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How Google’s buy button, voice search could make retail sales skyrocket

NEW YORK – Executives at Google’s Retail Leadership Summit 2015 discussed the company’s initiatives for building a more frictionless smartphone shopping experience, including rolling out mobile voice search for shopping and a buy button implemented within advertisements.

In the past year, Google has seen a 115 percent uptick in shopping searches stemming from smartphones around the world, cementing the mobile device’s role as a primary shopping tool. The company’s focus on offering users specific answers to product inquiries, as well as streamlined checkout options, may prompt more retailers to join forces with it and allocate more of their advertising budgets to mobile search.

“What’s been fascinating for me to see across the mobile landscape has been the maturing of mobile business such that mobile is a fabric of everything we do,” said Jonathan Alferness, vice president of product management at Google Shopping Mobile, Mountain View, CA. “Mobile really is center to everything we’re doing at Google.

Retail-friendly outlook
Google is currently piloting a new tool that enables consumers to purchase an item by clicking directly on an ad, thus removing the friction of being brought to multiple sites and needing to enter credit card information during checkout.

Purchases on Google will be displayed after a user inputs an item into search and clicks on an ad, which will bring them to a Google-hosted, branded product page. The company did not disclose which retailers it is currently testing with, but did say it will be rolled out on a greater scale soon once any issues are ironed out.

Shopping advertisers will pay on a cost-per-click basis.

“Purchases on Google emphasizes product, price, and shipping and places less emphasis on the retailer offering the product,” said Dave Reif, architect lead at Dynamit, Columbus, OH. “By placing less emphasis on the retailer Google can help expand a retailer’s customer base by allowing retailers to sell products to customers that may not know the brand or otherwise seek out the brand’s store online.

“All things considered, Purchases on Google is not a substitute for a strong, optimized mobile presence, rather it introduces an additional tool that can be used to encourage conversion on a mobile device.”

Additionally, while Google does offer voice search options, it has expanded the functionality to encompass shopping. Its mobile voice search more than doubled last year, proving its potency.

Consumers will now be able to ask specific questions about products and receive an answer in voice form, thanks to the product attribute cards. Users may ask for product ratings as well, which Google will display alongside snippets from the most useful customer reviews.

Google has also developed an authoritative ranking for top items. For example, if a consumer searches for “best sunscreen,” he or she will be presented with several options that Google believes are the best in its field.

“In the age of validating goods/services through online ratings and review sites, brands now have a new avenue to raise their hand when a customer asks Siri, “What is the best…?” said Beerju Patel, digital marketing manager at Cision, Chicago. “Intuitive suggestions are why Google is synonymous with search, and these new tools will aid in ramping up brand sales in Google’s powerful marketplace.”

The company’s new features are well-suited to driving impulse purchases on mobile. The Google Now price drop card indicates whether a product is being offered at a significant discount after it is searched for, a tactic that may fuel customers to purchase it before the price jumps up again.

“We’re thinking about ways to surface good deals to consumers,” Google’s Mr. Alferness said.

Foreshadowing Android Pay
The executives also discussed how the forthcoming Android Pay mobile payment platform will enable consumers to hold their smartphones up to a contactless payment reader to complete a checkout.

The mobile device will need to be unlocked, but the process will not require any application to be opened. Any merchant or retailer can also add Android Pay to their commerce apps for a one-step payment experience.

While the platform will not be introduced until later this year, plenty of mcommerce opportunities abound for retailers and merchants this summer.

Another executive revealed that 50 percent of back-to-school searches this year are on mobile, up 10 percent from the previous year.

YouTube is an optimal channel for marketers to leverage, particularly when aiming to target a younger audience. Last year, there were more than 240 million related views on content related to back-to-school, with this year expected to see a 140 percent increase.

“More people are engaging digitally in micro moments throughout the day,” Mr. Alferness said. “We’re building our products with this type of behavior in mind.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York