Over the past month (even the past week!), Google has made lots of Commerce related updates/announcement that retailers might have missed, so I thought I’d sum them up really quickly.
1. Google Merchant Center (GMC) updated its data feed specifications, significantly cutting the list of attributes. As far as SingleFeed knows, all attributes which were formerly listed are still supported, but Google Product Search might not be highlighting those attributes for refinement purposes.
2. Google Checkout is accepting holiday promotions! While Geckout is no longer footing the bill for these types of promotions, this is still a great opportunity for merchants. From the blog post: “Last holiday season, merchants who ran a Checkout promotion increased their Google Checkout sales by an average of 209%, compared to a 25% increase for merchants who did not participate.” Merchants who set up a holiday promotion will benefit from a special badge and what sounds like a ton of promotion from Google: Google will market the promotion through AdWords ads, emails to buyers, and social networking posts…Social Networking Posts???
If you participate, we’ll change your standard Google Checkout button on your website to the special promotional Checkout button that features an orange starburst labeled with the promotion discount. When the minimum cart requirement is met, the discount will automatically appear for buyers when they shop with Google Checkout from November 23, 2010 at 4:00 PM Pacific to December 16, 2010, at 4:00 PM Pacific.
Additionally, if you are an AdWords advertiser, Google will change the standard Checkout badge appearing on your Google.com AdWords ads to a new badge that features the promotion discount. These badges have been introduced to enable shoppers who search on Google.com to easily identify and take advantage of promotional offers.
3. Data Feeds now influence your SEO listings. While I’ve talked for years about the opportunity to mine your data feed for keywords for SEO and PPC, Google one upped me by putting the GMC feed content in organic results. This is the Rich Snippets program (microformats). For you non-webmasters, I’m not talking about the OneBox listings, I’m talking about rich product information within merchant organic listings. Check out the highlighted sections below for Amazon, HSN, and Williams-Sonoma rich snippet info garnered from the data feed.
Merchants can take advantage of this as follows: 1) providing a data feed and specifying rel=canonical (merchants need a lot more info on rel=canonical…way too many unanswered questions) on product pages, 2) providing markup to your site, and 3) through the Product Reviews program. Read the Rich Snippets for Shopping blog post to find out more.
4. Google Boost – Advertise your local business in San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago. Local store information (location, hours, coupons, etc.) is going to become more and more critical as Google continues to help offline merchants make more money through local and mobile applications. Assuming you’ve claimed your free Google Places listings (for any city – this is a must), it’s now time to test advertising through Boost.
Boost enables business owners to easily create online search ads from directly within their Google Places account. No ongoing management is needed after the initial set up, and this beta is currently available to select local businesses in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago.
And with Google’s recent Android updates for Maps, this local information will be even more critical for the holidays.
5. Product Ads. In case you feel behind the ball in understanding Product Ads, don’t worry, there are more changes. Google has hardened up its Product Ads attributes for the GMC data feed (stop using that prefer_for_query attribute!). And Google is giving merchants more control of Product Ads through GMC (no data feed changes required).
Google Shopper is a Labs product. As an Android phone user, I’ve tested the application out a number of times. The product allows you to perform an image search, voice search, or a text search for a product. Image search recognizes cover art and scans barcodes. Voice search is self explanatory, although for some reason, I’m always pleasantly surprised that it understands what I’m saying. And text search is the normal text search you’d perform on any computer. The application allows the consumer to view a history of product searches. There’s also a way to ‘star’ a product like you’d star an email in Gmail, but I’ve never been able to figure out that feature.
Once you’ve performed a search, you get results that look just like Google Shopping search results. And that’s because Google Shopper is just a mobile entry path for Google Shopping. Which means that if a merchant wants to take advantage of Google Shopper, they have to submit a Google Merchant Center data feed. Again, the power of the data feed at work. Understanding one of the themes of this blog yet?
Once on a product page, which is just a stripped down version of a Google Shopping/Google Product Search product page, you have four options: see an overview of the product, compare prices, read reviews, and see product details. As this is all driven by Google Shopping, all of this information is fairly straight forward, although I especially like the idea of reviews and product details. I’ve stood in a Macy’s looking at luggage, scanned a barcode, quickly checked to make sure I wasn’t being ripped off, then checked out reviews of the bag. And in comparing laptops, the product details came in handy as those little cards at Best Buy don’t always go into the detail I want.
On each product page, there’s an option to broadcast/share the product in lots of ways. The way my Android phone is set up and connected with other services I use, the way of broadcasting products is similar to how it works for Picasa. Clicking on the share button, I can send it to Facebook, Twitter (through whatever client I’m using), Gmail, regular mail, or text message. I’m sure other methods of sharing would come up if I were connected to other services. So in a couple clicks I could easily share a product with my friends on Facebook and ask for feedback. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten this feature to work in the last couple months as I get the error message: ‘Your link could not be shared.’ when I try to share it on Facebook. (Paul, any help would be appreciated!)
When people talk about ecommerce these days, they are usually talk about transacting on the mobile phone. Yes, this is a fast growing area of ecommerce, but I think the much more exciting prospect at this point is helping consumers make informed buying decisions when not in front of a computer. This can be done through all the features that Google Shopper has available: check price, read reviews, see product details, share with friends, etc. And then there’s the connection with Local stores, the so called Blue Dots and services like Milo, to help a consumer figure out if a product is available locally. More on that later.
Update: Read my blog post on Stephanie Tilenius’ keynote at Internet Retailer.
Even though Google has been active in ecommerce for about 8 years, Stephanie Tilenius will give an address at Internet Retailer entitled Google enters the commerce arena. Maybe that means that Google Product Search is finally ready to come out of Beta! ;)
Stephanie Tilenius joined Google as VP of eCommerce joined Google from eBay back in February. According to this NYTimes article, and in typical Google fashion, Google said little about her exact role.
This will be Stephanie’s second official talk as VP of eCommerce for Google. Last month Stephanie gave a presentation at ChannelAdvisor’s Catalyst conference.