Bad News for Merchants? Microsoft to End Bing Shopping
By David A. Utter
Microsoft, like other search advertising providers, has been chasing frontrunner Google in an effort to carve out a little more of the multi-billion dollar online ad market. Recent news out of Microsoft's Bing Ads division suggests their latest strategy will involve imitating Google's shift from having a Shopping service for merchants to a paid Product Ads service instead.
Bing announced a new Product Search along with new ad formats for their advertisers. This Product Search will replace Bing Shopping, with Microsoft offering both free and paid methods of utilizing the new format.
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company found that with the introduction of Snapshot last year into the main search results page,they could give shoppers the information they needed about the product they were looking for without directing them out to another page. "That innovation, along with a new Carousel gives users the ability find the product they want faster," they said.
A Rich Captions feature will be available as a free, opt-in choice for existing Bing merchants. After opting in, when Bing finds price and availability information for a merchant's product that matches a search result, that information will be displayed in a caption under the item's information.
Bing is also still testing Product Ads in closed beta, a state the service has apparently been in since news of it first became available in April 2013. The new Product Ads appear both in Bing's results as well as in Yahoo search results due to the partnership between Microsoft and Yahoo.
This format allows for the inclusion of rich details like images, pricing, and product descriptions with displayed ads. Microsoft feels this will lead to improved conversions as consumers are presented with this additional information.
"We made these changes based on consumer insights and research and believe the new experience offers the right mix of solutions for our merchants to help consumers discover their products and services," Microsoft said.
Regarding Product Listing Ads (PLA), the Google format that replaced Google Shopping, it's little wonder Microsoft wishes to emulate that service. A report from Marin Software suggests the change has been very positive for Google.
"Year-over-year, the share of PLA clicks to standard text ads increased 93%. Likewise, in July 2013 the CTR of PLA ads – the number of individuals that view an ad and subsequently click on the ad – was 21% higher than the CTR of text ads," the report said regarding click-through rates.
Marin further anticipates the share of impressions along with the advertising spend on PLA to "dramatically" increase in the fourth quarter of 2013, aka the holiday shopping season. Some of that growth is attributed to Google expanding PLA to mobile devices, coupled with greater consumer shopping and research taking place on those gadgets.
About the author:
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. Send your tips to email@example.com and find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.
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