Top Ten CSS Myths...Debunked!

Is CSS all cost-per-click? Are all CSS partners the same? My business isn’t big enough for CSS to help anyway…

Every industry has its myths or misconceptions and Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) are no exception to this.

CSS means better results for all online retailers, in every industry, but misinformation can lead to missed opportunities for you, so we at Redbrain have decided to debunk the top ten most common CSS Myths, so that you don’t miss out.

MYTH #1  - Will using a CSS partner for Google Shopping compete with my own campaigns?

Adding a CSS partner will actually enhance your existing digital campaigns, driving new sales, rather than competing with them.

You might be surprised to learn that the Google Shopping auction process is designed to benefit retailers running multiple CSS campaigns, so this could not be more of a myth.

By working with CSS partners who use AI and machine learning, you’ll add incremental sales without overlapping your existing campaigns – a great CSS partner can advise you on this.

Don’t just take it from us, here is Nicola White, Head of Performance Marketing at one of our online retail customers, Missguided:

“We gained incremental sales, increased our ROI on our own campaign and gained additional support for Google Shopping by partnering with Redbrain. If we didn’t have an additional campaign running for us at the same time as our own, we would have missed out on £500k in sales.”

MYTH #2  - I’ve heard I can only work with one CSS partner at a time or they will compete with each other…

Online retailers find that working with multiple CSS partners can mean more opportunities. eBay, Nike and others successfully run with multiple CSS providers alongside their internal teams to maximise CSS success.

Every CSS performance partner has their own approach, so each are complementary, not competitive. Some might focus on high-profit products, others use AI to work out what to promote. Additional data enhancement tools can help promote less popular items and using multiple CSS partners will also increase your chance to appear twice in the same Google Shopping Carousel, even for different products within your range.

The only real exceptions are smaller brands with a limited range of products. If this is you, then multiple strategies might not be complimentary, but if you do stock hundreds or thousands of products, then testing more CSS partners can help. eBay have seen £400 million in annual sales (85% of which were incremental) since adding Redbrain to their roster, so it’s worth doing some research.

MYTH #3 - Everyone knows CSS partners who are promoting the same products will drive up the Google click price, right?

Luckily, this won’t happen, as Google have designed the bidding process for Shopping ads to avoid any merchant paying more if they have multiple CSS bids for the same products.

There’s more good news as an individual product only appears once, and bids are all treated as being from the same CSS (so your results are not weakened), despite the fact that several CSS providers might be competing with each other for your business.

As the only competition is between CSS performance partners, online retailers can sit back and enjoy the benefits.

There will be a series of potential bid processes, and when several CSS partners compete, Google selects the second highest price and sets that as the final rate, but the winning bidder actually gets your business (to help you avoid paying a premium rate) so everyone is happy.

The result of this bidding strategy is that you will not pay an inflated price whether you work with one partner or loads at once.

The key point? CSS is win/win for every business.

MYTH #4 - So, I understand the only way to pay CSS partners is Cost-Per-Click (CPC)?

It’s true that Cost-Per-Click (CPC) is probably the most common way for businesses to bid for online advertising, but that doesn’t make it your only option.

Some online options, like Google Shopping, involve setting your own maximum CPC bids if you have internal Adwords or Merchant Centre campaigns. You might not need to set a max bid if you use a CSS provider who work on a Cost-per-action (CPA) basis, meaning you only pay fees for actual sales.

This means there are two main models, but with the latter, your provider will have a stronger incentive to deliver results, which is great for your ROI.

MYTH #5 - I’d love to get involved with CSS, but it only works for really big or niche retailers…

Sure, the results will differ based on the size of your business, but anyone can use Google Shopping.

Anyone can be successful with CSS, just get these things right first:

  • Offering: A quality website, products and data feed, with a good existing conversion rate.
  • Competitiveness: Make sure your products are well-priced, with great reviews and accurate availability.
  • Meet Demand: Ensure that customers are actively looking for your products with sufficient search volume happening too.
  • Strategy: Picking the right partners, brand and marketing strategy, and the right commission rates will all increase your success through CSS sales.

