The long-rumored morphing of Google Shopping into a marketplace that could compete head-on with the likes of Amazon and Ebay appears to be getting closer. “Buy” buttons could start appearing on select Google mobile search ads in a matter of weeks.
The Wall Street Journal cited anonymous sources saying Macy’s is among the retailers in discussions with Google to join the launch. The addition on of buy buttons on Google Shopping ads on smartphones would transform the function of the engine from mere referrer of e-commerce traffic to transactional middle-man. It’s a controversial step, with many retailers concerned Google’s insertion into the buying process will impede customer relationships and give Google access to valuable sales data.
When users click a buy button from a Google Shopping ad, they’ll be taken to a special landing page on Google to make sizing and color selections and complete the purchase, according to the report. Retailers will continue to handle all order processing and shipping operations. The sources did say Google would enable opt-ins to merchant marketing programs, meaning retailers could continue to market to their customers as they do when transactions occur on their own sites. Whether that will be enough of a carrot to appease large retailers remains to be seen.
Google saw similar reluctance from merchants with its Trusted Stores program, which until earlier this year, required retailers to share order and shipping data feeds with the search giant in order to participate. Many merchants balked at those requirements. While there is no hard data on participation rates, people I’ve spoken to have said participation among their clients increased significantly when Google dropped the data-sharing rules.
Customer payment information will not be passed on the retailers, and Google will reportedly offer several payment options and allow customers to save their payment details for future purchases.
In a departure from Amazon and Ebay, participating Google Shopping advertisers will not have to forego a percentage of the transaction. Instead Google will continue to charge per ad click, according to the report. That could help entice large retailers that have resisted Amazon participation but can see the value in reducing consumer friction in the buying process on mobile devices, in particular. (Facebook’s move to host publisher content directly in its the app rather than act as the referrer on mobile devices can be seen in the same vein; on mobile, platforms are becoming holistic environments that corral user activity within their walls.)
Google debuted links to food delivery ordering and table and appointment-booking services last week in Google Search and Google Maps just last week. It’s among the search engine’s efforts to adapt to consumers’ mobile behavior. Mobile-friendly ad units for auto-makers and dealerships, hotel booking services were announced at a gathering of search advertisers at which the company said for the first time that mobile searches have now surpassed those on desktop in ten countries, including the U.S.