Product pages & Google Shopping. A customer journey battleground.

The Rise of the Product First Journey

Driven by the growth in programmes like Google Shopping, more shoppers are now starting their journey at the product level of a website than almost anywhere else, and is a trend reflected across both desktop and mobile devices.

In fact, in the retailers we benchmarked for this audit, up to 46% of shopping sessions began in such a way, with an average across the spread of 36%. For practically all retailers, this is a greater percentage of sessions than those that begin at the home page, which is a starting point for just over 20% of customer journeys on average.

[insert images]

On that basis it’s fair to say that if you’re investing in Google Shopping as a key channel, then more shoppers are starting their journey with you ‘product first’, than through any other touchpoint on your site.

Why is this a big deal?

This is an important segment to recognise, as your product pages are seldom designed to be the first point of a journey, and typically don’t get anywhere near the amount of attention that home pages or high level category pages get when it comes to merchandising, enrichment, testing, customisation, optimisation, analysis or anything really. This means you’re driving more shoppers into your site through the place that’s least optimised to give them a good first impression.

There is good news…

The good news you probably already know. That due to the high purchase intent, the conversion rate on Google Shopping and product entry level traffic is generally very good. Certainly at the higher end of most retailer’s spreads. As you can see in this comparison.

Combined with lower cpc’s and fast times to purchase, the ROAS on Google Shopping traffic is impressive, with many retailers seeing 1.5-3.5x the ROAS they see in generic/non brand paid search activity.

This has encouraged many retailers to divert greater portions of their spend towards shopping search, to the point where some retailers are now investing as much as 75% of their total budgets into it.

The bad news…the engagement is very poor!

The engagement level of shoppers starting their journey at the product level through Google Shopping is shockingly poor. Or to put a silver lining on it…rife with massive opportunities for improvement. Two things really stand out here that jar with this channels outstanding conversion potential.

1. Shopping traffic is almost twice as likely to bounce!

Despite strong conversions on Google Shopping traffic, the lost opportunity is far higher. Overall ecommerce retailers are routinely seeing bounce rates of nearly 70% or more on Google shopping traffic, which begins its journey at the product level.

This is nearly twice the level of bounces when compared with shoppers coming to the site directly or from other traffic sources like generic PPC, which typically begin their journey at the home or category level of a site.  Given how much of this is bought in traffic it highlights a huge amount of wasted spend.

2. Shoppers from Google Shopping don’t browse much either!

On average, and largely as a byproduct of the high proportion of bounces, a session initiated from Google Shopping averages a number of pages viewed of between 2.5 & 2.7 per session. Even when bounces are removed the average page views jumps little more than a single page. This indicates that among the remaining number that try to engage, people either buy fairly directly or drop back out after attempting to browse.

So why is Google Shopping search so ‘Buy or Bust’?

The impressive conversion rate and ROAS of Shopping search and product entry level traffic is at stark odds with its high bounce and low page engagement rate, unlike any other channel.

Sure we’d expect some bouncing and a spread of page view activity that varies over the funnel, and there are often clear reasons for a high bounce rate. Mercenary shoppers, slow loading pages, mobile usage etc. But all the data across many retailers, suggests that shopping traffic either buys, or takes a cliff face drop off the edge of the site, and far more so than when compared to similar channels.

Something else is surely afoot here, and it’s when you dive into the data that it becomes clear that the customer journey is amiss.

Product listings might get the clicks, but shoppers want choice & range!

Products in Google Shopping may generate impressive click-throughs that are highly qualified. They are however seldom product specific searches. Detailed query anaylsis shows, that a high concentration and wide mix of category and type related searches are producing the clicks on product listings. This indicates that shoppers want a far broader and higher level choice than the product offers. You can see an example of this in a couple of analyses from our audit below.

Example a: This GIVENCHY distressed logo jumper in black is displayed in the google shopping box and yields impressions and clicks on a wide array of terms. However, what we can see in the treemap is that those terms which are referring traffic are far more generalised than the product that yielded them. In this case, the retailer had ample inventory to satisfy most of these queries at the higher level of their site. Yet this product produced a 76% bounce rate. Even if you were to swap out products for better sellers, it still wouldn’t solve the main issue of the query spread.

