With so many outlets for consumers to purchase products online, competition among publishers, marketers, and retailers to drive e-commerce performance is fierce. In the past, search engines like Google and Yahoo have been dominant players in the path to purchase. However, the ongoing growth and proliferation of competitors like Amazon is forcing search engines to change the way they compete – which is why Google is testing new ways to enhance its paid shopping services to attract and retain retail-minded searchers. Reported by the Wall Street Journal last month, Google is exploring additional shopping services and is considering testing a “Buy Now” button that would be placed next to products within search results, and which could have a fairly significant impact on marketers’ search strategies in the future.
Speculation about the “Buy Now” button comes following a series of shopping service enhancements introduced by Google in recent years. In late 2013, Google introduced its Product Listing Ads (PLA’s) feature, which displays multiple product images and prices within results pages, and more recently, Google Express, a same-day delivery service for eligible products in select cities. These features are designed to keep the search engine relevant and competitive with Amazon, a competitor that in the past couple years has surpassed Google in the number of product searches beginning on its site.
While new to Google, the “one click, buy now” feature has already been implemented by other platforms. Notably, Amazon has had its one-click “Buy Now” button for years, and both Twitter and Facebook have recently tested ways for users to buy products without having to leave their interfaces.
Google’s “Buy Now” button would not turn it into an online retailer like Amazon, as Google would only facilitate orders and not fulfill them, but would create a shopping experience that is easy and seamless like an Amazon purchase. Clicking the “Buy Now” button would confirm and process the order directly from the search result page so consumers wouldn’t need to be redirected to a different site. Selected partners would fulfill orders generated by Google, and there is speculation that there may also be an optional service where, for an annual fee, a consumer could receive a shipped product within two days (similar to what Amazon Prime and ShopperRunner currently offer).
The “Buy Now” button could alter the way consumers think about Google because it would allow them to discover and complete entire transactions with the easy click of a button, without having to leave the engine to make a purchase on a separate website. This feature is key because the fewer steps users have to take to purchase what they are searching for, the more likely they are to buy.
Implications For Marketers
If implemented and successful, Google’s “Buy Now” feature would likely have a large impact on online commerce due to the engine’s scale. As a result, it would also impact the way retail marketers do business and implement strategies in search engines –particularly Google – in the future. Below are several possible implications of the “Buy Button” introduction and how marketers can begin preparing their strategies to take these changes into account.
- Increased reliance on Google ads and decreased reliance on the retailer’s site – Many retailers already rely heavily on Google ads to drive traffic, but if Google takes a more active role in turning queries into conversions, the brand site could become completely obsolete of the conversion process. As a result, the brand site experience and on-site checkout process will become less important, and the Google ad products will become crucial for making the sale. Marketers would need to adjust their strategies, paying particular attention to ads featuring images, where engagement and conversion volumes could be affected. If “Buy Now” proves successful on those ads, the new button could also redirect traffic and conversions from text ads.
- Additional integration with Google – If a retailer wants to participate in the “Buy Now” program, marketers may need to have systems established so those sales can be captured. This could require changes to feeds, additional technical capabilities, and new partnerships to get this accomplished. While many advertisers have struggled with maintaining their feeds properly, often largely due to a lack of resources, if the “Buy Now” button catches on, it will be one more reason for marketers to devote the effort into ensuring the integrity of their feeds.
- Potential missed opportunities for leads – Since Google’s “Buy Now” feature keeps searchers on Google, marketers could miss the opportunity to capture data that could be used to better understand – and remarket to – their consumers. For example, if retailers have a section of their sites where users can submit their email addresses, they could miss that lead opportunity because the searcher didn’t go to their site. Additionally, as display and search remarketing continue to grow in importance, the significance of losing this consumer data will only grow.
- Additional “Buy Now” opportunities would likely become available –Yahoo & Bing have a history of implementing features after Google has introduced them, and if Google implements a “Buy Now” button, a similar button could become available across additional search engine paid ads. Marketers would then need to adjust their strategies and tactics on those engines accordingly to take advantage of expanded opportunities.
Whether or not Google ultimately decides to launch a “Buy Now” button, the company will continue to address the shift in retail consumer behavior because it can’t afford not to. According to its income statement from April 2014, the company currently generates 90 percent of revenue through ad services. With many lucrative transactions beginning and ending with Amazon, Google doesn’t want to miss out on revenue it could collect when it drives a searcher to a retailer’s site through a paid ad. Marketers should monitor and continue to stay on top of developments within the industry such as the Google “Buy Now” button to be able to most effectively take advantage of these opportunities as they arise, and amend their strategies as needed.
Cover photo via WSJ