Google Shopping for Free

James Hollands

Director at Trust Digital Ltd.

Google Shopping is now free

Google has announced as of April 27th that Google Shopping in the US is now free, and this will roll out globally by the end of the year.  This is a big announcement as for the last 8 years you have had to pay to promote your products in Google Shopping. You may recall back in the day that this service was originally free (remember Froogle?), but it seems that monetising this price comparison tool has not had the desired effect of generating as much income or as many users as they would like. In fact, the reason for this change is the runaway success of Amazon as an ecommerce experience. So, let’s try to understand why Google is allowing free advertising in its Shopping channel.

Why is Google Shopping free?

The answer is simple. Google needs users, its business model requires returning visitors so that the company can show them targeted adverts. And let’s be honest, nobody is better at search advertising than Google. But if everybody stopped using Google services tomorrow their income would dry up, and of course this is a bad thing for them. The returning user is key, with users come advertisers and with advertisers comes income. Google needs a reason for their users to come back, and providing an excellent free service seems to be a good business model, for example, Google Search; Gmail; Android.

So why has Google refocused its eyes on the ecommerce world? 

Two things really.

  1. Is this the start of a breakup?

I’ll use myself as an example. If I wanted to buy something at the moment (May 4th, 2020) my initial thought is not Google. My first thought is opening the Amazon app up on my phone. Here I can research a product using their superb search facility, and I can see what other people think of the product before buying.  Easy. I am also signed up to Prime so I know it will be delivered very quickly. Google’s problem with this is I did not need to use Google. As breakups go, it’s not you Google, it’s me, I found something better. I missed Google out of the equation, hence there was no chance for Google advertisers to target me with their on-point adverts, and definitely no chance that I click on the advert. So, Google does not make a dime.  So Google now needs to address this in-justice and become a player in the ecommerce sphere and take back control (sorry for the Brexit analogy). It’s time to woo users back.

  1. Start of a new norm?

We are all currently cooped up in our homes unless you are an essential worker doing useful things for society. So, the more we get used to staying in, the more we need to scratch that retail itch online. Ordering online and operating online is like second nature now, but COVID has lit the touch paper on ecommerce and buying the internet of everyday things. Google can see this trend pushing people away from its services and now intends to address the balance.

Google’s Shopping project is about to take on a new iteration as it tries harder to muscle in on another companies’ territory and organise the worlds ecommerce all in one place. Don’t get me wrong, for those of you like me currently adverting using the Merchant Center, they will still allow advertising within the shopping portal (just like Amazon do). Google are trying to increase choice for the users and promote its use and re-use. They hope that when you want to buy something online, your first thought will be to ‘Google it’. Just like the good old days.