Will your customers say ‘buy’ to Google?

This week, the web has been awash with the news that the world’s default search engine plans to add ‘buy’ buttons to its search results pages.

According to the Wall Street Journal report,  Google will introduce the buy buttons some time in the next few weeks. When shoppers click these buttons, they’ll be taken to a Google page where they can customise their order and select delivery options before completing the purchase. Participating  retailers will have to stump up a little more for each ad that’s clicked and results in a sale, rather than paying Google commission based fees.

The move could help transform Google from a search engine to an ecommerce platform competing with online marketplaces such as Amazon with its 270 million-plus shoppers each month, eBay which reports more than 157 million users, and Facebook (who also announced their own buy button earlier this year).

It’s a controversial step, with many retailers rightly concerned Google’s involvement in the buying process could infringe customer relationships and give them access to valuable sales data.

What you need to know: 

  • It is a paid search only feature and therefore won’t be available on organic search results (for now!)
  • The products will still be supplied and sold by retailers, not Google
  • It’s a mobile only feature
  • As a retailer you will only pay Google’s Advertising fees – no transaction fees
  • Google will reportedly offer several payment options and allow customers to save their payment details for future purchases
  • Macy’s is one of the retailers reported to be in talks with Google
  • Google will reportedly co-brand its order pages and enable customers to opt in to retailers’ mailing lists

The move could help entice large retailers that have resisted Amazon participation but can see the value in reducing consumer friction in the buying process on mobile devices.

This marks the second wave  in Google’s mission to prioritise mobile-friendly customer journeys following the launch of its new mobile-friendly ranking factor algorithm, a shift so perilous for those who aren’t mobile-ready that it’s being dubbed “Mobilegeddon.” Sections of sites owned by Wikipedia, the BBC and the European Union all failed the mobile-friendliness test, the BBC reported last week.

Could their mission of ‘maintaining a mobile-friendly environment’ for its consumers, be a thinly veiled attempt for Google to own the web? Sceptics warn this is just another doomed experiment from the search giant while haters warn that Google is “killing search”. Whatever the outcome, it’s important to weigh up your options before choosing your stance. If customers don’t transact on your site do you risk missing out on that first chance to impress and build a loyal relationship? Will scant product information deliver lower than usual conversion rates compared to your own checkout? Will Google provide retailers with adequate opportunities for shoppers to top up baskets with your accessory bundles and other upsell promotions? How about analytics? – if the customer never hits your website you could lose out on a whole lot of behavioural insight.

Whatever their reasoning, the message from Google is loud and clear; if your site is not optimised for mobile you will suffer. But before you fall into a whirlwind of hysteria, there are some quick wins you can achieve on your site to keep Google and (more importantly) your customers happy. For more advice on how to be more mobile friendly, download our free guide to mobile UX here.