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Ready to Ride the Google Shopping Carousel?

Steve Tutelman

It’s not often I get to say this, but here goes: I called it. No, not the two-year contract the Eagles offered quarterback Sam Bradford earlier this month (didn’t see that one coming).

I’m talking about the latest feature Google is testing: Desktop Google Shopping results can now include a scrolling carousel, similar to the one seen in mobile search results.

Should the update become permanent, it will mean one more variable for e-commerce marketers using Google Shopping to consider. To lend a hand, here are some thoughts on the feature.

Keep on Scrollin’

When Google decided to ditch right-hand text ads and align the desktop SERP more closely with its mobile counterpart, I felt this change was imminent.

Google wants to improve the shopping experience for its users, and increase the returns for retailers and other advertisers. One way to do this is by giving shoppers more choices and retailers more ad inventory. It’s an obvious win-win, and it looks like my prognostication was correct. (I promise, no more gloating.)  

We hunted down an example of this specimen in the wild:

Google Shopping Scrolling Carousel

Just like on mobile, searchers can click on the arrows to scroll through a stream of relevant products. With more choices, consumers will have a better chance of finding something they want.

It will be interesting to see how consumers react to this update when and if it starts showing up more. How many shoppers will use the feature? Will they scroll through all of the options and then return to the first four or five? What queries will trigger the scrolling carousel?

It’s still quite early, and this is only a test, after all. However, the scrolling carousel will mean a few things for retailers if it becomes a permanent fixture on the SERP:

1. Google Shopping will continue to provide more exposure — and ROI — for retailers. It seems like there’s a new example of Google Shopping’s dominance every week, from its strong showing during Holiday 2015 to PLAs’ current monopoly on the right side of desktop searches. A scrolling carousel would morph PLAs into an interactive experience that lives on top of Google’s organic desktop search results. If this happens, look out for even more competition from retailers piling into the channel.

2. The so-called “page one” of Google Shopping results will become more attainable. Instead of vying for one of four to eight spots on the first page of Google’s desktop SERP, retailers could one day be competing for one of fifteen or more spots in a scrolling carousel. This should delight marketers and customers alike.

A scrolling carousel feels more like window shopping than actually entering a store. Casual shoppers will appreciate this relaxed experience, and retailers will be happy to catch the eye of even more prospective customers.

3. Differentiators — namely price, vendor reputation, and strong imagery — will really stand out. A scrolling carousel of products makes Google Product Listing Ads look less like search results and more like outputs from a bonafide comparison engine. E-commerce marketers who wish to capture comparison shoppers’ brief attentions might consider lowering prices, becoming a Google Trusted Store, or paying more attention to the images that accompany their PLAs.

It would be premature to make any definitive predictions about this change, but it’s clear that Google is exploring new ways to increase the click-to-buy ratio of PLAs. And the scrolling carousel feature has something to offer diehard and comparison shoppers (more choice) and casual consumers (lightweight experience) to advance that goal.

If the carousel does become permanent, it will complement Google Shopping’s ultimate mission of showing the right product to consumers. Retailers marketing in the channel can look forward to more innovations like this one increasing the likelihood that those products will be theirs.

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