Last week news broke regarding Google’s plan to include buy buttons for mobile devices. These buttons would allow searchers to directly purchase a product from the search engine results page (SERP).
This change is a significant departure, as users are no longer required to follow this process:
Leave the SERP ——–> Go to the retailer’s site ——> Complete the purchase
The details of the announcement further Google’s emphasis that mobile is the platform of the future.
Google has pushed the importance of mobile landing pages, but it can’t force website owners into creating device-specific pages. Even once the device specific pages exist, mobile site development can be hit or miss, depending on the device.
By creating a way to buy within the search engine, Google bypasses this problem entirely. Streamlining the buying process takes work off the searcher and centralizes the buying process.
As this feature rolls out it could also benefit smaller advertisers. By acting as the medium for purchase rather than offering the link, Google offers a tacit level of trustworthiness and endorses the retailer.
However the key to this strategy is rather than just offering relevant search pages, Google wants to ensure it keeps itself as a part of the buying process. Google doesn’t have any major competitors for overall impression share but this should ensure that Google continues to be the premier search engine, offering something their competitors can’t. Most importantly, this change slows the encroaching forces of large ecommerce platforms like Amazon. You might wonder, “is Google looking to become a store?” No, it is not, but this feature is an effort to keep product searches on Google rather than another site.
As Amazon continues to build its own platform, growing numbers of users are starting product research there and then making the purchase. This news is worrying for Google as it makes traditional search engines less relevant in the ecommerce game as well as hurts ad sales.
Retailers may reluctantly, continue to see Google’s interests as being aligned with their own. SERP results at least means competition exists, which won’t happen as much when users use Amazon from start to finish.
Does everyone win? Not necessarily. While streamlining the purchase is great for the consumer the effects on businesses themselves is still unknown. With a nearly instant purchase, the user never directly interacts with the site. On one hand, this could help the smaller retailer’s edge out larger competitors who are able to invest more resources into their sites. It isn’t about the most flash or polish, but rather the best offer.
Although buy buttons are pro–consumer, it reframes the interaction between consumer and seller. By placing the focus on a third party transaction through Google, the opportunity to convert customers on more than just the product is limited. It also limits any upselling. No one wants to advertise for every product they sell. Most businesses focus on creating long term, lifetime value, rather than competing for one sale at a time. By limiting the contact with the brand/retailer, the buyer is less likely to make that connection, potentially decreasing lifetime value forever.