shopping cart at top of hill looking down over Seattle
PHOTO: Kyle Johnson

In March 2018, Google introduced “Google Shopping Actions,” an update to its earlier forays into ecommerce that presents new opportunities and competitive challenges for brands. Google Shopping Actions makes it possible for retailers to list their products across multiple Google platforms, including Google Search, the Google Express mobile app, Google Assistant and Google Home devices, while providing shoppers with a universal shopping cart for all these platforms.

Shopping Actions gives Google a much more direct role in ecommerce. With it, Google is now challenging major retailers like Amazon and Walmart at the checkout level. And while Google Shopping Actions doesn’t replace Google Express, it does make it easier for brands to reach Google users — i.e. most consumers. Here's a look at how Shopping Actions has played out so far for ecommerce brands, and whether it has truly made it easier for businesses to connect with consumers and/or impacted their bottom-line.

Google’s Promise: Fuller Shopping Carts, Greater Customer Loyalty

Google Shopping Actions aimed to ease the friction between product search results and actual conversion. Not only that, but Google has also promised better conversions (i.e. more follow-through on full shopping carts) and greater customer loyalty by putting brands front and center in its SERPs.

Ecommerce SaaS provider Productsup reports that Google has recorded a 30 percent increase in basket size for brands participating in the program. Further, 44 percent of buyers using voice search said they use the channel to buy similar items weekly.

Shopping Actions also gives brands a leg up over alternatives such as Amazon, since it provides access to the customer data for improved customer relationship management — a huge advantage to lay the groundwork for repeat buyers.

The promise for brands participating in Shopping Actions was fuller shopping carts and more returning customers. Any initial results should be compared to this initial promise.

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Major Retailers Are Already on Board

Several brands have said they joined Shopping Actions to up their game in multichannel offerings. Knowing this reasoning is a good indicator of where the program will be of use in the future.

Retail giants have also gotten involved, showing the shift to online shopping continues. Walmart, Target and Costco have been participating in Shopping Actions for several months and in mid-October 2018, Best Buy, Nike and Sephora all announced they would take part in the program.

It's too early to report results for those retailers, but their participation alone is a strong indicator of Shopping Actions’ capabilities. Capabilities that, according to Google, best serve people’s desire for “helpful, personal and frictionless interactions that allow them to shop wherever and however they want."

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Challenges Google Must Overcome

Shopping Actions is in its early days, but Amazon still has a major advantage over Google’s shopping capabilities.

Andy Taylor, associate director of research at Merkle, wrote in Search Engine Land that while the first six months of the program saw meaningful growth, Shopping Actions is a ways off from becoming a full-fledged alternative to Amazon. Besides inconsistent shipping costs and varied fulfillment times, Shopping Actions needs to compete with Prime’s well-established subscription program, which has already conditioned tens of millions of users to check Amazon before any other service.

Brands and retailers need to be aware of these challenges before participating. For some ecommerce companies, the availability of free shipping or reliable fulfillment times are key aspects of their promises to their customers. But Shopping Actions does not yet provide this guarantee for merchants as Amazon’s Prime fulfillment does.

Despite those growing pains, Shopping Actions demonstrates tremendous potential for brands by allowing companies to more seamlessly reach Google’s expansive omnichannel audience.

At this point, the program is by application only and limited to certain categories of products. That application process is complex, too. We may not have all the answers now, but the uncertainty seems to reside more in how successful Google Shopping Actions will be, not if.