Five things Google is doing to help digital retailers

Google's digital marketing teams are creating innovative solutions for retailers and brands who are struggling to solve marketing challenges associated with omnichannel.

Speaking at eCommerce Expo in London last week, Jeremy Morris, industry head for retail and technology at Google, said: "Today, we don't go online, we live online."

Morris, who helps retailers and brands get the most out of digital marketing, wants to aid retailers in bridging the digital and physical worlds. "Let's make it as easy as possible for people to buy," he said, noting that 80% of smartphone users research online before they buy a product, irrespective of where they end up buying it from.

He said customers today have multiple devices and different channels to purchase. "We have lots of different moments and we need to make choices [as retailers] – when do we need to be in those moments, what do we invest our money in and what content do we use?"

He gave delegates a round-up of Google products – some available, some still in early testing – which retailers can use to improve their digital marketing strategies.

Here are five Google products retailers should keep an eye out for.

1. Google Now

Google Now is the tech giant's answer to a personal assistant. "It is us moving from searching information to supporting and assisting users," explained Morris, who described how – with permission – the app can access a user's location, calendar and email to provide information before you need it, such as upcoming flight details or the location of a package you've ordered.

"Taking this into the retail space, we've introduced a 'price drop' card," said Morris. "If a customer has been researching an item and the price drops, a card surfaces through Google Now."

Morris said Google has started introducing this with certain retailers in a number of geographies, but he expects this to grow.

Another Google Now card can be pushed to customers when they are in a store.

"When people are in your store they’re still on their mobile and 40% of customers who come into a store are still searching on their device," said Morris.

He described how Home Depot in the US pushes a card to Google Now users when they enter a store providing them with information on current offers and the ability to search the store's inventory.

"Customers are looking to be reassured they're buying the right thing," added Morris.

2. AdWords

Google is constantly improving its online advertising service, which has been around for almost 15 years.

Morris advises that all of a retailer's stores should be uploaded into AdWords with their location extensions which helps customers learn where their nearest retail touchpoint is when searching for a product.

"And if you want those customers in your store, you should make sure you're bidding more aggressively to get to the top of search [at times your customers are likely to search], then out of hours, downgrade. We see very few brands doing this, but it's an easy opportunity."

For more information on flexible AdWord bidding strategies, click here.

3. Local stock search

Additionally, Google also provides a service to inform customers of local stock levels. Retailers who are lucky enough to have a centralised view of their stock can upload this into Adwords and Google will use this information to inform customers whether the product they are looking for has high, medium, low or zero stock in their local store.

"This helps customers go to you instead of a competitor, as they don’t want to waste their journey if the product isn’t in stock – customers need confidence the product is there," he explained.

4. Buy Button

Morris said retail conversion on mobile devices is still a barrier, with US retailers reporting conversion rates on desktop double that of on mobile devices.

"To get around this we're working with some companies to deep link straight into their apps to see if it will convert better than a retailer's mobile site," he said.

But Google is also working on its own Buy Button. The media got wind of Google's latest top-secret project earlier this year and Morris confirmed the technology giant is still testing its Buy Button with a number of retailers in the US.

The idea of a Buy Button is customers can purchase from a retailer using Google's interface, rather than clicking through to a retailer's website.

"You can buy directly using your credit card data which is already uploaded in your Google account, via the Google hosted page which is branded by the retailer, while the retailer fulfils the order.

"It's very early days, and there have been lots of questions, but we’re still working it through and testing to see if it helps brands convert better on mobile," he added.

"Ultimately, we're a mobile advertising business [not a retailer]," said Morris, who explained the Buy Button trial may or may not work. "But we're trying to remove any barriers from retailers not making sales on digital."

5. TrueView adverts

Retailers and brands only pay for Google's TrueView adverts when a viewer chooses to watch the video, meaning advertising budgets are more efficiently spent.

For instance, the adverts played before videos on YouTube have an option to be skipped after five seconds, but the retailer will not pay for this ad. If a customer chooses to continue watching, for at least 30 seconds or to the end of the video, that is when the retailer pays.

"We feel it’s a new way customers – not everyone – will start shopping," said Morris.