Google Shopping has had lots of bumps transitioning to a paid model but lots of changes are in store for the rest of 2012 and 2013. Merchant tools and product data are key focal points for Google in the coming months, as well as enhancing the user experience on the shopping platform.
Last week, we talked to Jon Venverloh (agency expert) and Vineet Buch (product manager) from the Google Shopping team about latest changes to the program and what to expect in the future.
One of the biggest issues Google admits is helping retailers understand the benefits of a paid Google Shopping. Instead of trying to backwards-engineer a little known product data algorithm, Google says, retailers now have a more democratic auction-based platform to drive more consistent traffic to their webstores.
It makes sense. Google consistently ranked as the #1 source of traffic and in the top 2 for conversions for more than two years. They banked on this fact by switching to a paid model, and retailers, now with the power to drive more traffic to high-converting products, are benefiting at large.
New Shopping Ad Formats Being Tested Constantly
Changes to the Google Shopping platform are constant, such as this standalone product page for a Bane Mask:
Check it out yourself here.
One thing to note on this page is that Google is continuing to push the ‘Add to Shopping List’ feature, which hints at the more comprehensive ecommerce experience that Google is going after.
Changes To The Merchant Experience
Jon and Vineet mentioned a more streamlined merchant experience that will be hitting the Google Merchant Center shortly to help minimize confusion among retailers alternating between using the Google Merchant Center and Google Adwords.
“PLAs are complicated. Thinking about bidding, budgets, and strategy isn’t intuitive, so we need to help remove friction from the current management process,” said Jon.
On top of that, better checks, balances and product data suggestions will be slowly rolled out to the Google Merchant Center to give merchants more insight into what Google is looking for when it wants better data.
Also, over time, the automation that has been built out in the AdWords tool will slowly be added on to Product Listing Ads to further streamline the experience.
Finally, Jon reminded us about the new Product Listing Ads product target that was rolled out a few weeks ago which allows retailers to target a specific product ID or SKU, the most granular product target in Product Listing Ads to date.
The (Official) Change Is Coming
The official switch to a paid model will happen sometime in October, when the last bits of free Google Product Search traffic will dry up.
Retailers should prepare their budgets for this change and also start to look at increasing their Google Shopping budgets to account for the increased traffic and conversions that will start to build from now until the Holidays.
Product Data A Focal Point
Google is also constantly looking to enhance the data they get not just from retailers, but from data partners as well. Edgenet is one of these partners that works with manufacturers to get Google more complete product information.
More product data = more informed consumers = more confident purchasing decisions = more conversions.
Another Interesting Google Shopping Vertical: Search As You Type
The technology that powers Google Shopping is now being used to help retailers with their site search. Google’s new ‘Search As You Type’ service is a pilot program that leverages both Google’s knowledge on common search irregularities (such as geans vs jeans) and helps shoppers find the right products faster. A surefire way to increase conversions.
Expect Mobile To Explode In 2013
Google Shopping has been seeing large increases in traffic from mobile devices and Vineet encouraged retailers to look at solutions for optimizing their site for mobile.
With technology soon to be hitting the market that will allow consumers to purchase from retailers without entering a 12 digit credit card number with their thumbs, Vineet likened the mobile market today to that of the desktop market when online retail began generating steam 5 – 10 years ago.
The ability of the mobile market to inject billions of dollars into the ecommerce market will soon be here, and those not prepared will miss out. In fact, if you don’t have a mobile-optimized site, you’re probably missing out on a pretty sizeable chunk of sales already. It’s only going to grow.
More Information On Google Shopping To Be Discussed At SMX
On day 3 of SMX East 2012, our own David Weichel will be joining Frank Kochenash from Mercent and Matthew Mierzejewski from RKG to discuss Google Shopping’s switch to a paid model and how retailers and advertisers can best take advantage of it.
At The End Of The Day: It’s All About The Consumer
Though we talked mostly about changes for merchants, it’s clear that Google has their targets set on enhancing the customer experience on Google Shopping to rival that presented by Amazon.
Some of the new product pages have dropped hints at the direction of this experience, but Google was tight lipped as usual about when and how those changes to the consumer side of Google Shopping will roll out.
One thing is for sure, there’s lots of innovation on the horizon for Google’s Shopping platform during Q4 and 2013. Stay tuned to see how this one develops.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.