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[13 comments]

Google ID's Trusted Websites

April 24, 2012

Google last year quietly began piloting a Google Trusted Stores program whereby Google awards a badge to websites with a strong history of reliable shipping and top-notch customer service. Now, it's reportedly exploring whether Trusted Stores endorsements work within paid search ads.

Under the Trusted Stores program, e-tailers participating in the program voluntarily share data about shipments and enable Google to collect customer service metrics when shoppers seek Google's help with a problem.

Participating e-retailers can include Google's grades as endorsements on their web pages. Visitors hovering over the Google Trusted Store badge see metrics on the store's shipping and customer service performance.

A unique feature is that consumers can select free purchase protection from Google when shopping at a Google Trusted Store. If a problem arises, they can ask Google to work with the merchant and customer to resolve the issue.

In launching the pilot last October, Google said the service is designed to overcome concerns about purchasing from unfamiliar online stores. Google stated, "Is this store trustworthy? How reliable is their shipping? Do they have good customer service? What happens if something goes wrong?"

[Image: Google Trusted Stores]

In an interview with Internet Retailer, Tom Fallows, group product manager on Google's commerce team, said a couple of hundred retailers take part in Trusted Stores. They include Overstock.com, Wayfair.com and many smaller websites. Some retailers aren't featuring the badge as part of a pilot test.

Overall, Mr. Fallows gave little information around the larger rollout potential and learnings from the test although he added, "It's been well received in terms of the key metrics we look at — conversion rates, for instance."

The next test will extend Trusted Stores to web searches. Mr. Fallows tells Internet Retailer that 'Google Trusted Stores' branding might appear below the main link for a retailer or a key metric from a Trusted Stores badge ("99 percent of issues resolved in under two days") might appear.

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:GOOG]

Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions: Do you think Google's Trusted Stores program will help it gain competitive ground against the likes of Amazon? How effective do you you think the program will be in influencing consumer decisions during web searches and once on the Trusted Store site?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How beneficial is a service such as Google Trusted Store for retailers?

Comments:

Google's Trusted Stores program isn't a competitive advantage, it is an essential element of ecommerce. It is certainly an important step in Google's development in the business of ecommerce.

I feel that this type of program is used once a purchase decision has been made and when there are multiple purchasee options rather than as a filter in their purchase searches, however, consumer behavior on the internet is evolving so it is possible that it can become a pre-decision tool. Time will tell.

Charles P. Walsh, President, OmniQuest Resources, Inc

While I wouldn't say it is an Amazon killer it is a great program. Suspicion/lack of trust has always been a big barrier to purchasing online. it also is a great program for Google to be offering to win additional advertising and to remain at the center of online relevance.

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Joel Rubinson, President, Rubinson Partners, Inc.

This is an excellent plan and program. I am involved in another industry where other companies have attempted this, some successful some not. This will not give Google much of a leg up on Amazon; but they sure beat them to the gate with it.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

As the online pie continues to grow bigger and bigger, programs such as these become more important. The largest downside of e-tailing is the anonymity of the retailer. This goes a long way to solving that problem.

It also is an opportunity for small retailers. It becomes a badge of trust and trial.

The program, however, is not a Sustainable Competitive Advantage as Amazon and others certainly are able to do the same thing (and are doing it without the branding that Google is using.)

Does Google gain on Amazon? Depending on the definition of "gain," will the Google business grow at a faster rate than Amazon? Certainly. Will the Google business challenge Amazon for leadership? Not even close.

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

I think this is a great idea. As the internet becomes more widespread and the barriers to entry keep declining (cloud based services, cheap URL names, web savvy grade school graduates), it becomes more and more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. The legitimate payment systems require online retailer verification, but there are other people who will fake the payment process to collect personal data. These are all reasons why many people still don't shop online except with the largest retailers. Google can give smaller retailers the certification they need to attract wary buyers.

When you really think about it, the organization who should be concerned about this Google service is eBay. One of the reasons people are willing to shop online with eBay is because they feel protected by the eBay platform. This makes them willing to use small retailers because they can easily see the experiences of other buyers.

