Why Google Shoppable Image Ads Are So Important

0aaaApu Gupta Curalate

Every day, consumers go to Google and ask Google questions.

I’m stating the obvious, sure, but it’s also not as simple as that. Consumers are increasingly using Google Images as a way to discover new brands and products, according to the search giant. So much so that Google has announced a new ad format, called Shoppable Image Ads.

These ads, which appear in Google Images, give brands the opportunity to tag multiple products in a single lifestyle image. When a user sees an ad of interest, they can hover over any sponsored ad for more information, including the items for sale, prices and the brand.


For e-Commerce brands, this is a big deal.

That’s because Google’s strengths have long been rooted in returning results that are useful. You search for a blue dress shirt or a gray sectional couch and Google knows exactly what to do.

But what if someone isn’t even there yet?

Shopping always has been as much about inspiration and discovery as it is about intent and fulfillment. In fact, at Google Marketing Live in May, Prabhakar Raghavan, SVP, Ads and Commerce at Google, shared that a recent study by Google and Ipsos found that 76% of consumers enjoy making unexpected discoveries.

For consumers, many of those unexpected discoveries have come on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Instagram has worked to meet consumers’ needs for discovery through Product Posts, launched last year, and is further exploring this with in-app checkout (to help people act at the height of inspiration). Pinterest, meanwhile, positioned itself in its S-1 filing as a search tool for product discovery and inspiration — and is working to solve this challenge through Shop the Look pins.

These browse-based experiences are how we discover products online. We thumb through a feed of images and videos created by brands, influencers and our friends, occasionally stopping on something that catches our eye. When we do, we expect to have access to information like what products are featured, how much they cost and where they’re available.

Google knows this. And that’s why they’re bringing those browse-based experiences to search. Shoppable Image Ads are one of the first ways they’re doing it.

It also marks a now general consensus among the social and search platform giants that discovery matters. It is the phase of the customer journey where brands are now fighting for consumers: discovery merges the best interests of the consumer — “show me something new” — with the best interests of brands — “show me new customers”.

To do this though, these new ad formats — like Shoppable Image Ads — require the same type of inspirational, lifestyle content that brands have been creating for social for years now. But those images? They’re often stuck on social, living 24 to 48 hours and then fading into irrelevance. This happens because most brands lack the tools to repurpose lifestyle content into a shopping context at scale.

Search, meanwhile, has never really known how to consume and display this content. Now, it’s fighting back. Search is becoming a more visually rich experience, and Shopping Ads on Google Images is just the start.

This content isn’t just pretty. It’s pretty powerful. At Curalate, we’ve enabled brands to leverage lifestyle content to bring a more Instagram-like experience to their e-Commerce sites. The result of putting shoppable lifestyle content in e-Commerce environments has been substantial — we see consumers spend nearly 250% longer on site and convert at an almost 140% higher rate than those who don’t engage with lifestyle content. It’s clear that this content solves for a shopping behavior that has historically been ignored online.

Now, with Google finding ways to build ad formats that focus on discovery, brands have the opportunity to reuse their most inspirational content in another channel to reach new customers and drive product discovery at a moment when consumers are most open to learning about new things. Even more than that, though, this announcement from Google shows that platforms have recognized that improving discovery is becoming key to creating better e-Commerce experiences. It’s time for brands to recognize that, too.


Apu Gupta is the co-founder and CEO of Curalate, the leading social commerce company with offices in Philadelphia, New York, Seattle and London. Prior to launching Curalate, Gupta was COO & CMO at MedPlus Health Services. Under his leadership, MedPlus raised $25MM in venture funding and became the second largest pharmacy chain in India. Gupta was also an early employee of WebEx from its Series A through IPO. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, Austin and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. He has been recognized as an E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year in the Emerging Entrepreneur category and is a Fellow in the Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Fellowship program. 

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