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Google AMP and ECommerce into 2017

AMP is short for Accelerated Mobile Pages, a framework that is used for creating pages that deliver fast-loading mobile content. AMP project was originally announced by Google October 2015, and advanced further in 2016.

What is AMP?

AMP pages were initially only suitable for static content pages, such as blogs, news and recipe pages. As an open source project with the focus being improving mobile web browsing experience Contributors are always looking for ways to make it better and suited for a broader range of sites.  Since February 2016, AMP has been a great way of delivering news content thanks to the so-called Top Stories Carousel in the Google results page. In September 2016, Google announced that AMP pages will be included in the search results pages (SERPs). Without drastically changing the search results, AMP pages will be presented with a label to differentiate with non-AMP pages. Google has also stated that these results will appear over any app indexed pages as default. With this change and the growing popularity of AMP, users will soon realise that AMP pages are more efficient and become more likely to click them in the future. This is a good news for e-commerce retailers, as we know Google is making a big effort to push the project forward to make AMP for e-commerce a reality.

A quick 2016 review of the AMP landscape

Many retailers have been looking at the application of AMP and e-commerce over the past few months.  eBay was recently one of the first big e-commerce brands to utilise AMP pages for category pages. eBay has also been working with Google to push the AMP technology for the e-commerce world. So far, 8m+ eBay pages have been converted with the intention of creating what it calls: “lean and accessible” pages.

Here is an example eBay AMP page:

Figure 1: AMP eBay category page

Just a day after Google’s update on AMP featuring within the SERPs, eBay had also made further AMP updates. The most critical change that eBay made since its June launch is implementing amp-analytics component into their AMP pages. This tracking feature allows you to choose from a list of tracking vendors, such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics and more. With this implementation, it enables eBay to track performance and conversions.

In October, input forms became officially supported with the amp-form feature. This is another step forward for AMP e-commerce pages, not only with typical online form options such as colour and size selectors on product pages, but also making newsletter signups or interactive polls possible through AMP page.

With that said, e-commerce sites are still not able to take full advantages of AMP since it is not yet ready to support a full customer journey as there are no features to fulfil secure transactions. A cross-link from an AMP to an HTML page can currently complete the process, leaving the AMP pages ease any loading time issues which traditionally represented a problem on mobile devices.

AMP Home Page and Category Pages

An e-commerce home page is a very good starting point to consider for AMP pages, as the content is relatively static and the purpose is often to show off featured or popular products. Category pages often contain a large number of images to showcase the available products, however, the mobile page load time can be quite slow. If these pages are made to load faster, it could significantly improve user experience.

To help customers to find products more efficiently, search box functionality can be implemented with amp-form feature on both the home page and product category pages. For faceted category pages,  amp-sidebar component can be considered for handling different faceted pages since it acts like a side selection menu.

There are a few things to keep in mind when converting category pages into AMP:

-          Since AMP pages are being stored in Google’s AMP cache for quick delivery, it is important to make sure that selected category pages for AMP are static and not always constantly being updated with new content;

-          Consider using features like amp-carousel as a slide gallery banner to showcase featured products and products in the sub-categories

Below is an example of how an AMP category page could look like utilising “amp-form” for the search function.

Figure 2: Sample AMP category page

AMP Product Pages

After the home page or category page, the next destination for a user would usually be a product landing page. The good news is that the product pages can be transformed into AMP pages as well.

There are some special features that AMP provides to help develop your AMP product page. By implementing amp-carousel functionality to display sliding related product images helps reduce the loading time for image-rich product pages and tidy page estate. using amp-accordion feature is a great way to provide the viewer the outline of the content and product descriptions through a hide and reveal tab. Implementing an amp-sidebar helps the user to navigate to other sections within the product page. In addition, having amp-social-share element encourages the user to share the product links.

Keep in mind that not all product pages can be converted since AMP still has its limitations:

-          Product pages selected for AMP should also be static and not constantly updated. Permanent product pages are usually the best choice for an AMP page

-          However, this means if a product goes “Out of Stock”, its AMP version might not necessarily be updated real time

Below is an example of how an AMP product page could look like.

Figure 3: Sample AMP product Page

AMP into 2017

Throughout 2016, Google has been promoting usability for mobile users, especially with the announcement of Mobile First Indexing, which is a newly announced ranking system which mobile content the priority when ranking a page. Along with the advancement in AMP project, many new features that are essential for an e-commerce website are now available. Recently, Google had clarified that if a website does not have a mobile friendly version or is not mobile responsive, but has an AMP version build, Google will use the desktop version rank signals instead of AMP for Mobile First Indexing.  This can be adjusted if desired by signalling to Google which version has priority through the use of the rel=alternate tag in your HTML code. However, with the continuous development of AMP, there is a possibility that Google could well consider AMP as a ranking factor in 2017.

It is important to evaluate the priorities of your website and its objectives if adopting AMP pages at this early stage. Converting part of the website into AMP provides fast page speed, but at the same time, many functionalities could well be compromised particularly since not all the necessary e-commerce components are readily available. iProspect can speculate what Google might do with AMP in 2017 and onward:

-          Google would replace existing desktop and mobile pages with relevant AMP version on mobile SERPs

-          AMP might become a ranking factor with the deployment of mobile first indexing

-          PPC might become an option for AMP pages

-          Full AMP e-commerce website might become a reality, including all checkout and transaction pages

-          AMP might replace mobile responsive pages eventually

If you have any questions or concerns regarding AMP for your e-commerce website, don’t hesitate to get in touch with iProspect!