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Keeping Up With Google: What Is Shopping Actions?

Steve Costanza

Google dove head first into the world of marketplaces with the launch of its own Shopping Actions. This universal shopping cart allows consumers to shop across a variety of brands within the Shopping Actions environment, which spans Google Express, Google Search, and Google Assistant. The goal is to create a fast, seamless shopping across Google properties, and potentially, even compete with Amazon.

While large retailers like Target, Ulta, and Walgreens have signed on with Shopping Actions, the channel is still fairly new and untested. In the following installment in Keeping Up With Google, a series dedicated to bringing you the latest updates on Google Ads, we’ll explore what’s possible with Shopping Actions and how it might shift retailers’ strategies.

Release Date: Google announced Shopping Actions in March 2018. It combines some of the features of Pay on Google, a direct purchasing feature where consumers transact entirely on Google, and Google Express, Google’s online marketplace and shipping service. Pay on Google was sunset just before the release of Shopping Actions.

What It Does: Shopping Actions is Google’s universal, single-cart shopping solution. It empowers shoppers to purchase from any retailer that participates in the program, like Walgreens, Ulta, and Target, and checkout those purchases from a single cart on Google’s website. Consumers can shop across Google Express, Google Assistant, and Google Search.

Google Express is Google’s online marketplace and fast delivery service. It features several retailer storefronts, many of which offer free, same-day shipping if consumers meet the retailer’s shipping threshold. Consumers can shop using the Google Express app or website.

Google Assistant, Google’s voice technology, is also linked to Shopping Actions. Consumers can add to their Google Express cart or checkout items using Google Assistant on smart devices like Google Home.

Google features Shopping Actions ads prominently within search, and seems to favor them in search engine results page (SERP), where they often appear in the top spot. When a Shopping Actions ad appears on the SERP, consumers will notice the product is branded with “Google Express” rather than the retailer’s brand. Once a consumer clicks on this ad, they are taken to a Google Express product page which features the retailer’s brand and also displays similar items sold by other retailers that participate in the program.

Google charges Shopping Actions partners a commission when a product is sold. That commission is a percentage of the total sale price and fluctuates depending on the specific partner agreement. This a significant shift from the CPC model retailers have come to know in paid search and Google Shopping.

Retailers must apply in order to participate in Shopping Actions. Currently, the program is available only in the United States. Shopping Actions is not available for customizable goods, vitamins/supplements, final sale items, refurbished goods, pre-order items, gifting, automotive, or any category that violates PLA policy.

Which Channels: Shopping Actions ads are available on the Search Network, Google Express, and Google Assistant.

What It Means for Your Business: Shopping Actions is Google’s first foray into online marketplaces, and potentially, a real competitor for Amazon. The difference between Shopping Actions and Amazon is that Google does not promote private label products within its marketplace. Therefore, Shopping Actions partners will not face direct competition from the marketplace owner, as they do on Amazon.

Shopping Actions is also a way for retailers to leverage Google’s omnichannel reach and place their products in front of a wider audience. Google has published early results which indicate an increase in conversions, when compared to selling on Google Shopping alone, and increased customer loyalty.

The platform also strives to eliminate the friction to purchase, with solutions like 1-click reordering and personalized recommendations based on past orders. Many of the products listed on the marketplace are consumables which shoppers must reorder regularly.

There are some limitations to Shopping Actions, though. Not all retailers are eligible to become a Shopping Actions partner, and currently the platform primarily sells products from enterprise retailers like Walmart, Target, and PetSmart. This may change as the program expands to more retailers and gains greater adoption.

Reporting is also limited, compared to the insights retailers receive in Google Shopping and paid search. Shopping Actions provides high-level dashboard reporting that analyze retailers’ data at three levels–all stores and fulfillment centers, a single store or fulfillment center, or a product and top product categories. These dashboards include data on average order value, average number of items per order, sales, fulfilled orders, lost sales, fill rate, and more.

Retailers who are not a part of Shopping Actions may experience increased competition from these ads within Google Shopping. That may place more pressure on retailers to join the marketplace.

Shopping Actions is still in its earliest days. Google continues to test new ways to expose consumers to this environment on the SERP, and is refining how it balances Shopping Actions ads with Google Shopping ads. Retailers should watch this space carefully to see if consumers adopt the new marketplace and if retailers see the level of revenue gains that justify adoption.

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