How to use Bing Shopping to reach more customers

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Adding Bing Shopping (now named Microsoft Shopping Ads) to your digital retail mix is a quick and easy way to add incremental online sales. Although Bing doesn’t rival Shopping Ads on Google for total audience numbers, it can provide other advantages for retailers.

Google may be the most popular option for UK shoppers by a substantial margin, but Microsoft still claims a significant proportion of search and shopping traffic, with 395 million monthly PC searches and 15 million unique users. Around 62% of Microsoft Search Network users are conducting online product research, with 96% visiting an online retail store in the last six months.

But as we explored in our direct comparison between Google and Bing Shopping, Microsoft is the default option for Windows 10 PCs, Xbox consoles, and voice assistants including Cortana, Amazon’s Alex and Apple’s Siri. Bing Shopping users tend to be older, wealthier, and less likely to crossover with Google users, meaning they can be an untapped resource for your business. 

Research into American audiences, looking particularly at those using their desktop PC, revealed that Microsoft Search Network users are 97% more likely to be in the top 10% of income than the average internet searcher, and spend 25% more online.  

The fact that many retailers don’t factor Bing Shopping into their online retail strategy also means you have the chance of higher click through rates (CTR), for a lower cost per click (CPC). Especially as Microsoft introduced free product listings in August 2020, following the same move by Google in April, as a response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on retailers.

Most importantly, it’s incredibly quick and easy to potentially reach this audience. Whether you have existing Shopping Ads on Google campaigns, or you’re just starting out, the effort to include Bing Shopping is small considering the benefits. 

How to set up Bing Shopping Product Data Feeds

It’s possible to manually import a bespoke Bing Shopping product data feed. But as with Facebook Shops, the easiest option for almost all retailers will be to start with a feed that’s created for Shopping Ads on Google and then import that into the Microsoft services.

The pre-existing scale of Google means there’s little incentive for other shopping services to reinvent the wheel. As a result, you can set up a Microsoft Merchant Centre Store, go through the approval and website verification process, and then simply import your existing product data directly from your Google Merchant Centre account. You can also follow the same process to import your Shopping Ads on Google advertising into your Microsoft Ads account.

If you are uploading Google formatted feed files, the Microsoft Merchant Centre will auto-detect and support the following encoding types: UTF-8, UTF-16 (little endian and big endian) and UTF-32 (little endian and big endian). File extensions supported are:

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

Bing Shopping will import all of your approved product listings, up to a maximum of 10 million items. It’s important to note that pending or disapproved item offers will be skipped, so make sure this doesn’t apply to key products before starting the import process.

A data feed supplied to Bing Shopping will need to be updated at least once every 30 days to prevent it expiring.

Google and Bing Shopping Data Feed Differences

One difference between Google and Bing Shopping is that Microsoft refers to your product data feed as a ‘catalog’ (as does Facebook). Settings for uploading data will be located under the ‘catalog management’ tab within Microsoft Merchant Centre.

A Bing Shopping catalog will use the same product categories and attributes as your Google product data feed. There are some attributes which Microsoft will accept as part of the upload or import, but are currently ignored by Bing, and there are;

  • tax - Not used
  • shipping – Not used except for Austria and Germany, where it is a required attribute.
  • shipping_weight - Not used except for Austria and Germany, where it is a required attribute.
  • loyalty_points - Not used
  • installment - Not used except for mobile and tablet product categories.
  • excluded_destination - Not used

The lack of a tax attribute means that in the USA, you should exclude tax from your prices. In the UK, you need to make sure you include any value-added tax (VAT) in your listed prices.

Fields required for your products in Microsoft Merchant Centre are:

  • id - A unique identifier for the item. 50 Unicode character limit
  • title - Title of the item. 150 Alphanumeric character limit
  • link - Direct URL of the item's page on your website. 0-2,000 characters,
    HTTP or HTTPs only, and no redirects.
  • price - Base price, excluding tax and shipping, submitted in local currency up to 10 million.
  • Description - Item description. 10,000 Alphanumeric characters with no HTML code or promotional text.
  • image_link - URL of an image of the item.  Limited to 1,000 characters for a product image in bmp, gif, exif, jpg, png or tiff format, at least 220px by 220 px and not larger than 3.9 MB in file size.

