Google has gone through numerous changes in its approach to e-commerce since the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect businesses.
So far, the search engine made it free in April for retailers to list products on the its Shopping tab in the U.S., and extended those free listings to the Google search page in late June. Now, the online giant is lowering the barrier to entry for sellers within its newly launched “Buy on Google” checkout experience, eliminating any commission fees for participating retailers.
With “Buy on Google,” customers can place orders from participating stores directly on Google.com or through voice via Assistant without being directed to the retailer’s site. Eligible products feature a blue “Add to cart” button with an accompanying shopping cart icon.
Presently, the checkout experience is invite-only, but Google will open signups to everyone later this year. Alongside the launch, Google is partnering with PayPal and Shopify to give retailers (and their shoppers) more payments options.
“We’ve heard from retailers that they want the ability to choose their preferred services for things like payment processing, inventory and order management. That’s why we’re opening our platform to more digital commerce providers, beginning with Shopify for inventory and order management and PayPal and Shopify for payment processing,” Bill Ready, Google president of commerce wrote in company a blog post. “So, if a retailer wants to sell directly on Google, they can get started even faster and continue using the tools and services that already work for their business. Or, if they’re new to selling online, they’ll be able to choose from multiple options when they sign up in our Merchant Center.”
The program will roll out first in the U.S., and with international launches expected later this year and into 2021.
Google is enabling product feed formats similar to Amazon to make them more compatible with merchants’ existing processes, particularly if the merchant is new to Google. These feeds are automatically mapped to work in Merchant Center. Sellers can use the feeds to connect their inventory to sell directly on Google without having to reformat their data.
For example, the feeds are valuable for retailers that have full product data and want to create products or update existing products, as well as if they don’t have full product information and want to match products to the Google catalog or update their inventory. Additionally, they can use the feeds if they have data for price and quantity updates for products which have already been uploaded.
Google is also adding a new option to let retailers add product information, like images or technical specs, by pulling from its existing database rather than having to upload it themselves.
While the tech giant insists the goal is to make digital commerce easier for retailers of all sizes, the offerings appear to target smaller businesses that might not otherwise get complete exposure to an audience.
To help shoppers discover smaller merchants, Google plans to add a new small business filter on the Google Shopping tab and will continue adding features to help small businesses participate in online commerce, according to Ready.
Google has sought to bring different elements of the online shopping experience to consumers through various partnerships with big box retailers like Walmart, Target, Costco and Best Buy, although it has never, on its own, sold products or held inventory. In 2019, Google launched its Shopping offering, which aggregated personalized product suggestions based on users’ web browsing activity.
Later that year, the company revamped the experience, rolling out product suggestions beyond prior-search relevance, prompting users to reorder their most commonly bought items in nearby stores, online or directly from Google retail partners. A price-tracking tool was added to alert users with notifications about price drops on items they’re looking to buy.
This past month, Google’s in-house lab for experimental R&D projects, Area 120, developed Shoploop, a video shopping platform designed to give shoppers the chance to discover, evaluate and buy products all in one place.