Google has announced today that they will be changing their Google Shopping platform model, allowing any e-commerce business to list their product inventory free of charge. The change will be implemented by the end of April 2020 in the U.S, with a global roll out expected by the end of the year.
The plans were already in the Google pipeline well before the Covid-19 pandemic, however given the current state of economies globally, they have brought forward the launch to support businesses.
Bill Ready, Google’s President of Commerce said:
As consumers increasingly shop online, they’re searching not just for essentials but also things like toys, apparel, and home goods. While this presents an opportunity for struggling businesses to reconnect with consumers, many cannot afford to do so at scale.
How will it work?
Advertisers who currently use Google Shopping through paid methods will automatically be eligible for free listings for any product that is already listed in the Google Merchant Centre platform.
This doesn’t however mean that advertisers will automatically stop paying for the shopping listings they already bid for. Free listings will be shown in addition to paid listings, very similar to how Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) already work; paid search ads appear in more prominent positions, with free organic listings shown further down the page.
As we know, just because those free organic listings haven’t been paid for, does not mean they don’t offer more value to the user. In most cases, free listings are more relevant and the advertiser is likely to have less margin aspirations for products, than one who pays to be there. Free Google shopping listings are likely to perform in a very similar way to this. However, like organic search, a combination of both paid and earned strategies are likely to reap optimum profitability.
It’s expected that with these changes, Google shopping will become a more competitive market place for consumers to buy products through. More listings from more businesses, means that prices will be competitive, the range will be increased and so users of the platform and purchases through it will increase too. Watch out Amazon!
What does this mean for UK SMEs?
Clearly this does represent an opportunity for UK SMEs, once the programme is rolled out at the back end of 2020. For businesses who already sell products through their own website and take payments online, the transition should be a swift one and have huge benefits to revenue. If a business wants to take advantage of the opportunity but doesn’t currently sell online, then the process will be more complex and will incur set-up costs, even if the listings are free.
Requirements for Google shopping:
- An e-commerce platform
- Good user-experience (no barriers to purchase)
- Payment systems
- Product listing pages
- Competitive pricing or niche, unique products
- Comprehensive, well optimised content for better searchability
- Operate within Consumer Contracts regulations.
All of these aspects are vital, in order to exploit the full benefits of Google’s shopping services.
If UK businesses implement the necessary systems to list on Google shopping for free, it could be the lifeline they need on the other side of Covid-19. Online browsing and purchases have increased 10-fold over the last few weeks and it’s expected that consumers’ use of online will not drop to pre-coronavirus levels. More dependence and confidence in online services has definitely been a side-effect of the pandemic and that isn’t going to slow down any time soon.
For SMEs, there’s never been a better time to focus on the future, especially businesses who are not able to open their doors at the moment. Whilst we appreciate that cash flow is low and times are uncertain, one thing is for sure, we will see a continued increase in online browsing and purchases.