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Google Shopping Gets Personal—and Local

by Anna Ngo
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At the recent Google Marketing Live event, held May 15 in Rhode Island, one of the big announcements was the rollout of the revamped Google Shopping experience, soft launched in France back in March.

Since debuting Froogle in 2002 and changing its name and model a couple of times, Google has witnessed the ascendancy of Amazon, who now captures nearly half of all US eCommerce spending. The new Google Shopping, billed as the “merger of the best of Google Express with Google Shopping,” is Google’s latest move to compete against Amazon and has an emphasis on personalization and omnichannel shopping across Google’s various properties.

According to Google, no two home screens will look the same but will feature shopping recommendations based on the person’s shopping history, search history and saved lists. And because local shopping is its key point of difference from Amazon, Google is redoubling its efforts in this area and has mapped more than 2 billion products to local retailers. Consumers will be able to buy online, from a nearby store and now directly from Google. But don’t call it a marketplace.

Google executives have said that they don’t want to become a retailer like Amazon but to be the friend of retailers. Francois Loviton, director of brands and retail at Google France, says it’s about putting merchants closer to buyers, helping them avoid missed sales opportunities at the point of the shopping journey where customers are ready to buy.

Universal Checkout and Easier Returns

In a move to offer a frictionless checkout experience and get people accustomed to using Google Shopping, Google will allow users to pay using cards stored in their Google accounts. Google handles the transaction and takes a commission (it’s not a CPC model) while the retailer is responsible for fulfillment. Shopping via Google Assistant will also have this functionality.

And to alleviate shopper anxiety, Google says that returns are assured and easy: “[Shoppers] can seamlessly purchase what they want with simple returns and customer support, backed by a Google guarantee,” indicated by the blue cart icon on the item. “So people can buy confidently, knowing Google is there to help if they don’t get what they were expecting, their order is late, or they have issues getting a refund.”

From the Seller Side

To participate, merchants must be enrolled in Shopping Actions, Google’s partner program with big retailers, which requires candidates to apply and be accepted by Google. Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Costco, Nike and Ulta Beauty were among the first to sign on in 2018, though Walmart has since dropped out and intends to develop its own “Walmart-specific Action for the Google Assistant.

Shopping Actions will launch to Google Images and YouTube later this year, to make more ads “shoppable.” The idea is that a user can scroll through images, hover over any sponsored ad and see the items for sale, then tap and make a purchase. Google has been testing this ad functionality since March. While it’s still early days, you can bet that the retail landscape is about to change. Again.

Are you an Amazon afficionado or more “Go Team Google”? Whatever your eCommerce ambitions, Cin7’s scalable inventory management software features all your Amazon integrations and Google Shopping services as well.