Google's seeking to bolster its stake in eCommerce by making Google Shopping listings available for free, a surface that, up till now, has been a paid option, based on Google's regular ad bidding process.
As per Google:
"Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google. With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online."
Google says that this update has been in development for some time, but it's now accelerating its plans in order to assist merchants impacted by the COVID-19 shutdowns. Paid listings will continue to appear in ad slots, and will operate in the same way as Shopping Ads do today, but the majority of the items shown will now be displayed based on relevance, not on bids.
"For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings. If you’re an existing user of Merchant Center and Shopping ads, you don't have to do anything to take advantage of the free listings, and for new users of Merchant Center, we'll continue working to streamline the onboarding process over the coming weeks and months."
It's the latest in Google's shift into eCommerce - and given that the platform facilitates the vast majority of search queries submitted online, it makes sense for Google to also bridge the gap between consumers and products by providing more in-stream buying and price matching options within its tools.
The latter could actually be a key lure of Google's eCommerce tools - last October, Google updated Google Shopping with a range of new features, including a handy price tracking feature, which enables shoppers to keep tabs on items they like, in order to pick them up when the price drops.
Given Google has access to more shopping websites than any other platform, that could give its shopping tools an advantage, especially now that even more retailers will be looking to add specific, free product listings.
Really, scale is where Google is most likely to win out here. Amazon also has a huge range of products available, and the advantage of its evolved shipping processes, while Pinterest is developing its own, smaller-scale eCommerce ambitions, with a more artisan tilt. But Google, again, is where most people begin their search journey anyway. If it can make Google Shopping a more inclusive, comprehensive destination, the appeal will be pretty clear.
For those looking to learn more, Google says that businesses need to sign up to its Merchant Center to get started.
"You can opt into surfaces across Google during the Merchant Center sign up process and start creating your product feed."
In addition to this, Google's also launching a new partnership with PayPal which will enable merchants to link their accounts, streamlining their connection process, while it's also working Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, to make digital commerce more accessible for a wider range of businesses.
The Google Shopping changes will take effect in the U.S. before the end of April, with a plan for global expansion of the same by the end of 2020.