News

POV: Google Goes “Buy Button” Crazy

Mindshare Point of View

Introduction

April 2015 saw what advertisers called “Mobilegeddon”. Google found a smart way to communicate the importance of going “mobile” by boosting mobile-optimized sites in its mobile search results. Google has now announced that it is going to add a “buy button” to search results on mobile devices, where the majority of product searches currently occur.

Details and Implications

Allowing for financial transactions within advertising platforms is becoming a popular trend across many publishers. For instance, Facebook just announced the creation of a “buy-sell platform” and Amazon has enabled handles-payment via Twitter. Google is rolling out its own “buy buttons” that appear under a sponsored section with a “Shop on Google” heading. Users can now search for products on mobile devices and click straight into the brand product page (within Google) where they can configure a product and purchase it.

Google hopes this will have a significant impact in increasing its mobile search business. Adding a transactional feature could revolutionize online users’ shopping habits, and push the search engine to occupy a huge space in the growing e-commerce territory despite the business model being very different from Amazon; Google won’t stock inventory, and users will buy straight from retailers or brands with the search engine not taking a commission on the transaction.

Google will also be privy to a plethora of additional information on buying behaviors and sales, with this additional insight having the propensity to benefit advertisers. Companies selling online could benefit by enhancing and accelerating the current user journey, which can involve complex Web site navigation. A buy button would allow users to make instant purchases within the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) thus delivering an experience that could potentially be seamless, more consistent and faster. A buy button will also help marketers better correlate ROI without going through the process of tag deployment; sales will be directly attributed to search ads, although marketers must be wary of a “lack-click wins” attribution model that gives Google full credit for the purchase; previous exposure to other content and ads may have played a significant role.

There are other potential issues that may damper some of the excitement over the new model. For example, a simpler and more direct consumer journey may result in some brands losing control and a long-term relationship with the consumer as a visit to a Web site or application enables brands to establish a direct on-going relationship with the customer, often by dropping a cookie for future re-targeting and communications.  Personalized experiences as well as cross and up-selling could potentially become more challenging without such data. Physical retailers may fear an increase in “showrooming” with consumers comparing prices and products on their mobile phone via search, and potentially buying the product at a lower costs via another online retailer.

Google has responded to some of these concerns by giving shoppers the choice to subscribe to a brands’ marketing program (e.g., CRM programs). In addition, Google promises that the product landing pages will be heavily branded and will provide links to more of products and services to encourage cross and up-selling as we well as visits to the brand hub.  

Summary

With more users beginning their product searches on a mobile device, Google is always looking for ways to improve the mobile purchase experience. The insertion of a buy button could upgrade the current “shop on Google” experience, and shorten the path to conversion. Whereas this seems like a logical next step towards increasing efficiency of operations (yielding many benefits), it could disintermediate a brands on-going data on and relationship with the customer, not to mention encouraging greater “showrooming” in physical retail spaces.  

Google has also announced plans to add a buy button to ads on YouTube in the coming months. This development will support the growing number of searches for how-to videos, product reviews, and other brand videos on YouTube and will allow marketers to send site visitors from their product channels to their retail Web sites to purchase products.  Early tests with Wayfair and Sephora have indicated a strong interest and an increase in sales.  The YouTube and search enhancements are yet another indication of Google’s efforts to become the ultimate ROI partner in advertising.