Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) Partners are a great way to increase brand awareness, market share and earn incremental sales. But how do you find the right Performance Partner?

CSS is an area that businesses cannot do without especially with so many traditional businesses moving online and therefore more competition online than ever before. But…there is one problem. How can you pick a CSS Partner to support your product advertising when there are so many options? It’s a tough question as CSS Partners offer something slightly different and every business is unique.

Luckily for you, we’ve created this handy guide to help you work out which CSS Partner will give you the answers you need, and to help answer the most common questions when selecting a CSS Partner.

What to Look for in Your CSS Partner

With several businesses now offering CSS services, it can be tricky to choose who to work with, so what exactly makes them any different from each other?

At Redbrain, we’ve identified a significant seven factors that will benefit you when picking a forerunner. These include:

  • Service Models: The different levels of support for your business.
  • Bidding Strategies: How the bids happen, e.g. AI.
  • Experience and Expertise: Not all CSS Partners are created equally, so their expertise will vary.
  • Additional Services: The level of data processed and investment in things like optimisation.
  • Billing Models: How you get charged and what for.
  • Technology: The technology your partner uses – this is crucial in CSS.
  • Reach: The targeting of markets and number of impressions or sales are all part of CSS reach.

But what does all this mean? Sure, you know what a bidding strategy is, but in how much detail?

Understand the Details to Get Better Results

Understanding the key factors in choosing a CSS Partner is essential for achieving CSS success. Here’s our summary of each of those factors, because the more you learn, the more your business will earn.

Service Models

A managed service means your product data is sent directly to your CSS Partner and they handle the optimisation of your feed, which they will then upload to Google (or a Search Engine), while managing your campaign in full.

Another option for CSS is self-service. This means you get to manage your Merchant Centre and Google Ads accounts; (once they’ve been created by your CSS Partner) so you have greater control of the ads but still have collaboration as part of the set-up.

These two options illustrate that just as every business is different, the relationship between businesses and CSS Partners needs to include a level of flexibility for great relationships, and the best results.

There is a third way which takes this flexibility fully into account – you can have a hybrid of both.

You might not know the level to which you want your service managed, so it’s a great idea to ask any potential suitors what they think will work for you before fully committing (although ideally you will only pay when you get results).

Bidding Strategies

Unsurprisingly, every CSS Partner will take their own approach to effective bidding, in just the same way that your business works differently from your competitors.

Some will focus on specific products rather than your whole inventory, or focus their efforts on manually creating account structures to optimise bidding.

Redbrain focus on machine learning and AI. We use a combination of the two for greater flexibility so we can adapt if a retailer wants to focus on anything specifically. AI technology operates day and night to implement Smart Bidding on every product, so it’s worth considering which system works for you, and what your priorities are.

Experience and Expertise

This doesn’t just apply to implementing bidding. In addition to the quality controls and requirements enforced by Google, pan-European campaigns require a knowledge of the laws and product restrictions in each country.

This comes largely from experience, working with thousands of retailers on a daily basis and providing solutions for every challenge they might encounter.

Flexibility is not just a consideration when choosing your shopping partners, it’s essential for them in navigating different markets, so be sure to quiz any CSS Partner on their understanding if you want to broaden your audience beyond the UK.

Additional Services

Want a massive increase in sales conversions?

Data enhancement and optimisation can deliver these.

The wealth of data held by premium CSS Partners can feed into your other marketing efforts and they’ll provide answers to any queries or problems which may occur, so both enhancement and optimisation are easy with the right partner; just make sure you choose one with a real depth of knowledge. For instance, at Redbrain we have over 3 billion products in our platform giving us unbelievable amounts of data and market share insight.

Billing Models

As CSS Partners have grown, so have the wide array of pricing options, which can be a real headache for businesses who just want to see quick results.

Some CSS partners only charge you for the results you see, but many operate on a Cost-Per-Click (CPC) basis with an additional fee on your bids, or even a monthly retainer.

For example, Google Shopping will add a 20% charge onto bids before they are entered into the advertising auction.

Luckily, it’s possible for an optimised campaign to be run on a CPA basis, which means you only pay a commission when you make a sale. This seems like the common sense option, but only you know what your company needs so request pricing plans from several partners as if you keep switching, you won’t see the same benefits as with a consistent long-term strategy.


If you stock thousands of products, it will take a huge amount of time and manpower to scale optimisation across your inventory. Not ideal for a company scaling up month on month, so what’s the solution?

Well, there are several.

It is essential to go to a partner who has fully invested in AI, machine learning and automation if you want to sell on a large scale – especially true if you are targeting several markets at once.

While a lot of people would argue that CSS = Technology, it’s more accurate to say that:

Technology + Human Expertise = Amazing CSS!

Through working in unison with the best CSS experts you will find that you get the oversight and input you need to support the growth of your business online, promoting everything you sell effectively through the best tech, and people too.


Partners who have worked across different industries, handling huge volumes of data are best placed to benchmark your efforts and understand where the biggest improvements can be made.

You should specifically look for partners who have handled high levels of information in the industries and/or regions which really apply to your business.

One key measure of this will be the size and reach of each CSS website. Does it reach millions of visitors who will also be directed to purchase your products?

If a CSS Partner delivers different results than you anticipated, it may be worth asking if theirs is truly the business for you.

‘’But where do I start?’’ you may ask. Well don’t worry, you’re unlikely to lose anything in trying a new CSS Partner. It’s quick and easy to run trials and test their performance in just a few weeks. By testing out several product offerings, you can find your optimal digital shopping mix and get great results.

How to Approach a CSS Partner

When you’ve asked yourself all the big questions and got as many answers as you can, take a bit of time to consider your options so that you make the right decision first time. If you have complex questions, the best CSS Partners will be able to answer these for you and by doing your research you will be able to spot any insincere or inaccurate answers, helping you to identify which suppliers have great knowledge over those just after a quick win on their part. Plus, don't forget, you can work with multiple CSS Partners at the same time to compare performance.

Once you have a knowledgeable CSS partner who you truly trust, you can build a long-term relationship with them, which is really important. Why? It’s important because the more that organisation gets to know your business inside out, tests the results of your ads and the more they start to know what you want for your own business, the better placed they will be to deliver maximal results in both the short and long term.

Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve online (and why) is essential for success and it’s just as important to communicate this clearly to your partner. So as a final step, make sure you agree on enough meetings, webchats and additional support being provided by your new CSS Partner, so that all parties are clear on every objective, at any time.

Get these things right and a year from now your business won’t just be making better profits, it’s growth will make you smile every single day.


If you need to reach more customers online, it’s crucial that you understand the different channels available through your CSS Partner. To find out more, get in touch:

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