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Google Aims to Make Shopping Online More Natural, Visual

Google unveils new features to make shopping easier directly from search

“Natural” was the word of the day at Google’s third annual SearchOn event, where the tech giant unveiled a host of new ways it is working to make search, translation, navigation and discovery online work and feel more like it does in the real world.

“Since day one, we’ve dedicated ourselves to a mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful — if you could find the words, we could help you find answers to life’s questions,” said Google SVP Prabhakar Raghavanat the event. “But the way people seek information isn’t confined to a text box. We’re now able to understand information in its many forms, from language to images to things in the real world. With this deeper understanding, we’re going far beyond the search box to create a search experience that works more like our minds that is as multi-dimensional as people are. As we enter this new era of search, you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for by combining images, sounds, text and speech.”

The biggest way Google is doing this is by making its search more visual. While the company’s larger mission, as outlined by Raghavan, is certainly a big part of its motive, there’s another reason Google wants to make its product more visually appealing — TikTok. The majority of U.S. consumers now begin their product searches on Amazon, and now Google has another competitor nipping at its heels as younger consumers increasingly start their information and product searches on social media sites.

With Instagram, TikTok and other social platforms increasingly capturing mindshare and dollars from Google, it should come as no surprise that the search and advertising giant is responding,” saidCory Cummings, Co-founder of headless commerce solution Pack in comments shared with Retail TouchPoints. “Gen Z is still heavily using Google search and its entire suite of products and, with the launch of these new Google Shopping features, Google can now surface user preferences and data across all its channels at an unprecedented level.”

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Shopping in particular is a key focus for Google, as it has been for some time. “People shop with Google more than 1 billion times a day, and powering all of this activity is the shopping graph,” said Lilian Rincon, Senior Director of Product for Shopping at Google at the event. “Our AI-enhanced model makes up more than 35 billion product listings, and it dynamically adapts to give you the most up-to-date information even as products are constantly changing. Now the shopping graph is helping us make shopping on Google more natural, intuitive and, of course, fun.”

Here are some of the new ways Google is working to do just that.

Search Using More Than Words

Google multi-search lets you combine images and text to find what you're looking for.

Earlier this year, Google introduced “multi-search,” which allows users to search using a picture and text combined. For example, users can take a picture of a print they like on a dress or wallpaper and search “purse” to find handbags with similar designs.

“Cameras have been around for hundreds of years, and they’re usually thought of as a way to preserve memories or these days, create content,” said Raghavan. “But a camera isn’t just a content creation device — it’s a powerful way to access information and understand the world around you, so much so that your camera is the next keyboard.”

Now Google has also added geolocation functionality to its multi-search option to help users find and connect with local businesses in the moment. The new option, called “Multi-search Near Me” will roll out in the U.S. later this fall.

Just Add the Word “Shop”

Google wants to take a bite out of Amazon’s current dominance in product searches, so the company is making it easier than ever for shoppers specify that they are shopping when they use its search engine. Typing the word “shop” before any search in Google will now result in a more visual and commerce-focused feed of results including products, research tools and nearby inventory availability. This more shoppable search experience rolled out first with apparel last year and now is expanding to all product categories.

Google Gets Personal

Google will also begin to personalize shopping results based on previous shopping habits. Over time users will begin to see more of the brands, stores and types of products (for example: women’s or children’s) they frequently turn to. Shoppers can proactively set their shopping preferences or adjust and turn off the feature as well. Shopping personalization will roll out in the U.S. later this year.

The Ultimate Ecommerce Site

In addition to personalization, Google also unveiled a number of new functions that will be familiar to online shoppers, offering tools that are common features on ecommerce sites, including:

New search features like Shop the Look offer functionality previously offered only by brands.
  • Dynamic Filters — whole page shopping filters on Search are now dynamic and will adapt based on real-time search trends, so if a person is shopping for jeans, they might see filters for “wide leg” and “bootcut” because those are the popular denim styles this season;
  • Shop the Look — when shopping for apparel on Google, users can now “shop the look” to assemble the perfect outfit with a tool that will show images of the searched-for item alongside complementary pieces and options of where to buy it all;
  • Trending Products — a new feature in search that shows products that are popular right now within a category;
  • Page Insights — a new feature in the Google app that brings together context about a webpage shoppers are on or a product they are researching, like its pros and cons, and star ratings;
  • Price Drop Updates — users will be able to opt in to get alerted when a lower price is found for a product they’ve been searching in the Google app; and
  • Buying Guides — for more complex purchases, the new buying guide feature gathers together helpful insights about a category from a wide range of sources all in one place.

3D Gets the VIP Treatment

Google is increasingly putting an emphasis on 3D visuals in search results. Earlier this year, the platform began incorporating 3D visuals of home goods into searches when they were available, and now that is expanding to the shoe category. The long and short of it is that in those two categories, 3D imagery will offer brands an SEO advantage, which Matt Maher, Founder of M7 Innovations said is something brands should pay attention to: “Google is essentially telling brands they’re installing a new shelf at the front of the search store and whoever can fill it first with high-quality 3D models will win.”

Google knows that this kind of imagery is often expensive to produce though, and in an effort to not have smaller brands be left behind the platform is also planning to roll out new tech in the coming months that will use machine learning to help brands create 360-degree spins of their shoes using still photos they likely already have.

Making it Easier to Shop Sustainably

Alongside a host of other new sustainability offerings, like eco-friendly routing in Maps, Google search results will now highlight pre-owned products to make it easier for shoppers to make the sustainable choice.

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