Google's New Shopping Experience: The Holyfield of eCommerce?

Amazon is an ever-growing power that is leading the way in eCommerce, but Google is not giving up on this tech race quite yet. Amazon may be the digital equivalent of 80’s Mike Tyson, but as the advertising world quickly accepts that it is here to stay, our attention starts to look elsewhere. We start to look at competitors, like looking for the Holyfield in a world dominated by Tyson. And so steps up another heavyweight as Google throws its hat into the ring with its latest offering.

Originally launched in 2013, Google Express has most definitely had its shares of ups and downs. It has transformed from a delivery service for local stores in San Francisco, into a huge eCommerce site with merchant partners such as Walmart, Target and Costco.

The latest move in its evolution: Shopping Actions.

Shopping Actions, which is powered by the Google shopping feed, helps retailers reach more customers and drive more sales. It has been tested across a number of categories (mainly Everyday Essentials),  but is now available to all brands who wish to reduce friction to purchase on low-consideration purchases. 

What does this mean for brands and retailers?

Shopping Actions will make brand’s products work harder by putting them in front of more potential customers via Google Express, Google Search and…(wait for it)…Google Assistant.

To entice brands a little more, Google is employing a ‘pay per sale’ model so merchants only get charged when a conversion happens!

Remember that both Tyson and Holyfield had their limitations. For Shopping Actions, it’s two-fold: practical application and relinquishing control.

Practical application:

Shopping Actions can organically be surfaced on Google Express, Google Home, and Google Search. However, when Google deems it worthwhile, they will also show Product Listing Ad’s, Sponsored (and paid for) by Google Express. This is great news because it costs brands nothing and you could potentially advertise the same product twice (your own Product Listing Ad and Google’s sponsored Product Listing Ad). However, the increased competition could drive up the average Cost Per Click. If other competitors also run on Shopping Actions, an abundance of sellers could potentially be double serving on the search engine results page (SERP) and the battle for visibility will become increasingly inefficient.

A large percentage of the landing page content is taken directly from the Google shopping feed, which can also be troublesome. On the surface this simplifies the onboarding process, however in reality, these feeds are optimized to increase visibility and click-through rates on the SERP. They are not designed to populate data on a landing environment. If brands squeeze countless keywords into their product titles within the feed, they may be in big trouble.

Relinquishing control:

Many retailers across the industry hold their brand very close to their chest, and rightly so. The brand is all the associations people make when they see, hear or think about a company or product. A negative brand perception, for any reason, could cause devastating damage. Relinquishing control can be difficult for many.

With Shopping Actions, merchant branding is exposed throughout the experience and their loyalty programs are supported, however  there is no way to control:

  • The landing page of the Express unit

  • The other products that are shown once a user has clicked the placement

  • When Google Express runs a product listing ad against yours

…and what seems to be most worrying for merchants, they must relinquish control of customer service as this will be taken on by Google.

What does all this mean for brands and retailers?

If Holyfield had lost to Tyson, would that have made him a failure? Of course not. He would still be one of the best heavyweights in the world. He would learn from his errors and come back stronger than ever.

If Shopping Actions doesn’t rival the eCommerce heavyweight that is Amazon, it is absolutely not a failure. Shopping Actions does not need to be the new Amazon to be deemed a success. If merchants can gain sustainable incremental revenue via this platform, that should be more than enough to prove its value.

While Shopping Actions likely has another 18 months (and hopefully a name change) before seeing the final iteration of the product, the positives outweigh the negatives! It can most definitely provide brands with incremental sales and should be considered as an additional advertising platform.

This is Google’s first full-scale attempt to tackle Amazon and is a small step towards voice search ascendency. Is Shopping Actions the Holyfield Google are looking for? Probably not. But does that really matter? It may not be Amazon, but Shopping Actions contains a lot of value. After all, if you are not moving forward, then you risk being left behind.