The holiday season is upon us, and for businesses, it's a time of intense competition and the pursuit of standing out in the crowded marketplace. As consumer demands evolve and expectations grow higher, leveraging technology becomes essential to capture attention and drive sales.
In this article, we will explore five powerful AI features of Merchant Center—the comprehensive platform for merchants on Google—that can help businesses thrive during promotional seasons. These cutting-edge features empower businesses to create immersive experiences, enhance customization, and deliver personalized messages.
1. Customized product imaginary in Google Product Studio
In the world of eCommerce, captivating images are essential for success. Having the right mix of visually appealing imagery can significantly impact your advertising results, leading to the significant increase in impressions and clicks.
However, obtaining a diverse range of high-quality images can be challenging and costly for businesses, especially when it comes to creating lifestyle images. To address this issue, in 2023 Google presented Product Studio, a set of tools designed to assist merchants in effortlessly generating unique and customized product images. This innovative feature that leverages generative AI for Google Ads is conveniently accessible through Google Merchant Center Next to all users in the U.S. at no cost.
With Product Studio, you can enhance your existing product images or create entirely unique visuals. This tool offers the ability to customize and edit product images to make them more visually appealing and engaging for customers.
In Google Product Studio you can:
- Easily incorporate customized product scenes
Generate fresh visuals, such as seasonal themes, specific campaigns, or experimental concepts, all without the need for expensive photoshoots.
This tool uses a text-to-image generative AI model to help you incorporate products into the imaginative scenes that you envision. For instance, during the Christmas season, a brand could highlight a limited edition holiday-themed product by requesting an image that showcases the product surrounded by festive ornaments and twinkling lights, with a backdrop of snow-covered trees or with a fireplace in the background.
This way you can effortlessly create tailored imagery that captures your unique offering and captures customer attention.
- Remove a distracting background
If you need a clean white background for your product images, you can efficiently remove existing background using Google Product Studio. This feature allows for the swift removal of all distractions, enabling a focus on the product itself and providing a professional and polished appearance.
- Increase image resolution in no time
Enhancing the quality of small or low-resolution images can be done swiftly, eliminating the need for reshooting the product. This feature allows you to improve the clarity and detail of their images, resulting in better visual representation.
TIP for retailers
Google Product Studio offers a selection of ideas, such as holiday-themed scenes, to spark your creativity. If you don't have a specific idea of what your imagery should look like, you can use these prompts that serve as inspiration and can be easily modified or reused based on your previous successful experiences.
2. Virtual try-on feature for Apparel
When shopping for clothes in a physical store, shoppers can try on different outfits and receive personalized assistance from sales associates. It allows them to quickly determine if a particular item suits their style and preferences, and if not, alternative options can be effortlessly provided.
With online shopping it’s harder. According to Google/Ipsos’ survey (Online shoppers survey, US, 2023), nearly half (42%) of online shoppers express a sense of disconnection from images of models used in online shopping. Additionally, an even larger majority of 59% report feeling unsatisfied with their purchases because the items looked different on them compared to expectations.
In order to replicate this convenience in online shopping, Google introduced two innovative features. The first is virtual try-on for apparel, which leverages generative AI to showcase clothing items on a diverse range of real models.
Additionally, Google introduced new filters that empower shoppers to refine their search and find precisely what they're looking for, either for themselves or as a holiday gift for others. These filters allow narrowing down the choices based on specific criteria, such as color, style, and price point, ensuring a tailored and efficient shopping experience.
Try-on clothes virtually
With the introduction of Google’s latest virtual try-on tool on Search, shoppers now have the opportunity to assess whether a particular item is suitable for them or for others prior to making a purchase.
The technology enables shoppers to visualize how the clothes will look on different body types, helping them make more informed purchase decisions. It’s super helpful if you try to buy an item for a friend or a family member and you’re not sure if it will fit.
Google’s generative AI model has the capability to utilize a single clothing image and effectively demonstrate how it would conform to a wide range of real models in different poses. This includes accurately capturing details such as draping, folding, clinging, stretching, as well as the creation of wrinkles and shadows. Google specifically handpicked individuals with diverse attributes including sizes spanning from XXS to 4XL, representing various skin tones, diverse body shapes, ethnicities, and hair types.
