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Keeping Up With Google: What Are Shopping Actions and Buy on Google?

Google dove headfirst into the world of online marketplaces when it launched Shopping Actions in 2018. The program is a universal shopping cart that allows customers to shop for a variety of brands via Google properties like Google Shopping, Google Search, Google Assistant, Google Images, and YouTube.

The goal of Shopping Actions is to create a fast, seamless shopping experience—and potentially even compete with Amazon. Shopping Actions ads appear exclusively in the Shopping tab on the Google SERP and fall under the “Buy on Google” shopping cart icon.

In this article we’ll explore what’s possible with Shopping Actions, the latest updates to the program, and how it might shift your retail strategies.

Release Date:

Google announced Shopping Actions in March 2018. The program combines some features of Purchases on Google, a pilot shopping program launched in 2015 that allowed retailers to sell products on Google, and Pay with Google (now Google Pay), a direct purchasing platform where consumer transactions occurred entirely on Google.

In May 2019 Google announced at Google Marketing Live that Google Express, which hosted Shopping Actions ads, would merge with Google Shopping in the coming months. The merge officially occured in October 2019, with both programs falling under the Google Shopping umbrella.

In July 2020 Google announced a pilot that would remove commission fees for retailers selling on Google. This includes any purchases made through Shopping Actions. Google states that it will remove commission fees for all retailers using Shopping Actions in the coming months. This announcement came after Google in April revealed free product listings on Google Shopping in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 check out those purchases from a single cart on Google’s website. Consumers can shop across Google Search, Google Shopping, Google Assistant, Google Images, and YouTube. Shopping Actions is available to retailers of all sizes in the U.S. and France.

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

Google features Shopping Actions ads prominently within the Google Shopping tab. When a Shopping Actions ad appears on the SERP, consumers will notice the product is branded with a shopping cart icon displaying Google’s colors rather than the retailer’s brand. These are also known as “Buy on Google” listings.

Once a consumer clicks on this ad, they are taken to a Google Shopping product page, which features the retailer’s brand and also displays similar items sold by other retailers that participate in the program. The shopping experience never leaves Google, making it an easy, seamless way for shoppers to discover and purchase products.

As of July 2020 Google is testing a pilot where it drops commission fees for U.S. retailers when a Buy on Google listing is sold. It plans to roll this feature out to all U.S. retailers participating in the program in the coming months.

Google is also making it easier for sellers with Buy on Google listings by adding support for third-party services like PayPal and Shopify. This will help retailers without e-commerce websites advertise across Google and create more sales.

Retailers must apply in order to participate in Shopping Actions and meet specific eligibility requirements. To participate in either Shopping Actions U.S. or Shopping Actions France, retailers must be able to deliver to and handle returns from the mainland U.S. and France. Some product categories are not eligible for Shopping Actions at this time. Visit Google’s Shopping Actions Help Center for more information on eligibility requirements.

Which Channels:

Shopping Actions ads are available on the Search Network, Google Shopping, Google Assistant, Google Images, and YouTube.

What It Means for Your Business:

Shopping Actions is Google’s 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 do 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 results that indicate an increase in conversions, compared to selling on Google Shopping alone, and increased customer loyalty.

The platform also strives to eliminate friction from purchases, 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 reorder regularly.

There are some limitations to Shopping Actions, such as reporting capabilities. Shopping Actions provides high-level dashboard reporting that analyzes 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, and 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.

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. 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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