campaigns in real time.
First, try measuring based on the incremental impact to brand search demand. A recent report of an iProspect retail client revealed that customers were in fact 90% more likely to search the brand term within 4 hours of expanding a Showcase ad. (Any Google team can pull this report for a brand as well. Once this lift is measured, attribute the brand search performance back to Showcase campaigns. Leverage these benchmarks and continue to investing in Showcase if it results in positive brand demand trends.
Another way to measure the value of Showcase is based on its incremental impact to PLA conversion rate. Often, customers searching high-funnel queries are exposed to Showcase ads. After browsing, they return to search a more granular term and ultimately convert through a standard PLA. With the same iProspect retail client mentioned above, the PLA conversion rate increased 31% after initially launching Showcase campaigns. Additionally, there was a highly causational relationship between Showcase funding and PLA conversion rate. The more funding was funneled into Showcase, the more likely customers were to convert within PLAs. Utilize this relationship to continue funding showcase campaigns until PLA conversion rate plateaus. Measure Showcase using the incremental revenue it drives both through brand search and PLAs to determine its true value. Compare that ROI number to other tactics to determine its proper funding level in 2019.
Are Visual formats here to stay?
However successful these measurement processes are, they require more effort than a simple filter in Google Ads. So, how can advertisers guarantee that Showcase is not just another ad format that will be sunsetted as quickly as it appeared? The biggest sign is the level effort Google has invested in the tactic. New features such as ATIS (absolute top impression share) and click share reporting, audiences, and ad rotation were all part of the 2018 roadmap. Additionally, video Showcase, leveraging Google’s YouTube platform ownership, launched as a beta in late 2018.
The other major indicator is that impression volume funneling through Showcase ads is on the rise. Google confirmed that top categories for expansion included Luggage & Bags, Apparel & Accessories, Furniture, and Home & Garden. As of 2019, Showcase ads now surface for over 25% of apparel queries queries customers will miss out on if not opted into the ad unit.
So what does this all mean? Showcase is effective and here to stay. Make sure you are continuing to leverage the tactic, optimizing it and valuing it correctly according to where in the purchase funnel it resides rather than underfunding it simply because you are using the wrong measuring stick. Work closely with the iProspect team to measure showcase successfully in 2019, so that your 2020 planning is just as successful.