Google is reportedly making a push for new ways to monetise its searches. Specifically, searches for products that consumers want to buy. Since the company directs product searches by consumers to retailer websites the search giant now wants a cut from those purchases made.
The new program called Shopping Actions that will allow users to purchase items through Google Assistant and shopping ads in search results. The service seems to be restricted to the US as of now.
On Google search, the Google Express shopping service, and Google Assistant on home devices and mobile, shoppers can now save their payment credentials and make purchases from retailers with instant checkout. In exchange, retailers will give the search giant a cut of the profit from each purchase, which is different from the usual ad payments retailers make for sponsored listings on searches. In this case, retailers will have to pay Google only if a purchase is made.
According to a Reuters report, companies like Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Costco Wholesale, 1-800-FLOWERS, and Ulta Beauty have signed on for the new program. The program is open to US retailers of any size.
Shots fired at Amazon
The pitch from Google to retailers seems to be clear, ‘we’ll help you take on Amazon’s dominance’. The Reuters report suggests that the company hopes the program helps retailers capture more purchases on desktop, cell phones and smart home devices with voice search – the next frontier for e-commerce. Amazon’s Echo powered by its voice assistant Alexa was first out of the gate among the voice-search driven products and Google now seems to want to catch up quickly.
The company noted in its blog post that mobile searches asking where to buy products had risen by 85% over the past two years. Yet, despite the increase in searches, most shoppers ended up choosing to buy from Amazon, analysts told Reuters.
Google is encouraging retailers to see it as an ally against Amazon. “We have taken a fundamentally different approach from the likes of Amazon because we see ourselves as an enabler of retail…We see ourselves as part of a solution for retailers to be able to drive better transactions,” Google’s president for retail and shopping Daniel Alegre told Reuters.
Medianama’s take: One key question to ask is will it affect search? When people search for products to buy on Google they are either seeking the best products, the best deals on a product and in some cases both. While searches on the platform always throw up advertising, the intent of Shopping Actions will be to drive purchases. Therefore what incentive does Google have for its search to show users the best deals or products if they can’t be checked out through its own service? Retailers may seek comfort in the arms of Google against Amazon in an ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ way but they are still tying their e-commerce fortunes to a massive overlord of the web. They might want to think carefully about that.