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Google Looks to Push Mobile In-Store Shopping, Tablet-First Design

SVP Sridhar Ramaswamy discusses intersection of ads and shopping

As Google’s svp of ads and commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy oversees the engineering behind products like Google Shopping’s Product Listing Ads, AdWords’ transition to Enhanced Campaigns and even the test of a same-day delivery service. He spoke with Adweek about his tablet-first design philosophy, how ads and commerce intersect at Google and what can be expected at the company’s upcoming annual developer conference.

Adweek: Last time we talked was for the launch of Enhanced Campaigns. How’s the roll-out been, and what kind of feedback have you been hearing?
Ramaswamy: The feedback has been very positive. There have been examples of several advertisers that were not really part of mobile that use Enhanced Campaigns as a great opportunity to simplify how they thought about the different platforms and received very good results. We’ve also gotten feedback about how does one manage bid multipliers. All of these things have a lifecycle that our advertisers and partners have to get used to.

Do you develop with desktop first in mind and then modify for mobile, or is it a separate line of thinking altogether?
When you design products, you sort of have to think about how I [can] make it simple enough that it can be used by everybody in a straightforward way....Different teams do this differently, even at Google. I don’t think there is a single answer anymore. I’ll tell you a design philosophy that I subscribe to, but it should be clear that it’s mine and there are even teams within my team that don’t exactly follow this. A nice way in which I think about design is it should be tablet-first, because that brings into account things like swipe that are quite unique about how you think about an experience. Then if you start from there, then the mobile experience becomes a relatively simple space-constrained version of the design, while the desktop experience nicely generalizes this is what you do with the mouse. But the devil’s in the details.

Last year you converted Google Shopping into a paid model, replacing organic product listings with Product Listing Ads. A number of people initially voiced their displeasure, but studies have shown PLAs to be a success. What have you seen, and what are the plans going forward?
Product Listing Ads have been very well received overall. We have tens of thousands of advertisers representing hundreds of thousands of sellers. 

Last year Google Maps added indoor maps for stores and shopping centers. Does that open up opportunities for collaboration between the Maps and Shopping teams?
We collaborate at multiple levels with the geo team that produces Maps data. I think that geo especially offers a rich world of possibility for what one can do with products. And this is where mobile phones are also a big deal because as you’re searching for stuff, let’s say from within a store or inside a bar, we can often the location of where the query is coming from, and as part of Shopping, you will see what we call local inventory, stores where you can actually buy the product. We see mobile as striking a nice bridge between online and offline. It’s an ongoing collaboration with the geo team that knows so much about locations all around the world.

Amazon and more recently eBay are opening up their conversion data for ad targeting. It seems like Google Shopping—and Shopping Express, Wallet and Offers—is a way for you to extend the product-oriented data you have closer to that conversion data. What does that portend for the type of intent data advertisers will be able to target against through Google?

That’s a fair assessment. The other thing to remember is we actually have products that are part of the AdWords suite like Conversion Optimizer that actually let the advertiser give us conversion information and then only show ads in places where they have a high chance of converting. This works actually for both search ads and display ads. Simiarly Shopping actually has a mode in which large retailers can pay us a percentage of the conversion value that resulted. That was a core part of Shopping from early on. So we are definitely working with conversion information from advertisers and using it to serve better ads, both in Shopping and in search ads.

You guys are hosting the annual Google I/O developer conference next month. What can we expect?
I/O is a way for us to reach out to the developer community to showcase what they’re doing and what we are planning to do. You will see a robust presence from the ads and commerce side. The Wallet team, for example, will have a big presence there.

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