Google wants to turn the search query “Where can I buy this?” into profits — both for itself and retail partners.
On March 19, the search giant announced a new service called Shopping Actions, which will enable retailers to more easily have their products come up in Google search results across desktops, smartphones and voice-activated devices like the Google Home speaker.
Google says that the service will allow for a shareable list, universal shopping cart and instant checkout with saved payment credentials to work across Google.com and the Google Assistant, the company's artificial intelligence assistant that works on Android smartphones and Google Home speakers.
In a company blog post, Surojit Chatterjee, director of product management for Google Shopping, notes that the service will also support one-click reordering, personalized recommendations and basket-building for customers who have opted to link their Google account to a retailer's loyalty program, which will support recommended purchases.
Chatterjee gave an example of a hypothetical shopper named Kai, who 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. “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,” Chatterjee says.
For all of this, Google will collect an undisclosed percentage of each sale. However, Chatterjee says that Shopping Actions “uses a pay-per-sale model, meaning you only pay when a sale actually takes place.”
The program is open to all U.S. retailers, according to a Reuters article, which named Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Costco and Ulta Beauty as early partners. Chatterjee named 1-800-Flowers as another partner.
Where did the program come from? Daniel Alegre, Google’s president for retail and shopping, told Reuters the company had observed that tens of millions of consumers were sending image searches of products, asking “Where can I buy this?" "Where can I find it?" "How can I buy it?" "How do I transact?” Google says mobile searches for “where to buy” grew over 85 percent over the past two years. The service could help retailers beat back Amazon.com in the competition for digital commerce.
“We have taken a fundamentally different approach from the likes of Amazon because we see ourselves as an enabler of retail,” Alegre says. “We see ourselves as part of a solution for retailers to be able to drive better transactions ... and get closer to the consumer.”