Google has released its new shopping.google.com experience to signed in users, giving those that navigate directly to the page options to visit different categories, view sale items, explore featured stores, and more.
This rebranding is a piece of the Google Shopping experience revamp discussed during Google’s Marketing Live event back in May. It’s a step toward Google increasing its focus on and expanding its Shopping platform, also known as Google Express and powered by Shopping Actions and Shopping Ads, presumably to compete with large marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
Before diving too deep, here’s a quick refresher on the difference between Shopping ads and Shopping Actions. Shopping ads are feed-based product ads that, when clicked on, take shoppers to the advertiser’s site. Advertisers bid on, manage, and pay for these ads themselves. Shopping Actions look similar, but they instead drive shoppers to Google Express. Currently, these are entirely managed by Google and have no cost to advertisers.
Amazon, in particular, is running Google Shopping ads in droves, capturing 50% of impression share in some categories during Q2 2019. While Google is certainly happy to collect that cost-per-click, longer term, it makes sense that Google wants to keep those customers on its platform to convert.
The experience for shoppers
The overall look and feel of the new Shopping experience is clean and well-organized. Shoppers are greeted with a personalized message and have options to browse by category and store. Items that may be of particular interest, like those inspired by recent browsing activity and sale items, are also highlighted.
It’ll be interesting to see what shifts Google makes in order to drive more people to its new Shopping page. While we’ve never received concrete data, the assumption has always been that the overwhelming majority of shoppers end up looking at and clicking through Shopping ads on the main Google SERP, rarely seeing the Shopping page itself. Additionally, for this facelift to really matter, there will need to be a shift in the consumer’s mindset.
Most users come to Google now to perform searches, not to leisurely browse through a wide online catalog. Changing that behavior will require Google to become recognized as a shopping destination rather than a vehicle for getting to other retail sites.
To pull shoppers away from its main domain, Google will likely need to rely on Shopping Action ads on its main SERP. Anecdotally, when Shopping Action ads appear on a search, they’re typically taking up one or two of five top-of-result slots. Clicking on one of those ads, marked with a blue tag, takes users to the product page on Google Express:
Right now, the shopping.google.com and express.google.com experiences are separate; however, we expect that the express.google.com experience will eventually merge into shopping.google.com.
Beyond the challenge of familiarizing customers with the Shopping page, Google needs to ensure it has a robust assortment to entice shoppers to come back for repeat purchases. There are some big names already on Google Express, like Target, Costco, and Best Buy. However, marketplace shoppers are accustomed to being able to buy everything in one place, so having a wide assortment of products at varying price points will be critical for successfully building a loyal customer base.
How can Google entice more sellers onto the platform?
In order to grow product assortment Google needs to successfully onboard a wide range of sellers. While marketplace integration presents many challenges, countless sellers have already overcome these hurdles to sell on other marketplaces.
The main challenge unique to Google is cannibalization. Many advertisers get a large portion of their Google Ads traffic through Google Shopping. Merkle’s Q2 data showed that around 88% of non-brand clicks on Google paid search for retailers were driven by Google Shopping ads.
Google will never show the same product from the same advertiser twice on a given auction. As a result, advertisers selling their top products through Google Express may see a decline in impressions, and ultimately conversions, on those items for Google Shopping.
Currently, advertisers also don’t get reporting to understand the click/impression/query side of Shopping Action ads. This type of reporting will be an important piece for many advertisers to feel comfortable signing on to the platform.
The path forward
The new Shopping experience on Google has a great look and feel, and with features like Costco membership and Target reward program integration and a unified shopping cart there’s a lot for shoppers to like. The biggest challenge we see will be changing consumer behavior – Google is synonymous with search, and getting customers to see it as much more than that is likely to be a significant battle over the next couple of years. We’re excited to see how Google continues to evolve over the next 6-12 months to become more of a shopping destination.