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Google is rolling out new features for retailers that are designed to make stores and products more discoverable, improve search and apply visual capabilities to commerce.
The announcements rolled out this week during ShopTalk, where Allan Thygesen, Google’s President of Americas & Global Partners elaborated on the updates in a keynote.
Here’s a look at the latest product updates:
'Trusted Store' badge
In 2020, the company made it free for any merchant to list on Google Shopping.
Adding a tool designed to help make these listings more discoverable, Google is introducing a new Shopping Experience Scorecard program, which will provide a rating in areas such as shipping speed, shipping cost, return cost, and return windows. Merchants who provide excellent service, may receive a Trusted Store badge, which will appear alongside their product listings on the Shopping tab.
Google’s early testing showed that merchants who receive a trusted badge are more likely to receive clicks, and there are signs that lesser-known merchants are receiving more traffic.
Other tools are being made available that make it easier to measure the impact of a free listing. This includes a feature called "free listings conversion reporting," which shows total traffic, impressions and conversion rate of a free listing to help merchants make decisions for the future.
Brands and retailers are always seeking new tools to figure out the best pricing, and that's another area where Google has new tools. Google is also releasing a price insights tool, which offers merchants a suggested price for a product, as well as predicted impressions, clicks, conversions and gross profit. It allows merchants to compare prices of similar items sold by other retailers, as well as potential revenue if they were to change the price.
Google Cloud is also releasing its new Retail Search product to general availability. This offers technology to improve search capabilities within a retailer’s website.
“We know that as much as there's discovery on Google's sites, there's a lot of discovery on all of your websites,” Thygesen told retailers. “We’re trying to enable our retail partners to leverage our understanding of user context and intent to provide Google quality search and recommendations on your own digital properties.”
This is solving a key problem when it comes to helping shoppers find products:
“Traditional search technologies don't work in the modern age of online retail, where tens or even hundreds of thousands of items are available on a single ecommerce site,” Google wrote in a blog post. “Today, people expect search engines to understand their intent more deeply, return relevant results faster, and help them discover new products easily with personalized recommendations."
It’s a factor that plays into data that showed 94% of US consumers abandoned a shopping session because they received irrelevant search results, according to a 2021 survey conducted by The Harris Poll and Google Cloud.
Retail Search is designed to improve the results shown on a retailer's website more intuitive and contextual. The idea is that this will more closely align the phrase that the shopper types in, and the results that appear in search.
Google said it is already in use by retailers including Lowe’s, Fnac Darty and Pernambucanas.
On the topic of product search that is designed to more closely reflect what a person has in mind, Google released a new tool in the days following ShopTalk that allows users to put images beside words. Multisearch, which is currently available to US English speakers, uses Google Lens and leverages recent AI advances.
Here's how it works, according to Google:
To get started, simply open up the Google app on Android or iOS, tap the Lens camera icon and either search one of your screenshots or snap a photo of the world around you, like the stylish wallpaper pattern at your local coffee shop. Then, swipe up and tap the "+ Add to your search" button to add text.
Once users add the image, they can also add a query to what they see. For instance, after placing a photo of a dress, they can instruct Google to search for it in a different color.
Thygesen also detailed a few key areas at the intersection of shopping and emerging technologies, as well as Google’s role in the landscape:
- Visual search: Google is seeking to enable “window shopping” right on a brand or retailer’s search results. This means adding visuals of a product alongside the description.
- YouTube: “Experimenting with new ways viewers can seamlessly discover and purchase products on YouTube, I think, will become very important,” Thygesen said. The idea is to allow users to shop products without leaving a video. Across both Google and YouTube, he said, “You'll see a lot more live shopping, social shopping and creator-assisted shopping.”
- Personalization: Asked to look a few years out and reflect on where ecommerce experiences are heading, Thygesen said shoppers will expect products and services that both show an understanding of a shopper’s taste and preferences, as well as forge an emotional connection early in the process of engagement. “I think we'll see a lot more personalized experiences at scale in the future of digital shopping,” he said.
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Shopping results may get a new look on Google.
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.