Google Shopping Vs Facebook Ads: What's Better For Your eCommerce Business?
Whether you've been in the business forever, or just starting with eCommerce, you can't really ignore online advertising. The internet is chockablock with options and the right ads will help get you in front of the right people. The question is, where are your shoppers?
Google Shopping and Facebook Ads are undeniably the biggest players in the space - both catering very unique shopping experiences to their users. Is one ad platform better than the other? Honestly, it depends. Cliché as it sounds, there's no one-size-fits-all!
What's the difference?
To decide what's right for you, you first need to know what makes each platform unique.
The basics - what you see
Of course, they look quite different. Google Shopping puts you above organic search results, comparing similar products on the Shopping tab, in a carousel format. You'll see product images, product names, seller brands, pricing and any unique selling points (USPs) such as shipping info, sales, reviews and more. You could also pair it with paid search and text-based ads that show on the main search results section.
Facebook on the other hand offers a number of ad formats suited to eCommerce: a carousel dynamically pulled from a catalog or collection with product pricing, names, brand info and more, or a carousel that you manually create; a single image creative or even video ads; and instant shopping experiences that function as a mini website on Facebook.
How they work
As with most Google ads formats, shopping is keyword search based - these ads show when people look for products like yours. Do it well and you'll benefit from strong intent to purchase - you simply have to give the people what they want. It's about finding new customers who need your products, when they're already looking.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you will be automatically compared to your competitors. So if you have a product that's similar to everyone else's you'll be directly competing on price and USPs. Also, you'll need to work on your product page SEO (search engine optimisation) to make sure you do show for the relevant search queries - it's a two-prong approach.
If you do secure the click-through, you'll find your traffic is usually really high quality, because of users' stronger purchase intent.
Facebook Ads are interruptive, so you need to get creative to stand out amidst the noise on social media. This is about helping new customers find your brand before they even realise they need you. You need to know your target audience really well and determine what will get their attention when they're scrolling.
But you do have more control over who sees your ads - Facebook is a lot more flexible in targeting, from defining custom interests to even creating lookalike audiences based on data from your existing customers.
You also enjoy a lot more flexibility with the creative, pushing a variety of USPs through ad copy and imagery, and creating customised shopping experiences for your prospective customers. There's also an opportunity to sell differently, with different call-to-actions beyond sending people to a product page, such as striking up a conversion on Facebook Messenger and guiding potential customers through the purchase.
The price tag
Google ads famously charge per click - so theoretically if you failed to stand out amongst the shopping ads and users clicked on someone else's product, no harm done. You don't pay for that impression (a view of your ad). This does often mean Google Shopping ends up being the cheaper option, and results in a strong ROI (Return on Investment). Small businesses might find this more viable, just as it offers more control over ad spend. Just remember, when you do get that click, the price is driven by the competition - more competitive products see higher average costs per click (cpc).
Facebook is a lot more mature as a platform, with significantly more user data, and can charge you on impressions or clicks based on your bidding. The average cpc is quite reasonable and you can bring that down further by nailing your targeting and creative. But the conversion rates are often lower - it's an impulse-buy mentality and not every click will drive sales, even when your landing page is optimised. So you may end up paying more for the sale. It's up to you to get the right people viewing your ads and considering your products.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Now that you've got an idea of how each advertising platform functions, the key differences in their offering, and their relationship with advertisers, it's time to get real about the pros and cons. They've definitely both got their strong points and weaknesses, often tied to whether they fit your buyer's journey and marketing goals.
Google Shopping campaigns - the pros
- As mentioned before, higher quality, higher intent traffic with a better chance of converting if your landing page does its job and closes the sale
- Easier campaign set up, a lot of which is automated if your Google Merchant Centre account is set up well and optimised
- Low maintenance management which makes it a lot easier for less experienced marketers and small business owners to experiment with
- Reach across the Google display network to build greater brand awareness across its partner sites
- Automated mobile-friendly displays courtesy of the well-optimised platform Google has built
Google Shopping campaigns - the cons
- Limited targeting in that you are confined to what people are actively searching for
- You need to be highly competitive in your offering especially when you are pushing the same or similar products, at which point it will boil down to price generally.
