Thousands of marketers and executives gathered in San Francisco at Google Marketing Live 2019 last week to learn the newest products and features Google has in store for marketers in the year ahead.
This year’s theme centered around responsible data usage, being present and useful to the consumer, and building for the new customer journey.
Here are six big takeaways that will most impact marketers and businesses from Google Marketing Live 2019.
“What we’re seeing is Google making significant updates to the platform to be more focused on client business goals and the customer journey. New ad formats and features will offer greater support for discovery, consideration, and conversion initiatives.”
-Mike Wojciechowski, Senior Director of Shopping & Feed at Tinuiti
1. A New Marketplace Experience & Universal Shopping Cart
One of the biggest announcements this year was the merging of Google Express into Google Shopping: an all-new personalized shopping hub for consumers and businesses.
“Google announced a new Google Shopping homepage, giving users a personalized hub to search and discover products. This new Shopping experience will also allow users to checkout directly on Google through a universal cart, essentially merging the Express / Actions capabilities into the experience.”
-Evan Kirkpatrick, VP of Shopping & Feed at Tinuiti
Shopping will act as a central hub for consumers where they can browse, compare products, and instantly checkout with a Google-backed guarantee of 2-day shipping and hassle-free returns anywhere users see the blue shopping cart icon — an apparent riposte to marketplace features loved by Amazon shoppers.
The new Shopping homepage will also feature a universal shopping cart that will surface across all of Google’s channels: from Search and Images to Shopping and later on, YouTube.
“The universal shopping cart is a big deal. Historically, you would have had to use Analytics to check a user’s transaction across multiple channels, which can be time-consuming. The advent of a universal shopping cart means that marketers will now have access to the full buyer’s journey and conversion activity, right from within Google Ads.”
-Jostin Munar, Director of Talent Development, Growth Media at Tinuiti
This new marketplace experience makes a lot of sense when you consider the fact that Google is making all of its channels play nicer together, from shoppable image ads to shopping actions for Google assistant and even YouTube.
“The Google Shopping homepage has been underutilized to this point, so this revamp should give it new life and better highlight the checkout processing experiences that were available in Express / Actions,” says Kirkpatrick.
2. Showcase Shopping Ads Expand to More Channels
Keeping in line with Google’s theme of aligning all of its channels to the customer journey, Google is also enhancing its flagship mobile ad format, Showcase Shopping, to reach customers on additional search channels and will be able to drive traffic to specific landing pages in the near future.
Google is now expanding this popular format to placements on Images, the Discover Feed, and later on, YouTube.
These highly visual and interactive ads (similar to Facebook’s Carousel ads) have historically been an upper funnel awareness play for brands looking to capture shoppers early in the buying process using mobile search.
This will give marketers and brands the ability to be discovered in more places with a highly visual inventory. For example, someone watching a video that features a brand on YouTube can interact with a highly relevant Showcase ad to swipe through products, and then checkout directly from YouTube using Google Shopping’s new universal cart.
3. New Gallery Ads Bring the Stories Experience to Search
Last year Google wowed marketers with machine learning enhancements to search ads via Responsive Search Ads, and this year they did it again with a new, highly visual search ad format: Gallery Ads.
Aligning with the theme of creating a useful and visually engaging experience for consumers, Gallery Ads introduce scrollable product images that match a shopper’s search intent.
“Gallery ads might provide a lot of utility for advertisers wanting to reach lower funnel audiences with rich media. They’re essentially text ads that can expand into a carousel of branded imagery,” says Munar.
This is an entirely new ad format that will place at the top spot of the search results page, and looks similar to product ads found on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
“By combining search intent with a more interactive visual format, gallery ads make it easier for you to communicate what your brand has to offer. We’ve found that, on average, ad groups including one or more gallery ad have up to 25 percent more interactions—paid clicks or swipes—at the absolute top of the mobile Search results page,” says Prabhakar Raghavan SVP of Google Ads & Commerce.
4. New Discovery Ads in Discover, YouTube, and Gmail
Adding onto the series of visually compelling ad inventory are new Discovery ads, which Google announced will be rolling out to all advertisers later this year.
These ads feature swipeable image carousels and can reach consumers in their Discover and YouTube feeds in addition to the social and promotion tabs within Gmail.
“This ad format is more visual and intent based on capturing behavior signals from sites previously visited, apps downloaded or videos watched. Discovery ads provide a more unique creative and visual experience to each customer on mobile devices for a personal touch.”
-Chris Michalak, Senior Director of Operations of Paid Search at Tinuiti
5. An Improved Web-to-App Mobile Experience
Creating a seamless experience between mobile apps and business webpages for users was another big undercurrent this year, and Google is making the two more connected with enhancing deep linking capabilities that take customers directly from an ad into the correct page within an app.
Users on both Android and iOS will be able to be directed directly to a specific instance within an application when clicking on a highly relevant ad. Examples include situations when someone is purchasing a product within your native app, booking a trip, or ordering food.
“Making it easier for advertisers to deep link into the app makes it more important than ever to ensure the app is optimized for conversion. Brands should make sure they are tracking a user’s behavior within the app to give the user the best experience possible.”
-Elizabeth Emery, Director of Mobile App Strategy at Tinuiti
Not only does this make for a more instant and seamless experience for users, but Google also says marketers will benefit from improved reporting within Google Ads.
We also learned that Google will be releasing Google Analytics for Firebase (GA4F), a free app measurement solution that provides insight into app usage and user engagement. This will enable additional opportunities for app advertisers to improve retention rate, simplify audience management and acquire new customers.
6. Other Key Takeaways
Shopping Campaigns with Partners: Co-Op Bidding
Google’s new co-op program for Google Shopping will help deepen relationships between manufacturers and retailers.
This is an exciting new opportunity within Google Ads to set up co-op bidding and budgeting and streamline reporting.
Campaign Level Conversion Tracking
Google also announced that they will be changing the way you can track conversions within Google Ads so that marketers can track conversions at the campaign level rather account level.
“This will allow for more robust conversion optimization for clients with multiple business goals. Optimizing not only to multiple conversions but also varying conversion values will be possible now,” says Wojciechowski.
Smart Bidding Enhancements
There will be new Seasonal Smart bidding for retailers that benefit from ramping bids up or down various seasons.
Google also mentioned the addition of Advanced Smart Bidding that can use Top Conversion Paths and Lifetime Value.
Bumper Ad Creation Tool for YouTube
YouTube Bumper ads — those six-second video ad sequences that can play intermittently within longer videos — are about to become a lot easier to create.
The Bumper Machine will effectively take advertisers longer videos and identify key moments to curate into six-second video ads optimized for YouTube. This could be an incredibly useful tool for businesses that lack the video editing bandwidth necessary to design bumper ads.
“Bumper Machine relies on machine learning models that are trained to identify interesting, well-structured moments in a longer video, like those that contain product or brand information, human faces, motion or contrast. It organizes these moments and brings them together to generate several different six-second ad variations for you to pick from, all in a matter of minutes. Before saving your new bumper ads, you can adjust them with simple edits.”
-Vishal Sharma, Vice President of Product Management at YouTube
Custom Affinity and Custom Intent Merge Into Custom Audiences
Google is bringing both the interest-based targeting of Custom Affinity and the intent-based targeting of Custom Intent to a single new targeting audience: Custom Audiences.
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