Google tries, tries again with online shopping

It hasn't ever been a power in online retail, but Google has just given its unimposing Product Search feature a facelift by renaming it Google Shopping, charging merchants for product placements and displaying product info in general search results.

What the Google search experience may look like in the fall. Google

Amazon may not exactly be quaking quite yet, but Google is taking another stab at revamping its lackluster online-shopping business by forging closer commercial links with online merchants and improving its product-related search function.

The Web giant rolled out a new initiative today that renames its fornerly uninspiring "Google Product Search" service as "Google Shopping" while also changing the ground rules:

  • First, by requiring merchants to pay for listings (Google calls them "product-listing ads") that were formerly free;
  • Second, by inserting these paid product placements into general search results more obviously and with bigger photos than ever before. Google is still testing where, exactly, it will display these product placements, but says they will be marked as sponsored.

The end result, Google hopes, is a consumer-friendly format that will help funnel more business to merchants.

"Today we're announcing a new initiative to improve our shopping experience over time -- so that shoppers (your customers) can easily research purchases, compare different products, their features and prices, and then connect directly with merchants to make their purchase," Sameer Samat, Google's vice president of product management, wrote in the blog.

Google is hoping that making companies pay for listings will lead to "higher quality data," such as more accurate pricing, special offers and product availability. The transition to this new approach is expected to be completed by the fall.

In exchange for converting them to paying customers themselves, Google is offering merchants a few incentives. This includes a monthly credit for 10 percent of their total product listing ad and $100 of AdWords credit toward product listing ads. AdWords is Google's advertising service.

Google is also hoping that merchants will want a Google Trusted Stores badge, which merchants receive by providing background on their wares and service. Stores with the badge have a $1,000 lifetime purchase protection guarantee, per shopper, courtesy of Google.

 

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