Google Shopping vs Bing Shopping: Reach, Demographics, Set-Up, Cost and Results

Google Shopping adverts are an essential part of the digital shopping mix  to reach customers for almost every retail business. But what alternative channels are available if you feel you’ve maximised the available opportunities, or just want to reach even more buyers from the start? Microsoft Shopping Ads (formerly Bing Shopping) is well worth considering for a number of reasons.

Having launched Froogle in 2002, it’s clear that Google had a substantial head start over Microsoft. As a result, Google Shopping now offers a range of services including Product Shopping, Showcase Shopping and Local Catalogue adverts. It currently operates across more than 40 countries around the world, with many more in beta, although the options available due vary by territory. For example, Comparison Shopping Services operate in countries which are part of the European Economic Area, Switzerland, and the UK.

Windows Live Shopping appeared in 2006, and lasted until 2013 under a variety of names. In 2017 Bing Shopping was relaunched with a paid listing model. And since April 2019 all Bing Ads were changed to become Microsoft Advertising products.

Currently Microsoft Advertising Shopping Campaigns are available in the US, UK, Canada, India, France and Germany with a release scheduled for the Netherlands, and closed beta versions in Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria. Showcase, Local Inventory and other advertising options are currently either available in the US only, or on a development roadmap for release in the future.

Reach 

There are very few companies which can come close to the online scale and reach of Google. Not only has Google captured around 87% of the UK search market, and become a verb in the process, but it also receives around 40% of the UK digital advertising market. And 56% of British shoppers use Google for discovery and recommendations.

But that doesn’t mean you should dismiss Microsoft. Not only is Bing the second largest search engine, with 378 million desktop searches per month in the UK, but it’s boosted by deals with Yahoo and AOL. Microsoft sites are the fourth most popular digital properties in the UK, behind only Amazon, Facebook and Google in December 2019.

Both Google and Microsoft operate across a range of devices. The Android operating system gives Google a large share of mobile traffic, but Bing powers Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and their own Cortana, plus the web search for Xbox owners.

And many Bing users may not be using Google if they’re sticking with the default search engine on a Windows 10 PC or still use a mobile device running Windows, which only stopped being actively supported by Microsoft in December 2019. Which means an entirely untapped customer base if you’re not considering Microsoft Shopping Ads.

Ultimately in terms of absolute reach, Google has a much higher number. But the comparison gets more interesting when you look at the demographics of Bing users.

Result: Google Wins

Demographics 

Microsoft Shopping Ads viewers tend to be older (44% over the age of 45), with a fairly even gender split. But an increased age correlates with more disposable spending power, especially as 44% of the audience are graduates, and 24% have a household income in the top quarter of UK earners. And 96% visited an online retail store in the past 6 months.

This makes Bing and Microsoft Shopping Ads a powerful channel for reaching an older and more affluent group of users. This often has e a corresponding effect on advertising Click Through Rates (CTR), and conversions.

Google Shopping also has wealthier and more mature users, which can be reached through various targeting methods. But the lack of crossover between users of each service means it’s important to combine Google Shopping and Bing Shopping campaigns if you want to reach the most users in this important purchasing demographics

Result: Draw

Set-Up

Being second to market isn’t always a disadvantage as it means you can see what works and benefit from it. And that’s certainly true of Microsoft Shopping Ads.

Not only is the Microsoft Merchant Centre and Shopping Ads process very similar to Google, but you can even import the data from an existing Google Merchant Centre account to save time and effort in creating Bing Shopping campaigns.

There are some differences to note when you import your data from Google Merchant Centre. For starters, the product feed is managed as a ‘Catalogue’ by Microsoft, and only products currently in stock will be accepted. The headers are also slightly different, so it’s important to pay careful attention when setting up your campaigns.

Microsoft Merchant Centre will auto-detect the encoding format of Google-formatted feed files. The supported encoding types are:

  • UTF-8
  • UTF-16 (little endian and big endian)
  • UTF-32 (little endian and big endian)

Bing Merchant Centre will process Google-formatted files with the following file extensions:

  • .txt
  • .xml
  • .gz
  • .zip
  • .gzip
  • .tar.gz
  • .tgz

The same attributes will be accepted by Bing, although not everything is used for Microsoft Shopping Ads, so those fields will be ignored. A full list of which Google feed attributes are used or ignored by Bing is available here.

You’ll also be able to import an existing Google Shopping Campaign across to your Microsoft Advertising account. Campaign management now includes improved Product Groups, and the ability to manage them automatically via scheduled Scripts. Importantly there’s a 1-to-1 relationship between ad groups and product groups, with an in-depth guide provided by Bing.

The key differences between Google Shopping vs Bing Shopping are:

  • Google Shopping has a daily PPC budget. Bing allows you to set daily or monthly budgets.
  • Google Ads set location at campaign level – Bing sets locations at Campaign and Group levels
  • Google allows increased targeting by excluding audiences you don’t want. Microsoft Shopping Ads allow you to choose demographic details to target.
  • Bing allows unique attributes for the merchant or store name, and the ability to use a redirect link for user tracking.

