Google created some ripples throughout the e-commerce industry this week when it announced that Google Shopping will be replacing Google Product Search. This is way more than just a name change, it's a transition from a free service for merchants to essentially a paid inclusion vertical search engine, which will see "sponsored" listings appear on regular Google search result pages.
Some have equated the whole thing to Google shifting its policy away from "do no evil" to something along the lines of, "OK, do some evil." Not everyone considers this to be so evil, however (the evil talk really just comes from Google's own wording in its Founders' letter at IPO time, which mentioned paid inclusion).
Amit Kumar, CEO Of marketing app provider Lexity, sees it all as a very good thing for e-commerce.
"We think this is the right direction for merchants and Google," Kumar tells WebProNews. "While the free Google Product Search program was great for some SMB retailers, in general the results were hit or miss - there was very little predictability on whether products would show up in search results, how often, and detailed statistics were not available."
"On the other hand, our customers that participated in paid advertising through the Product Listing Ads program have much more visibility into how their products are faring, and have much more control (for instance, the ability to control which products get promoted more aggressively, which products should not be shown in Google's search results, etc)," he adds.
"In addition, having multiple potential display units showing essentially the same kind of products was very confusing to the users, and also to merchants who were trying to manage their presence on search results," says Kumar. "Having all of these consolidated into one helps brands manage their presence better, and users get a better shopping experience."
On the other side of the coin, one WebProNews reader commented, "Many small companies have used Google ( Froogle, Base, Shopping ) as their resource for free advertising of their products. This is just an attack on those small companies and only allow companies who can afford to pay to do so. The only thing I think Google should do to help the small companies is make a CPA Cost per acquisition model were a small amount say 5% of each sale would be taken."
Another reader commented, "This is clearly an attack on small business that use Google Shopping to advertise products. Google basically used their user data for the future purpose of creating this mess. Who is making these decisions? What the users think is no longer important? It's all about money now, and I really think it's time for class action and antitrust suits."
Well, there are plenty of regulators with their eyes on Google these days. That doesn't mean, however, that Google will actually face antitrust regulation, though the European Commission has given Google about a month to come up with some changes before possibly moving forward to court and fines for the company.
Google tends to stick with the "competition is always a click away" stance. That's hard to dispute.