There’s an argument to be made that the future direction of the internet is being determined by the clash between giants in the digital space. The latest example of this is Google launching a new shopping feature in order to claw back lost ad spend from shopping giant Amazon. Although Google’s dabbled in direct shopping features before, this new move sees the search giant offering users the chance to buy on the Google platform in a more direct way than ever before.
This move is a reaction to the fact that consumers are increasingly turning to Amazon as the first step in their product hunt. Many consumers just go straight to Amazon for product enquiries, rather than using Google search. This means Google is losing a noticeable chunk of product-related ad spend and well as search volume.
Google’s response to this has been to launch the new search tool that offers personalised product suggestions based on the user’s previous activity online. Unlike Google Ads, this tool lets consumers compare products using features such as images, reviews and product descriptions.
Google Shopping lets the users buy in-store, from the retailer’s own website, or via Google’s own universal checkout, ‘Buy on Google’. This last feature arguably turns Google into a marketplace of sorts in its own right. It reintroduces some of the convenience of shopping on Amazon – where many consumers will already have an account – rather than using Google to locate an independent retailer where the user has to input their payment details and perhaps create an account to complete a purchase.
This isn’t the first time Google has integrated shopping features but it’s a relaunch and rehash of what the search engine offered previously – namely Google’s Shopping and Shopping Express tools. The integrated and universal checkout feature is perhaps the biggest innovation. By offering a local inventory for customers that want to buy in a physical store near them, Google is offering one feature Amazon doesn’t cover – localisation.
Google’s also competing with Amazon on product price. Amazon’s algorithm notoriously fails to automatically order product suggestions by lowest price, whereas Google Shopping will support users to find the cheapest option much more directly.
Google users will also be able to receive notifications when prices drop on items they have opted to price-track. This approach means Google’s also competing with the highly popular price comparison sites prevalent across the internet.
The new Shopping tool, therefore, emphasises price comparison, which is probably bad news for retailers and particularly those trying to compete on more than just price.
This is likely to impact on competitiveness in some markets. There are also more filters than ever before, helping customers locate exactly what they want. This could help retailers reach customers looking for very specific items.
Because the new tool lets customers filter by products available to buy via the Google checkout experience or ones available in their local area, it’s probably advisable for your brand to integrate with these features. If you can’t beat these web giants (and you probably can’t) then it’s best to join them.
Get started on Google Shopping
It’s arguably better to be active on Google Shopping than try to advertise on Facebook mainly because your customers aren’t on Facebook to shop. Consumers use Google (and Amazon) with purchase intent, meaning they are actively seeking products when they search these platforms.
Sites such as Facebook can be great for brand awareness but for purchase intent, you should be active on Google. Smaller retailers can take consolation from the fact branded search terms represent only the minority spend.
To get started with Google Shopping, you need to have an existing eCommerce site – yes, even if you plan to use Google checkout. Make sure you have a Google merchant account set up and make sure you select ‘Surfaces across Google’ in your program settings.
You need to set up your eCommerce site to feed information such as stock availability, product titles and pricing into your merchant account – most eCommerce platforms can support this.
The main feature of Google Shopping is that it lets you display product characteristics that consumers really care about to consumers who seem to be in a frame of mood to buy. Make sure you take advantage of this by making information such as product descriptions available for Google to serve to users. You’ll want to make sure that images are clear and present well online.
You’ll also need to make sure that you’re featuring the right language and currency for the country of sale. Goggle generally supports the most common local languages in each market for its shopping feature, as well as English, and the local currency.
Make sure you target the right market with your ads or you’ll waste spend and potentially have to serve orders from markets you weren’t intending to. As with other digital activities, it’s easy to get the settings wrong and get into a bit of difficulty. Get it right and you can reap great rewards for your business.