In October, Google completed its transition from the old Google Product Search to the new Google Shopping experience. This was a move to an all paid-inclusion model tied in to Google's Product Listing ads, which show up in regular search results. The move has been somewhat controversial, but Google maintains that it's the best strategy for both users and sellers.
Do you agree? Let us know in the comments.
Since then (and with the holidays approaching), Google has been busy adding features that could benefit both users and businesses. This week, Google revealed a bunch of them.
On Monday, Google announced some new social features - the ability to read reviews from people you know and the ability to share your reviews with your friends on Google+.
“Now you can now easily see if someone you’ve connected with on Google has reviewed a product that is in your Google Shopping search results,” says product manager Karen Corby. “When you click on a particular product and scroll down to the ‘Reviews’ section, reviews from your friends and contacts will appear at the top of the list.”
“We’ve also made it easy to write your own product reviews on Google Shopping. To write a review, login with your Google+ account, click on the product you’d like to review, then click the ‘write a review’ button at the top of the page,” says Corby. “Once you submit your review, it will be publicly available to anyone who views that product on Google Shopping. You can also choose to post your review to your Google+ stream.”
These features make the all important reviews even more important, because when they're being shared among friends, they're much more meaningful. Most people are likely to trust the words of their friends more than those from some random stranger from the Internet. That means this can very well have an impact on your business if you're listed in Google Shopping. It also means you should be paying plenty of attention to the conversation around your products and your store on Google+ itself.
Tuesday, Google announced some additional tools for Google Shopping users - 360-degree product images, shortlists, and discounts/promotions displayed on products.
Users can look for the "3D" swivel icon on a product image to see a product in 360-degrees (on HTML5-enabled browsers). You should provide these images if your'e a retailer. Google has a form here that you can fill out. Google says it will contact you in the coming weeks with more details if you do.
With shortlists, users can research products and plan purchases with their friends and family. "Instead of using bookmarked websites and docs containing long lists of URLs, or back-and-forth emails with friends, you can now consolidate all your shopping research in one place," explains Google Shopping group product manager Vineet Buch.
Users can use Shortlists to keep track of products they like from Google Shopping (as well as the rest of the web), view product photos, prices and specs side by side, and share their shortlists with friends, who can add to them. And guess what - they even look a little like Pinterest:
Shortlists can be created from here, or by clicking "Add to Shortlist" from products on Google Shopping.
"To help you make the most of your holiday budget, Google Shopping nows shows discounts or promotions on the products you're viewing," says Buch. "If discounts or promotions are available, you can click on the link and visit the retailer’s site to redeem the offer."
Remember, Google ranks product results based on relevance, with bidding as "an additional factor".
There has been a lot of talk that the whole thing is better for big businesses. At least smaller businesses won't have Amazon to contend with, as the company has so far not participated in the program.
"Since the bids a retailer can afford are dependent primarily on a retailer’s ability to convert buyers (conversion rate) and maximize cart value (average order values), the best retailers will continue to dominate. Important to note, we are in a period where competition is low and CPCs are somewhat depressed," Michael Griffin, founder of Adlucent, which exclusively managed Amazon’s paid search until Amazon took it in-house in 2009, recently told us. "Right now, PLA [product listing ad] CPCs are about 20% lower than paid search CPCs. Eventually, we expect CPCs to be 15-20% higher than paid search CPCs. Retailers moving quickly are being rewarded with the opportunity to test and gain market share at a lower cost.”
When asked whether retailer size matters, he said, “I think conversion rate, average order value, technology aptitude, lifetime value, and retailer margins matter. Large retailers tend to be good in all of these areas, but there are exceptions. The winners will excel in all of these areas.”
Now that it's been live for a while, what do you think about Google Shopping and product listing ads? Do you think any of the new features will help your business? Let us know in the comments.