Channel Roundup: Google Tests More PLA Changes; Amazon Requires Free Shipping for Shoes

April 1, 2016

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Busy this week? Here are a couple (shoe-related) e-commerce highlights you may have missed.

1. Google PLAs Sorted by Size and Color

How often do you search for a specific pair of shoes, including the size or color, only to be served many listings that are actually a different size or color?

In the spirit of improving its user experience, Google is apparently testing some changes to the PLA layout. (Yes, more PLA changes.)

Our team noticed a new PLA format on the right rail of the Google results page that consisted of a single product image with a list of retailers below it. Below the list of retailers are basic product details.

Google Merrell PLA

The most interesting aspect of this format is that users can filter these PLA results by size and color. Based on the color or size you select, a new set of retailers appears. The left side of the page remains the same — the filtering affects only the new PLAs.

Google Merrell PLA 2

Pretty neat. Now when you’re searching for new sneakers for your kid, you can filter by “Size 4” and know that you’re getting only the listings you want.

Why is this new test significant for retailers and brands?

  • It shows that Google is more serious than ever about accurate product data. Retailers and brands not providing the correct product details won’t have their products show up in this type of listing. Google’s GTIN requirement cutoff date is fast approaching, and any advertisers not in compliance will have their ads left off the Google results page altogether.
  • The color filter in this new layout could explain Google’s recent changes to its required attributes policy on standard colors.
  • The new filtering mechanism prequalifies traffic to your PLAs by driving buyers who are further down the search funnel.
  • The format is a clever way to provide more ads for a single product in less space.

What should retailers and brands do?

  • Make sure you’re sending the correct data: UPC, MPN, color, size, etc.
  • Continue to send images that have higher click-through and conversion rates, even though Google will likely choose the “master” image. They may pick yours.
  • Work with a solution provider like ChannelAdvisor to use business rules and lookup lists that can automatically translate “standard” colors to “descriptive” colors.
  • Create “brand specific” campaigns or “top seller” campaigns with high priority and above-average bids to increase your rank and impression share.
  • Ensure that the categorization of your product is accurate (e.g., “running shoes”).

For anyone who pays attention to the Google results page, it’s like a kaleidoscope of changing formats. Earlier this year, Google experimented with expanding the number of PLAs on a results page to 16. Then, it removed text ads from the right rail of the results page, making desktop results more streamlined and similar to the way they appear on mobile devices. Most recently, we noticed Google testing a PLA carousel, and PLA rankings became standard.

2. Amazon Requires Free Shipping for Shoes

Attention, Amazon sellers in the Shoes, Handbags and Sunglasses category. Free shipping is no longer an option: It’s required for products $49 and up.

Many in the e-commerce industry credit Amazon Prime with conditioning online shoppers to expect free shipping. Whether that’s true or not, free and fast shipping is simply a part of doing business with Amazon.

So it’s not a huge surprise that Amazon took the next logical leap and started making it mandatory for certain sellers. On March 29, Amazon announced that it’s requiring free shipping for all items sold in the Shoes, Handbags and Sunglasses category with a price of $49 or more.

According to Amazon, the new policy will apply to all products in the Shoes, Handbags and Sunglasses category, including shoelaces, shoehorns and other shoe accessories.

No word yet on whether this policy will roll out to other categories.