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Google Shopping Executive Shares Holiday Best Practices

December 6, 2012

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Google transitioned beginning May 2012 from a free search model to Google Shopping, which relies solely on paid Product Listing Ads (PLAs). During a recent webinar titled, "What's Trending Now…Holiday Shopping Report," Jon Venverloh, head of business development and platforms at Google Shopping, discussed that transition, shared search marketing best practices for retailers this holiday season, and shed light on Google Shopping activities and trends. The session was co-sponsored by Channel Intelligence.

More retailers continue to upload merchandise data to the Google Shopping platform, Mr. Venverloh reported, and are "improving the quality of data they're providing to us for their search bids, which in turn is creating an excellent experience for their shoppers."

As of Nov. 15, approximately 100 billion queries per month were being entered into Google, he said. A large portion of those were commercial queries, he said, defined as "a person researching and/or looking to buy a product."

Further highlighting the growing role of Google Shopping in retail, Mr. Venverloh indicated that consumers currently can search one billion products on the platform. In addition, 100,000 retailers now participate in the service, with overall Google PLA traffic increasing 368 percent year-over-year, as of Nov. 11. Furthermore, organizations utilizing PLAs experienced a 500 percent year-over-year boost in sales.

Regarding best practices, Mr. Venverloh's advice for retailers included:

Use the Trusted Store Badge: Google allows merchants to utilize this free endorsement program. Participating merchants display the Google Trusted Store badge on their product listings to showcase that Google endorses them for top-notch customer service.

Make moves in mobile: To increase usage and acceptance of Google Shopping, Google rolled out PLAs to smartphones and tablets, allowing retailers to get more bang for their marketing bucks. Additionally, all retailers that purchase PLAs will be promoted through the Google Shopper app.

Leverage promotions: Through the Google Shopping property, retailers can insert promo codes on specific items as well as the Google "Shop" button, providing a seamless link to their e-commerce sites. This can help increase click-through rates and make offers easier for shoppers to redeem.

Bid up on best sellers: By pinpointing top-selling products during the previous holiday season, retailers can develop lists of "best sellers" and make them top priorities for PLAs. Retailers are advised to analyze patterns in demand and bid higher on key products to win their placement in Google Shopping search results.

Provide quality data: Google Shopping provides consumers with more rewarding search experiences by increasing shopping choices and sifting results by brand, color and size, among other attributes. However, to truly succeed in Google Shopping, according to Mr. Venverloh, retailers must provide accurate and detailed product information.

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:GOOG] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

How should retailers approach the Google Shopping opportunity? What do you see as the benefits as well as the drawbacks of such a search engine application to retailers as well as consumers?

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:

Do you agree/disagree with the statement that Google Shopping is going to provide long-term benefits for retailers in terms of increasing overall sales?

Comments:

This was a BrainTrust discussion some months ago. Essentially, this a way for Google to monetize what was yet another free service, making things more challenging for small sellers. For small businesses that can pay the price of ads and remain competitive, it gives them a little better exposure, but for many, it will mean that they can't afford to compete and will lose consumer visibility.

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

Apparently PLA is the digital version of MDF, shelving fees, Coop funds and other 'funding' definitions used by retailers to extract more cash from brands. I can respect the business model and Google's right to leverage its capabilities and infrastructure, but I do take issue with Mr. Venverloh's assertion that improving the data quality "is creating an excellent experience for their [brand] shoppers." By using PLAs incorporating aggressive and broad description data, brands can buy their way to the top of online searches. Let's not kid ourselves—this is not 'creating an excellent experience' for the shopper as much as it is 'creating excellent visibility and positioning' for the brands that can, and will pay.

As the transition from analog to digital continues, we have experienced how the digital landscape flattens and levels the global commercial playing field and can bring transparency, only to be trumped by commercial interests that tip the scales back to favor large corporations. It brings to mind the old adage—everything changes and nothing changes.

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

This article talks about something way out of my area of expertise, but as a somewhat educated consumer I don't even most of the time use Google as my search engine.

It will be interesting to see what approach other search engines will use moving forward. Will they try to copy Google, or try to present a product that is made to better serve the consumer—not the retailer or distributor?

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Mel Kleiman, President, Humetrics

Adrian nailed it, it's MDF. Certainly given Google's dominance in search, retailers and brands need to be looking at ways to use this advertising vehicle and to lead in product categories that matter to them. Ken is right though, the whole "long tail of the Internet" theory gets blown up as players like Google look more and more like Walmart and Target. I could make a comment about "the more things change..." but it would just make me sound old.

Lisa Bradner, Chief Strategy Officer, Geomentum/Shopper Sciences

Think of this as an online Big Box Store. A consumer might find convenience in the system that Google has created. It is our job as retailers to learn how to best differentiate ourselves from any competitors, be it Google or the store down the street.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Copy it and use the information to maximize their retail environment whenever possible. A smart retailer should be maximizing their online exposure whenever possible in as many ways as possible.

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

I'd like to get hold of a global, comprehensive, clean product library from all this data. Can Google do that? Maybe in time for Christmas?

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Matthew Keylock, Senior Vice President, New Business Development and Partnerships, dunnhumbyUSA

Google is a search engine with a lot of bells and whistles. Consumers use it for lack of imagination or awareness. The web is full of great solutions with little or no sales and marketing capability. Web travelers spend little or no time to learn how to navigate for success. What is still the top referral means is word of mouth stimulated by ease of use and site speed.

'gjarnoldjr'

Google is trying to compete with Amazon. Amazon's real differentiator has been efficient usage of web analytics to recommend deals to customers. Unless Google is able to show value, customers can perceive the search platform to be biased. This can harm the success of search platform in the long-term.

Chandan Agarwala, Manager - Strategy and Research, iGATE Corporation

Great question. I have heard Google characterized as both the retailer's best friend, and worst enemy.

From a consumer's perspective, Google Shopping seems like a very easy, convenient and trustworthy source of online price comparisons. However, what the average consumer might not be aware of is that these are now paid listings, and consequently retailers are selective about which products they post on Google Shopping. As a result, consumers will get the convenience of easy search for products, but will not always get the best deal through the listings in Google Shopping.

On the flip side of the coin, retailers are left in a profit-decreasing dilemma: pay for the traffic and lose margin, or don't pay for it and lose exposure. As always, having visibility on competitive pricing, whether through Google Shopping on on competitors' websites, is the key to identifying the best profit opportunities, and the biggest money-losers.

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Alexander Rink, CEO, 360pi

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