At Curalate, we think a lot about discovery—both how consumers discover new products from their favorite brands, and how brands can make that discovery process more inspiring for consumers. Often, these moments of discovery happen in channels like Instagram or Pinterest where inspirational content originates.

Search, though, has been the one channel where discovery lacks that element of inspiration. And that’s why Google’s announcement earlier this week about Google Shoppable Image Ads is so important: they’re working to change that.

With the announcement of shoppable ads, Google is bringing shoppable lifestyle content into Google Images results, turning search into the next frontier for product discovery. And it’s happening on the biggest marketing channel there is.

What are Google Shoppable Image Ads?

Google Shoppable Image Ads are a new ad format that gives brands the opportunity to tag multiple products in a single, lifestyle image. These ads appear in Google Images, and give users the ability to hover over any sponsored ad for more information, including the items for sale, prices and the brand.

This new ad format is best defined by a visual, so here’s an example:

google shoppable ad example

Image courtesy of Google

In the example above, which is pulled from Google’s blog post, it’s not just about the desk for your home office, but delivering better understanding of how that desk might look styled in your home with the right chair, lamp, and accessories.

It’s this concept of inspiration that gives people the confidence to buy the products they’re not only searching for, but also they products they discover.

Why Do Google Shoppable Ads Matter?

Google has noted that many shopping queries start in Google Image Search. The problem is that, particularly for broad search terms like “women’s coats,” the results are overwhelming and uninspiring. Go ahead, try it. So how can these results become more useful?

This is where better content comes in. A person making a query such as the one above is clearly looking for something. They just don’t know exactly what yet. In essence, they’re looking for inspiration. And it turns out, roughly 40% of shopping related search queries on Google, are these type of broad-based searches. Lifestyle content—the type of imagery you see posted by brands, consumers (UGC), and influencers on social—is inspirational by nature. This imagery isn’t just one product on a flat background. It’s a look, it’s a depiction of a way of life, it’s an example of what you can achieve. And frankly, it’s just way nicer to look at.

There are three big reasons for you to care about Google Shoppable Image Ads:

  1. Scale: Obviously search is a huge stage. With so many people launching their shopping journey’s on search, influencing where they end up is critical. Google Shopping Ads give brands and retailers to influence the journey earlier than ever before – when a customer is still looking for inspiration.  
  2. It’s becoming the norm: Pinterest introduced Shop The Look pins a couple of years ago. Instagram introduced Product Posts about a year ago. And now Google is making a shoppable ad unit. See a theme? As these sorts of experiences become more and more commonplace, consumers will expect to be able to tap on any image they encounter and learn what products are inside of it. This will force brands to think about how they can offer shoppable content experiences to their consumers across every touchpoint the brand engages with the customer. This will be true of paid media, social, eCom sites, blogs, influencer initiatives, email, and even chat.
  3. The early bird gets the worm: Innovative brands lean into new ad units early before they get bid up by increasing demand. Google Search Ads represent a new way to reach the consumer and it may do so in a highly efficient manner.

One of Google’s most widely-used shopping ads products is the Google Product Listing Ad (PLA). These ads display a single product on a white or other neutral background. Google Shoppable Ads, on the other hand, have at their core lifestyle content with clickable product tags providing information on all of the products in the image. If Google PLAs are like a coat on the rack at a store, then Shoppable Ads within Google Images are like the mannequin: They help people envision a complete look. This holds the promise of making search results more gratifying and relevant for consumers, while enabling brands to elevate their aesthetic on Google.

How You Can Prepare For Google Shoppable Ads

Right now, Google is testing this ad format on with select retailers.

As we’ve seen before, though, when Google announces a new experience like this, they’ll generally lean in and make their investment worthwhile.

To prepare, then, brands need to think not just about collecting lifestyle images that’s become so valuable for other channels, they need to begin tagging those images with product data so it’s available to Google as they expand this format. Here are four steps to preparing:

  1. Let Data be your Guide: If you’ve got a lot of products, you probably don’t have lifestyle content for all of them. Rather than get overwhelmed, prioritize. Start with your site analytics to determine your most viewed products and ensure you’ve got lifestyle content for those.
  2. Get More Shoppable Content: Most organizations have access to more lifestyle content than they realize. All too often this content is stuck in silos and is produced for channels (e.g. social) that sit outside of commerce. Find and repurpose this content. It’s also important to recognize that content is often a byproduct of broader initiatives, such as influencer campaigns. Influencer programs are generally about awareness and reach, but they almost always involve the creation of content. Don’t let that content go to waste!
  3. Know Your Rights: Ensure that you’re aware of how your content can be used. To the extent you’re sourcing user generated content, obtaining rights to this content via solutions like Curalate can make this process significantly easier. Navigating content rights in general can take a while, so it’s best to start early. The payoff will be worth it.
  4. Deploy Your Content: Start publishing shoppable content on your own site, in your emails, and in your app. It’ll help you become more familiar with how customers engage with your content, what types of content and products resonate, and provide you the ROI justification for spending more on content.

At Curalate, we’ve been enabling brands to monetize lifestyle content for years. Consistently, we find that lifestyle content increases conversion rates and order values, while also causing people to explore a wider assortment of products. Bringing lifestyle content to search, not only holds the promise of making search results more gratifying for consumers, but also enables brands to benefit from both the branding and revenue benefits lifestyle content generates.