Google will test generative AI for shopping search

Shopping results may get a new look on Google.

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Google will apply generative AI to shopping searches as part of a series of new capabilities that rolled out this week at Google I/O.

With new updates to search in general, Google is aiming to expand the number of questions to which its search engine can provide answers, as well as change how the information is organized.

One of those functions includes shopping. According to a blog post, Google is now testing a new form of shopping search where users who type in the kind of item they are seeking get a “snapshot of noteworthy products to consider and products that fit the bill."

It will also display product descriptions that include reviews, ratings, prices and product images.

"With generative AI in Search, we can help you understand the full picture when you’re shopping, making even the most considered and complex purchase decisions faster and much easier," Google wrote in the blog post.

Google said the generative AI experience is built on Google’s Shopping Graph. This contains more than 35 billion product listings, with more than 1.8 billion listings refreshed every hour.

While there will be a new look to the results, familiar elements will still be in place. Ads will continue to be displayed as part of search results, Google said, appearing in dedicated slots throughout a page.

The experiment starts at Search Labs with a new initiative called SGE (Search Generative Experience). It’s available on Chrome desktop and the Google App. Access will begin opening up in the coming weeks, Google said.

The move offers the latest signal that a rapid period of growth in generative AI will bring about new tools for ecommerce. In this case, one of the most powerful search engines is transforming how it displays products, and aiming to get even better at answering questions. While this is still an early experiment, it suggests that generative AI has the potential to bring change to the structure of commerce on the web as we know it. Brand leaders should pay attention.

What will Amazon do? It's a question that looms over any shopping search announcement from Google. Amazon overtook Google as the top destination for new product searches. But improved tools from Google stand to make the search engine more attractive. Will Amazon respond with new capabilities of its own? The question becomes increasingly complex at a time when advertising is increasingly important to Amazon's business. It will likely tread carefully in any effort to tweak search results page structures that have proven to be lucrative.

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