Don’t worry if you have a smaller inventory either, companies like Dyson and Gtech have gone on to be huge success stories, and their CSS sales are a big part of that, so CSS works for everyone.

Partnering up with a CSS expert makes it easier to ensure a dominant search position, better brand awareness and a bigger customer base.

MYTH #6 - All CSS providers are the same…they work with the same products…targeting the same customers on Google Shopping…

All your potential CSS partners might be selling the same products for you, but there is a huge difference in their strategies and performance based on how they operate.

You might find that some CSS partners focus on a subset of products with manual campaign structures and pricing, requiring significant investment in manpower to deliver at scale, or you may find they use state-of-the-art AI to save time for your business and drive faster sales.

A combination of AI, machine-learning and human expertise is the holy grail for CSS success, so if a company can’t offer you this combo, it’s time to re-evaluate.

MYTH #7 - Apparently…you can’t buy direct from Google, you have to go to a separate CSS partner…

You can if you want…but you’re going to pay more.

Everyone used to buy from Google Shopping directly, but in 2017 the EU ruled they were artificially decreasing the ranking of competitors and that Google Shopping CSS was a standalone business, so this had to change.

There are now several pricing models available with Google Shopping charging a fixed percentage of 20% on CPC bids before they are entered into the advertising auction, so there are arguably better offers but Google are still very much a CSS business in their own right.

MYTH #8 - I can’t run self-service and managed CSS campaigns at the same time, can I?

No one knows where this myth came from, but yes, you can run both in unison.

Self-service CSS campaigns are great because you get all the knowledge and experience a CSS partner and have a lot of control.

Despite this, many people find that opting for a fully-managed campaign means they can sit back and just enjoy the benefits of CSS – so it is about what matters to you.

Companies that have a massive scale of business or dominate the marketplace in their sector do find self-service to be effective as they are already well-known, so deciding on where your company is in its lifecycle will help you decide which system works for you, or if both present great solutions.

MYTH #9 - CSS is OK, but it will only ever provide nominal increased sales compared with PPC!

CSS performance partners can get the most out of your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, but can also offer services which cost you nothing unless you get a sale, so your profit margins will be higher than with a PPC only approach.

PPC-only teams often work with a small number of online retail clients and use little comparative data for your sales, whereas CSS partners deal with thousands of retailers and millions of products every day, worldwide.

Not only does this mean a lot of insights, it also means a lot of experience to, so they know which issues to watch out for.

Google are always trying to improve the quality of ads on their site, so incorrect management could lead to your Merchant Centre account being suspended, as could law changes between countries, which both take a long time to fix. By using the combination of AI and human expertise found within CSS businesses, updates and enhancements for your ads are constantly reassessed, keeping issues to an absolute minimum.

MYTH #10 - Surely any digital PPC agency can run CSS campaigns?

If this was true, there would be no need for CSS partners, and given the value, they create for the business, the need is self-evident.

Now of course a PPC agency can partner with a CSS specialist to deliver a joint campaign, but it will be the CSS partner who truly runs the campaign – it’s what they do 24/7.

There are restrictions too when it comes to who does the CSS work so that quality is maintained, like having a minimum of fifty retailers or operating in all the countries those retailers occupy; not to mention having the right certification.

So make sure your CSS providers are the real deal.

Thanks for busting those myths! What now though?!

CSS is still brand new for many businesses, so it’s easy for CSS myths to confuse the uninitiated.

That might not sound like a big deal but wasting a big chunk of your advertising budget on false information could really hurt your business, so make sure you research every CSS decision in detail.

Get everything right and using a CSS partner will be the best decision you ever made. In 2018, Google Shopping received around 88% of all paid advertising clicks from customers and that figure continues to rise, so make the most of our tips, get a plan, and if you need to know more…

…just get in touch.

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