Google Updates Shopping for Holiday Belt Tightening

In advance of the holiday season – which may be more tepid this year in terms of consumer spending – Google has launched its latest round of updates to Google Shopping. These include a series of features that more explicitly surface deals and promotions, and otherwise cater to price-sensitive shoppers.

For example, one update features a new promotional badge in shopping search results that’s displayed when a coupon is available for a given product. This scrapes retail-specific deals and relays them to shopping search results. For example, a deal may say “20% off using the code SEASON.”

These are the types of promotions that you often see on a given eCommerce website. What Google is doing here is surfacing those deals more explicitly in search results. This becomes a convenience factor for searchers in that they don’t have to click through to bargain hunt (more on that in a bit).

To be fair, Google Shopping already indicates when items are on sale, but the new promotional badge provides additional emphasis for deal shoppers. It also arms them with the ability to see several retailers in the same aggregated search results, comparing promotions on similar items all in one place.

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Price Transparency

In addition to promotional badges, Google is adding a coupon clipping feature. These two features work together, as users are offered a button to easily copy a given promo code right within the search results. They can then paste it when checking out. It’s a small perk but, again, a matter of convenience and time.

Going further down the list of updates, Google Shopping now also has a deal comparison tool. This lets users cluster like items in the same search results, formatting them in a way that can be easily compared side-by-side. This could be useful for category-level searches like “USB podcasting mic.”

Speaking of side-by-side comparisons, Google is also bringing its price insights feature – previously available in the Shopping tab – to regular search results. This brings in more pricing transparency to indicate how good a given deal is, taking into account historical prices and competitive deals.

Lastly, a new shopping personalization feature is less about belt-tightening and more about customizing results. When it rolls out later this year, searchers will be able to refine product categories (think: “Women’s Department”) that will train and apply to their subsequent search results.

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The R-Word

As noted, this holiday shopping season could be more refined in terms of spending levels. Discretionary spending is down and could decline further as the economy sinks deeper into recession. Whether or not we’re officially in R-word territory, inflation is certainly taking a bite out of consumer spending.

All of this makes Google’s Shopping updates well-timed. Consumers will no doubt hunt for deals more than usual to counterbalance inflation, or to make holiday shopping viable during a time of belt-tightening. In fact, Google says 43 percent of shoppers will hunt for more deals this year versus last year.

For Google, all the above could give its shopping functions a boost. This broadly aligns with Google’s ongoing efforts to provide SERP-level functions that provide more meaning and value than just “10-blue links.” It positions the knowledge graph to address direct user needs and keep people on Google.

We’ll see if consumers’ current price elasticity draws them towards such deal-seeking tools. This is likely the intention, along with the fact that any Google Shopping traction that results in the process could condition permanent user habits. We’ll get to see it in action when the updates launch later this month.

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