To virtually “try on” products shoppers just need to click on products with the “Try On” badge on Search and select the model that resonates most with them or the person they want to buy a gift for.
Shoppers can also refine a product to find exactly what they search for. Google’s latest guided refinements feature is designed to assist shoppers in the United States to effortlessly narrow down their search and discover the ideal item.
Leveraging the power of machine learning and advanced visual matching algorithms, shoppers can fine-tune their search using preferences such as color, style, and pattern. Unlike traditional in-store shopping, this feature extends beyond a single retailer, offering a wide range of options from various online stores. Filters can be accessed directly within product listings.
TIP for retailers
To maximize the effectiveness of the Virtual Try-On, it is important to optimize your product images. If you sell apparel and accessories and utilize virtual try-on features, it is recommended to include high-quality product images in your feed. This should include at least one straightforward picture of the garment on a model or mannequin, with minimal distractions.
3. 3D assets creation
According to Google’s research shoppers have a nearly 50% higher level of interaction with 3D images compared to static ones, making it a valuable tool for brands.
However, producing 3D assets can be both expensive and time-consuming, often requiring numerous product photos and costly technology. To address this, Google announced a new method for generating 3D visuals. Through advancements in machine learning, it was possible to automate 360-degree spins of sneakers using only a few still photos, rather than hundreds.
In 2022 Google implemented 3D visuals for home goods in Search. As a retailer, you have the opportunity to showcase 3D models of furniture pieces directly on Google Search, enabling customers to effortlessly visualize them.
In 2023 it was time for shoes. Google has presented augmented reality (AR) to assist users in finding the perfect pair of shoes from the comfort of their own homes.
The platform offers 360-degree 3D views of sneakers. Users can zoom in on the intricate details, rotate the shoes, and utilize AR to visualize how they would look in their own space.
Currently, users can access these 3D images of sneakers from only some brands like Vans or Merrell. However, Google plans to include additional sneaker brands, as well as expand the collection to encompass other types of footwear in the future.
TIP for retailers
If you possess 3D visuals, you can upload your assets directly to the Merchant Center to ensure visibility across various Google platforms. Specifically, if you’re a sneaker merchant, you have the added benefit of automatically generating 360-degree spins of your products by uploading five high-resolution product images from different angles.
4. Free AI-powered insights in Merchant Center
Artificial intelligence has the ability to analyze large volumes of data and provide valuable predictive insights, allowing you to prioritize your focus and make data-driven decisions.
If you’re a merchant that showcases your products on Google, you can take advantage of AI-powered free insights to address important questions like:
- Which products should be put on sale?
- Is it wise to stock this particular item?
- How can I increase visibility for my business?
If you're advertising during a busy holiday season, it's especially difficult to make your offer stand out among the sea of competitors trying to sell similar items. This becomes particularly valuable if you’re a smaller business with limited research budgets and restricted access to data, as it helps in planning a successful pricing strategy.
Merchant Center users can not only compare their prices with others on Google, but also receive suggestions based on modeled data on how to lower their prices for qualified offers and increase sales. You can get access to these useful insights on the performance dashboard in Merchant Center or Google Merchant Center Next.
Google Insights | Merchant Center Next
You’ll find there a brief summary or can delve into a comprehensive analysis. You can see information about your best-selling products and brands, compare pricing benchmarks, explore the competitive landscape, find out how your business's results stack up against the market, and gather ideas for improving overall performance.
Google Insights | Merchant Center Next
TIPS for retailers
- Stay updated with Google’s suggestions
Regularly check the Google Merchant Center overview to receive suggestions on which products should be your focus. Additionally, follow performance tips that are relevant to your business.
- Optimize your product catalog
Keep track of inventory levels and restock as needed. Look for ideas to add new products to your catalog. Display your best-selling products prominently on your homepage, or adjust bids and budgets for different types of products using custom labels (base them on the criteria of your choosing).
Here’s a rule you can create using a feed tool to helps you control your stock level:
- Enhance product pricing using the Pricing report
Take advantage of suggested pricing for your offers. This report also provides insights into estimated impressions, clicks, conversions, and gross profit uplift for each pricing recommendation.
- Gain insights into market trends and your competitive landscape
Utilize the competitive visibility report to understand market trends and estimate the click potential of your products. This information can help you optimize seasonal offers, for example for Christmas. Explore Price Insights and assortment insights to take appropriate action.
