Google has announced the availability of its Commerce Search offering, a cloud-based tool intended to enhance the accessibility of retail websites and increase conversion rates. Yet again the company is stretching into areas that mainstream software vendors have thought their own territory. Whilst this is a logical extension of its existing platform, given other recent activity this clearly indicates that Google does not wish to be dependent upon Internet advertising revenues in perpetuity. Unfortunately for Google, the current lack of functionality and relatively high price mean this is not yet a market-disrupting product.
The Google effect
In the middle of October Google announced that its Android 2 mobile operating system would provide not just location services on a mobile phone but directional services as well, effectively a free alternative to satellite navigation. The shares of two of the leading satellite navigation device providers, TomTom and Garmin, dropped on the following day. However, those vendors providing in-house e-commerce search solutions need not panic about Googles Commerce Search just yet but they do need to watch out and up their game further to fend off this potential threat to their revenues.
Moving beyond advertising
When the new Microsoft Internet search engine, Bing, was launched in June 2009 it came ready to promote sales in four areas Shopping, Local, Travel and Health and Ovum commented then that Google would also need to take action if it was to maintain its Internet advertising revenues in these areas.
By providing its e-commerce service, Google has effectively leapfrogged the Bing proposition because, if successful, those pages on e-commerce sites that people are directed to by the offering will automatically increase in the results rankings of google.com.
Supporting e-commerce is also an important avenue for many enterprise search vendors, with the most notable in this environment being Endeca, with its guided navigation facility providing dynamic filtering of results a feature that also appears in Commerce Search. The Commerce Search product appears to be an iteration of Googles existing Site Search offering, but provides enhanced support for navigation via images.
Google is touting the power of its data centres for handling traffic spikes such as seasonal surges or increases in demand after promotions. It is also offering sub-second response times as a differentiator for Commerce Search. Furthermore, Google Analytics, or reportedly any other analytics product, can be used to measure conversion rates and sales.
Much of the functionality of Commerce Search can be seen on www.google.co.uk/products, and retailers that are already providing information to the site via this route can have their products put into Commerce Search through the same feed. FTP transfer is also an available feed mechanism. At launch Google stated that Commerce Search was live on 20 customer sites.
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