Did you know Google Shopping listings are free for most merchants to use?
Google has also dropped commissions for its Buy on Google program. This means nearly any retailer can sign up for Google Shopping Actions and link their products without paying the 12% commission Google formerly collected on each sale.
Retailers and advertisers have a unique opportunity to get incredible exposure for their products. Almost half of users turn to Google to find or discover new products. This means even small businesses can put themselves in front of millions of new potential customers with just a few clicks.
What Is Google Shopping Actions?
Google Shopping Actions partners with several retailers to create a shopping experience in direct competition with Amazon. Today, this program allows retailers to upload products that appear in organic search across Google platforms. In turn, shoppers can find, compare, and buy products without ever having to leave Google.
The user-facing side is called “Google Shopping.” When a user searches for a product, it places relevant items in the Shopping tab of their results page, alongside a number of options regarding how to buy them. It gives customers access to a universal shopping cart, shareable lists, and instant checkout with saved payment credentials.
So if you burn a pan while you’re cooking, you can use Google Home to buy a new one, add it to your shopping cart to buy later, or browse and compare new pans on your phone and buy it immediately.
Just like Amazon, when users start using Google Shopping for purchases, they’ll begin seeing personalized recommendations across platforms.
It all makes for a seamless shopping experience that may increase conversions and decrease abandoned carts.
Note: Google Shopping Actions isn’t the same as Google Shopping Ads. Retailers pay for their results to appear as featured Google Shopping Ads, while organic Shopping Actions are free. The organic search element makes it different from Google Shopping Ads, where retailers pay for placement.
What Does the Order Process Look Like on Google Shopping Actions?
Let’s go back to the burnt skillet example to walk through the customer buying process. After you enter “skillet” and get a results page, click on the “Shopping” tab at the top of the first SERP. You’ll get a list of skillet options, as well as filters on the left to narrow your search.
If you choose “Buy on Google,” you’ll only get options you can buy directly from Google. You’ll know which ones are part of the Buy on Google Program by the little shopping cart icon at the top left of each result:
Let’s say you chose to look at this Lodge skillet that ships from Target. You’ll see product descriptions and reviews, plus the average price of similar items to help you compare.
If this is what you want to purchase, you can add the item to your cart or buy it instantly.
You never had to go to the Target site, and you never had to search multiple sites to compare.
How to Get Started With Google Shopping Actions
The Google Merchant Center and Google Shopping Actions are very flexible. You can connect third-party platforms you’re already using, such as Shopify and SureDone, and even link your Amazon feed, to reduce work redundancy.
To set up Shopping Actions, you first need to sign up for a free account on Google’s Merchant Center. It’s basically your Google Shopping dashboard. You then select Shopping Actions as part of the Merchant Center sign-up process.
Once you’re signed up, you will be prompted to do the following:
- List products
- Add branding
- Select tax and shipping preferences
- Choose return preferences
- Establish user roles
- Provide customer service contact information
- Decide whether customers will be invited to sign up for a newsletter at checkout
- Include promotional information
That last one is optional, but Google recommends running promotions to attract more customers.
In order to use Google Shopping Actions, you have to implement the Orders API. This allows you to use the Google Merchant Center to manage your orders.
Of course, one of the really attractive features of Google Shopping Actions is you don’t have to manage your orders yourself. Google can handle shipping and returns and provide customer service if you choose. It’s entirely up to you.
Once a user purchases something through Google Shopping, the order shows up in your API as “in progress” for about 30 minutes. This half-hour window allows shoppers to cancel all or part of their order, if they need to. Google recommends you don’t ship anything until the status changes to “Pending Shipment.”
Things to Look Out for With Google Shopping Actions
First of all, it’s important to note that free Google shopping listings are for organic search only. If you want to place your products on specific SERPs, you have to pay through Google’s Shopping Ads program.
If you’re running Google Ads already, it’s worth setting up those same products in Google Shopping Actions, too. That way, you’re getting double the exposure for the same price.
Additionally, Google Shopping Actions is currently only available in the U.S. and France. If you’re going to sign up, you have to be a legally registered business in one of those countries and accept payment, make deliveries, and handle returns in those places.
Google Shopping Actions policies also include the following:
- Your Inventory can’t include restricted products and services. A list is available through Google Support.
- You need a valid ID from the country where your business is registered.
- You must meet all of Google’s returns and customer support standards.
Listing Your Products on Google Shopping Actions
To get your products listed on Google Shopping, you have to set up a product feed. For your product feed, Google needs the following information:
- A product ID number (id)
- Product title, such as cast iron pan (title)
- A product description (description)
- A link to your product page (link)
- A link to your image (image_link)
- Product availability (availability)
- Product price (price)
- Google product category, such as kitchenware or cooking (google_product_category)
- Product brand name (brand)
- Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)
Google can crawl your site if you already have this information set up, or you can do a fetch from your servers. If you don’t have this information set up, you can create a Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet to upload to your merchant account. Use the names in the parentheses to label your categories.
A very basic product data spreadsheet would look something like this:
Now, this information is for your primary feed. You can set up supplemental feeds as well, which can cover sales, limited edition products, or special offers.
Optimizing Your Google Shopping Listings
Like you would for your site, you want to make sure your listings are optimized for organic search.
First of all, make sure all of your information is accurate, from your description to your price. If appropriate, use geotags to make sure you pop up in local searches.
Verify your title, description, and images are optimized, as well.
Use strong keywords that reflect user search queries in your title. Do keyword research to see what users are searching for when they look for products similar to yours. You can use a keyword tool or simply look at the “People also ask” and “Searches related to” sections of a Google results page.
Remember, using strong keywords in your product title not only lets users find you, but it also helps Google place your products on the right results pages. Google crawls both product titles and descriptions for detailed keywords to place products.
So, instead of using “skillet” alone as your title, try something more detailed, such as “12-inch cast iron skillet.”
Make your product descriptions detailed and pragmatic. Phrases such as “amazing skillet” aren’t going to win you any organic search points. But, “Our 12-inch cast-iron skillet is seasoned with olive oil and holds heat well” tells both the user and Google precisely what your product is.
Remember to keep it short and sweet. Only 70 words show up on product pages in Google.
According to a Weebly survey, 75% of online shoppers said product images are very influential in their decision process. That means your images should make your products look as appealing as possible.
Images should be clear, well-lit, and professional. And your products should be front and center.
Choose multiple images that give your product scale, display it from different angles, and show it in use so users can get a sense of how it will work for them.
For the cast iron skillet, Lodge shows their product served up with chicken and sizzling away on a grill with vegetables.
Monitor Your Product Listings
Finally, keep a constant eye on your product listings. Compare them to similar listings that are doing well to determine how to improve your own. Watch for rises or dips in visibility and clicks to see if you can attribute them to search trends.
Keep abreast of Google’s algorithm changes. A change in the way Google places organic search content could affect your listings.
What’s Changing With Google Shopping Actions?
Aside from free listings and no commissions, Google is making a few other changes to the Google Shopping experience:
- Starting with PayPal, Google is now allowing direct linking of merchants’ payment accounts to Google Merchant Center.
- Merchants can handle customer service directly, but they still have Google customer service to back them up.
- Google allows merchants to handle their own returns or choose to let Google manage them.
- The Google Merchant Center is compatible with your Amazon feed.
Google Shopping Actions vs. Amazon
Amazon is still the leader in online shopping. But, Google is beginning to give the e-commerce giant a run for its money, particularly now that listings are free. Google has a few other advantages over Amazon as well.
To begin with, unlike Amazon, Google gives shoppers more than one buying option for products. They can buy from a retailer’s site or from their brick-and-mortar locations. Many products are even available to buy right through Google.
Because Google Shopping is available across all of its platforms, users can browse shopping results and add products to their universal shopping cart wherever they are, even YouTube:
Google Shopping Actions gives you access to customer data, where Amazon doesn’t. You can track purchasing habits and trends to build stronger relationships with your customers.
Now that you can upload your Amazon feed to Google Merchant Center, it’s easier to run both programs for your products, potentially doubling their exposure.
With free Google Shopping, merchants have an incredible opportunity to increase their revenue through e-commerce. By optimizing your product listings through Google Shopping Actions, you can get your products in front of users and potentially help increase your conversions.
Consider running paid campaigns or just utilizing the free listings to grow your customer base and allow users to compare prices.
Have you tried Google Shopping Actions for your e-commerce store?
How Augmented Reality is changing Retail
The retail industry has experienced numerous changes in recent decades and is one of the sectors of the economy that has benefited most from digitalization. The physical store is no longer the only sales channel, it has been joined by ecommerce and a whole series of hybrid modalities between physical and online stores.
After examining why and how retail is a fast evolving vertical, we’ll take a look at the opportunities offered by Augmented Reality to upgrade how retail sales are managed.
There are a number of current trends that directly and powerfully impact the world of retail and that are worth analyzing. Many of these have emerged in the last decade, or limited in the last two, also thanks to the contribution of the so-called e-tailers, Amazon in the first place.
These trend include:
● Long Tail: the tendency of large online retailers to generate the majority of revenues from the sale of niche products, rather than from the more popular products. In practice, players like Amazon and Netflix have overturned the Pareto principle. Physical stores, as they are organized today, find it very difficult to follow the long tail model, because of physical and logistical constraints they tend to favor the best selling products, despite an extremely wide proposal in terms of references.
● Mass Customization: a complementary trend compared to the previous one is mass customization, that is the ability of retailers to sell highly personalized products in terms of characteristics (material, color, configuration, etc.), highly appreciated by consumers who are increasingly looking for unique products and fewer and fewer standard products. This trend has also had a strong impact on production systems which have inevitably become more flexible and which carry out less and less series production.
● Showrooming: this trend identifies the behavior of those consumers who use physical stores as product showcases and as places to try the product, finalizing the purchase process online. It is a very common behavior in the clothing sector, as showrooming allows people to try on shoes or clothes in order to identify the right size and evaluate comfort/fit.
● Superior Customer Service: although physical store managers have the advantage of having a direct relationship with their customers, online stores, over time, have come to offer extremely high and flexible levels of service, to which people got used very soon. The areas where online retailers make a difference include flexibility in the management of dissatisfied customers, for example by offering free returns and full refunds even up to 30 days after purchase; offers in all seasons of the year; the order processing times (often in less than 24 hours customers receive the goods at home); loyalty and reward mechanisms; multiple payment methods, from credit card to cryptocurrency wallet; even the “lowest price guaranteed” policy with the possibility of refunding the difference if the same product is available at a lower price on other stores.
The global retail market, online and offline, in 2017 reached a value of 23.460 billion dollars and for the period 2018–2023 an average growth rate of 5.3% per year is expected, up to the value of 31.881 billions of dollars in 2023 (Source: Markets and Markets).
Although in the last ten years eCommerce has grown at an average of +15% per year, it now represents only about 10% of the global retail market, therefore 90% of today’s purchases still take place in physical stores. According to the most recent forecasts, e-commerce will reach 17.5% of the value of the Retail market in 2021 (Source: Statista).
The most competitive categories in offline retail are food, household goods and cosmetics; while the three most competitive categories in online channels are products for entertainment (music, books, films), electronics (computers and smartphones) and products for the home.
Depending on the nature of the product, some categories find a more natural outlet in offline rather than online channels. For example, all food products, especially fresh ones, have, and will have, for a certain period of time still, a more advantageous outlet in the offline channel; while for example products that are easily dematerialized, such as music and films, can be sold more easily through online channels.
Since data and forecasts still see a large share of sales for physical stores in Retail, we will focus on both online and offline Augmented Reality solutions.
After explaining why users expect to experiment a customer-centric shopping experience, focused on customization rather than standardization, we’ll take a look at some of the most interesting Augmented Reality use cases for the Retail industry.
- Augmented Reality Product Presentation
- When a customer is considering buying a physical product online, she may put a lot of emphasis on the product presentation, especially for certain categories including furniture, clothing and technology. The presentation of products through the online channels can be made more engaging and realistic using Augmented Reality techniques like AR product visualization with spatial mapping. In most cases this goal can be achieved by using the customer’s device, typically a smartphone or a tablet.
- Even if in a store you are able to see the products in person it can be more interactive to provide innovative interfaces to customers, allowing them to discover in-depth features of the product. In terms of hardware, in-store Augmented Reality requires dedicated devices such as big touch screens and/or wearable devices.
- Augmented Reality Configuration
- Enabling Augmented Reality product presentation could not be enough, since the customer that is buying online may want to evaluate different configurations of the product to find the one that satisfies her the most. This process involves picking different colors, materials and sizes.
- The product configuration process can be implemented in stores to allow potential customers to experiment with all the possible product declinations in order to find the most suited one. At this stage customers can use the same devices used at the product presentation stage.
- Augmented Reality Try On
- When the potential customer has narrowed the choice among a handful of products, she may want to try them on, depending on the product category. This is a doable approach for clothes, make-up, jewelry, and watches. The technology today offers the tools to enable Augmented Reality try on by recognizing the users’ body, face and hands, following her movements and adapting accordingly.
- In a in-store context virtual try on can be achieved by using large interactive mirrors, special displays endowed with depth cameras, and by visualizing the customer’s shape on the screen with additional (augmented) digital contents such as clothes.
TikTok’s Chinese rival Kuaishou becomes a popular online bazaar
In China, short video apps aren’t just for mindless time killing. These services are becoming online bazaars where users can examine products, see how they are grown and made, and ask sellers questions during live sessions.
Kuaishou, the main rival of TikTok’s Chinese version (Douyin), announced that it accumulated 500 million e-commerce orders in August, a strong sign for the app’s monetization effort — and probably a conducive condition for its upcoming public listing.
On the heels of the announcement, Reuters reported that Kuaishou, a Tencent-backed company behind TikTok clone Zynn, is looking to raise up to $5 billion from an initial public offering in Hong Kong as early as January. The company declined to comment, but a source with knowledge of the matter confirmed the details with TechCrunch.
