In response to the coronavirus, Google has opened up its Google Shopping platform to businesses for free. Historically, the only way a business could get its products to appear in this high-visibility part of Google was to buy search ads. Now that the coronavirus has led businesses everywhere to struggle to remain open, Google has made this offering part of its efforts to help smaller businesses survive.
Search results on the Google Shopping tab will now consist primarily of free listings so that merchants can reach consumers without having to pay for the exposure. Google notes that it gets hundreds of millions of shopping searches each day, so this is a significant opportunity.
Google notes that this change also means that more products from more stores will show up in its shopping results. Advertisers who are used to paying for this exposure can now augment their paid campaigns with free listings, the company advises.
Google Shopping listings appear not only on the dedicated Google Shopping page, which users can access by clicking “shopping” at the top of a search page, but also within the search results themselves. These shopping results often appear ahead of other types of results.
“The retail sector has faced many threats over the years, which have only intensified during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Bill Ready, president of commerce at Google.[i] “With physical stores shuttered, digital commerce has become a lifeline for retailers. And as consumers increasingly shop online, they’re searching not just for essentials but also things like toys, apparel and home goods. While this presents an opportunity for struggling businesses to reconnect with consumers, many cannot afford to do so at scale.”
Google’s offering should help with that.
Existing Merchant Center and Shopping Ads users don’t have to do anything differently to take advantage of the new free listings. Merchants will soon be able to view unpaid clicks in a new performance report for surfaces across Google in Merchant Center, by selecting “Performance” and then “Dashboard” in the left navigation. Google says it will continue working to streamline onboarding for new users over the coming months.
Google put the changes into effect in the United States prior to the end of April, but plans to expand it globally by the end of 2020.
The company also noted that it is working with partners like Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce to make digital commerce more accessible for businesses of all sizes and to help merchants manage their products and inventory.
Free product listings are only one way Google has been helping small businesses since the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn began. In late March, the company announced it would commit over $800 million to help small businesses via grants and investments. It has since made its corporate web conferencing tool Google Meet free after previously only offering a paid version.