After being fined by the European Union, Google has been forced to open Google Shopping to other comparison shopping service (CSS) platforms.

For a long time, Google Shopping stood head and shoulders above the alternatives. But since the space has been opened up to alternatives, other services have garnered more interest.

This is because they present an excellent opportunity for you to increase your reach on Paid Search and improve performance.

What are CSS platforms?

First things first, what is a CSS platform and what do they represent for your business?

Essentially, CSS platforms are used to place shopping ads onto Google on your behalf. The CSS does this by bidding on Google general search results pages. They tend to work almost exactly the same way as Google Shopping does, just with a few minor differences.

As a merchant, you can provide data on your products to any CSS on the market, and can use multiple CSS platforms at one time. CSS’s will create separate merchant centre accounts for each merchant, allowing them to upload product data and run shopping campaigns for these merchants.

As a merchant, you simply pay the CSS to get those shopping ads onto Google’s search results. There are no payments to Google directly (the CSS handles this).

One major benefit of using a CSS is that there are also savings to be made around cost-per-click (CPC). Up to 20% reductions in cost per click for advertisers using a CSS are possible, while access to Google Advertising Credit is also available until 31st December – possibly incentivising more merchants to get onto CSS platforms.

What to consider

There are several CSS platforms out there. As with any competitive marketplace, there are a variety of offerings – some of which present good value and high efficacy, and others that don’t have quite the same impact.

One thing that does differ between CSS provider is the payment plan for getting your shopping ads out there.

Many work on a commission basis, but others offer a flat fee, monthly payment service. In many instances the flat fee option is preferable, and if you were to work with us to get on a CSS of this nature, we would only charge a small administrative fee to help get you set up. Payments thereon would be direct to the CSS. However, we’d advise you to consider both options and find the right payment plan for you.

Some CSS platforms have quite straightforward set up processes. This can be advantageous when it comes to getting the ball rolling.

There are some official Google CSS partners operating in this space, with dedicated Google CSS teams at the ready. But there are also plenty of premium partners that we would always advise to choose.

What can moving to a CSS bring?

When search results appear, it’s been seen that around 5-10% of clicks are going to the CSS provider (see below). So moving to a CSS brings greater visibility due to the cost savings on your CPC, resulting in a shift in your strategy.

Thanks to the aforementioned 20% CPC savings, there’s the chance to achieve more traffic for the same budget. And ultimately, adding another channel to the mix also presents the opportunity to increase Return on Ad Spend.

“We expect to see more merchants opting for CSS platforms, but we would advise not to choose a provider based on their price, but look at their offering,” explains Yasser Mohammed, Full Stack digital marketer at Williams Commerce. “As CSS platforms are on the rise, don’t be duped into choosing one that offers a poorer long term experience.”

Consider your options

The EU has somewhat moved the goalposts in this space, so don’t miss out on potential opportunities to enhance your business online and get more traffic and revenue through search.

Our team is willing to discuss your requirements and offer suggestions as to what CSS best suits your needs.

Contact the Williams Commerce team today and let us help you make progress online.