Google Cloud Seeks To Treatment Retailers’ Search Woes, Assist Compete With Amazon | Search
By John P. Mello Jr.
7/28/2021 4:00 AM PT
Google announced a new service on Tuesday that aims to improve the search capabilities of retailers’ websites that could make these sellers more competitive with Amazon.
Google Cloud Retail Search service hopes to address the harrowing “search abandonment” problem that costs retailers more than $ 300 billion annually in the US alone, according to a study by The Harris Poll on behalf of Google Cloud.
This study also found that 94 percent of consumers worldwide received irrelevant results when searching a retailer’s website in the past six months, and 85 percent said they see a brand differently after having difficulty searching.
“The quality of searches on most retailers’ websites can be improved significantly,” noted Srikanth Belwad, product manager at Google Cloud Group.
“Search abandons are actually a bigger problem than shopping cart abandonments,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
“The industry has traditionally focused on the abandonment of the shopping cart, but it has ignored all of the things that happen before customers get to the shopping cart,” he added.
Deposit when searching
Consumers leave the search when they just can’t find what they’re looking for and either assume a retailer doesn’t have what they need or are simply frustrated and give up, said Connor Folley, vice president of Jungle Scout, maker of a software suite for Amazon sellers in Austin, Texas.
“If customers can’t find what they’re looking for, they are less likely to convert and return,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “so reliable and effective search increases sales and lifetime value.”
Charles King, a senior analyst at Pund-IT, a technology consultancy in Hayward, California, likened the search to window shopping. “An opportunity seems to come up, but it ends without a sale,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
“Of course retailers would like to reverse that,” he said. “More accurate search results could help change these results.
“General web design for retailers can also be an issue, not just poor site search,” added Greg Sterling, vice president of market insights at Uberall, a Berlin-based location marketing solutions company.
Google stated in a statement that Retail Search is drawing on the company’s decades of search experience to convert purchase intentions on retailers’ websites and mobile apps by understanding consumer intentions and mapping them to product inventory.
“It comes down to understanding the intentions of the users and trying to understand what is bothering them,” Belwad said.
Google also found that the service is a fully customizable solution that enables retailers to deliver helpful search experiences, including auto-completion, personalized results, and relevant promotions. In addition, the service’s machine learning search results improve with each query.
The company added that as with all Google Cloud solutions, customers control their data and Google doesn’t use it to improve ad targeting.
“The nice thing about using a service like Google that uses artificial intelligence is that it knows what people are looking for no matter how they phrase their search,” said Rob Enderle, President and Senior Analyst at Enderle Group. a consulting company in Bend, Ore.
“Being able to translate what someone is trying to say into what they actually need is not a trivial exercise, and Google is one of the best at it,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
Artificial intelligence enables Google’s search algorithms to focus on the meanings of words for better results. “Semantic search focuses on intent and tries to get you the product you’re looking for, rather than focusing on a textual match that is often neglected,” explained Folley.
Edge over amazon
With better search results, retailers are hoping to distract some businesses from the internet’s largest retailer, Amazon.
“This service is designed to enable online retailers to get better results for their customers’ inquiries, so they can find what they’re looking for faster and more consistently,” said Folley.
“If these buyers bought from Amazon when they couldn’t find what they were looking for from an online retailer, then Google’s service would enable them to better compete with Amazon,” he argued.
However, Sterling noted that while retail search can provide better product search, happier customers, and increased sales, consumers typically don’t start their product research from a retailer website.
“So I think SEO is just as important, if not more important, to retailers and related programs like inventory feeds,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
“Site search is very important to be sure, but it doesn’t necessarily help you compete better with Amazon,” he said.
“This is yet another ‘Hail Mary’ effort by Google to disrupt its key competitor in a critical industry,” added Josh Crandall, CEO and co-founder of NetPop Research, a market research and strategy consultancy based in San Francisco.
“Google’s dominance in search may have an impact, but the online retail experience is so much more than a simple discovery,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “It’s a very sophisticated CRM experience, and that’s not in Google’s wheelhouse.”
Greetings or not, Retail Search appears to be working the way Google intended, at least as far as one pilot user of the program, Macy’s, is concerned.
“Understanding our customers’ needs and being able to deliver results seamlessly is critical to a great shopping experience,” said Jilberto Soto, director of product management for search at Macy’s, in a statement.
“After a successful pilot that showed improved click-through rates and improved revenue per visit, we are excited to work more closely with Google Cloud to continue delivering the experience our customers have come to expect,” he added.
Retail Search is the latest addition to Google’s Product Discovery Solutions for Retail Suite, which includes Recommendations AI and Vision Product Search.
Referral AI can identify nuances behind customer behavior, context, and SKUs to drive engagement across channels through relevant referrals.
Vision Product Search uses ML-based object recognition and search to provide real-time results of similar or complementary items from a product catalog.
Retail Search is implemented worldwide by the managed service providers Grid Dynamics and SADA.
“With the acceleration of e-commerce and evolving consumer expectations, retailers need access to real-time data to quickly switch and cope with sudden changes in consumer behavior,” said Dana Berg, COO of SADA, in a statement.
“The ability for retailers to offer high quality search in their own digital properties promotes personalization and helps increase conversion rates,” he added.