Google never fails to keep e-commerce marketers on their toes. We’ve written about many Google updates, especially those affecting its search engine results page (SERP).
And recently spotted is yet another (potentially game-changing) update: a scrollable carousel of graphics that act as interactive search filters atop the SERP.
Based on Google’s recent moves, we’ve been anticipating this new introduction to the Googleverse. And, full disclosure, I am pretty excited to see it live. Here are a few reasons all e-commerce pros using Google Shopping ads should be excited, too.
Carousel Search Filters in Action
For a handful of broad search queries, Google is now testing a scrollable carousel of related images that prompt the user to refine her search further. Here’s a look at one instance of carousel search filters for the query “beach clothes”:
Clicking an image will display relevant search results, along with Shopping or text ads, for the product or item:
It’s worth noting that carousel search filters appear to be in the very, very early beta stages. We noticed that the results returned for “cycling clothes” are a little, well, off …
Though cyclists do wear tights and legwarmers on cold rides, I doubt the fashion-first versions pictured above would satisfy serious peddlers.
While Google irons out the wrinkles in its image recognition system and possibly makes scrollable carousel search filters a regular presence on its desktop SERP, let’s consider what the feature means for e-commerce retailers.
Google’s Role in Product Discovery
So far, we’ve only seen the filters on desktop searches for broad categories of apparel. This makes sense: Apparel is a wide market segment. We’ve also seen apparel retailers enjoy considerable success with Google Shopping ads.
More importantly, apparel is the perfect proving ground for Google to beef up its role in product discovery. It’s no secret that Google challenges Amazon to be consumers’ go-to destination to discover new items. Likewise, it’s no surprise that it would introduce a feature like this to better compete.
With verticals such as electronics or sporting equipment, consumers often have a product already in mind when they begin their searches. With clothing, consumers are often seeking inspiration for new outfits or wardrobe items. (How else would I know I needed an aloha shirt for the beach?)
Google’s already made big leaps in product discovery with the introduction of Showcase Shopping ads. But Showcase Shopping ads are a paid ad unit, which requires retailers to configure a suite of product images and set a bid. Not to mention, they are currently available only for a few select retailers.
It’s no secret that Google challenges Amazon to be consumers’ go-to destination to discover new items. Likewise, it’s no surprise that it would introduce a feature like this to better compete.
Conversely, the carousel search filter appears to be advertiser-agnostic. And while clicks to any ads that result from the carousel filter will ultimately be paid, Google does not require a CPC bid for those ads to appear as results once a searcher clicks the carousel.
If carousel search filters become a regular feature, they will allow e-commerce retailers of all sizes to enjoy the benefits of enhanced product discovery on Google’s SERP.
Finding The Way
The second benefit carousel search filters deliver to retailers could be more valuable clicks to paid Shopping ads.
In the text ad universe of yesterday, retailers running ads for broad keywords like “beach clothes” could direct shoppers that clicked an ad to a category or brand page with multiple products. From this landing page, shoppers would naturally click deeper into the retailer’s site. Clicking the back button once or twice would keep that shopper on the retailer’s site.
In today’s world, where Google Shopping ads predominate, those paid clicks take shoppers to a specific product landing page. There are ways to make those landing pages stickier and more engaging, but if a shopper is only one click deep, there’s no way to prevent her from leaving your site if they hit the back button.
By prompting consumers to refine their searches before clicking on a Shopping ad, Google is delivering an experience more akin to traditional shopping, where shoppers can browse freely before choosing an item.
If carousel search filters can help shoppers settle on what they want before clicking a Shopping ad, e-commerce retailers can look forward to lower bounce rates and higher conversions.
The Right Use of Data
While Google’s hunger for user experience data gives some critics pause, carousel search filters are an example of the right way to use data. Google’s SERP is a fixture of our daily lives, and the company is clearly taking steps to improve the experience for all types of users.
Over time, clickable search filters will help Google display the most relevant results for each searcher. And for retailers counting on Google Shopping ads to deliver sales, this improved search experience is a surefire winner.
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