Google will now allow any business owner that is selling products online to list their inventory for free.
Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, whether or not businesses advertise on Google. Businesses are struggling to reconnect with consumers, and many cannot afford to pay for search or display advertising.
Bill Ready, president of Google Commerce, in a blog post cited the coronavirus pandemic as a catalyst to speed up a pre-existing plan to switch from Shopping results being determined by paid ad auction to mostly free listings.
As consumers increasingly shop online, they are searching for more than essentials. They are looking for toys, apparel, and home goods as stay-at-home orders remain in place.
Baird Equity Research Analyst Colin Sebastian describes this “hybrid model” as “familiar” to merchants and brands that already advertise on Amazon and other online marketplaces.
“Google Shopping search results will now consist of organic (free) listings derived from product feeds provided to Google from merchants, and similar to traditional search results, these free listings will accompany paid shopping ads at the top and bottom of Google Shopping pages,” he wrote in a research note published Tuesday.
The move will give Google access to significantly larger numbers of product listings and information, which should improve the relevance of shopping search results vs. the current paid-inclusion model, Sebastian wrote.
Google may sacrifice some near-term revenue, but the changes will help the company compete better with Amazon, he explains.
It also will “improve the utility of other Google 'surfaces,' driving more engagement with apps and services such as Home and Assistant, Auto, Maps and local search,” he wrote.
For advertisers who can afford additional support, this means paid campaigns can now augment a free strategy.
Since 2012, Google has required merchants to pay to list their products. Today’s announcement makes Google Shopping more accessible to companies, especially brick and mortar stores that have been forced to temporarily shut down. Advertisers have been waiting for a break. Apparently it’s coming now.
Google also announced a partnership with PayPal to allow merchants to link their accounts, which is intended to speed up the onboarding process.