Google is making some radical shifts to get at the front, middle and end of the ecommerce process. In case you missed it… here’s what’s been happening in 2012.

Google Shopping Update

May – October 2012

Google’s ongoing transition from Google Product Search to Google Shopping will be complete next month. Google is replacing its free shopping engine to a purely commercial model (aka Paid Inclusion). Only merchants who pay Google to submit their product feed will have their products listed on Google Shopping.  Google believes that this commercial relationship with their merchants will encourage vendors to keep their product info fresh and up to date, providing higher quality data that improves the user experience.

The impact is huge. In addition to getting rid of free shopping feeds, Google Shopping eliminates current Product Extensions in Adwords, changes the way product images are displayed, redefines ranking criteria/algorithms, and of course, charges the merchant a fee. It separates the serious merchants from the “set it and forget it” vendors that don’t regularly update their product feed. It also caused some backlash when Amazon announced they would not pay to play in Google Shopping (giving smaller merchants a chance at capturing customers).

Ranking will be based on a “combination of relevance and bid price – just like Product Extension Ads today.” That means that to be successful, merchants will need to build, optimize, and manage unique Google Shopping ad campaigns in Google Adwords– very similar to existing Google Adwords campaigns that have Product Extensions enabled.Google recently updated Adwords Editor to make it easier for merchants to manage their Product Listing Ads.

Google Trusted Stores

Official Launch Date: June 7, 2012

Google’s answer to the Better Business Bureau. Awarded to Google Shopping sites with a track record of reliable shipping and excellent customer service, Google Trusted Stores is designed to help customers feel safe purchasing goods online from a site in the Google Shopping Network.  Google’s case studies show an increase in sales conversions on sites that have a Trusted Stores badge.  With 1st party Googily reviews and easy websiteintegration with e-commerce platforms, Google is so sure of its program that it’s offering customers up to $1000 in purchase protection when they order from a Trusted Store.

If you’re a legitimate business with happy customers and you aren’t selling prohibited items, there’s no good reason not to jump on this bandwagon. Of course Google won’t say this will influence your organic rankings, but it certainly won’t hurt it.

If you have problems with bad reviews and want to earn a Trusted Stores badge:

  1. Fix your business practices and improve customer service
  2. Consider an online reputation management program to identify and resolve your online customer service issues.

Google Wallet

Updated August 2012

Launched in September of 2011, Google Wallet replaced Google Checkout to create a more universal brand in-store and online.

Google Wallet is marketed as a safe way to store your credit cards, debit cards, and offers, making it a secure way to shop online – without opening your leather wallet to access your information. Installed native on all android devices, when paying in a physical store, users simply tap the back of their phone at the point of sale through an NFC device to complete a transaction. Google Offers will be automatically applied if the customer is taking advantage of an advertised deal.

How does it work? Google says that “Google Wallet Virtual OneTime Card (a prepaid debit card issued by the Bancorp Bank) will be generated and sent to the merchant to complete the purchase. Google Wallet will facilitate a payment using the Google Wallet Virtual OneTime Card and then charge the customer’s credit or debit card for the same amount.” In August, Google Wallet’s app allows users to use credit or debit cards from Mastercard, Visa, or Discover. This move is instrumental for a wider adoption of Google Wallet – much needed to help boost the interest in Google Wallet.

For online transactions, users click on the “Google Wallet Buy” button to login to their Google Wallet account and complete the sale.  Shipping and billing info is stored in the Google Wallet so that customers don’t need to enter personal information.

Google is making it easy for storefront and online merchants to accept Google Wallet. Google Wallet is free for the merchant – payment is sent through existing merchant processing systems. Online integration is a through a code library on the merchants website without affecting back-end systems.

Google Offers

In beta. Updated June 2012

Over the past year, Google has phased out the coupons that businesses could create on Google Places. With the launch of Google+ Local Pages, Google rolled out their Google Offersprogram to metro areas across the United States over the past year. Now owners who want to offer their customers a discount must create a Google+ Offer. Similar to Groupon, Google Offers is a deal-of-the-day program. The business owner must choose the type of offer (% off, $ off, or BOGO) and choose a limited number availability for each offer.

Google will then push the offer to registered Google+ users who have shown an interest in the type of business that matches the offer, Google Wallet users, Offers iPhone App users, and on the Google Maps for Android app. While Offers is still in beta, the service is free to businesses, but the product will eventually be a pay-to-play program.

What Should You Do?

Whew! That’s a lot to keep up with if you want to sell your products through the Google Network. But don’t panic! What do you do about it? Go with the wave. Start testing. Start gathering reviews and users on these platforms. Optimize your product feed. And make it easy for your customers to shop with you whether in store or online. Then evaluate quarterly to make sure that the G-commerce suite is working for your business.  You may discover that one or more programs aren’t right for your business. Tweak as needed and keep up with the changes that are sure to roll out in 2013. It’s in Google’s best interest to make shopping via G-commerce as smooth as possible for both customer and merchant.