GIVENCHY Black distressed logo jumper

Example b: This Samsung 21 inch monitor is a strong performer in Google Shopping for another retailer. It’s a strong seller, but exhibits a very high bounce rate of 71%. The treemap of queries once again hints strongly at why. It is deriving much of its traffic from searches that are related to its many attributes, and its category parentage.

Samsung S22D300HY 21.5″ HDMI LED Monitor

What’s very evident from these, and the dozens of examples we uncovered in our benchmark audit, is that product pages are the first touchpoint in a huge proportion of customer journeys, where the shoppers are expressing a clear desire for choice somewhere in the range above the product they came in on. All in all that might not be such a bad thing, were it not for the next point.

Product pages are quite the cul-de-sac!

To compound Google Shopping sending huge amounts of generic traffic to product pages, those same product pages box the shopper in and make it difficult for them to un-narrow the product out to the relevant groupings of choice that they want.

Whereas conventional browsers can easily back-click to the category they were exploring, our shoppers landing via Google Shopping are limited to using breadcrumbs and a handful of ‘Related’ product recommendations to expand their choice, or face the daunting plunge back to the home page to start again.

Breadcrumbs don’t leave as good a trail as we think they do!

The faithful breadcrumb falters in many product first journeys, as even if a customer were to look towards it to try and un-drill the product, they often make the journey harder, rather than easier.

For example, any shoppers clicking on these listings below, and expecting to be able to easily drill upwards to more of the same, would find the breadcrumbs taking them to somewhere between a category of hundreds of products and the store entrance.

Furthermore, several sites didn’t even reflect a clear breadcrumb at all. A sure fire way to encourage a bounce.

The breadcrumbs on these product pages don’t leave much of a trail for shoppers

Product recommendations don’t fare much better

Product recs are another accepted means of advancing the customer journey with relevant alternatives. However, once again these are often starkly at odds with the intent of shoppers who have landed on the particular product, and want to see more.

The below examples were taken from the product pages listed in the above ‘red lace dress’ example.

While these products may be a good suggestion for someone who has browsed that product as a part of their wider exploration, they are not going to meet the shopper where they’re at, in terms of their intent and desire to see more red lace dresses.

Red lace dress hunters would be sorely let down by most product recommendations.

We need to optimise the journey, not just the campaigns!

What’s very clear from analysing Google Shopping search, is that whilst a strong portion of traffic is spot on and converts very well indeed, much of it is wholly misplaced not just in terms of the product choice, but at the product level as a whole.

Customers come in on products with an explicit need for choice, and in many cases that need is very broad. In most cases however, sites are practically (albeit inadvertently) pushing them back out by making it difficult to explore simple choice.

So you can squeeze the campaign, the products, the feed, your agency, maybe even Google, to try and tighten up the wastage in your shopping campaigns, but when you look at the whole journey, it’s not difficult to see where the problems are, and why shoppers are inclined to follow the path of least resistance and bounce straight back to shopping.

By giving shoppers relevant options that align with what they want to buy, we can encourage them over the threshold of our product pages to explore the wider offer, reduce the chance of a bounce and increase the likelihood they’ll have the FoundIt! moment that will crystallise a sale.

It therefore makes sense to pay more attention to the journey we are giving shoppers when they arrive at this level, and make an internal Journey Optimisation part of the external marketing programme.

In our next post…

..we’ll be staying on this theme, and looking directly at how FoundIt’s journey optimiser recognises the intent of your Shopping search visitors, and reshapes your product first journey to improve choice, reduce bounces, and increase conversion by as much as 40%. If you can’t wait till then though…drop us a line.

We are seeing increases in conversion and reduction in bounce rate by implementing FoundIt! at the product level of the site from Google shopping ads. If you’d like to know more, download the datasheet :

Product pages & Google Shopping. A customer journey battleground.
More shoppers are now starting their journey at the product level of a website than almost anywhere else because of Google Shopping. But this results in some less than desirable user behaviour. Read on to learn more...