Google has confirmed it is bringing a ‘buy button’ to its search results on mobile, in an attempt to smooth the path between consumers looking at a product online and actually buying it. It’s thought the button will appear on paid product listings.
Over the last year Google has been working on its e-commerce and retail-specific offering, with Google Shopping, Trusted Stores and Local Inventory Ads all achieving traction among top online retailers.
Part of the mechanism behind these products involves a strict set of data feeds being passed from the retailer to Google: product listings, colours, prices, stock status. Trusted Stores even requires delivery confirmations and return rates.
With all this data about inventories, it's not surprising Google wants to get involved with the transactions too. A buy button on search results for product specific searches lets Google solve several problems for both users and retailers, albeit with a few difficulties.
Better conversion rates
Brands will love the promise of improved conversion rates. Every click required to make a purchase reduces the number of people who will complete that purchase, so removing that funnel altogether helps retailers sell more items.
That's especially true on mobile where users are still reluctant to add credit card details, either for security or convenience reasons.
Google’s recommendation engines also mean the user experience is potentially as slick as on Amazon. The payment and delivery details can sit in Google’s online checkouts service, Google Wallet, which anyone who has bought an app or other content from the Play Store already uses.
Losing the customer relationship
But buying directly from Google means consumers potentially don’t visit retailer sites, reducing customer stickiness. It also means Google has access to data about the customer that a retailer doesn’t.
Another disadvantage is that Google’s listings simply can't represent every feature of a product. Without the detailed descriptions, reviews, related products, specifications, photos and other information available on a retailer's own site, it can be tougher to make an impulse purchase decision, potentially reducing people's willingness to buy.
This points to a strategic play for Google that is similar to Facebook's recent moves. Facebook is working to act as a platform for partner brands' content, and Google is working to act as a platform for partner brands' transactions. In both cases, the user sees a faster and more consistent mobile web experience, but reduced interaction with brands.
This all points to a future where major online brands no longer have a web presence of their own. With content spread across Facebook, YouTube and Medium, with transactions on Amazon and Google, and with a consistent brand across all those platforms, maybe owned media properties are no longer necessary.