“Google has more computing power, data, and talent to pursue artificial intelligence than any other company on Earth — and it’s not slowing down.” — Fast Company, September 2019

Artificial intelligence has been driving substantial new opportunities for brands to expand campaign reach while maintaining solid profitability. This advanced approach is able to generate its own algorithms on-the-fly in response to data. Every new data point represents a new learning opportunity for AI to strengthen its predictive insights.

Data and Google go hand-in-hand, so it’s no wonder they invest heavily in the space. As an early example, Google acquired AI pioneer DeepMind for over $500 million in 2014, a company which at the time had less than 100 employees, zero revenue, and zero products.

Since 2016, Google has been increasingly handing over search ranking decisions to their RankBrain AI. Advertising, however, is their bread and butter. As such, it’s understandable that they’d be a little more timid in testing AI smarts for live campaign optimizations.

So when Google initially launched their AI-powered Smart Campaigns in 2017, the format was exclusively available to the display network campaigns. With its countless placement options, nuanced user & context signals, and more flexible ROI goals, display advertising provided a strong proving ground for Google to refine their AI-led optimizations.

A year later, in time for the 2018 holiday season, Google soft-launched their Smart Shopping campaigns. Google’s AI takes into account every signal at its disposal, from real-time data to historic product performance, to automatically allocate the ideal budget across networks and ad formats.

In one fell swoop, a traditional Google Shopping campaign is able to expand beyond Google Shopping placements to target users watching videos on YouTube, perusing among the two million+ sites within the Google Display Network and catching up on their email within a Gmail inbox.

Off-Google display placements are dynamically scooped up whenever an ad/bid combination is predicted to produce profitable results. Whether prospecting or remarketing, each new placement leverages data and audience insights derived from all earlier placements.

Great news for brands… These campaigns promise to “find the right user on the right channel at scale.” This is a case where reality exceeds the hype. The results from Smart Shopping Campaigns are even more impressive than the technology!

While Google states that Smart Shopping campaigns have been shown to increase conversion value by 30%+ over their standard Shopping campaigns, we’ve actually found this figure to be on the low end of common performance gains.

Here’s one such example: One of our clients had consistently struggled to find buyers for a certain product category. They had grown to accept this category’s mediocre results from their existing Shopping campaign. We decided to transition these products to a Smart Shopping campaign. After the initial AI learning period (typically two weeks), we saw conversions jump 328%. Even more impressive is that these results were delivered at an improved ROAS!

Smart Shopping Holiday Campaign Performance

It gets better. During last year’s Black Friday holiday shopping weekend, Smart Shopping campaigns were shown to produce even further gains vs. traditional Shopping campaigns.

Yet due to Cyber Five’s anomalous traffic and conversion rate spikes, these campaigns greatly benefit from hands-on configuration finesse in the weeks and days leading up to the shopping frenzy. Though the AI engine takes care of a lot, strategic oversight and campaign guidance is required to maximize Smart Shopping performance potential.

Though November is fast approaching, there’s still a solid window of opportunity to talk to your ROI strategist about Smart Shopping and other ways we can help solidify your competitive advantage going into Holiday 2019.

Carpe Diem,

Timothy Seward