Retailers looking to capture and engage the attention of online shoppers through ‘micro-moments’ within search, will be excited by some announcements coming from Google HQ this week. Most intriguing is the launch of product listing ads within Google image search, which had been spotted in testing last year, but has just officially just landed. Google hopes the feature will make it easier for shoppers to find products and services they would like to buy in SERPs directly. “Whether they’re looking for a new sofa or the perfect pair of earrings, people who search and shop on their smartphones at least once a week say that product images are the shopping feature they turn to most,” says Vice President for Google Shopping Product Management, Jonathan Alferness, within a blog post. “And it turns out, the top questions Google Images users ask us are ‘What’s the price of this?’ and ‘Where can I buy it?’” On mobile, the ads will feature within a scrollable carousel located above the organic image results. The new feature is part of Google’s Search Network, so Product Listing Ads (PLAs) will automatically show if marketers have their Shopping campaigns opted in to Search partners. According to Google, mobile shopping searches have increased by 30% in the last year. In 2016, 34% of online retail purchases in the US are happening on mobile. “And it’s not just the purchases themselves. It’s the explosion of ‘I-need-some-ideas,’ ‘which-one’s-best?’ and ‘I-want-to-buy-it’ micro-moments happening on Google that lead to those purchases,” Google explains. The PLAs within image search will help to inspire shoppers in the moments when they are searching for inspiration. The visual format has the potential to be highly effective, not just for online retailers but also local bricks-and-mortar businesses. What this means for retailers is that the quality of their PLA images has never been more important. Getting them right could be enough to turn a click into a sale. Including an image for every product, and all of its variations, is a must. Google is looking for full-sized images, with an upper limit of 4mb.
Making local business ads more useful
Google has done much in the past year or so to bolster search for local businesses, and in addition to the above announcement, it has also integrated a “store pickup” link for retailers using local inventory ads (LIA). This option will appear on the local product landing page hosted by Google and will enable shoppers to buy online and collect at a store. US department store Kohl’s, a participant in the store pick-up pilot program, apparently saw a 40% to 50% increase in clicks from its Google local storefront to the Kohl’s website with this feature. Additionally, businesses or retailers running local ads can now also allow users to check whether the items they want are in stock in local stores. This information will sit in the local Knowledge Panel, alongside store opening hours and directions, etc. It’s clear from these developments that Google plans to play a big role within the mobile shopping explosion. It won’t be long before these sales are taking place through Google direct, making it even easier for mobile users to buy on impulse. These announcements are just the tip of the iceberg. Local businesses and retailers need to keep abreast of these changes, to ensure they don’t miss out.