The beta program for Google’s new shopping feature, Purchases on Google, is finally live. After being announced back in 2015 it has been in closed beta with some of the world’s largest retailers for two years. Now US retailers can finally sign up, should you be using it?
Purchases on Google is a new offering for merchants which will allow users to buy directly from a product search result. Instead of being linked to your site, visitors will see a “Buy on Google” option. This will take them to a simple product page (with your branding) before allowing them to checkout directly without visiting your site at all.
Currently open as a beta program, the Buy on Google buttons will only appear for Android users who are using Google Wallet – a small but growing proportion of the marketplace. Google are recommending this as a seamless shopping experience but from a conversion rate optimisation (CRO) perspective, will this really improve your conversion rate and what will the impact be on your sales?
There’s very little data available at the moment due to the closed beta. Google have released a few examples from their partner retailers, for example, according to Google, Deckers Brands have seen a 50% increase in the conversion rate of their mobile shopping ads and a 25% decrease in conversion and over the first year of the program, Staples have seen an improvement in ROAS. These are two carefully selected examples, however, so what’s the real impact on conversion for your site?
From a usability perspective, it’s a very compelling proposition. The user can go from search results to a completed order in just three clicks. The product page and checkout are as simple as possible and, as these users all have Google Wallet, payment and delivery details are already prefilled. You can’t really fault the ease for users to make purchases and this may just make the difference for customers, especially on mobile. Its still surprisingly time consuming to enter purchase details on a mobile device and users may be more likely to convert through an experience which almost completely removes this barrier for them.
As a beta tester or early adopter of Purchases on Google, you will have a huge advantage over other retailers that your products will stand out. The Buy with Google button will draw users’ attention to your listings and that attention could easily be converted into a click and purchase. Combining this with the ease of making a purchase through Google’s checkout, early movers are likely to see a lot more volume coming through this route.
For smaller retailers, trust and reputation are a huge challenge. When listed alongside big, brand name retailers, it is difficult to compete, where users often choose a familiar name, even if a competitor offers better prices or service. It can extensive conversion optimisation to demonstrate your reputation well on your site and this gives a quick shortcut to build trust. With Google offering purchase protection and lending its brand to the sale, there’s a high probability that cautious users would choose the product “sold by Google” over an independent seller.
Similarly to selling on Amazon, by getting the benefits from Google’s brand and reputation you give up your own. Although your logo will appear on the product page and Google will allow users to opt into your marketing, fundamentally users will see this as a transaction with Google, not your store. If they want to think about their purchase, they’ll return through Google (not direct) and any future purchases are likely to be made through Google. You may make more sales in the short term, but at the cost of a long term loyal customer.
Currently retailers have a huge opportunity to sell users on the benefits of a product or why they should buy from a particular store. Whether that’s offering a great delivery and returns process, a loyalty scheme, an expert and curated service or a great backstory and history, these are all lost. The impact of these shouldn’t be underestimated. One ecommerce retailer I worked with saw a 16% increase in conversions from highlighting their history and story to customers. Without these tools, price becomes the only comparison point, and results in squeezed margins and a race to the bottom.
As the customer never hits your site, you have no opportunity to give them potentially lucrative upsells and cross-sells. The value of these have been proven by retailers around the world, for example Comscore data shows that 75% of people have added a product to their bag to reach a free shipping threshold. There are so many opportunities to upsell shoppers (with add-ons, more expensive products or volume orders), inspire them with similar items (capturing lost sales where the product wasn’t quite right) and to cross-sell them with other items in your catalogue. A retailer with a focus on CRO will make a significant proportion of their revenue through these routes and by using Purchases on Google you will be giving up this opportunity.
Google will pass customer data back to you and allow you to opt them into your marketing, so the data from your sales is safe, but the real loss is the data and insight you can gain from people who don’t buy. This is some of the most valuable data for improving your conversion rate. By running onsite surveys, using session recordings and examining your analytics data you can build up a picture of why users don’t buy from you and make changes to fix that. If potential shoppers never reach your site, you have no opportunity to learn from them, resulting in lower conversion rates and fewer sales.
It’s very early days but for heavy users of product listings, Purchases on Google is a very interesting development. Like any major change to your site or offering you should run a split test.
It appears that Purchases on Google gives more advantages for smaller retailers than larger ones as the benefits of Google’s brand and purchase protection will be stronger. This is especially true if your purchase funnel is particularly long and complex, or your own data indicates you have a major problem with users dropping out during the funnel. By passing this responsibility to Google, you’ll get a quick fix, however resolving your onsite conversion issues should be the priority.
If you do choose to test the program, it’s important to watch out for any tests being skewed by the early mover advantage. If you are one of the first into the program, your ads will stand out more among others and you may find this increases both clicks and conversions. Make sure you continue to test regularly as the program matures to ensure that your choice is still valid.
Google will promote Purchases on Google as a foregone conclusion for increasing sales, and there are many good arguments for why it may do so, however make sure you have your own justification before joining and continue to test regularly. This space is changing fast and you may find that the results of your early experiments don’t continue as more retailers come on board. Don’t forget the long term impact too – remember you’re building a customer relationship and selling your business and brand to users – not just making a quick sale.
If you’ve used Purchases on Google and seen an impact on sales (positive or negative), please share your experiences in the comments below.