Google recently announced that the Merchant program will be transitioning to a new commercial model, called Google Shopping. Google said that the reason for the migration is because the user experience was not universal for all listings and users would see different listings because the data was not properly policed. Also, smaller merchants could not compete with sellers like Amazon or eBay. Google hopes the new commercial model will create a better user experience as well as level the playing field.
There is no definite launch date for Google Shopping but rumors are June 30th/July 1st. Meanwhile, transition from Merchant to Shopping will be gradual. The process will not be complete until the fall (estimated to be October). As of now, the transition will be only for the U.S. and the remainder of the world will still have the option to use Google Merchant for organic listings and free clicks.
To entice Google Merchant users to set up Product Listing Ad (PLA) campaigns in AdWords, Google is offering a $100 credit to users who create PLA ads by August 15, 2012. In addition, advertisers will automatically receive a monthly credit for 10% of their total PLA spend through the end of 2012. Advertisers must fill out this form to receive the credit.
The best way to prepare for the migration is to set up Product Listing Ads (PLA) in AdWords. To optimize PLA campaigns, you can set up Auto Targets within the PLA campaign to specifically bid on a specific product line, enter specific ad text for the product line, etc. If there is low traffic on specific products, you can optimize that portion of the data feed.
Additionally, the PLA campaigns are eligible to run on a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model where you only pay Google if they bring you a lead or a transaction. To use the CPA model, you must set up Auto Targets within the PLA campaign.