As the retail holiday season begins, Google is doing away with its free Product Search platform, in a move to a paid format called Google Shopping. Google reports that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date, and that accurate prices and current product availability will mean better shopping results for users. In turn, this will create higher quality traffic for web retailers. Google is offering the following incentives to make the transition more attractive:
• A monthly credit for 10 percent of their total Product Listing Ad spend, through the end of 2012 for merchants who create Product Listing Ads by August 15, 2012.
• $100 AdWords credit toward Product Listing Ads for existing Google Product Search merchants if they fill out a form before August 15, 2012.
Ranking in Google Shopping will be based on a combination of relevance and bid price, just like Product Listing Ads today. This will give online merchants greater control over where their products appear on Google Shopping, according to Google. Over time, merchants will also have the opportunity to market special offers, Google explains. In addition, merchants can choose to participate in the company’s new Google Trusted Stores program, a badge for ecommerce sites that gives users background on merchants, including ratings for on-time shipping and customer service.
Google is experimenting with some new commercial formats on Google.com, including larger product images that give shoppers a better sense of what is available, and the ability to refine a search by brand or product type. These new formats are labeled “sponsored,”and take space previously occupied by AdWords.
Online retailers need to embrace this new model to avoid loss of website traffic and sales. In preparation for the changeover, retailers can:
1) Utilize Google’s credit incentives (stated above).
2) Create a bidding strategy.
3) Optimize data feed for accuracy.
4) Become a Google Trusted Store.
5) Adhere to Google Shopping Policies.
Only time will tell if the change from Google’s Product Search to Google Shopping will benefit both online retailers and consumers. But it is certain that change is not only coming, it will be here before the busiest shopping season of the year.