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What can new-look (and paid for) Google Shopping offer retailers?

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Retailers are being advised to make the most of the new opportunities presented as Google Shopping becomes a paid-for service.

The service switches tomorrow from free to paid listings on what has been dubbed G-day, potentially giving some pause for thought. But Hedley Aylott, chief executive of online marketing and ecommerce specialists Summit , says the new look has a lot to offer to traders.

He said: “The percentage of retail sales that are made through online search continues to grow exponentially. While many retailers may focus on the cost of paid for listings, the opportunities for boosting sales are huge as Google adds new features such as catalogues, offers and shortlists.”

Seamus Whittingham, managing director, EMEA, ChannelAdvisor, says the new listing model amounts to “the biggest shake-up of the way online retailers use search since the launch of Google AdWords.”

G-day will see Google Shopping’s free listings replaced with paid Product Listing Ads (PLAs). Those PLAs will gradually replace free listings in a transition that will run to the end of the second quarter of the year in June, when all free listings will be removed. “Ranking in Google Shopping, when the full transition is complete, will be based on a combination of relevance and bid price,” said Sameer Samat, vice president of product management, Google Shopping in a blog post outlining the move to take paid-for Google Shopping global.

He added: “These changes will create a better shopping experience that will benefit both shoppers and merchants. Shoppers will find products in one convenient place and quickly be able to compare features, find the best prices, read reviews, and identify great merchants, while advertisers will be given more granular control over product listings and traffic.”

Whittingham said: “The decision to start charging for listings, will cause a tremor through the e-commerce landscape. However, it’s not all about money. Higher quality data – whether it’s accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability – should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants.

“And since ranking in Google Shopping is based on a combination of relevance as well as bid price, retailers will need to monitor all buying metrics, hopefully making them more engaged and competitive with their pricing.”

At a time when more consumers are searching for products not only online but also when they are in stores, such searches are likely to boost transactions in both places, says Aylott, who cites IMRG research showing that 48% of smartphone owners carried out research on their mobile device ahead of buying at Christmas 2012. That’s about 9% ahead of the same time last year.

“Customers using search in-store for price comparison will be the next challenge for retailers to tackle,” he added.

Aylott advises that retailers start setting up trial paid-for PLAs from tomorrow, and actively manage product feeds to ensure data is relevant to audiences, whether they’re searching for data in store or from other locations.

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