If you search for something on Google, does that mean you want to buy it? Maybe. At least that appears to be the idea behind buy buttons, a new feature the Wall Street Journal says will start rolling out in the next few weeks.
According to the report, Google will display buy buttons only on mobile devices and when users search for products. They will be part of sponsored (paid) search results within a “Shop on Google” page. Buttons will not appear on non-sponsored results generated from Google’s basic search algorithm.
Clicking on a buy button takes users to another Google product page where the transaction — including sizes, colors, shipping options and more — will be completed. Products will be sold by their original retailers, and stores like Macy’s are said to be in talks with Google concerning the launch.
This controversial move marks a profound shift in strategy for Google, establishing it as a retailer rather than simply a provider of link information driving users to retail sites. And not everyone is applauding. Some retailers have privately expressed concern that they will lose their online identity and be subsumed into the Google brand.
Under the program, Google would continue to allow buyers access to retailers’ marketing programs on an opt-in basis and let retailers collect information on customers, while product pages would be heavily branded. However, Google will save all customer payment information before passing on the retailer’s cut.
Google will continue to be paid by retailers via its existing advertising model, rather than taking a cut of the sales price, unlike Amazon or eBay.
This initiative by Google is precipitated by the uptick in smartphone usage. Searches on mobile devices now outnumber those on personal computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan, according to Google’s research.
➤ Can Google Outsell Amazon and eBay? [Wall Street Journal]