At this afternoon’s Search On event, Google announced a number of store-related changes and new features in areas such as visual shopping, personalization and buying using trusted reviews. The additions are intended to help the company better attract online consumers to shop on Google, rather than launching their searches directly on Amazon — as has become the norm for many online shoppers today.
A major concern is that Amazon has steadily swallowed Google’s core search advertising business over the years and is projected to capture 14.6% of the market share of U.S. digital ad revenue by 2023, data shows. from Insider Intelligence. Google’s share is expected to fall to 24.1% by then, compared to 31.6% it had in 2019, the report said.
To counter this threat, Google has invested heavily in its Google Shopping services, including making listings free for merchants and then integrating those free listings into Google’s search results. Now, the search and advertising giant has expanded its retail chart to 35 billion product listings — a figure that has increased nearly 10 billion in the past year, the company notes.
One of the new ways Google hopes to become more competitive is to make shopping on Google more enjoyable for consumers than simply doing a product search on Amazon’s site.
On this front, the company is launching a new feature called “Shop the Look” in the US, which will be discoverable as part of the now more visual shopping experience on Google. This feature places a shopable display of products alongside lifestyle images, tutorials, and other resources in your search results. It can also be activated by typing the word ‘shop’ before your search, such as ‘shop bomber jackets’ for example.
To ‘shop the look’, users can view the product they’d been looking for – such as a jacket – along with other items that complete the outfit, which can also be shopped using the same tool, similar to features previously launched with Google Lens .
They can also see trending products that are currently popular within the same category of the item they searched for from different brands and designers. (Google defines trending as those products that meet a certain threshold for an increase in searches and user interactions in the past week, it says). These features are coming to the US this fall.
To make store listings themselves more appealing, Google will soon begin testing a 3D shopping feature for shoes, to follow up on existing support for 3D home goods — a change that Google says has fueled more engagement. Users interacted with 3D images nearly 50% more than with static images, the company said.
Initially, the 3D images will be tested with a handful of retail partners to begin with before being scaled up. To support this, the company developed a way to automate the creation of 3D assets. Thanks to improvements in machine learning, Google can now only use a handful of product photos to build the 3D image. This new model is based on a neural radiation field technology, a type of neural network also known as NeRF, which can create new representations of 3D scenes using 2D images, Google explains.
Initially, the pilot will include a handful of merchants like Van’s and Skechers, but Google expects to add more over time, including smaller merchants.
“While some merchants have these types of 3D images available, for many others, especially the smaller merchants, creating these types of 3D items can be very expensive and time-consuming,” said Lilian Rincon, Senior Director of Product for Shopping at Google. “We really think it has the potential to change the game for small traders and we’re excited to release it,” she added.
Another new feature is designed to help people make more complex shopping decisions that typically require a lot of research.
Typically, consumers read a variety of resources to make a decision about a higher value product, including product reviews, news, online articles, recommendation sites, customer reviews, and more. To simplify this process, Google has introduced a new “Buying Guide” that collects the most useful resources from a range of trusted sources, including user reviews, articles, product reviews, and more from Google. This feature launched in the US, but will be expanded to include more insight categories soon.
In addition, Google will add a new tool called “Page Insights” to the Google app in the US in the coming months. This allows consumers to learn more about the products on a website, including their pros and cons and star rating. They can also choose to receive updates about price drops for the items they track.
One of the biggest changes for Google Shopping, however, is the addition of opt-in personalization, arriving in the US later this year.
To do this, consumers can tap buttons to have Google remember which categories they want to shop for, such as “Women’s Department” instead of “Men’s Department”, or even tap to choose favorite brands to make sure it’s highlighted in their future Google Shopping search results. The company says the idea was prompted by user research, as consumers told the company they were frustrated at seeing irrelevant search results.
Google says the user has control over these settings and can turn them on or off at any time.
“We’ve taken a lot of time to do this very carefully because we want to make absolutely sure that people feel they’re in control… if you don’t want to share this information with Google at any point – if you want turning it off… you can,” says Rincon.
Google is also adding new shopping filters that appear on pages as you search for different products, which now adapt to search trends. That is, you may see “wide leg” or “bootcut” appearing when you search for jeans right now, as those styles are currently popular in Google.com searches. These ‘dynamic filters’ are now available live in the US, Japan and India and will arrive in more regions over time.
Finally, the Google mobile app will highlight suggested styles based on your previous shopping searches and what others have shopped for on Google. You can tap on these suggestions and see where to buy the products through Google Lens.
Combined, Google believes these changes will make shopping on its platform easier and in some cases more enjoyable for consumers. But the bigger reality here is that Google needs to find a way to prevent users from redirecting their searches to other sites, such as Amazon, as it affects its ability to sell ads and profits.