13 Jan 2023
Pro-tips | 5 min read

The Future of Shopping Ads Is Automated

Written by Maggie Tharp
on January 13, 2023

Shopping ads have always held a special place in marketers’ hearts (and budgets) for playing the “workhorse” role—not particularly exciting but reliably delivering results. We’ve recommended shopping ads as a standby in uncertain economic times, and they’re equally important in 2023 when the buzzword in every marketing standup is profitability.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of shopping ads and the pros and cons of two new highly automated ad products that include shopping formats—Google Performance Max and Meta Advantage+. Lastly, we’ll send you on your way with some high-level tips for better shopping ads and more conversions. 

Why Use Shopping Ads? 

One of the key benefits of shopping ad formats is that they allow businesses to showcase their products visually with a clear path to purchase. This can increase engagement and interest from potential customers, leading to higher conversion rates.

On the customer side, shopping ad formats make it easier for them to discover and purchase products, and with the ability to show multiple products side-by-side, customers can easily compare and find the product that best meets their needs. Yes, you could be displayed alongside your competitors, but being there for comparison is better than being absent altogether.

Another advantage of shopping ad formats is that they provide a more personalized experience for customers. By showing relevant products and creative based on a user's search history and interests, businesses can create targeted and personalized ads that are more likely to resonate with their audience.

What is Google Performance Max?

Google Performance Max, originally released in 2021, is an advertising platform that spans all Google-owned properties, including YouTube, Search, Shopping, Display, Gmail, and more. PMax wrests control of—well, just about everything from advertisers and focuses on placement, creative, and keyword decisions that Google claims will provide the best ROI.

How does PMax play in with shopping ads? Essentially, it’s on track to replace Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns—the phase-out started in 2022 and according to Google, most Smart Shopping campaigns have switched over to PMax campaigns.

While some marketers complain that PMax is the ultimate black box due to its lack of ability for marketers to choose the ad formats they want, lack of control over keywords, and lack of insight into what’s working on ad level, PMax does appear to be working for many brands.

On the plus side, PMax removes some of the manual lift often associated with advertising by automating ad creation and targeting. Advertisers still need to input initial creative deliverables, but Performance Max helps automate your bidding and budget strategy, ad creative, audience selection, and more, all in pursuit of meeting a goal that you select.

Google Performance Max Pros

  • If you have specific goals you want to hit, Performance Max can help you align with those and minimize the amount of time spent on tasks that machines can perform better than humans—optimal bidding, for example.
  • Performance Max campaigns let you cast a wide advertising net with one campaign. Ads could appear not only on Google Search, but also YouTube, Shopping, Discover, and more.

Google Performance Max Cons

  • What you gain in automation and efficiency, you lose in control, which could be a downside depending on how much you like to get in the weeds of your ad tech.
  • James Hercher at AdExchanger jokingly nicknamed Performance Max—“Analytics Min”—for the overall lack of insight into granular numbers and the unhelpfulness of what is available.

What is Meta Advantage+?

Meta Advantage+ is a product line under the Meta Advantage+ suite of ad products that focuses on automation. In addition to Advantage+ Shopping ads, , released in August 2022, Meta Advantage+ also encompasses Advantage+ Creative, Advantage+ App Campaigns, and Advantage+ Campaign Creation.

Instead of manually creating and testing multiple combinations of creative and budget, advertisers can use Advantage+ to automatically create multiple versions of an ad for Facebook or Instagram. Using AI and machine learning, the platform serves personalized ads to viewers based on what will likely perform best with them.

Meta Advantage+ Shopping Ads Pros

  • Like Performance Max, Advantage+ Shopping ads can largely be automated to reduce time spent creating ads and selecting the correct targeting.
  • Advantage+’s Customer Budget Cap feature lets brands limit the reach of the ads to existing customers by setting a specific percentage of the budget to allocate to that group.

Meta Advantage+ Shopping Ads Cons

  • Also like Performance Max, Advantage+ Shopping Ads reduce the amount of decision-making power you have around things like audience tracking, ad placements, and bid strategy.
  • Because Advantage+ Shopping Ads remove some of your control, they’re less suited for large, complex campaigns where you need to retain ownership of the placement and targeting.

Beyond Meta and Google

These two digital powerhouses might appear to have a stronghold on digital advertising, but don’t forget about other options like Bing’s Shopping Campaigns, which display products and pricing information for Bing searchers. Because there’s less competition on this platform, Bing Shopping ads can be less-expensive and result in better placements.  

Tips for Better Shopping Ads

As we discussed above, the automation involved in Performance Max and Meta Advantage+ doesn’t mean you can ignore the basics of good advertising. Below we’ll deliver a few high-level tips and things to be aware of as you create your shopping ad strategy.

1. Use high-quality product images and accurate, detailed product descriptions to give potential customers a clear idea of what they are purchasing.

2. Use persuasive language and compelling offers, such as discounts or free shipping, to encourage potential customers to take action.

3. Monitor and track the performance of your ads to see which ones are performing well and which ones may need to be adjusted or improved.

4. Make sure that your website and checkout process are user-friendly and easy to navigate, to help increase the chances of converting potential customers into paying customers.

Overall, the key to creating effective shopping ads is to provide potential customers with clear, accurate information about your products and to make it easy for them to make a purchase. By following these tips, you can help ensure that your shopping ads are successful and help drive sales for your business.

Conclusion

Shopping ad formats, such as what’s available with Google Performance Max and Meta Advantage+, are important for businesses looking to increase engagement, drive sales, and improve the customer experience—and they also can help reduce the amount of manual lift through machine learning and artificial intelligence. However, if you want to maintain more control of your ads, keep in mind that these options offer limited amounts of customization and visibility.

Whichever method you choose to run your shopping ads, make sure you have a measurement solution in place. Rockerbox helps you see the full impact of each channel in your marketing strategy so you know which areas are making an impact.

Start a conversation with our sales team today to learn more.

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