Has Google found a formula for undercutting Amazon’s product search advantage?

Source: Google
Apr 17, 2018

Google recently introduced Shopping Actions, a program that enables retailers to list products across Google Search, the Google Express shopping service and the Google Assistant app for smartphones and smart speakers like Google Home.

Mimicking the Amazon.com experience, shoppers browse and buy via a shareable list, universal shopping cart and instant checkout with saved payment credentials that work across Google.com and the Google Assistant.

“For example, shopper Kai can do a search on Google for moisturizing hand soap, see a sponsored listing for up & up brand soap from Target, and add it to a Google Express cart,” wrote Surojit Chatterjee, director of product management, Google Shopping, in a blog entry. “Later, in the kitchen, Kai can reorder foil through voice, add it to the same cart using Google Home, and purchase all items at once through a Google-hosted checkout flow.”

The system’s one-click reordering, personalized recommendations and basket-building is expected to cultivate more frequent shoppers and build loyalty. Early partners, including Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Costco and Ulta Beauty, saw the average size of a customer’s shopping basket increase by 30 percent.

Shopping Actions appears within the sponsored Shopping Unit on the Google Search page and at Google.com/Shopping.

Instead of charging retailers based on click-throughs to their site, Shopping Actions charges on a cost-per-sale model, earning revenue from sales generated from these placements.

Many reports pointed out that providing one-click reordering, voice-enabled shopping enhanced by purchase order history and instant checkout using saved payment credentials will help retailers match Amazon’s proposition. Being able to compete in voice shopping against Echo was seen as particularly important.

In a column for Forbes, Kiri Masters, CEO of Bobsled Marketing and a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, wrote that Google insists that, “No organic rankings are impacted or changed,” in response to speculation that preferential ranking would be given to these merchants ahead of Amazon.

She adds, “But this is just the latest of Google’s attempts to regain ground from Amazon in consumer product searches.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Google’s Shopping Actions help retailers significantly reduce Amazon’s competitive advantage in product search? How would rate the pros and cons for retailers and its appeal to online browsers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"60 some percent of people go to Amazon first when looking for any product. That’s a tough obstacle to overcome right out of the gate."
"Although it is more embryonic, the Google experience is more haphazard. In the end, that means a less unified customer experience."
"They will only really start to become a true challenge when they begin to develop a new paradigm that is a step change from the Amazon ecosystem. "

Join the Discussion!

16 Comments on "Has Google found a formula for undercutting Amazon’s product search advantage?"

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Art Suriano

There is no doubt that competition chasing after Amazon is getting stronger and those competing are gaining ground. As technology continues to advance, expect to see more companies getting into the voice activation shopping as well as price cutting, special offers, and services.

It’s all about survival. Google’s new Shopping Action program is smart and will be attractive to retailers because it is much better to pay per sale than per click. I would expect to see the competition between the key players increase as we are just at the tip of the iceberg with where technology is taking us and what conveniences we will have.

Max Goldberg

Making Google more consumer friendly by adding the ability to buy from recognized merchants and reorder using Home is a positive step, but most consumers start a product search on Amazon rather than Google. When combined with almost 75 million Prime members, Amazon has a huge head start on its competition.

Brandon Rael

For Google, this is yet another diversification strategy to expand their already powerful solutions suite of products. The challenge for Google is to provide another option for online shopping, while also providing cost savings and value to vendors in their online marketplace. It is intriguing that Google will be employing the cost per sale model, which is truly differentiated from Amazon’s click-through actions.

By offering varied digital commerce options, including one-click reordering, voice-enabled commerce, and instant checkout using saved payment credentials, Google is providing yet another option for consumers, seeking a more seamless online shopping experience. However, Amazon is synonymous with online shopping and has a dominant marketplace presence. Google has an opportunity to compete on an equal ground with Amazon, with their scale, online presence, relentless innovation, and branding.

Ken Lonyai
This sounds like a home run, but it’s not. I’ve written about this before. It’s a second rate attempt at catch-up. When one steps back from the PR and really examines the details of how such a system would work end-to-end, particularly from a user’s perspective, it’s quite flawed. Amazon controls their entire ecosystem. Merchants that sell on Amazon defer to Amazon’s rules and rulings over selling procedures and customer issues. Amazon controls the delivery terms and free shipping thresholds as well. All the data is Amazon’s with limited sharing with merchants. Google, in trying to replicate such an environment, will never have that level of influence or control over the vendors it’s assembling. Target, Home Depot or Walmart and other large retailers each have their own mechanisms of business and will not compromise them for Google. The shine comes off when there are returns, especially when multiple vendors are involved in one order and they have different policies. The ugliness also appears when free shipping thresholds differ amongst vendors, the carriers and shipping origination… Read more »
Cynthia Holcomb

So much PR, so little reality, and customer value. Bright shiny objects to distract. Good insights Ken! Thanks.

