Search Engine or E-Commerce Engine? Google Wants to Be Both

December 29, 2015

Digital Marketing ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor


It’s not a secret that Google has been a powerful force in the global search-engine market for years. Its influence is impressive: eMarketer predicted that Google would see 15.7% search ad revenue growth in 2015, increasing to $44.46 billion worldwide. That amount is equivalent to 54.5% of the global search ad market in 2015.

Increasingly, though, consumers are searching for products directly on online marketplaces, instead of Google. In fact, an estimated 44% of shoppers now begin their searches on Amazon. That’s because they can find not only product information there, but also a direct route to purchase. With 90% of China’s e-commerce sales taking place on marketplaces, Google (and other search engines) are facing some strong competition.

To draw shoppers back and help online retailers sell more, Google has been busy becoming more of a direct shopping portal than a place that simply links consumers to other sites.

Google Shopping: Improving Performance for Online Retailers

The overhaul of Google Shopping in 2012 marked Google’s first major step into paid advertising. And it appears to be paying off. According to some reports, Google Shopping is generating more than $5 billion annually and has more than 25,000 advertisers signed up.

Google is taking lots of steps to help digital retailers sell on the platform and make it easier for consumers to purchase from them. Local inventory ads (LIAs) are an example. These extensions of Shopping campaigns are aimed at facilitating the shopping process on Google, allowing consumers to see when a product they want is available at a local store. According to Google, for searches like “coffee maker near me,” clicks increased on Shopping ads by 85%.

Other recent global improvements include allowing retailers to apply remarketing lists to Product Listing ads (PLAs) and extend their Shopping ads to YouTube videos.

The Buy Button: A Quicker Purchase Path

Google has also proposed a feature that would make it easier for consumers to buy products directly from retailers on Google mobile search ads. In trials that are still ongoing, consumers see a buy button in selected promoted search results, and they’re then taken directly to the retailer’s page, where they can buy the advertised product.

Shopping Insights: Google’s Latest Move to Attract E-Commerce Advertisers

Google’s most recent action to entice e-commerce companies onto its site was recently revealed at Wall Street Journal’s tech conference, WSJDLive.

Advertisers now have a new tool at their disposal: The Shopping Insights tool uses aggregated search term information on more than 5,000 products relating to cities across the US, to give retailers inside access to what’s selling and where.

Retailers can now discover what people are looking for online around store locations and see which items are popular in any given area at a specific time. They can then swiftly react and change their advertising and merchandising to match local predilections. This looks like a valuable tool for both online and brick-and-mortar retailers — enabling them to more efficiently target locally and get the right content to the right user.

A Finer Line Between Search and Purchasing

The line between traditional retail and online retail is getting blurrier. Retailers can now marry online browsing history to a physical in-store visit. It also brings search and retail closer together, turning more Google Shopping browsers into purchasers.

Google’s immense customer base has the potential to help online retailers generate sales, especially if its recent e-commerce endeavours, including the buy button, take off. To capitalize on these new opportunities, it’s more important than ever for retailers to keep abreast of what’s happening on Google.

To learn more about all the moves Google has been making recently, and how they stack up to the mighty Amazon, check out our handy Amazon vs. Google: Battle Royale overview.

Blog post by James Huang, managing director, China for ChannelAdvisor.