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Bill Bittner, Principal, BWH Consulting

Yet another trust metric?

Amazon is way beyond the point of needing trust metrics, so any web site of substantial size that believes a Google trust endorsement will help them compete against Amazon or that Google will gain ground on Amazon from it is deluded.

It can definitely help the mom and pops where the average online shopper will recognize Google over other trust services. Likely the phrase "...e-tailers participating in the program voluntarily share data about shipments and enable Google to collect customer service metrics..." is more telling of the big picture from the Google side.

There's been scuttlebutt about Google someday offering SSL certificates for cheap or free. If they do, plus trust ratings, plus ad placement/monitoring, plus analytics, plus Google+, they have a hand in the pot of the entire e-commerce process and monitization opportunities from end to end.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

I find it hard to imagine that Google is doing this purely as a public service. So why do it? Google is amassing gigantic amounts of information on consumers -- including driving past their houses and copying the information off their PCs -- so this new program gives me the creeps.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Short answer -- yes. The key to continuing to influence shoppers is to ensure that the ratings reliable, accurate, and current. Google has some interesting opportunities to create even more influence with some innovative application of technology in their partnerships with other retailers. Wouldn't it be cool to have a Google rating that reliably indicates that your chosen participating local retailer has the product you want in stock for immediate pickup?

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Verlin Youd, Principal, VPY LLC

I admit I have gone back to an ecommerce retailer that I had used previously even though they were more expensive because I trusted them. I believe Google's Trusted Stores program will provide others who have done the same thing the confidence to use new ecommerce sites.

If the program reaches a wide enough audience it may have a small impact on Amazon, but it is certainly not going to be an Amazon killer. Their dominance comes from the entire shopping experience and not just because they are a trusted site.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

This marketing scheme reminds me of my favorite television commercial slogan "Where' the beef?" If a retailer does this, they get a merit badge. If they fail to perform the badge goes away. Most customers just might say "oh well!" instead of "oh wow!" What I look for when selecting an internet purchase is the credit card which insures my purchase against internet fraud. This is the only card I use even when doing business with PayPal. This is where the risk is and what is the largest deterrent in the expansion of the e-commerce markets. And this is what GOOGLE should address to gain loyal followers.

'gjarnoldjr'

I think it's a great thing for long-tail retailers. I think we all know the hesitation that comes from doing business with a company you've never heard of and wondering if you're going to be phished or not. I don't think I'd go so far as to call it an "Amazon Killer" but it should bring a big boost to smaller and mid-sized e-tailers.

Lisa Bradner, Chief Strategy Officer, Geomentum/Shopper Sciences

Recognized trust indicators absolutely influence online purchasing and similar behaviors, and there's every reason to believe this program will be to Google's advantage. In fact, it's surprising that it's taken Google as long as it has to get to this point.

It has been widely measured and established beyond doubt that online consumers respond well to trust indicators that they recognize and know. Trust indicators include seals like the popular VeriSign and McAfee seals along with browser interface components such as the lock icon or the green address bar. In many extensive tests it's been established that indicators like these can increase the transaction rate on a site significantly, usually by more than 10%. The most likely explanation is that online consumers are nervous about being the victims of phishing, malware/virus attacks, identity theft, credit card theft, or other kinds of fraud and that these indicators are something shoppers can use to convince themselves that a purchase is safe.

It stands to reason that the Google name would gain that same advantage as a widely recognized and highly credible online brand. It also stands to reason that in-search trust indicators might cause users to choose one result over another, which will be hugely valuable to retailers if true. Online shopping portals like TheFind and PriceRunner have included these trust indicators for years and report that they increase click rates, and plug-ins like those from Norton, McAfee, and AVG similarly add trust indicators directly to search results in Google and Bing. Again, it's widely believed that these indicators do influence choices in search results. There is every reason to expect that the Google brand name will be effective in influencing results, especially since the brand is so well associated with high quality search results.

Tim Callan, CMO, SLI Systems

It's a good idea, but doesn't it feel 5 years too late? With the lead Amazon has in this space, I think it will be hard for Google to make a big impact.

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Jonathan Marek, Senior Vice President, Applied Predictive Technologies

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