Google Has No Plans to Become a Retailer
If you’ve visited Google Shopping recently, you might confuse the search giant for a retailer. At the top of the Shopping page, a photo shows a snowboarder floating down a mountain on a clear blue day, directing consumers to a page where they can compare the lastest ski equipment. Another link sends consumers to a Garnet Hill catalog, where they can see an electronic copy of the print version that normally clogs mailboxes. A deeper dive into the Shopping experience reveals that some of the product pages have a blue button in the top right-hand corner that could easily be mistaken for Amazon’s “Add to Cart” yellow button.
Despite these visual cues, said Sameer Samat, Google Shopping’s VP of product management, in an interview with AllThingsD, the company has no aspirations to open a store. “We aren’t planning on being a retailer,” he said. “We don’t view being a retailer right now as the right decision.”
Behind closed doors, some have wondered if Google was building up the infrastructure before making the move into selling physical items. Along with the updates to the site, another recent announcement that got people chatting was when Google announced last month that it acquired BufferBox, a locker service where consumers can safely pick up packages.
Samat said that BufferBox had nothing to do with becoming a retailer; it was about helping other retailers to become more competitive.
“We are trying to provide a level playing field for retailers,” he said, adding that there are some companies that have managed to do both tech and retail well. “How’s the rest of the retail world going to hit that bar?”
Of course, one of those companies is Amazon. The technology powerhouse has been working for almost two decades at building out the infrastructure to store merchandise all around the world. It has also built a first-class consumer-facing business that sells and distributes nearly anything you could need, as cheaply as possible.
To compete, retailers — and especially brick-and-mortar companies — are faced with either investing heavily in technology or teaming up with a technology partner like Google. At least, that’s Google’s pitch: “I think it’s great that Amazon and others, like Rakuten, are upping the bar,” Samat said, but Google is just trying to partner with retailers to “create a level playing field.”
Over the past year, the Google Shopping team has been busy adding improvements to the site.
This summer, Google completely overhauled its shopping experience. While the move has remained fairly below the radar for consumers, it has been very controversial among merchants. In fact, Samat jokes that at some point he’ll receive “The Least Popular Dude” award.
That’s because in the new system, retailers must pay to ensure that their products show up within Google Shopping. Previously, merchants could upload their data feed for free. This is the first holiday season in which retailers have had to pay to participate, and despite the service being so new, many retailers are reporting good results.
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