In Conversation with Justin Thomas – Q4 Google Shopping in a pandemic

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In our latest ‘In Conversation With…’ I sat down with Justin Thomas who has spent the last decade founding and building award-winning digital marketing agencies. He now runs aisle 3 alongside a couple of ecommerce industry stalwarts to discuss Q4 Google Shopping in a pandemic and what to expect over the next few months.

“Amidst the backdrop of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU has been busy changing the already accelerating ecommerce landscape. This has created GDPR; the ‘death of the cookie’; a breakout of Google Shopping into Comparison Shopping Services; and the recent arrival of Surfaces Across Google as a way for independent sellers to gain free traction to their own sites.”
– Justin Thomas, CRO, Aisle 3

We discussed ecommerce industry developments and the opportunities these present for independent sellers looking to expand their customer base and decrease their reliance on Amazon.


When GDPR came into play in 2015 the opportunity to take products to market was initially consolidated within the tech giants, Google and Facebook who both saw accelerated growth on their ad platforms.

Marketplaces, led by Amazon, but now including homegrown rivals like Onbuy, started to gain traction with both shoppers and sellers. For years Amazon has tried to own search and Google is getting closer to converting Shopping into a fully-fledged marketplace.

There is a blurring of lines between search, social and marketplaces; Facebook now has a marketplace, there is even recent talk of YouTube creating a marketplace. Amazon has shifted the whole product search piece and is rapidly growing its’ own advertising platform.

EU Actions, Google and Comparison Shopping Services

To throw more upheaval into the picture legislation is playing a part with the EU reacting to the market consolidation by breaking up Google Shopping in 2017 and privacy laws accelerating the much-touted ‘death of the cookie’.

The good news is that this has created opportunities for marketers and sellers.

Google has been forced to open up its’ Shopping listings to other Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) and, as a result of the 2017 EU judgement, ensure Google Shopping is independently profitable.

This competition means many CSS’s are able to offer lower CPCs than Google itself by operating different commercial models. Working through a CSS Partner, like aisle 3, could deliver a discount of up to 20% on Product Listing Ads (PLA) – a cornerstone of any e-commerce marketer’s arsenal.

New businesses have been able to scale from this opportunity and marketplaces have themselves been able to accelerate their growth as a result and offer greater reach to sellers. Independent retailers looking to either setup or increase promotion now have another, highly cost-effective, channel to reach new in-market shoppers.

Surfaces Across Google

Google is due to open up ‘Surfaces’ in mid-October which is free product listings within Google Shopping and independent sellers looking to drive Shoppers to their own site should seize on this opportunity.

‘Surfaces’ could be viewed as a direct response to the success that platforms like Facebook and Amazon have had with less mature businesses where there is no existing brand equity and search to leverage; over 80% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from SMEs. Paid ads will continue to exist and again this is all supported by Google CSS partners in the EEA who can help merchants maximise the potential.

Death of the Cookie

Finally, the feted ‘death of the cookie’ means that there is a switch towards contextual targeting in the wider advertising eco-system which will revitalise the Vertical Ad Network model. This delivers value to commence marketers through the ability to match intent with highly targeted ad creative, at category and even product level.

This is an opportunity that aisle 3 is exploring through our work with both other CSS partners and marketplaces. The idea being here that a Vertical Ad Network focussed on shopper intent will be able to leverage scale by developing new revenue lines for platforms and opportunities for buyers.


Discussing the impact of the ongoing Pandemic seems almost too simple against the wider market movements but essentially this has acted as a catalyst to accelerate all of the above and a multitude of other opportunities due to the switch to ecommerce and away from high street shopping.

Sellers now looking to expand sales channels and/or reduce their reliance on traditional marketplaces have a golden opportunity to access intent-based traffic across Google through a handful of CSS partners, discounted advertising spend and free listings directly injected into Google Shopping.

Justin emphasises that it’s time to act now before peak shopping!

About aisle 3

aisle 3 Logoaisle 3 was founded in 2020 by Justin Thomas, James Valbuena and Thomas J. Vosper to help Shoppers discover, validate and buy the things they love.

They work with several digital marketing agencies, feed solutions and partner services, as well as direct retailers who reach in-market Shoppers on their site and Advertisers keen to access savings and support via Surfaces Across Google and Comparison Shopping Services.

If you’d like some help from Justin, James and Thomas, get in touch at [email protected]



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