Google Shopping is responding to the coronavirus crisis by taking steps to make it easier for more merchants to sell via the platform free-of-charge. The Google Shopping tab results “will consist primarily of free product listings” starting next week, the company announced Tuesday.
This major shift, after 8 years of Google’s shopping results platform, comes after many brick and mortar retailers have had to close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. E-commerce has inevitably boomed, and everyone is quickly catching up to speed on how to best service store owners. This change, while COVID-19 was the motivation, was a planned initiative and will be permanent. Free shopping listings fits into the longer-term vision for the company’s role in digital commerce.
Bill Ready said in a blog post that he expects the change to take effect in the U.S. by the end of April, with the aim of expanding it worldwide by year-end. Ready clarified the win-win of the shopping listings free-of-charge: Retailers gain free exposure to millions of people who search via Google Shopping every day, while shoppers discover more products from more stories. While Google is packaging the change as a gesture to help retailers during an economic crisis, there’s no doubt Google is also seizing the strategic opportunity to expand its role in e-commerce in the midst of this worldwide uncertainty.
Millions of people are stuck at home with almost no options for shopping in brick and mortar stores. Online and e-commerce has and will continue to see a huge rise. So what does this mean for retailers and advertisers?
“For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.”
Why does this matter? This is actually where Google first began, then named Froogle. It became an entirely paid platform in 2012, and in those 8 years 2 things have drastically changed the e-commerce game: data quality and Amazon. Google’s ability to ensure that the information in a product feed matches the data on the site has advanced significantly since this time. In addition to limiting the products available on Google shopping results to retailers willing to pay, their search power was at a major disadvantage.
Another exciting development to the platform is a recent partnership with PayPal. Merchants using PayPal will be able to link those accounts to Google Merchant Center, which will allow Google to pull in seller details faster and to verify trusted merchants. Google also partners with e-commerce platforms, including Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce to make it easier for merchants to manage inventory and products.
As Ready concluded, “Solutions during this crisis will not be fast or easy, but we hope to provide a measure of relief for businesses and lay the groundwork for a healthier retail ecosystem in the future.”
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