Google Shopping just became a serious ecommerce platform

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Earlier this month, Google unveiled the new Google Shopping experience in the US, introducing a range of new features, some of which have a very Amazon feel to them. Google’s been playing catch-up on the e-commerce front for many years while Amazon keeps chipping away at its search ad dominance.

Amazon’s growing share of search ad spend is eating into Google’s main source of revenue (Source: eMarketer).

In response, Google has completely revamped the Google Shopping experience, which now looks like a genuine e-commerce platform and potential Amazon rival.

Introducing the new Google Shopping

The new Google Shopping experience isn’t available everywhere yet. It was first seen in France earlier this year and now it’s been officially rolled out across the US but there’s no word yet on when other countries can expect to see the new experience.

The update puts a strong emphasis on personalisation and plays to Google’s strengths as a search engine to enhance the shopping experience - both online and offline. Considering only 22% of consumers say they’re satisfied with the level of personalisation they receive when buying online, this sounds like a promising approach.

So how does Google create this personalised shopping experience? Well, here are the key features rolling out with the new Google Shopping experience:

  • Product recommendations: Users receive personalised product recommendations as they browse through the new Google Shopping homepage, based on their browser history and products viewed/purchased.

  • Price tracking: Users can enable price tacking on any product that catches their eye and Google will automatically notify them when the retailer drops their prices.

  • Local product searches: Allows users to search for specific retailers or products in their local area.

  • Instant purchases: Users can now buy products directly from Google Shopping without visiting retailers’ websites.

These new features transform the way people can browse and buy products on Google Shopping - something that will benefit consumers and retailers alike.

Why does this matter to online shoppers?

The new features in Google Shopping sound promising but what are they really going to add to the shopping experience for online consumers?

Consumers want more personalisation

As mentioned above, only 22% of consumers are satisfied with the amount of personalisation e-commerce brands offer. The same Segment report also found that 49% of consumers have bought unexpected items due to personalisation while 40% have spent more than they expected and 44% are likely to become repeat buyers.

Source: Segment, BI Intelligence

Amazon’s AI-powered recommendation engine has been attributed to generating at least 35% of the company’s entire revenue, which tells you everything you need to know about its effectiveness.

Google is bringing similar recommendations to its own platform but expanding beyond this with practical e-commerce features like price tracking that enhance the shopping experience for individual consumers. Going one step further, Google is even connecting them with stores and products in their local area.

Online shoppers need inspiration

According to Inviqa research, “1 in 10 millennials say the reason they would choose to not shop with Amazon in some instances is because they don’t always know what they’re looking for and it’s hard to find inspiration on Amazon”.

People turn to Amazon when they know what they want to buy but they head to Google when they want inspiration - and this could be Google’s biggest strength. Inspiration comes much earlier on in the consumer journey than searching for specific products and this means Google could capture potential Amazon customers and hold on to them with its new product search features.

The new Google Shopping experience is an all-in-one product inspiration, browsing and purchasing tool, which means consumers don’t really need to go anywhere else.

Why does this matter to online retailers?

For online retailers, a more convenient Google Shopping is a better selling tool for them, too. The fact users can now buy products directly from Google reduces all kinds of friction. Combine this with the increased personalisation and retailers should be excited about the prospect of impulse buying on Google Shopping.

This update has also made Google Shopping a stronger omnichannel platform, especially for retailers selling in-store and online. Consumers can now buy products directly from Google but they can still click through to merchant websites and find their local stores by searching for their products or brand names.

This presents opportunities for retail brands that they can’t find on Amazon.

The new Google Shopping experience looks like a platform capable of mounting a genuine challenge against Amazon - and this is the first time we’ve been able to say this. It won’t stop Amazon eating into Google’s ad revenue but it might help Google balance things out by eating into Amazon’s eCommerce dominance.

More importantly, stronger competition between these two is good news for online retailers as it forces innovation and helps to keep the price of ads down.

James Faulkner, head of PPC at Vertical Leap

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