What is Google Shopping for online shoppers?

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Google Shopping presents both pros and some cons for online shoppers

Google has announced that is transitioning from Google Product Search to a “purely commercial model” called Google Shopping. 

According to the Google Commerce blog, the transition will be complete this autumn. While Google touts the new Google Shopping as a boon to shoppers everywhere, the cost to merchants and the search limitations have some wondering: “Why fix what wasn’t broken?”

New Features

One of the big changes is that Google Shopping will not merely index the Web but will provide the search result data and will allow shoppers to research purchases, and compare products. Consumers can also search by a products features or by price.

According to Google Commerce, “We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date.” Google asserts that this “commercial relationship” will result in better information for the shopper, including more up to date prices and better offers.

Merchant Benefits

Since merchants must now pay for something that had been free, Google has offered various “benefits” in order to entice merchants to sign up (and pay for) inclusion in the Google Shopping program. 

Merchants who create a “Product Listing Ad” by August 15, 2012 will get a monthly credit for ten percent of their totally Product Listing Ad spent through December 31, 2012. Merchants may also be eligible to receive a $100 AdWords credit, as well as other rewards. 

Whether this will be incentive enough for merchants to pay for inclusion in the Google Shopping Program remains to be seen.

The Google Seal of Approval

Google has also implemented its “Trusted Store” program, which is free to both merchants and consumers. The program offers assistance to customers in resolving problems, and it offers purchase protection of up to $1,000 to shoppers who buy from Trusted Store merchants. 

However, merchants do have to provide tracking, order and pricing information to Google in order to participate. Some have speculated about what Google will do with this valuable information and whether merchants will be willing to hand over this data over.


Another difference with the new Google Shopping is that it functions as a comparison shop engine; to increase its usability, Google has begun to experiment with different commercial formats. 

Shoppers can expect larger images and the ability to shop by brand or product type. The new formats appear in the space where AdWords would normally be located and are labeled “sponsored.” While some of these changes could well result in a better searching/shopping experience, there are some serious limitations surrounding product inclusion which have drawn sharp criticism.


According to some merchants and consumers, Google Shopping is unrealistically restrictive. For example, all gun and ammo sales are banned by Google Shopping.

In fact, Google Shopping bans several classes of products under their “Unacceptable Products Categories," which includes not only guns and ammunition, but also vehicles, knives, tobacco/cigarettes, and alcohol, among others. Several limitations are also placed on the service industry, as Google Shopping prohibits the promotion of event tickets, service subscriptions (including magazine subscriptions) and online courses. In addition, only fixed priced items may be submitted for inclusion on Google Shopping. This means that auction items are not permissible.  Some merchants and consumers have already begun a vocal dissent of these restriction.

Despite its limitations and restrictions, Google Shopping will soon be fully implemented. 

Merchants and consumers alike will need to adjust to the changes. Whether Google Shopping is the future of on-line shopping … or a Goliath to the small mom-and-pop store’s David … remains to be seen.


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