Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have been around for more than a year, but the transition of Product Search into Shopping announced in May brought them to the forefront and put the search engine in direct competition with Amazon. With improvements to Facebook's search and social recommendation Q&A engine, the industry could see another rival to the group.
There's no denying that images attract attention of consumers, and recommendations, price and other information seal the deal. When marketers think about this fundamental shift in paid-search ads, they may want to consider how Amazon continues to do a pretty good job of attracting buyers through recommendations and images. Even if consumers don't make the purchase on Amazon, they still begin their research on the site.
Some believe that Amazon will become the first destination when shopping for goods, rather than search engines. A Forrester Research study released in July estimates that 30% of online buyers begin researching purchases on Amazon compared with 13% on a search engine like Google or Bing. Some 86% of the 4,000 U.S. survey respondents who say they have purchased from a Web marketplace have also shopped with Amazon at some point in the past.
The study also notes that a small but growing percentage of consumers with mobile devices rely on Amazon to research purchases. In fact, 10% of consumers in the U.S. use mobile to search for products on Amazon, compared with 7% in the U.K., and 13% in China.
It's easy to see how on-site search and social networks could take market share from engines like Google and Bing. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg apparently believes the site can do it through recommendations, questions and answers. But along with an improvement in search, Facebook will need to improve ecommerce features. Search for the product on Facebook through a question and get the answers via recommendations from friends. Add ecommerce features on brand fan pages and the model works.
Google will keep pushing ecommerce and PLA ads on its engine. While U.S. merchants had the first opportunity to experience Google Shopping and the integration of PLAs, the product will roll out in Europe, Asia and Latin America next year, according to Sameer Samat, VP of product management at Google Shopping.
Google calls our attention to Adorama, a photo retailer and mail-order supplier, with click-through rates jumping by 176%, and conversion rates by 100% in June 2012, compared with the year-ago month when the retailer first began using PLAs. Then there's Campmor, a recreational equipment retailer that has seen sales increase 10-times between Jan. 1 and the present, using PLAs and Google Shopping. The list goes on and on from Empire Covers to Plow & Hearth to ToolKing.com to TravelSmith Outfitters.