Two months ago, identifying an excellent opportunity in the platform, I wrote an explanatory article on How to get more sales through Google Shopping Ads.

It looks like we’ve spotted the opportunity correctly, as Google Shopping Ads are catching on more and more and online stores that understand the benefit of working with CSS partners through affiliate marketing on a cost-per-sale basis are the winners of eCommerce acceleration.

So we sat down with 3 CSS partners from the platform and asked them to answer the hottest questions online shops have about Google Shopping Ads and CSS.

Tell me something about yourselves: what do you do and for how long, in how many countries do you run Shopping Ads.

  • Tidy.Shopping: We are an IT company that has refocused on the marketing side and much of our business is related to affiliate marketing. We have been doing online marketing for 10 years, we are currently present in 7 countries in Europe and we continue to expand.
  • Sebastian Panait, Country Sales Manager @ Kelkoo Group: Kelkoo Group is an e-Commerce platform and a Premium CSS and Google and Bing partner, specializing in delivering qualified traffic to merchant and advertiser partners. 
  • Rob Hilborn, Head of Self Managed CSS  @ Genie Shopping: Genie Shopping officially launched in 2011, using the paid search technology we created for our own shopping sites: Crowdstorm and Cafe la Moda. By 2012 we realised we had something special and set up a digital marketing agency, Genie Goals, to distribute the software we created to retailers.
    We are pioneers in technology for Shopping Ads, especially on bidding on ROI/CPA targets. Our R&D team is continuously improving technology to maximize our performance in step with retail challenges. So when Google opened Shopping Ads to everyone in 2018, we were in a very strong position, which is why we also won the Google Shopping Innovation Award in 2017.
    Genie Shopping runs Shopping Ads in all countries in the European Union where Google CSS is available. We are a Google CSS Premier Partner and work with some of the biggest names in European and UK retail.

Can you give me some figures – how many advertisers do you work with, what sales have you generated, etc.

  • Tidy.Shopping: We currently promote around 700 advertisers in several countries and generate around 1 million clicks per month for our partners.
    We have high average conversion rate due to the optimizations we do, overall over 2% conversion rate. A large part of the conversions we generate are on keywords that the advertiser doesn’t rank for because they don’t have their product feed optimized.
  • Kelkoo Group: With more than 20 years of experience in the digital marketing market, Kelkoo Group is now available in 41 countries. In 26 of them, Kelkoo Group is a strategic partner for the promotion of more than 40,000 advertisers and merchants through shopping ads. Kelkoo Group also collaborates with more than 5,000 affiliates and specialist publishers and with international platforms or marketplaces such as AWIN, Amazon, Rakuten, etc. 
  • Genie Shopping: We work with hundreds of UK and EU retailers for whom we generate £10m+ every month.

What are the benefits an online store gets when working with a CSS partner on a cost-per-sale basis using affiliate marketing?

  • Tidy.Shopping: I don’t see it as a special benefit to CSS, it’s the benefit present in any promotion like this, you only pay for orders placed.
    Something that is not related to CPA, but is a real benefit, is that advanced CSS partners optimise product feeds so that the advertiser’s products appear on searches where their products don’t, and of course compared to classic Google Search campaigns, the fact that they don’t increase the CPC cost of their own Google Shopping campaigns as long as the cpc/cpa cost doesn’t exceed that of the advertiser.
  • Kelkoo Group: The benefits of a CPA collaboration with a CSS partner are many; but the most important aspect is that the advertiser does not risk anything, paying the commission only if the traffic received converts. Because all the risk is taken by the CSS partner, the quality of traffic will always be of the highest quality.
    In other words, the advertiser can then build up a customer base and retain customers through various remarketing campaigns, loyalty campaigns, etc.

Because all the risk is taken by the partner CSS, the quality of traffic will always be very high.

  • Genie Shopping: The advantage is the very low risk, which is taken by the CSS that has to perform. As long as the store sets a CPA that they are comfortable with and that is lower than their own cost of Google Shopping Ads, they shouldn’t have any problems. Sales generated through CSS should be more effective and increase their results from their own Shopping Ads.

If an online store is already working with other CSS partners using a different payment model, or running their own Shopping Ads, do you advise them to keep their collaborations and why?

  • Tidy.Shopping: If we eliminate the possibility of an affiliate bidding more like the store on campaigns, a CSS on the CPA model is an ally against the competition, because advertisers have the chance to display more of their products in the same search or in other searches/possibly new searches if the feed is optimized by the CSS.

    Conclusion: unlike classic CPC campaigns, CSS is not a competitor to your own campaigns but an ally in every respect.

A CSS on the cost-per-sale model is an ally against competition.

  • Kelkoo Group: Google encourages collaboration with multiple CSSs. Promoting the advertiser’s products through multiple CSSs brings increased visibility, better positioning in the shopping carousel and even multiple placements through different CSS partners.

    The collaboration model, whether CPA, CPC, Kelkoo’s bridge to shopping ads or a hybrid model, does not negatively influence shopping ad campaigns. On top of that, in addition to the traffic received from shopping ads, Kelkoo Group can deliver qualified traffic from its own sources, through partnerships with other sites, bloggers, influencers, traffic networks etc. or directly from product comparison sites – in Romania Kelkoo Group operates and – and we will add LeGuide in the near future.
  • Genie Shopping: Yes, it’s advisable to keep their collaborations but make sure they are happy with the CPA paid and it doesn’t exceed the cost of their own Google Shopping campaigns. They should also compare all the CSS they work with on the cost per sale (affiliate marketing) model to determine which is more cost effective.

