Google Smart Shopping lets you automate shopping ads and campaigns on Google networks.

You set up a Google Smart Shopping campaign in Google Ads. Set an average daily budget. Set an optional target return on ad spend (ROAS). And select the Google Merchant Center that’s used to manage your product feed.

Google then takes over. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to analyze at least a few weeks of your site visitor’s behavior. It’s AI uses that data to place bids and optimize your conversions or ROAS based on your set goals and budget. It automatically combines your supplied images and text to create and shopping and display ads and meet your target goals.

You essentially set it and forget it.

Sounds good, but there is a catch

It’s a clever format that reduces work by taking over bidding and deciding when and where your ads will appear. This includes managing Remarketing lists, location modifiers, ad scheduling, device modifiers, and other management functions. It also includes dynamic prospecting and dynamic remarketing, as well as LIAs and display ads.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time setting up the campaign. These assets will be used to display ads.

It sounds simple and seductive, right?

It is fine and probably a good option for small and medium-sized businesses that have limited resources and need to quickly get their Shopping campaigns started. But there’s a catch.

Although there are many additional networks and formats, you lose almost all control over the process as well as all reporting options. Google decides when your ads will be displayed, whether they are display ads, standard shopping adverts or any other format. Google determines whether your ads are displayed on mobile, tablet, or desktop devices. It also decides which audience, platform, time, and bids to use.

The reason the reporting is so limited is obvious. You cannot influence anything but your goal. This goal can only be set at campaign level and can be modified to increase conversions or Target ROAS. Google could keep the reporting but reduce the controls. This would cause users to be upset as they might not be able address the problems or opportunities that Google is presenting. Users are more likely not to have control of what’s happening because they don’t have transparency.

But why bother with such details? Why would you need a search term report anyway?

You can´t use your data

Because it’s your data after all, and you can use it as a source for other ad formats such as text ads. It might also be used for optimizing your onsite search or discovering new products, brands etc. that your clients are looking for. Also, you can find out what circumstances led to triggering your ad.

Why would you need to know where your ads were displayed (placements), or on which devices? When you know how your target group is set up, then you know which devices work best for reaching your audience, which ads to use and what conditions you have. Besides that, only you – and not Google – know the individual margins of your items and only you know best which other aspects – such as availability of different sizes or styles, sales, return rates etc. – should be imported. Simply put, you know your business best, you know how the customer journey looks for your products, what kind of data can be used and in which way in order to improve your performance. This is necessary to know and has to be brought into the Google Ads management to get the best out of it. If you sacrifice such things as customization, transparency and control, you also sacrifice plenty of possibilities to diversify and show how great your brand, product, and website is!

Would you give someone a blank check who is earning money based on the spends you make? Because this is what you are actually doing when using Smart Shopping campaigns.

Our Recommendation

Smart Shopping is a good way to start with Shopping ads and maybe useful if you are working in a small- or medium-sized business where you have to take care of other advertising channels with limited resources. You might also use it exclusively for specific items in order to push them a bit (but there are other options available within standard Shopping campaigns).

If you have any ambitions to diversify or deepen your strategic considerations – for example, bringing in first-party data, making use of various settings and outsmarting competitors in the long run – I would definitely recommend a more sophisticated setup than what is possible in Smart Shopping campaigns.

Why invented Google the Smart Shopping Campaign?

The question remains: Why is Google doing it? The answer is quite obvious. To keep the Google Comparison Shopping Service running Google needs merchants that keep investing in Google Shopping Ads. Smart Shopping lowers the entrance barriers for smaller merchants and delivers reasonable returns for many merchants.