Google to build search engine to help retailers

LONDON – Google plans to build an e-commerce search engine allowing retailers without an existing online presence to sell and market their goods to a wider audience.

The US-based search engine proposes to expand Google Base, a database service still in development, into an online platform through which retailers could access the hundreds of millions of Google users.

Google said it wanted companies to submit details of their goods and prices and the information would then be indexed and packaged into the search engine, giving its users a virtual supermarket across a number of retail brands.

The move reflects internal research that found that many leading European retailers had not signed up to their own internet operations or did not feel they were competitive enough online.

Nikesh Arora, head of Google's European business, said: "Far from being at war with each other, online and offline sales channels can and do complement each other. 

"With the significant further increases we will see in the number of consumers who are comfortable using the internet, retailers in Europe's biggest markets need to embrace this reality if they are to optimise customer satisfaction, sales and ROI."

He added that the service would be aimed at firms without an existing online presence or ones looking to make their service more competitive.

The initiative comes as Google publishes findings from a research project undertaken by Forrester Research among major multichannel retailers in the UK, France and Germany. The research shows that while European retailers positive about online most are still failing to take advantage of the bigger opportunities that ecommerce offers.

The research estimates that in France, Germany and the UK, 14% of total European retail sales will happen online by 2011 with consumer sales growing from 2005's €37bn to €177bn.

The launch of Google Base will see the search engine move into direct competition with existing online retail services and is similar to initiatives already offered by Amazon and eBay.

Marks & Spencer, US discounter Target and US bookseller Borders have contracted out their online operations to Amazon.

Google Base has been organised as a collection of databases and the US firm has yet to specify its intentions for the product.

If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum.