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Americans plan to shop their values and go local this holiday season. Here are Google's tips for reaching them using its Shopping platform.
Summary List Placement Many of this year's holiday shoppers will be swapping aisle browsing for website...Summary List Placement Many of this year's holiday shoppers will be swapping aisle browsing for website scrolling for the first time ever. And many retailers, especially small businesses, will be moving their sales online for the first time, too. In time for the big digital season, Google has made some big changes to its Shopping tab in an effort to make its listings more accessible to small and medium-sized retailers, which could be a huge benefit to businesses as the industry enters its longest holiday shopping season ever. Back in April, Google made it free for all retailers to list themselves on the Shopping tab for the first time. More recently, the tech giant added a "nearby" search filter in September for consumers to find local merchants to buy from. These changes should make it easier for consumers to discover products they want on the Shopping tab. "We felt we needed to make sure that consumers could find the best products, at the best prices, from the best sellers on Google," said Bill Ready, Google's president of commerce, in an interview with Business Insider. "And also to make sure that merchants were able to fully participate, regardless of whether they're a large retailer or a small business." Business Insider spoke with Ready about ways that retailers can build up their online presence on Google Shopping this holiday season, so they can reach customers in a crowded digital marketplace. Be present "Given that there's a much greater number of consumers going online for shopping journeys, first, just be present," Ready said. That's primarily why Google made it free for merchants to get online this year — the company wanted to give merchants the ability to be present online without worrying about cost, while also giving consumers broader search results. Ready explained the easiest way to be discoverable during a crowded holiday season is for retailers to "make sure they're making the full catalog and full set of inventory available, which you can do in the Google Merchant Center for free." Though new retailers who are making the transition to e-commerce for the first time this holiday season might want to focus on making their website sleek and intuitive for customers, Ready said taking the time to upload their products to Google will aid with discovery of their product and shop. "When consumers come to Google — as hundreds of millions of consumers do each day — and search for an item, then they'll be discoverable." Offer flexible pickup options While many holiday shoppers will be testing out online shopping for the first time ever this year, some will still want the option to visit a physical store after shopping online. "You see many consumers starting out their shopping journey online, but then completing it with options like 'buy online pickup in store,' or curbside pickup, or just visiting the store," Ready said. For that reason, Ready said that retailers need to provide various types of purchasing options to online shoppers. It also underscores the importance of having an online presence, even if you plan to keep your brick-and-mortar location open, because so much decision-making will happen during the online portion of the shopping process. "Consumers, even when they're coming to the register in the store, spend time online to know which store is going to have it, so they can spend as little time as possible in the store." Find your local customers As the pandemic has had an outsized effect on small local businesses, consumers have realized that to save the neighborhood shops and restaurants they love, they have to buy from them. Google wants to help shoppers do that. In addition to customers now being able to filter search results to find small businesses, Merchants are also able to specify inventory for each of their stores. So, when a shopper searches for a product online and filters their results for "nearby," they're able to see which local merchants carry the product they want, and plan out where they want to purchase the product. Again, this helps merchants be more discoverable to consumers who might use the internet during the research process, but aim to complete their shopping journey in-person. And for merchants who might be wary of taking on shipping, they can use their online presence to find local consumers who want to buy in person. "Consumers are expressing even more interest in shopping their values," Ready said. "One of those values that has come to the surface is that consumers want to support small businesses and local businesses." He encouraged retailers to make sure all their product information online is up to date so that consumers are accurately informed, whether on Google Merchant Center or their own website. Don't sweat the big-box players Though big-box retailers with robust e-commerce presences like Amazon, Target, and Walmart have fared better during the pandemic, Ready said consumers are interested in shopping brands that are new to them. "We're seeing customers want to engage with more options," Ready said. According to a survey completed by Google/IPSOS over the summer, one-third of U.S. shoppers have purchased from a brand that's new to them during COVID. It's up to the merchant to meet the consumer where they are this holiday season, by making sure they're present online. Even for small merchants who can't launch an entire e-commerce platform this season, making sure they're discoverable during the search phase could introduce them to new shoppers. "The consumer wants to find you," Ready said. "No one really wants to live in a world where there's only one place to buy something,"Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
Ad insiders say retailers like Walmart, CVS, and Instacart are starting to chip away at Amazon's advertising stronghold in the pandemic
Summary List Placement The coronavirus pandemic has led to dramatic shifts in shopping behavior as people...Summary List Placement The coronavirus pandemic has led to dramatic shifts in shopping behavior as people avoided going to physical stores and began buying more online. That's been a boon for Amazon and delivery platforms like Instacart, which launched a self-serve ad platform in May. But traditional retailers like Walmart, CVS, and Kroger have also intensified the competition for advertising with their own ad sales platforms. While Amazon still rules e-commerce, the pandemic marks the beginning of a long-term change that could threaten its dominance of digital retail advertising. John Lods, CEO of digital media-buying agency Arm Candy, said his clients have been frustrated with Amazon's fees and hold on e-commerce and are eager to try advertising almost anywhere else. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for Walmart, CVS, Kroger, and Instacart declined to comment. Big brands are spending more of their ad budgets on e-commerce sites beyond Amazon Big brands like Hershey and Petco said as they've been moving more of their ad budgets to e-commerce, they're spending on platforms beyond Amazon to see how well they perform and diversify their revenue streams. Petco works with Instacart and Shipt, said Darren MacDonald, chief digital and innovation officer there, while Hershey has moved some money from Amazon to Kroger, Walmart, and Target, said Doug Straton, chief digital officer at Hershey. And Straton said the longer the pandemic continues, the more entrenched the shift to e-commerce will be. "Where e-commerce is now as a percentage of the overall business is where we thought it would be, maybe, in two to three years — and that kind of happened overnight," Straton said. Midsize advertisers that fund the top platforms are also attracted to places like Target and CVS But it's the millions of small and midsize advertisers that power the major digital platforms and that have been quickest to try out these alternatives to Amazon, because they can move faster than the CPG giants, ad execs said. "Smaller players can take advantage of new shopping behaviors," Lods said. "Big brands, however, have to approve budgets almost years in advance." John Smith, head of digital marketing at cell phone accessory maker BGZ Brands, said his company was able to quickly move ad dollars to Target and paid social when Amazon restricted the shipment of nonessential items early in the pandemic. He also said BGZ is particularly interested in CVS' site because people often bought his company's products there before the pandemic. Amazon and traditional advertising stand to lose the most Amazon remains the undisputed e-commerce leader, with its market share estimated to hit 38.7% in 2020. But Walmart's e-commerce market share is growing rapidly. And some agency executives think price and loyalty may lead some shoppers — and, consequently, advertisers — to choose it and other retailers over Amazon. "Look at the price on an Apple laptop from Amazon and Walmart; Walmart is going to win nine out of 10 times," said Sam Huston, chief strategy officer at agency 3Q Digital. Advertisers want more for their money too, and Instacart has been particularly effective in delivering on ad spend, said Craig Atkinson, chief client officer at media-buying agency Tinuiti. Atkinson called the e-commerce explosion "another nail in the coffin" of non-digital advertising and said dozens of his clients, which include Seventh Generation and The Honest Co, are experimenting with the new platforms. Only one client has made a significant shift away from Amazon so far. But, he added: "We've just scratched the surface" of the move toward e-commerce.SEE ALSO: The pandemic has thrown a wrench in plans to save the TV business. Industry insiders lay out what they're doing to fix it Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why Pikes Peak is the most dangerous racetrack in America
A top Wall Street tech analyst says Google is 'less relevant' in e-commerce since the pandemic — and it needs to develop or acquire to start gaining ground on rivals like Amazon (GOOGL)
Companies such as Amazon and Shopify have seen huge tailwinds to their e-commerce businesses during COVID-19....Companies such as Amazon and Shopify have seen huge tailwinds to their e-commerce businesses during COVID-19. Not so much for Google. One top Wall Street analyst says it's something Google "needs to address" in the coming months. "I don't know if they have to acquire or develop their way back," he said. A recent internal reshuffle along with some changes to the selling process could help Google in its efforts to claw back in shopping, but it won't be easy. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. While companies such as Amazon, Shopify, and even Facebook have seen huge tailwinds to their e-commerce businesses during the pandemic, Google continues to lag behind. That much was made apparent when the company announced its Q2 earnings last week, revealing an 8% drop in search advertising revenue year on year – and a historic revenue decline overall. Now, Google and analysts have a renewed focus on shopping, but they want to know: can Google catch up? "There's clearly this spike in e-commerce activity – that's what's behind the rise of Amazon, eBay and Shopify – and at some level you wonder is Google less relevant to overall e-commerce than it used to be?" RBC analyst Mark Mahaney told Business Insider. "I think it's something they need to address," he added. Amazon has seen a monumental boost to online shopping during the pandemic,doubling profits to $5.2 billion in the second quarter and exceeding Wall Street expectation by a whopping 600%. Meanwhile, Shopify reported a revenue jump of 97% from a year earlier. "When we have this pandemic-induced spike in online retail, Amazon full participates, Shopify fully participates, and then Google doesn't," said Mahaney. "So it kind of highlights that they're less relevant in e-commerce, I guess that's the clear evidence. That's something to really mull." Google has made several recent notable changes in shopping, which analysts believe could pay off in the coming months. For example, at the end of June, it announced it would make it free for retailers to sell products in search results. Shortly before that, the company shuffled Prabhakar Raghavan – previously SVP of ads, commerce and payments – to the top of a huge internal structure where he'll also oversee search and geo, which could help Google in its efforts to push shopping. In fact, on an investors call last week Google CEO Sundar Pichai said there would be a "long-term focused effort on shopping with the new leadership team," alluding to the benefits of the reorg in the coming months. But it will be a tough battle ahead, particularly going into the holiday months where Amazon will only reap more of the rewards. "I don't know if they have to acquire or develop their way back. And it may be that they just can't," said Mahaney. "They'll always be relevant, they'll just be at the margins slightly less relevant, and they have enough properties that that's ok. That could be the answer." He added: "If you wanted to sell on the internet, you once had to pay Google and it drove a lot of traffic your way. It's less obvious now that you have to pay Google to grow."SEE ALSO: Google's deal for Fitbit faces an EU probe — and regulators who watched the company break a major promise after buying DoubleClick in 2008 Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How waste is dealt with on the world's largest cruise ship