Starting today, Google Shopping becomes free, initially in the United States only: this is the big news announced by Bill Ready, president of the Commerce division of Mountain View, who in a post on the official blog explains and motivates what changes in corporate strategy. A change of course that was already in the air and that had an acceleration because of the Coronavirus pandemic, which convinced Google to reach out to exhibitors around the world.

Google Shopping’s revolution

“To help traders connect better with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google or not”: is with these words that Ready announces the change of course for Google Shopping, which thus becomes an additional tool to tackle the trade crisis caused by the closures imposed by the fight against the spread of Covid-19.

“The retail sector has faced many threats over the years, which have intensified during the Coronavirus World Pandemic”, says number one of Commerce department, and “digital commerce has become a lifeline for retailers”. For this reason, Google has decided to make free the display of products on the Shopping section of the search engine.

An online showcase crucial for visibility 

For retailers, this revolution means having the opportunity “free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs” and perform “hundreds of millions of shopping searches in order to buy products and goods”. Many merchants “have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online”, and Google Shopping could solve this visibility problem by increasing the pool of potential visitors and customers.

In fact, users will be able to discover more products from multiple stores, which automatically emerge in the Google Shopping tab when they do their transactional searches and then go and discover the dealer that offers the best price or that provides the cheapest solution.

What changes in Google Shopping

The news debuts this week in the United States and will be extended throughout the world, including the UK, by the end of the year. Bill Ready also explains that nothing changes for advertisers and existing users of Merchant Center and Shopping ads: paid ads, once reported, will always appear at the top of the results or at the bottom of the page, in a similar way to what happens in organic SERPs with sites using Google Ads.

So, the Google Shopping queries will feature paid and sponsored advertising-related products, and then will offer a list of products included in the catalogue at no expense to sellers. The Google Search home page will not change and the carousels of ads with product tabs will continue to consist in ads only.

Il nuovo Google Shopping gratis

How to join Google Shopping

The free results will be fed by the product data feeds uploaded to Google Merchant Center, opened last year as a first step to give organic visibility to products in the search results areas, including image search or in the new feature “Popular products“.

In order to be able to enter Google Shopping, then, you need to open a Google Merchant Center account and upload a product feed, also using specific structured data markups to show products on Google platforms.

In the control panel of your Merchant Center account there will be a new performance report that allows you to view the performance of “unpaid” clicks (those obtained without sponsorship) on all Google platforms, as is currently the case for sponsored campaigns.

Google becomes an eCommerce?

It is however important to remember that Google Shopping is not a classic eCommerce, but only an intermediate channel that can direct interested users on the portals of retailers, where to complete the transaction.

There is, though, a news in this direction: Bill Ready is again the one to anticipate that Google has signed a partnership with PayPal, allowing merchants to connect their accounts and to conclude purchases without going through the sites of online stores. Moreover, the American giant is working closely “with many of our existing partners that help merchants manage their products and inventory, including Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, to make digital commerce more accessible for businesses of all sizes”.

Google’s strategy on online shopping

If the primary goal of the new Google Shopping is to offer a support to trade at a time as delicate as the current one, there are obviously also practical and economic reasons that have convinced Google to accelerate this revolution.

The most obvious is to counter the dominance of Amazon in the field of eCommerce: Jeff Bezos’ company in recent years has continued to gain share in product research and online advertising, and making free the product exposure in Google Shopping is a move that could put Google back in the lead.

Google has access to more websites than any other platform, and now many more retailers will be interested in adding specific and free product tabs. The other strength of Google Shopping is the mass of users who use the search engine (Google is THE search engine for 92% of users worldwide), which is therefore the starting point of the search journey of millions of people.

The chase of Amazon

We are therefore at a decisive new step in Google’s strategy to dominate the online shopping segment, as well.

The strengths of Amazon remain the wide range of products available and advanced shipping processes, but Google can attempt to undermine its dominance by going to bridge the gap between consumers and products and giving visibility (basically) to all eCommerce sites within the same platform, and also providing more in-stream purchase options and systems to monitor price trends and buy products when they are most convenient.

If Google Shopping succeeds in establishing itself as a more inclusive and complete destination, the battle will become really interesting: the openness to all traders will improve the Google offer and its charm for both sellers and consumers. In addition – just like on Amazon – the retailers who want to ensure a prominent visibility in search results will be able to continue to invest in ads, emerging among millions of organic and free alternatives.

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