Google Shopping is evolving – and it’s only a matter of time before its latest developments cross the Atlantic and fundamentally change the way British consumers buy online.
The search giant announced new and sweeping changes to the service last May and has spent six months making major adjustments to the offering in the US, testing its success before a wider global rollout. These new additions not only change the face of Google’s proposition, but could fundamentally alter the approach that British retailers take to omnichannel selling in the coming months and years.
Google Shopping’s initial modifications include:
A personalised landing page – a Pinterest-esque, highly visual tiled layout that adapts to your browsing and purchase history;
Price tracking, offering users an automatic notification if something they earmark has dropped in price;
Improved local product search, helping consumers find products among specific retailers in their area;
Regular product recommendations based on browser history, as well as products viewed or bought.
Most importantly, Google Shopping is also rolling out instant purchases. Through this initiative, certain items can be added to a universal cart by clicking a blue shopping cart button. These products are then sent by individual retailers but the process is backed by a Google guarantee, and also subject to the company’s customer service and returns policies.
This move effectively merges the Google Shopping offering with its Express checkout and delivery service, reflected in the company’s decision to merge both existing apps into a single, marketplace-like solution capable of providing all the above benefits and more.
This careful planning may very well have a huge impact too, given the way Google is now reworking its approach to selling products in retail’s most competitive sector.
A fashionable opportunity arises
In a blog post a couple of weeks ago, Google revealed that it would be fundamentally changing the way it displayed clothing and footwear products. Its initiative is in direct response to consumer concerns that “it isn’t always easy to know what’s out there, find inspiration, compare your choices and decide what and where to buy”. It won’t be the only sector to receive this treatment; Google is promising to extend the approach to “more queries, categories, devices and products”.
Queries such as “running shoes” and “womens leather belt” will see Google Shopping identify products from stores – both omnichannel and pure-play online – across the web, from which users can filter by style, department and size type, showing different images of selected products. From here, customers can click through to one of several selling sites, which are indexed by price, to purchase.
Google is actively indexing products from “over a million online shops and updates this information regularly”; what’s more, it’s not charging sites to be part of the index participating retailers appear in this new feature for free.
Nothing is currently being said about the application of instant payments to this new approach – yet. But Google has been threatening to mount a genuine challenge against Amazon for years, and it finally appears that it has a platform capable of doing this.
While it won’t stop Amazon eating into Google’s ad revenue, it may help Google balance things out by eating into Amazon’s ecommerce dominance. We could see an evolution where Google becomes a marketplace model, wherein users complete the full purchase journey on the platform itself, regularly stopping people from even visiting Amazon in the first place.
Things will only improve with time, too. The wealth of data which Google collects based on browsing habits alone is only going to create an ever-more honed experience for shoppers, whether this feeds into initial landing page design, helps with deeper recommendations to push items that complement things previously bought, or simply times repeat-order notifications correctly when someone may be running out of a finite product.
As such, it’s high time for businesses to gear up for the service’s clear evolution. To prepare, retailers must consider several pressing issues before both planned and potential changes to Google Shopping take hold in the US and beyond.
A retailer ticklist for Google Shopping
Firstly, and as something we discovered in our 2019 On-Site Search Score, there’s no better time to address your website’s search functionality. While retail search will never reach the standards of Google’s own engine, there are best standards to follow if Google Shopping is to comfortably identify your website’s filters, product descriptions and other information (notably colour and size) from indexing alone.
On another level, it also makes a case for better inventory management and tracking, going so far as to flag or remove sold-out products. Businesses who advertise the lowest-price option for a jacket, only to tell visitors they’re sold out once a consumer clicks through to their site, are only going to damage customer trust in their brand.
Further to this, and in conjunction with the development of local search on Google Shopping, it’s only a matter of time before retailers are expected to accurately communicate how many units of a product they have in any local store. This maintains this convenience and certainty for those willing to make a trip to a nearby shop on a lunch break or weekend only builds trust and, of course, gets customers through the door in the first place.
On a logistical level, and in light of Google’s guarantees, businesses looking to partner with a potential Google express checkout must ensure their delivery and returns policies are in line with Google’s offerings in order to provide a consistent service across the board. If the search giant offers better returns or customer service than your business, customers are only going to grow more distant from your website and store network.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, businesses must look to their own website’s ability to quickly and easily adapt and plug into Google APIs. While certain ecommerce platforms like SHIFT can work with bespoke solutions and integrate the potential of one-tap purchasing systems like Google Pay, others may force you to stick to other payment methods, effectively putting you far behind competitors who can sell their wares without users even needing to drop onto their site.
So long as there’s an opportunity for consumers to purchase goods from businesses they’ve never shopped with – but without having to face the time-consuming process of making a new account, registering payment details and setting up delivery options – many people will use these channels, and it’s important to be ready for this even more convenient path to purchase.
And so, with months to go before the UK’s Google Shopping gets the same treatment, is it time to be a retail pioneer and prepare for a new opportunity to sell, or will you wait until your competitors beat you to it? Take our advice: explore the opportunities being presented by Google.