What Marketers Should Know as Google Moves Forward with Purchases on Google

Many search marketers have recently spotted an ‘Easy Checkout’ banner at the top of Google Shopping listings, featured for those ad units coming from Purchases on Google. Also known as the Buy Button by some, the Purchases on Google program was announced in 2015 as a pilot with a select number of high-volume advertisers participating.

Easy Checkout Shopping Results

The ‘Easy Checkout’ change, although largely a superficial tweak, brought renewed attention to Purchases on Google and showed that Google hasn’t given up on the program it announced nearly three years ago, which was released into open Beta in May 2017. For advertisers interested in Purchases on Google, let’s consider some of the more meaningful developments in the last year, the current state of the program, and how they can get involved.

What Does Purchases on Google Do?

Purchases on Google eliminates the need for shoppers on mobile to go to a seller’s website in order to buy an advertised item. Instead, they can complete the entire purchase without ever leaving Google. After tapping the “Easy checkout” button, shoppers can specify information like size and color, then add payment information (which creates a Google Payments account in the process) or select a payment method from an existing Google Payments account.

Previously, customers could only use Purchases on Google if they were willing to use Google Wallet, a program that allows users to transfer money through the wallet app, Gmail, or on the web. Google Wallet is no longer necessary, and users can simply input credit card information if they prefer.

After squaring away payment, customers add a shipping address and select a delivery method, click checkout, and the purchase is complete. Google will save this information for future purchases using Google Payments. Google then handles the payment and passes the order information along to the retailer for fulfillment.

What This Means for Businesses and Marketers

Eligibility

The first, and largest, hurdle to joining the Purchases on Google Beta is meeting the technical requirements of the program, which includes building out a separate order management API call to Google. Ideal retailers are likely those with strong levels of traffic on Shopping, though businesses that can meet the technical requirements will still be considered.

Auctions

Purchases on Google ads are factored into Shopping auctions against standard PLAs in a similar manner to Local Inventory ads, in that there is potential for some sort of artificial boost from Google if they deem this ad format more relevant than a standard ad. Google suggests activating Purchases on Google within existing campaigns, but that limits control available to the advertiser. Thus, Merkle recommends launching these campaigns separate from standard PLA campaigns.

Reporting

Advertisers can view performance specific to Purchases on Google ads using information in the click type report within the Adwords UI. Due to the nature of the ad format, attribution presents a challenge. Apple’s recently imposed restrictions on tracking Safari users inhibits standard cookie-based tracking from working properly, and brands are having to turn to more complex methods for proper attribution.

Customer Service

Google and the retailer designate responsibility for all customer service related activities on a case by case basis. In some situations, Google can handle all aspects, including refunds, similar to the way Amazon might for its clients. In others, clients decide to handle all issues and post-purchase customer interaction themselves and provide special training for their team. Giving retailers the ability to control part of the customer experience may ease some of the concerns about completing a purchase off-site.

Purchase Restrictions

Currently customers can only purchase one unique product per transaction through Purchases on Google, though they can order multiple quantities of that item. Related products on Google-hosted pages will show so customers can browse if they’d like, but again conversion will be isolated to that item. Thus, AOV tends to be lower for Purchases on Google than for website conversions.

Marketing teams will want to monitor initial performance and reevaluate KPIs for the ad format if necessary. This is currently the biggest disadvantage of the ad format, though Google is still building out capabilities and an update allowing users to purchase multiple unique items is no doubt being considered.

Looking Ahead

Purchases on Google has the potential to shake up the way people interact with Google PLAs and reshape the customer purchase journey, if it’s ever rolled out meaningfully. Since purchasing on Google requires a Google Pay account, the internet search giant will now have even more access to customer purchase and behavior data, which could potentially further the personalization of a shopper’s experience on Google.

Additionally, the customer purchase experience will undergo a significant change if more advertisers adopt this format. Gone will be various checkout processes (both good and bad) and other pieces that factor into a customer’s decision to convert. This change could be welcomed by sellers who struggle with conversions or user experience on site, with the Google checkout process providing a clean and straightforward alternative.

Amazon is still the de facto king of one-stop shopping in the U.S. given the large number of customers that start and end their purchase journey on the site. Amazon’s advantage in allowing customers to purchase multiple items from multiple sellers in one transaction coupled with outstanding customer service and experience means that Purchases on Google will face some challenges, especially if Amazon decides to increase their investment in the PLA space. For now, though, this is a step towards being more competitive.

One big question that remains unclear is whether adoption of this ad type is worth the amount of control over customer purchase experience a company will have to give up. This, combined with the required technical investment, creates a barrier to entry likely too high for most standard retailers.

Still, some are willing to take the risk to stay at the forefront of innovation, and positive results in the Beta will likely entice non-early adopters to at least test Purchases on Google further down the road. The buy button is here, but we’ll see if it’s here to stay.

A special thanks to Christopher Lawson, Jared DeSisto, and Melissa Reilly for contributing their time and various pieces of information related to the Purchases on Google program for this blog post.

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