There are intricacies in the claim of “500 million orders.” It doesn’t exclude canceled orders or refunds, and Kuaishou won’t reveal what its actual sales were. The company also said the number made it China’s fourth-largest e-commerce player following Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo.
It’s hard to verify the claim as there are no comparable figures from these firms during the period, but let’s work with what’s available. Pinduoduo previously said it logged over 7 billion orders in the first six months of 2019. That means it averaged 1.16 billion orders per month, more than doubling Kuaishou’s volume.
Kuaishou’s figure, however, does indicate that many users have bought or at least considered buying through its video platform.
The app, known for its celebration of vernacular and even mundane user content, boasts 300 million daily active users at the latest, which suggests on average its users made at least one order during the month. Many of the products sold were produce grown by its large base of rural users. The app gained ground in small towns and far-flung regions early on exactly because its content algorithms didn’t intend to favor the “glamorous”.
Over time, it gathered pace among Chinese urbanites who found themselves enjoying others’ candid filming of country life and happily ordering their farm products. The focus on bringing rural produce to urban areas also squares nicely with China’s push to invigorate its rural economy, and it’s not rare to see Kuaishou using terms like “poverty-alleviation” in its social media campaign.
Douyin, which leans towards polished videos from “influencers”, also enables its content creators to monetize — through both sharing ad revenue and hawking products. With a DAU twice as big as Kuaishou’s at 600 million, the app vows to bring 80 billion yuan ($11.8 billion) of income to creators in the coming year, the chief executive of ByteDance China, Kelly Zhang, said recently at Douyin’s creator conference.
After 20 years of ecommerce, change is the only certainty
Designing, building, and launching a website is just the beginning of an ecommerce business. Attracting and converting visitors is the next, all-important step. A website alone does not guarantee anything.
This is where marketing comes in. Consumers need to find your site and, once there, have a reason to buy from you. Traffic from search engines — via organic listings and ads — can help with the former. Other marketing tools include email and ads on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and many other websites.
But the most critical factor in long-term success is the ability to change and adapt. Plan for change from the start. Don’t build an ecommerce site that is difficult (expensive) to alter or redo. It limits your potential.
At the basic level, a site needs fresh content — product descriptions, photos, videos, prices — to help visitors make an initial purchase decision and return for more. For some markets, this is easy. Take shaving. Consumers will always need razors. But even razors have innovations and new ideas, such as three blades or five blades or auto-restocks via subscriptions.
Most products have new or upgraded releases and alternative uses. If your site is quick to receive these updates, compose compelling descriptions of why they are better or different or exciting. You have then given shoppers reasons to keep coming back. Some sites do this with blog posts and news articles.
In my business of selling science fiction memorabilia, an individual staff member knew all about new products and could write clever and funny descriptions about them. This made my site stand out and gain more customers. It helps if your ecommerce site can integrate with a publishing platform such as WordPress. (Or perhaps WordPress is also your ecommerce platform via a plugin, such as WooCommerce.)
Over time the accepted look and feel of ecommerce sites evolve. What was once a good-looking site can become dated and stale. Visitors need to feel confident that you are a reliable business — their money is safe, and you will deliver what you say. New customers tend to evaluate a site based on its appearance. It’s difficult, however, for an insider to look at a site with fresh eyes, as new a visitor would see it. But it’s essential.
Perhaps your site requires a new template. Maybe the menu structure or navigation needs a revamp. You may need to move to a new platform to keep the site looking modern. These changes are relatively straightforward if you have planned, ensured that the content is portable, and maintained control.
What was once a good looking site can become dated and stale.
When I launched in 2000, most online transactions were done from individual websites. All I had to do was make sure that mine was better than my competitors and appeared higher on the search results. In time, however, third-party platforms such as Ebay, Amazon, and Etsy began to dominate.
Thus the final type of change is strategic. Decide whether to list your products on these platforms. The decision is not easy. Do you list all of your products on those channels or just the bestsellers or clearance items? Do you set the same prices across channels or make the items on your own site cheaper? Can you vary prices in this manner without violating the third-party platform’s rules? In the E.U., for example, it is illegal for Amazon to forbid sellers from setting lower prices elsewhere.
Further, listing on third-party platforms creates competition for your own site. But can you afford not to use these platforms?
Consider the risks, too, such as being at the whim of the platform. Initially, Amazon was a small percentage of my sales, but it grew to exceed 75 percent. Staying on Amazon’s good side became vital — even to the point of putting Amazon’s shoppers ahead of those from my own site.
The point is that change is inevitable. Any company that does not evolve will surely die. Remember that the purpose of your business is to earn profits. Your website is a tool to make money. Change it or, indeed, move away from it as needed.
How Augmented Reality is changing Retail
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