CSS – Comparison Shopping Service – Does it work?

At We are Chain, we are constantly trying out new apps, features and themes to find out which works best and most importantly helps increase our eCommerce conversion rates. Unlike most agencies, we aren’t just reading around the subject and hoping it works, we use our very own stores as testing grounds before we push them on our clients. 

This month our focus is on improving our Google Shopping performance by introducing a CSS partner into the mix. CSS for most is still Cascading Style Sheets, but not this time, it stands for Comparison Shopping Services. We have been promoting our pet products directly through Google shopping for a year now and wanted to see what would happen if we used a CSS provider. At the time of writing, we are a few weeks into the experiment and will receive our first set of comparison results in a month’s time. So please watch this space to see what happens. In the meantime, here is a bit more information on CSS if you haven’t heard of it before.

What is a Comparison Shopping Service?

Shopping with a CSS

According to Google:

“A Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) is a website that collects product offers from online retailers and then sends users to the retailers’ websites to make a purchase.”

When your customer searches for a product using the normal Google search function a lot of different results appear. For the purposes of CSS, we are going to be talking about the shopping adverts that appear at the top of the results page as pictured in the above image. As you can see the results are from different companies showing their Waterproof Dog Beds. The listings show the name of the product, price, review stars, company name, and in blue at the bottom is the CSS identifier tag. In this image you will notice 3 separate CSS feeds. 

The most familiar one is Google but Kelkoo and Shoparize are both big players alongside a growing number of others. For your interest, we are using Shoparize as you can see by the Dogs Dogs Dogs advert. 

Why use a CSS?

Why have we chosen to use a CSS you ask? As mentioned before it is part of our goal to create the ultimate eCommerce operation that is optimised as well as can be. We are lucky in that we run both the agency and the online shop so have time and the know-how to experiment for you. 

What appeals to us is the opportunity to save 20% of your PPC budget by not going through Google. Sounds too good to be true? Well, that is what we are here to find out. The next question on our lips was that 20% saved sounded too good to be true, especially when it comes to Google, who likes to swallow as much of your money as they possibly can. 

Where does the 20% saving come from?

Every CSS company will try and reel you in with talk of improved budget performance. You should be asking yourself how can this be true. We certainly did and only after a lot of research did we decide to bite the bullet. 

It all boils down to an EU ruling on the monopolisation of the shopping feed by Google. In an effort to level the playing field Google had to split the part of the company responsible for Shopping results out from under the main company. They also allow CSS companies to bid for ad space without having to pay the 20% that formerly went to Google. Hence the discount. 

Because Google owned the real estate at the top of the page it meant they could take 20% of every bid for themselves and not let any competitors in. After a hefty £2.04 Billion fine Google took notice and seems to have done the right thing.

Look at it this way. For every £1 you spend with Google, 20p goes to pay the Google advertising team. So if you use a CSS then you save that 20p in the pound. Of course, that doesn’t add up and nothing is for free. So be aware that you will be paying your CSS provider around £30-40 a month for the service. If you are only spending £100 a month then don’t bother. But for larger players like ourselves then it should amount to better performance.

Do I really save 20%?

No, of course not. What it means is you can either reduce your budget by 20% to get the same performance or you can leave it as it is and you should get either a 20% boost on your current bids or more of your money will be spent on advertising resulting in more clicks. Don’t forget the fee mentioned above.

Did it work?

We don’t know yet, but what we can tell you is there has definitely been no drop-off in performance. We eagerly await the first report and will let you know in part two of this blog how we got on and whether we think using a CSS is a good idea. 

For more information from the horse’s mouth about how CSS works. Go to Google’s about CSS pages.

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