’Tis the season for every major social and tech platform to make their lists and check them twice to ensure major new shopping features are available before the holidays begin.
A few weeks ago, Pinterest rolled out “shop the look ads,” in which brands can add multiple products into a single ad and new shopping and video tabs to business profiles. Now, Google’s fully rolling out Google Shopping, which it originally announced in May, along with new features such as a “buy with Google” option, price tracking, local inventory results and other capabilities with Google Lens and search. With an expected increase in sales of 4.5-5% compared with 3.1% in 2018, according to research from Deloitte, it’s now or never to compete for those dollars.
Google, which added shoppable ads to Google Images and let retailers tag several products in ads, is now adding more, such as seeing if a product is in stock across retailers on search pages. Consumers can use Google Lens, the company’s machine-learning, AI-driven visual search tool, on their mobile phones or the Google app to identify shoppable objects or pick out items and see similar results across the web. And if consumers are looking for style ideas based on photos they take or are in their image library, Google Lens will showcase outfit inspiration.
On Google search pages, consumers will now see a more built-out module that surfaces the most popular products depending on the search term. For example, if someone searches for “sunscreen,” they’ll see the most popular products for that term and can click into a specific product and see price, reviews, and aggregated and algorithmically chosen editorial reviews from publishers like Allure as well as YouTube videos.
But, the truly vital move Google is making before the holidays is the official, full-fledged rollout of Google Shopping, a dedicated hub for consumers to shop and search for items. The shopping hub is now fully useable, giving customers shopping suggestions and a Buy With Google option that comes with a Google guarantee offering full customer support, refunds and more. (Each retailer that’s part of Buy With Google must meet the company’s quality standards.)
Within Google Shopping, customers can filter across which retailers are offering the item at the cheapest price or offering free shipping, as well as see which brands have it available nearby (though it’s on the retailer to enable buy-online-pickup-in-store, better known as BOPIS). The hub now also includes a product page, where customers can compare prices across retailers as well as see the total price of an item (that includes tax and shipping). From there, customers can then either do a quick checkout process or add to cart and execute a universal checkout option at the end. As it stands now, customers who use loyalty cards such as a Target RedCard will not have these types of purchase count towards those cards—even if they shop at that retailer.
Google is also rolling out a price tracking feature similar to its flight price tracking feature on Google Flights. Customers can set a reminder for a product, and for now receive a notification on their phone if a price drops, with an email reminder coming soon. While it doesn’t totally spell trouble for other price tracking products like Honey, it certainly poses some new competition. And as a dig to Amazon’s proposed efforts on becoming carbon neutral by 2040, Google will carbon offset every order placed on Google and invest in a clean energy project.
Ecommerce sales are expected to grow 14-18% year over year, from $126.4 billion in 2018 to $144 billion to $149 billion this year, according to Deloitte. So, Google’s new tools are arriving at the perfect time, though it’s unclear how much consumers will gravitate toward using a new shopping hub as opposed to shopping directly with retailers or using Amazon.