Result: Bings Wins

Performance

Every industry and retailer will have different levels of performance on both Google Shopping and with Microsoft Shopping Ads. But based on what we know about both services, the experience RedBrain has running across both networks, and other industry reports, there are some common trends which can be identified.

The scale and reach of Google Shopping means that it will invariably deliver a larger volume of impressions simply due to the size of the potential audience. Whether you’re running campaigns in-house or with one or more CSS providers, an optimised Google Shopping campaign will deliver the highest numbers of eyeballs.

But the Bing Shopping demographics highlighted earlier mean that many campaigns will see a difference in important metrics. These include the Cost Per Click (CPC), Click Through Rate (CTR) and Conversions.

As more businesses discover the benefits of Shopping Ads, competition for advertising placements increases. And this means the CPC bid required to win an individual advert placement auction will need to be higher. Even with optimised smart bidding, you’ll generally find on average that your Bing Shopping CPC cost will be lower than the equivalent Google Shopping campaign. And the same is true for a CPA (Cost Per Action) model.

Unless your brand and products are specifically aimed at younger customers, you’re also likely to find a higher CTR for adverts placed on Bing Shopping. This echoes the same trend across all Google and Bing search advertising, suggesting a strong correlation between Bing users clicking and purchasing at a slightly higher rate than Google users.

It’s important not to mix correlation and causation. It may be that the higher CTR rate is due to the lower number of advertising placements and impressions for Bing Shopping. But the different demographic share could also play a part in the results with older and more affluent Bing users being ready to click and purchase.

Ultimately most brands will focus on scale for their campaigns which makes Google the winner for most comparisons. But it’s important for more businesses to understand how effective Bing Shopping can be as a complimentary route to additional customers.

  • Google Shopping will deliver a higher volume of reach and impressions.
  • Microsoft Shopping Ads generally have lower Cost Per Click/Cost Per Action.
  • Bing Shopping users will often deliver a higher Click Through Rate and Conversion rate.

Result: Google 

Cost 

The cost of an individual Google or Bing Shopping campaign can vary a lot due to differences between industries, retailers, products, bidding strategies and levels of optimisation. So, you should use any example costs for a broad comparison of prices and then test your own campaigns, rather than expecting the numbers to be identical for your own adverts.

But looking at various public examples, there’s a broad trend in cost comparisons between Google Shopping and Bing Shopping. And it generally shows a lower cost, and higher response rate, for Bing.

One example, from Ignite Visibility which includes a calculation for Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS):

Google Shopping results:

  • Average CPC for Google Shopping Campaigns: $.48
  • Average ROAS for Google Shopping Campaigns: 751%
  • Average revenue per click for Google Shopping Campaigns: $3.58

Bing Shopping results:

  • Average CPC for Bing Shopping Ads: $.33
  • Average ROAS for Bing Shopping Ads: 1345%
  • Average revenue per click for Bing Shopping Ad: $4.43

This is backed up by figures from WordStream, who break down the Google vs Bing Shopping comparison into a number of common retail categories. They conclude the average CPC for all industries on Google Ads comes to $0.66, and $0.46 for Bing Ads.

Obviously, this varies from the lowest Cost Per Click prices, which are in Automotive Supplies (Bing Shopping Ads $0.23, Google Shopping Ads $0.56), to the highest, which are found in Office & Business Needs, Art & Music, and Health & Beauty.  In those three cases, the costs to advertise on Bing Shopping are actually much higher than the Google equivalent.

But even paying a higher price for Bing Shopping adverts can still be beneficial, as both Health & Beauty and Office & Business Needs are shown to have a lower CPA cost. Which means although you pay more for your advertising, you’re converting much more cheaply. WordStream claims a difference of more than $20 in the CPA cost between Google Shopping and Bing Shopping.

This doesn’t mean you should look at public data and expect to match the exact same CPC and CPA prices. Instead, the data should reinforce the difference that can be found by testing advertising on both Shopping platforms.

You still need an optimised feed, a good campaign structure, and an effective bidding strategy to reach the most effective campaign results. That’s why it makes sense to work with an experienced and skilled partner to set-up and run your tests and campaigns.

Result: Bing Wins

Google Shopping vs Bing Shopping Summary:

Given the similarity and integration between the Google and Microsoft Shopping platforms, it makes sense to see them as highly complementary rather than competitive. And to work with a CSS provider which has the ability and experience to optimise your campaigns for both groups of potential customers.

There are great reasons for retailers to use both services, as you can see from the summary table below:

Although Microsoft and Bing have a significant market share of the Shopping audience, they’re unlikely to replace the volume available through Google Shopping anytime soon. So, it makes sense to start with Google, and then import your data across to the Microsoft platform.

But it’s important not to dismiss the Bing Shopping audience. With around 15 million unique PC users in the UK, it’s a significant market. Especially when many of those people are older, more affluent and potentially more likely to respond for a lower cost than your Google Shopping customers.

Working with partners who can optimise your products across both Google Shopping and Bing Shopping will ultimately deliver the right Digital Shopping Mix to maximise the performance and ROI of your campaigns.

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