The shopping process can be accelerated by making that all-important Buy button more easily accessible - or at least that’s the bet the advertising giants of the search and social world are placing. Ultimately, these tools should help convert or retarget more decided or lower-funnel shoppers but shouldn’t materially change the critical research and comparison phases of online shopping.
This week, Google reconfirmed to Re/Code an earlier Wall Street Journal report that they’d be introducing a Buy button in their paid search results. Without going into great detail, Chief Business Officer Omid Kordestani said the Buy button pilot would initially appear on mobile search results, with an ultimate goal to help close the gap between mobile searchers leading to offline purchases. Ultimately, this is one of the arrows in Google’s quiver to launch at Amazon, who has become the first destination for general shopping for many people. (Thankfully, that’s not true for fashion. Big sigh of relief).
The social titans of the world are already testing Buy buttons of their own. Facebook’s been testing buy buttons for a while, effectively creating an embedded shopping process within the Facebook experience. Twitter’s been doing the same, which funnily enough included a ton of musicians and bands in their initial test brands. (Don’t they know people don’t buy music anymore?) And Pinterest’s Buy button is the great white whale, whose experience is all around curating lists of things to eventually buy, and in February announced they would be stripping out any affiliate links to monetize pins.
So what do all these Native Ad Commerce options mean if you’re an eCommerce brand? Google Search Ads might end up converting very well for more specific searches. If you know you’re looking for an autographed first edition of Paris Hilton’s Confessions of an Heiress (because no library is complete without it), a direct link to buy from a brand you know well will likely convert well. It removes steps from the process. But shopping is rarely so specifically focused until a purchase decision has already been made. A typical shopping process involves assessing options, gradually narrowing your focus (and probably expanding it a couple of times as you find other options), ultimately researching and learning along the way. If you’re looking for a cordless power drill or a new blue dress shirt, comparing and evaluating the right product for you likely won’t take place in context of a Google search. But it will likely increase competition for specific product searches, meaning it will be more incumbent on eCommerce experiences to create great shopping and comparison experiences to convert shoppers when they initially acquire them.
Social shopping is a bit of a different scenario. Since these ads will be targeted based on general interest and web behavior, it’s likely they’ll have the most impact as retargeting efforts. Since you’ll likely be browsing past these ads as you’re looking the endless stream of memes and selfies in your feeds, it won’t be as focused a shopping experience. But retargeting these ads to shoppers who come to your site but don’t purchase could be a very valuable tool to recapture sales that you weren't able to convert.
Ultimately, these ads should end up acting as higher-performing versions of ads companies are already all paying for anyway, but shouldn’t dramatically change shopper behavior. But I’m guessing they’ll find a way to charge us more for them. Because, you know, capitalism.