If assigned by the manufacturer, the Manufacturer Part Number (MPN), Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), are required, along with the brand (70 character limit). If no MPN or GTIN is available, then the ‘identifier_exists’ field is required to be marked as FALSE.

The optional additional and recommended product data fields are similar to those offered by Google, with Bing also allowing for ‘seller_name’ for the Merchant or Store, ‘ads_redirect’ that will override the URL provided in the link attribute to allow for any additional parameters or tracking to be used before resolving to the original product link, and up to five ‘custom_label’ attributes to identify products for ad campaign filters, such as season or sale items.

All products need to meet the Microsoft Advertising policies, Product Ads policies and product specification requirements.

Optimising your Bing Shopping Data Feed

The steps to optimising your Bing Shopping data feed are essentially very similar to those which help to drive more sales via Shopping Ads on Google. This means many of your existing efforts to boost results on Google will also apply to the potential customers available via Bing.

But there are some key differences you may want to exploit, particularly if you start to see significant opportunities and sales from Microsoft Shopping Ads. Or you have products which are particularly relevant to the audience and demographics it can reach.

Product Titles: Although character limits and best practice are essentially identical to Shopping Ads on Google, you may find that variations and optimisation performs differently between both platforms due to the different demographics using them.

Product Descriptions: As with product titles, you may find different information works more effectively on one shopping platform than another. Bing Shopping also doubles the available character limit to allow for more detail to be included.

Images: Bing Shopping echoes Google by allowing for one main image, along with optional additional pictures. However, the minimum requirement for all categories is 220 x 220 pixels, which is larger than Google’s 100 x 100 pixels for non-clothing items. The file size for allowable images is also much smaller, with Bing limiting them to 3.9MB compared to Google’s 16MB.

The strict guidelines also include minimum and maximum dimensions based on the aspect ratio of your images.

Aspect Ratio Minimum dimensions (w x h in pixels) Maximum dimensions (w x h in pixels)
1.2:1 300 x 250 1200 x 1000
4:3 100 x 75 1333 x 1000
1.5:1 300 x 200 1500 x 1000
16:9 640 x 360 1778 x 1000

 

Pricing: As with any promotional campaign, it’s important to optimise pricing based on competitor research and analysis. You may find that the lower amount of competition on Bing Shopping allows you to potentially charge a higher price for products but still undercut other merchants.

Using Additional Fields: For both Shopping platforms, additional fields allow you to target specific customers more accurately, and provide them with a better experience. For apparel, additional fields include gender, age_group, color, size, and size_type (e.g. regular or petite).

Bing Shopping also allows you to specify material and pattern for product variations, condition (new, used or refurbished), and expiration_date within your product data feed.

Use campaign priorities: This allows you to display your Microsoft Shopping campaigns more often than other advertising. It can also be used when products may display as part of multiple campaigns, to allow you to prioritise your budget and reach to the most relevant customers.

Fix errors: You should consistently monitor and fix any errors reported in your Bing Shopping product data feed to avoid products being unapproved, or disappointed customers. You can find this information within Bing Merchant Centre in the Product Overview Graph, and under Catalog Management in the Product Offers section.

Monitor performance:  Various performance reports are available, including the shopping report found on the Dimensions tab, and the Share of Voice report.

The Share of Voice report includes important information to find potential lost customer volumes, by displaying:

  • Impression Share lost to Budget (%)
  • Impression Share lost to Rank (%)
  • Benchmark Bid
  • Benchmark CTR (%)
  • Impression Share (%)

Ultimately it makes sense for any retailer implementing Shopping Ads on Google campaigns to also include Bing Shopping as a quick and easy route to incremental sales. Without specifically optimising your product data feed, it’s possible you may gain enough impressions and revenue to justify investing a more time and resource in tailoring your information to Microsoft Shopping Ads.

If you’re working with one or more Google Premium CSS Partners for Shopping campaigns, then Bing Shopping should be part of their service. The RedBrain AI Shopping Service includes Bing Shopping available to all of our partners in the UK, DE, FR, US and CA, and more countries as it becomes available to them, with optimisation of your data feed and bidding management included as part of the service provided to you on a commission basis.

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