Sunny Kumar

It’s good to see Google trying to disrupt the hold Amazon has on shopping, and no doubt these new features will help them gain further data on how shopper behavior works. But they will only really start to become a true challenge when they begin to develop a new paradigm that is a step change from the Amazon ecosystem. Emulating the latter only shows they are playing catch up.

Lee Peterson

60 some percent of people go to Amazon first when looking for any product. That’s a tough obstacle to overcome right out of the gate. Those numbers are the classic first-to-market effect full on combined with a very high “love of brand” percent that’s ingrained in consumers minds due to excellent execution. And given the Facebook revelations on privacy (no such thing), you know that both companies enjoy reams of data on their customers and probably all consumers, so that’s not going to be an advantage for Google either. So good luck.

In my opinion, the AMZN rocket ship is ahead to stay. At least in this century.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Google’s big hammer is in its partnering, in its becoming an enabler of the retail ecosystem. Tremendous equity has been developed by retailers and to offer an alternative is to push the rope of the status quo. Much less energy is required to add customer experience to existing infrastructure. Good call Google, as with those who have developed their own ecommerce capabilities.

Neil Saunders

I have mixed views on this.

While it is a clear step up by Google, I do not believe that the experience begins to match that of Amazon.

The reason is that Amazon has extremely strict requirements for things like information provision, data structuring, distribution options, pricing levels, and so forth. While this creates a lot of work for vendors, it allows Amazon to create a very uniform customer experience. In turn, this fosters trust and means Amazon is reliable.

Although it is more embryonic, the Google experience is more haphazard. In the end, that means a less unified customer experience.

Evan Snively
Evan Snively
Director of Planning & Loyalty, Moosylvania
5 years 1 month ago

Interested to see how many people on here use an Echo vs Home — and for those who use an Echo, would this solution ever get them considering moving to the Google ecosystem? My assumption is that the answer will be pretty one-sided….

Cathy Hotka

If you were put off by testimony about the information Facebook gathers on you, would you be willing to let Google know which consumer products you prefer?

Shep Hyken

I’m a big Amazon fan and still believe they are the most convenient and easy company to do business with. It is only a matter of time before they have competition, such as what Google is now presenting. However, Amazon still holds an edge. What Google is doing is creating a platform for retailers to use. Amazon has a similar platform, but much of their business is Amazon business, not “other retailer” business.

Amazon has the customer service advantage. Buy from Amazon and if there is a problem, watch how well it is taken care of. Buy from a retailer on Google’s platform, and when there is a problem, you probably won’t go to Google, but back to the retailer. I’m guessing (a somewhat educated guess), but there will probably be a ranking system of the retailers on the Google platform, so the customer will be able to make educated decisions on who they want to buy from.

Harley Feldman

This step by Google and its retailer customers was inevitable. Retailers want to expand their customer opportunities and Google’s strong presence in the search market is a natural outlet to compete against Amazon. From Google’s perspective, their search will provide consumer access to a broad range of products and brands. Amazon on the other hand has already built a strong brand providing search and fulfillment to a very large range of products from their search engine. It will be a battle of the giants.

Craig Sundstrom

One of the big advantages of Amazon and for those who don’t like it, I suppose a disadvantage as well, is that you’re dealing with a single, known seller (although in the case of third party sellers on Amazon, this is somewhat more complicated). Unless google wants to be more than the catalogue here, I don’t see it fundamentally undercutting Amazon.

Jeff Miller

Like Amazon, Google seems 100% focused on their consumers and Shopping Actions seems like a great way to remove friction in the shopping experience. I see this as a plus for consumers, the retail partners involved and of course Google, who should see another source of ad revenue.

I think the downside is something that Google is going to have to reckon with over the long term — are they are a trusted search engine showing organic results based on the best algorithm that works for the searcher or is the best result based on who pays the most? Yahoo dominated search until they went too commercial and everything was for sale and Google came around. Amazon is now catching good in search for products. Perhaps there are some Stanford guys in a garage giving a real effort to having the best search engine around for the next 20 years.

Allison McGuire

As an ecommerce retailer, I’m happy to see progress in this area. Google needs to start competing against Amazon and the only way to do that is providing customer benefits that Amazon cannot. I hope consumers are realizing that Amazon doesn’t always have the lowest prices or the broadest assortment. Once that becomes more widely known, people will easily transition to new shopping experiences.

"60 some percent of people go to Amazon first when looking for any product. That’s a tough obstacle to overcome right out of the gate."
"Although it is more embryonic, the Google experience is more haphazard. In the end, that means a less unified customer experience."
"They will only really start to become a true challenge when they begin to develop a new paradigm that is a step change from the Amazon ecosystem. "

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