Google’s overhaul of its Shopping portal began rolling out in France this week. It incorporates Google Shopping Actions, Google’s effort to take on Amazon, which has been chipping away at product search for years.
Google’s tack is to partner with retailers and enable users to shop and buy products from various retailers right within Google Shopping. Once payment is made, the retailers handle all of the order logistics. Google takes an undisclosed cut of each sale.
What is Google Shopping Actions? Google introduced Shopping Actions in March 2018. It will span across Google’s product search, mobile shopping, cross-device transactions and voice search initiatives and built on the Google Express product that provides shipping incentives, personalized recommendations, loyalty program credits and universal checkout. Target, Costco, Sephora, Nike are among the hundreds of retailers participating. (Walmart recently dropped out.) Eventually, once the technical logistics are worked out, Shopping Actions should work via Google Assistant and on Home devices.
What does the new Google Shopping offer? Google Shopping has functioned primarily as a price comparison engine. Users can search for products and compare offers from merchants, who pay when users click on their product listing to go to their website and potentially buy the product from the retailer. Now, with the incorporation of Shopping Actions, users will be able to add products from participating retailers to a Google Shopping cart and check out using the payment method stored in their Google accounts.
It also shows personalized recommendations based on what users have viewed previously.
Products from participating Shopping Actions merchants have a blue tag icon in the upper right corner. When you click on a Shopping Actions product, it takes you to a product comparison page.
Don’t call it a marketplace. Even if it looks like one. Google executives have stated in the past that the company does not want to become a retailer in the sense that Amazon buys and sells inventory, sets price restrictions on sellers and handles fulfillment logistics. That appears to be the distinction it wants to try to make: that Google is retailers’ friend.
Translated from French: “Shopping Actions is a format that complements our advertising solutions. We do not want to be a marketplace, we want to put the merchants closer to the buyers by avoiding them to miss a sales opportunity, at a time with a specific intention of the buyer,” said Francois Loviton, director brands and retail at Google France, Business Insider France, which first reported on the rollout.
Food product in development. Loviton also said Google is developing a solution for food that will be different from other features and characteristics. In the U.S., Google Express has a grocery category primarily for non-perishables.
Why you should care. The platform as payment facilitator is not a new concept. Amazon pioneered in this area to reduce friction in product discovery and purchase and is now the starting point for anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of product searches depending on what survey you’re looking at. And now, of course, the social platforms are getting into the game, with Instagram now testing in-app checkout. All of these underscore the dramatic impact direct-to-consumer brands and buying mechanisms have had on commerce.
On Google Shopping, brand messaging opportunities are limited and pricing becomes a critical consideration when products are stacked up against each other in comparison grids. Shopping Actions sellers also have to factor commissions paid to Google into their margins, just as they do on Amazon and will with Instagram.
Google Shopping in France will be rolling out of the next few weeks. It’s not clear when it will extend to other markets. In the meantime, U.S. merchants have been testing Google Shopping and Shopping Action campaigns, here’s an early case study.