Comparison Shopping Service: Why use a CSS Partner?

Eddy Hyde - Technical Sales Manager

Eddy Hyde

11th October 2019

In the UK, with 82% of ad spend and 87.9% of all clicks on Google Ads coming through shopping campaigns, maximising both ad exposure and the ROI of shopping campaigns, as well the COVID-19 pandemic also pushing businesses and consumers towards digital shopping, has never been more important to retailers.

Because of this, having success in this space by being visible, competitive and profitable in a crowded marketplace can be difficult, with poor performance in this area often the downfall of online marketing strategies.

With the introduction of Comparison Shopping Services, the shopping ad landscape has become more balanced, allowing others to eat into Google’s monopoly.


The Emergence of CSS in Search

In 2017, the European Commission hit Google with a €2.42bn antitrust fine for abusing its dominance in search by giving an unfair advantage to its own shopping service and favouring its results over competitors.

The fine for anti-competitive practices was only the start, with Google under threat of additional fines if they did not demonstrate compliance with the verdict and find a way of levelling the playing field.

In order to make their shopping service more competitive, Google opened up their auction to more Comparison Shopping Services (CSS).


What is a CSS?

Google describes a Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) as “a website that collects product offers from online retailers and then sends users to the retailers’ websites to make a purchase”.

Comparison Shopping Services can show shopping ads in Google search results, the same way Google Shopping does. This can be seen in the below illustration.

Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) Chart

There are many CSS partners across Europe (alongside Google Shopping) who enable retailers to reach millions of Google Shopping customers. CSS partners vary, with some specialising in specific products or industries e.g. Fashion. Partners also operate differently, with some offering feed management tools or bid management tools as part of their offering, with others simply providing access to comparison shopping services.

Google Shopping Image

Benefits of using a CSS

There are three main benefits of using a CSS, either instead of, or alongside Google Shopping:

1. Cheaper Bids – it is widely accepted that merchants will receive approximately 20% reduction in Cost Per Clicks (CPCs). This is thanks to Google Shopping needing to remain profitable, whilst also providing a competitive platform. Furthermore, this allows other CSSs to appear in the auction and have the same opportunities as Google Shopping to serve ads in search results.

2. Double Ad Presence – Essentially, merchants can appear twice in the same auction. Merchants can participate in auctions via numerous CSSs at the same time. Google does its best not to show the same products offered by the same merchant next to each other. However, different products from the same merchant can show via several CSSs in the same auction (as shown below).


Google Shopping Image Sony

3. Room for Growth – With reduced costs comes the opportunity for account growth. The alternative to keeping the savings made from reduced CPCs is to reinvest the savings into the account and if done effectively, generate more Impressions, Clicks and Conversions (sales).


Choosing a CSS partner

Google have a page dedicated to helping you find your perfect Comparison Shopping Partner.

However, with 65 partners recommended, choosing one can be a daunting task.

Although Google now have to offer a level playing field for Comparison Shopping Services, it is not something that they actively promote. With minimal information on each CSS and no real way of comparing them it’s worth choosing a few and requesting an introductory call or demo to gain further insight into how they are set up, their offering, experience, pricing and level of service. Some CSS partners operate on a monthly fee, with others using commercial models based on spend. Because of this, it is important to make sure you are happy with how you are being billed and have taken into consideration how this might change with sustained growth.

It is not uncommon for merchants to trial a CSS partner and then move to a new one if they are not happy with the performance or level of support provided.


E-commerce Made Easy

At SilverDisc, our approach is to comprehensively understand your business goals and take a holistic view of your online digital presence. This allows us to strategise, engineer, market your products and analyse performance, ultimately driving the continued success of your digital marketing. 

If you are a retailer looking to improve the return on investment, and avoid something like the fall of the Arcadia group of your online marketing campaigns, SilverDisc has the expertise to help you maximise your returns. Get in touch with us to discuss how we can help.

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