- It's not that scalable. Again, you're limited by what people are searching for and how many people are querying those keywords
- Limited control in performance management as you're handing the reigns over to the Google algorithm and trusting it to match your product to the right search query
- Slow to show results - it can take around two weeks for your campaigns to get optimised as Google slowly discovers the right people to show your ads to
Facebook Ads - the pros
- Broad reach and targeting lets you get really creative about how you discover new types of customers and introduce new people to your brand
- Incredibly scalable, especially when you have a huge product range, with broad appeal, considering the almost inconceivable audience size on the platform, and the intrinsic pairing with Instagram and its audience as well
- Excellent for lower price point products that lend themselves well to the impulse-buying habits of users on social media
- Tapping into one of the most intelligent machine-learning targeting algorithms available with some of the highest number of data points on their users
- An inherently visual platform really lets you get innovative with how you stand out to your target audience, especially if you have really strong branding
Facebook Ads - the cons
- Takes a lot more hands-on management and testing which can be difficult for less experienced marketers and you do have to have a lot faith in the algorithm to find the right people for you
- Lower intent traffic means you could pay more for a sale as people on social media platforms are more prone to exploring impulse buys which they can abandon just as quickly
- Results reporting is not 100% accurate, especially since the release of the iOS update last year which allowed Apple users to opt-out of data tracking
- Requires a lot of conversion data to fully utilise the algorithm which can be an issue if your business is not likely to have a high volume of sales
- You'll only reach Facebook and Instagram audiences, large as that database is, you'll only be seen when people active spend time on the social media app which means you may not always reach people at the right time for conversion
So, Google Shopping VS Facebook Ads for eCommerce - what's the verdict?
Both platforms have serious advantages, and done right, you can counter most of the cons we've listed, so the opportunity on each is quite tremendous. Is one better than the other? Well, that depends entirely on you as a business owner or marketer, where you think your prospective customers are, and what sort of business model you're working with in general.
The good thing is, you don't really have to choose!
I mean, who says you need to focus all your ad spend on one platform or the other? The savvy salesperson should make use of all the tools available to them to make sure they have multiple touchpoints across the digital scape.
Some of the best campaigns we run succeed because of that hybrid approach, using Google shopping ads to hit those high-intent shoppers and then scaling our reach by bringing it on to Facebook when we've got the data to back it up.
Bringing it all together
Let's talk through a campaign that offers you the best of both worlds. As we said, Google Shopping is all about search intent, offering up a specific product in response to a google search query. This is a great place to start because you're getting highly interested traffic through to your site, even when if don't make a purchase.
Before you launch any ad campaigns, make sure you've got the tools for data tracking in place. Get Google Analytics integrated on your website, turn on eCommerce tracking, and get the Facebook Pixel installed as well. If you hadn't previously had these installed, you may even want to hold off on ads for a week so you have some data to compare to before ads launched.
Now that you've got your foundation in place, you can strategise around Google Shopping - what products make sense to promote, what can you implement (reviews, shipping info, etc) to stand out from the crowd, considering whether you want to run branded campaigns, and make sure your product data feed is optimised. You will want to have Google Merchant Centre set up for this but the bonus of that is showing up for organic shopping results as well!
Another thing to think about is whether you want to pair it with search ads - if you do, you'll need to get started on some serious keyword research!
When you're happy with your Google ads prospecting campaigns, the next step to think about is retargeting. Realistically not everyone is going to purchase on the first click-through even if they have intent or interest. Sometimes, people need to sit on purchase decisions, especially when they're higher value items, or when they're doing some research and comparing products.
A good retargeting campaign follows people on the internet and reminds them of their original interest. This is where Facebook comes in.
The pixel reads the data on your site and you can use this to create high-quality retargeting audiences on Facebook, from retargeting the entire site's visitors, to people who viewed specific pages, to even excluding people who have already purchased. A clever retargeting strategy keeps your brand top of mind with potential customers and encourages them to come back and close the sale.
You can also use this seasoned data to create lookalike audiences and find more people similar to those who have shown strong intent - that's the power of Facebook's scalability.
That's not to say this is the only hybrid strategy that works. If you have a highly visual brand or low-involvement products (fast-moving consumer goods or novelty items) you may find it more difficult to compete on Google shopping ads. These types of products could do better prospecting directly on Facebook, with a mixture of retargeting across Facebook ads and display ads on Google.
It's time to level up your eCommerce business
Really, the possibilities are endless. It's all about how you carve out the ideal buyer's journey across both platforms and keep consistent touchpoints with your potential customers, in order to grow the success of your online store.
If you need some help with your strategy, hit up the Google shopping ad management experts and Facebook ads enthusiasts right here at Dilate!