It makes sense, and in many ways seems well overdue. Internet search giant Google is preparing to take on e-commerce giant Amazon by introducing its own version of a one-click purchase option. Google’s buy button would allow consumers to make purchases directly from Google’s own branded site. Google is initially planning to focus on mobile users for its introduction, which could portend a potentially seismic shift in consumer purchasing habits if it succeeds.
Google Takes on Amazon
Currently, conversion rates for smartphone purchases still lag significantly behind desktop purchases. A big reason for that has been the difficulties in making purchases that are inherent to small screen viewing, particularly with non-mobile-friendly websites. The frustration of having to input purchasing info like credit card numbers and shipping addresses into boxes too small to read makes it easy to see why many consumers wind up loading their carts on the desktop.
Consequently, even as mobile searches are outstripping desktop searches, when it comes to the purchase itself, buyers still opt more often for the big screen. If Google adds a one-click purchase feature with the ability for buyers to store their purchase info, make selections for sizes, colors and shipping options all from one location, that could become the game-changer that tips the scales in favor of mobile purchases, and levels the playing field with Amazon. If for no other reason, it would at least offer a measure of counter-balance to offset Amazon’s dominance of the e-commerce landscape.
Google has also been losing search traffic to Amazon, as many buyers are beginning their shopping searches directly from Amazon’s pages. So a buy option directly from their own search results page not only makes sense for Google, but offers an opportunity to stem the shifting tide of traffic. With a one-click buy button, Google can keep searchers on their site instead, increasing its ad revenue. Only a year ago, Google chairman Eric Schmidt confided that nearly a third of online shoppers were beginning their searches directly from Amazon, more than double those who began their search on Google.
As it is, smartphone users, when they do make mobile purchases, are increasingly using apps rather than having to navigate retailers’ websites. Google wants to keep buyers from leaving its search pages and create its own marketplace to direct shoppers to instead. To entice retailers to participate in its own competitive marketplace, Google would share email and shipping address info of those shoppers who opt into the program.
Advantages for Retailers
Their first candidates would be retailers who have already paid for inclusion in Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLA’s), those merchants whose products, along with pricing, you see listed on the right on Google search results pages. A buy button would simply be added to those PLA’s, allowing shoppers to make their one-click purchase, a la Amazon, right from Google’s search pages. Their prominence in search results, coupled with a buy-it-right-here option, might then prompt competitors to opt-in just to stay in the game.
Currently, Google search pages link the buyer directly to the retailer’s website. For the mobile buyer, as well as the merchant, this is potentially a disadvantage, depending on how mobile-friendly that website is. The addition of a buy button that would allow the shopper to make a purchase directly from Google’s search page offers mobile users an alternative to attempting purchases from merchant sites that are difficult to navigate on a smartphone. The retailer gains a sale that it might have otherwise lost to a more mobile-friendly competitor’s website.
For retailers, a considerable incentive for choosing Google over Amazon is that they would still own the transaction. Scalability issues would not be the problem it can be when selling as a third party via Amazon, since the orders themselves would still come through the retailer’s site. For smaller merchants especially, this represents a huge factor in choosing how and where to market their products. Also, as opposed to paying transaction fees to Amazon, retailers would render unto Google the traditional per-ad click charges.
The Downside for Retailers
One disadvantage for retailers, however, might be in the basis of that one-click convenience for the consumer. Buyers opting in would be signing up one time – with Google, who would store all of their purchasing information on their own database, and not share it with the merchant. Since the convenience factor for the consumer comes from shopping through Google, and not the merchant’s site, any lasting benefit for the buyer would only come from continued purchases through Google.
Other considerations for retailers to consider include how much of the buying experience they want to control. Is a one-click buy feature a better option for the shopper than a visit to your website? Is your site optimized for mobile users well enough to avoid losing shoppers to more mobile-friendly alternatives? Are you willing to surrender a little less autonomy over your customers’ experience in order to close sales that you may never have seen in the first place?
Brand recognition is a huge part of marketing and the buyer’s purchasing decision. So it also comes down to whether a retailer is better off taking advantage of the Google brand as a means to drive sales, or more concerned with their own brand getting lost in the larger marketplace. There’s a real risk of becoming a faceless order-taker for the Google brand, which doesn’t promise much in the way of building a loyal clientele.
So for the merchant faced with the decision of whether a Google buy button is more boon than bust, it would be wise to take a hard look at where your traffic is coming from, your conversion rates from those sources, and how equipped your business is for the coming mobile-dominated marketplace. It could make sense, at least in the short term, to drive mobile traffic to your product using Google’s brand and buy button. Meanwhile, you can build your own brand and a mailing list, courtesy of big brother Google.