Are there risks for shops working with a CSS through affiliate marketing? For example, is it true that working with multiple CSSs decreases your chances of showing up in results due to cannibalization?

  • Tidy.Shopping: There is always a risk, at least in theory. In practice, according to Google’s information on how CSS works, a CSS only poses a cannibalisation threat to the advertiser when the CSS bid exceeds the advertiser’s bid. Realistically, this rarely if ever happens given that an affiliate has a much smaller profit margin compared to the store.

    Accepting that an affiliate cannot have a higher bid than the store and remain profitable, the affiliate’s products are only displayed when Google’s algorithm would not display that product for the advertiser’s campaigns, for quality score reasons, etc.

An affiliate has a much lower profit margin compared to the store, so their bid will almost never exceed the store’s bid.

  • Kelkoo Group: There is no risk of cannibalisation. Because of the CPA model we work with and the risk we take, Kelkoo Group will bid on more general keywords; we like to call it a “lite-shopping-ads”. In other words (no pun intended) we are unlikely to bid with advertisers on the same keywords, and if we do, we will most likely list with a different product, which increases the visibility of the store. Even if the traffic the advertiser receives is qualified and the buyer intent is high, those searches are not highly targeted. It is up to the CSS to “convince” the buyer.

We are unlikely to bid with advertisers on the same keywords, and if we do, we will most likely display a different product, which increases the store’s visibility.

  • Genie Shopping: The risk arises if the online shop sets the CPA for CSS higher than the internal cost per purchase through Google Shopping. If they do this they risk paying more on sales they could have generated themselves at lower cost.

What are the biggest concerns online shops have about working with a CSS through affiliate marketing and how do you address them?

  • Tidy.Shopping: Cannibalization and increasing bids in their own campaigns, but as explained above, these consequences do not occur because the affiliate cannot afford to pay so much per bid and be profitable.

    These conclusions are verified from our experience with multiple CSS. This overlap (if any) of products/keywords is so small that it cannot be considered a real factor.

    I would also point out that in countries where the notion of CSS is better known, a large number of online shops that do not allow classic PPC in their affiliate programs allow CSS shopping ads.
  • Kelkoo Group: The biggest fear is the one already mentioned, cannibalisation.

    Then many advertisers believe that cpc’s will increase, due to competition between CSS’s or between CSS’s and advertiser; due to the bidding system in shopping ads, the “winner” will always pay the cpc bid by the 2nd ranked advertiser. The most interesting aspect is that Google recognises the advertiser behind the bidding and not the bidding CSS; in other words, the advertiser can run direct campaigns and bid in parallel and simultaneously with other CSSs; if a CSS wins the bid, the advertiser still gets the same qualified traffic, but without paying for that click.

    There are also brand protection concerns – Kelkoo Group protects and respects the advertiser’s brand and will never bid on brand-related keywords; we even add other keywords to the list of negative words if asked to do so.

The online store can bid in parallel and simultaneously with other CSSs; if a CSS wins the bid, the store still receives the same qualified traffic, but without paying for that click.

  • Genie Shopping: The main concern is about the impact on their own Google Shopping campaigns and the question of whether or not their sales will increase. The answer we give is that as long as they have a unique identifier (EAN or GTIN) in their feed and set their CPA below their own cost of purchase in Google Shopping they should have no problem.

What do you advise advertisers who are reluctant to work with a CSS partner through affiliate marketing?

  • Tidy.Shopping: I would ask them, why not? If they think an affiliate can bid more than an advertiser try to get them to match the commission they give affiliates with their campaigns, after cancellations, work and all that to see if it would be cost effective for them to run at those bids.

    You have the advantage that you can display products from CSS when your own products are not displayed + additionally display when other products from your own campaigns are displayed (you gain display space ahead of competitors, because affiliates are not competitors).

    If maybe 1% of the time on a product you’re outbid by a CSS affiliate, is it worth giving up the benefits it brings for that 1%?
  • Kelkoo Group: A Premium CSS can bring qualified traffic with zero risk for the advertiser. In addition to traffic from Google, Kelkoo also sends traffic from other sources such as product comparison sites, partner sites, blogs, etc. We are currently also a Bing Premium Partner and already have successful campaigns in many countries; we look forward to Bing Ads being available in Romania.

    A collaboration with a CSS increases the advertiser’s visibility in the shopping carousel; collaboration with multiple CSSs can result in better placements and even exclusive display in the first 3-5 slots of the carousel.

    Kelkoo Group wants any collaboration with advertisers through CPA to be fruitful for both parties; that’s why we inform the advertiser when we notice problems with the product feed, warn when the feed is not fully compliant and help to fix problems or improve the feed or the site. We encourage advertisers to try a collaboration with a CSS partner because there are no disadvantages, only benefits.

    We also encourage advertisers to allow PPC promotion and shopping ads, because the risk is assumed by CSS. However, for those who are skeptical, we advise testing such a collaboration for a limited period, with permission to promote via shopping ads as well – the results will not come immediately, we recommend a test period of at least 45 days. It should be understood that any CSS also uses artificial intelligence and machine learning, and shopping ads campaigns need to run for a while to bear fruit.
  • Genie Shopping: Try it! Genie Shopping (or other CSS partner) is not under contract and you can terminate your collaboration at any time. On the cost-per-sale model, as long as the online shop sets a CPA it is happy with, nothing bad can happen to it.

What questions do you have for CSS? Leave them below in the comments and we’ll make sure you get the answers.

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