Google Expands Its “Universal Cart” with Shopping Actions


Google announced another key step forward in the evolution of their e-commerce offerings with the rollout of Shopping Actions. The update brings merchants’ Google Express products into voice and search results, and also is the new Google “buy” button, replacing the Purchases on Google program. As we wrote about recently, Google is building a new digital storefront and fulfillment engine for retailers and retail sites on Google Express – “all your stores in one place,” as they say – with 47 retailers and growing, and this is the latest way that Google is building up that digital storefront.

What This Means

  • Express listings will power purchase queries in voice and appear in search: The Shopping Actions update means that Express inventory in addition to Local Inventory Ads will now be the sources of results for voice transactional queries on Google’s Assistant, that powers platforms like Google Home. Brands that opt in to Express will start to be placed alongside Google’s Shopping Ads (Product Listing and Local Inventory Ads) in their sponsored shopping units. The extent to which Express ads will be shown next to PLAs in search results is still “in testing,” according to Google. It is reasonable – particularly for merchants not participating in Express – to assume to that Google will be expanding Express ad placements in search results where Shopping Ads had existed on their own before. This means that Express merchants have the advantage, and that those brands not in Express will have to put even more emphasis on optimizing their Shopping feeds and programs: SEO (titles, descriptions, images), focusing bidding on best-performing products, and fast feed refreshes.

  • Fulfillment Options: Products shown in search results or voice results will all be sold and fulfilled via Google Express retail participants, which notably include Walmart, Target, and Costco.
  • Paid Inclusion Model: Google is shifting its revenue model from pay-per-click on product ads to a pay-per-sale flat commission, which can vary by category. Now, brands opted in to Express will pay only when a consumer makes a purchase, not when they click on the ad.
  • Products Prioritized by User Behavior: At this time, the criteria for when an Express ad will show in the Google search results is based on Google’s AI and machine learning algorithms that determine the relevancy of the product to the query (and user), rather than a bidding element. Brands can now tie their customers’ loyalty program accounts and purchase history to Express which allows for 1-click re-orders and prioritized product recommendations from preferred retailers. According to Google, they are “gathering learnings from the [search results] experiments, but expect to roll this out to more merchants in 2018.”
  • Shopping Data Centralized: All of the management of Shopping Actions listings as well as the analytics on products and sales will be housed in Merchant Center.

Resolution POV

This move certainly incentivizes merchants to sell their products on Google Express, as maximizing product exposure on Google’s search results will now mean inclusion in Express and Shopping Actions in addition to the AdWords-supported ad formats (Shopping, local inventory, text).

Optimizing for organic listings in Google will also be more critical than ever. The update reinforces the need for a strong retail product and feed optimization strategy for any brands that are in Express or looking to start in the program.  Brands in Express are competing with all the other Express merchants, and given that the primary function for product visibility at present is product sales plus relevancy factors, it’s imperative to optimize structured datasets to include robust product data and to incorporate voice search behavior into these optimizations.