5. AR tools for the Beauty industry
Beauty products are always a great gift for both men and women. Google came up with a useful AI-powered tool for beauty products already a few years ago, but only recently is this feature also available on mobile!
Shopping for beauty products, especially online, can be tricky. The beauty category is highly personal and nuanced, making tasks like finding the right shade challenging and sometimes discouraging, especially if you want to buy it for a present. With the right tool, customers have the opportunity to experiment with virtual hair color try-ons and utilize augmented reality (AR) beauty tools directly on their mobile browsers.
As a brand, you can leverage these advancements to showcase their products through innovative AR Beauty ads.
Shoppers can virtually test different health & beauty product types such as: lips, eyes, foundation, and hair color. For instance, when they're browsing for hair color options, they can visualize how various shades from the L'Oreal suite of brands would appear on theirselves or on a model who reflects the style of your friend or family member.
They can also test out foundation or lipstick. In addition to exploring how a foundation shade or lipstick appears on a diverse range of 148 models, or theirselves. They can simply search for a specific foundation type or name, and click on the "try on" button.
TIP for retailers
When shoppers find a helpful tool, it benefits not only them but also the entire industry. When people try out AR beauty on Google, they tend to spend more time on the brand's website and may even take action like researching new products or making a purchase.
Be careful because by not following the trends, you can stay behind the competitors. As of 2023, people can shop from over 50 beauty brands using AR on Google, including big names and smaller start-ups.
Other key AI features: AI-generated gift ideas
During the upcoming hectic holiday weeks, generative AI for Google Ads can greatly simplify the process of discovering gifts for both others and ourselves.
In November 20233 Google introduced Search Generative Experience (SGE), a feature that incorporates generative AI capabilities into Search, aimed at providing faster and easier ways to understand topics and discover new insights. This functionality proves especially valuable during the holiday season when it comes to finding the perfect gift. It isn't exactly part of the Google Merchant Center, but it can help you advertise on Google.
Example: Imagine you're searching for a trendy and unique gift for a fashion-forward friend. Simply search for "latest trends in fashion gifts" and you'll now encounter an array of subcategories to explore. These subcategories encompass stylish accessories, sustainable fashion options, personalized items, and even vouchers for a consultation with a stylist offered by both established and smaller brands. By selecting a category, you can effortlessly browse through a variety of purchasable gift options and make a selection.
SGE serves as a starting point for web exploration. It features links to valuable content from publishers, allowing shoppers to effortlessly navigate to websites and read more product information and explore gift categories. Additionally, dedicated ad slots will still showcase Search and Shopping ads on the page.
Google is integrating its image generation technology with over 35 billion listings in their Shopping Graph to enhance shoppers’ ability to visualize and discover their desired style. In the near future, when consumers use SGE to explore apparel, they'll be able to generate lifelike images based on their search terms and conveniently shop for products that align with those images.
Although Christmas and New Year’s season is for giving, a surprising number of individuals want to treat themselves during the holiday season. Additionally, shoppers, particularly those in search of clothing, often have a precise image in mind. In fact, according to Google one-fifth of clothing-related searches consist of five or more words.
Tip for retailers
Now it’s more important than ever to have an optimized product feed. With the rise of Search Generative Experience (SGE), which has become a popular way for people to search for holiday gifts, ensuring that your products are easily discoverable and well-represented is crucial.
Product data optimization includes:
- Optimizing descriptions and product titles so holiday shoppers can find your products using a different mix of keywords.
- Image optimization so your product images can catch the eye of holiday shoppers.
- Adding additional attributes to your feed, allowing you to better describe the specificity of your products, especially in the Apparel category.
- And much more!
An optimized product feed can significantly enhance visibility and increase the chances of your offerings being found by potential customers during this holiday season.
In conclusion, harnessing the AI features of Merchant Center can be a game-changer for your brand during promotional seasons such as Halloween, Christmas and New Year. By leveraging 3D assets creation, AI-powered insights, customized product imagery in Google Product Studio, and AR tools for the beauty industry, you as a retailer can create immersive and personalized shopping experiences.
Share your thoughts, experiences, or any other AI for Google Ads you find valuable in the comments below. Let's continue the conversation and explore the limitless possibilities of AI-driven marketing together.