Free Shopping is coming to Europe!

It comes as no surprise, following on from the successful launch in the US in April, that Google’s free shopping listings are crossing the waters and will soon be available to merchants throughout the EEA. Although there was speculation on a release date, Google has now confirmed that the launch is on track and we can expect it to come into effect well before we toast in the New Year.

Matilda Rose Moir

Exciting as this may be, as marketers we have to ask, with confirmed changes such as these in the pipeline, what does this mean for our current marketing environment? Will Amazon’s colossal dominance as a shopping destination finally decline, and are small retailers on the road to recovery post Covid-19? In short, what changes will we see in the digital commerce industry?

So what exactly are Free Shopping Listings?

The first question that needs answering is, what exactly are Free Shopping Listings? Although we previously explored this topic (view here) with regards to the US launch, free shopping listings are still very much in their infancy and many may question the changes it will inevitably have to the SERP landscape as we know it.

Similar to the Google Search Index, Organic Shopping Listings allows participating retailers to appear on the Google shopping tab ‘at no cost to them’. This enables merchants to connect with the millions of consumers visiting the site each day, whilst shoppers will have increased access to a huge variety of products. Where once the Google Shopping Tab was saturated with ads and paid content, the introduction of free listings will more than likely be accompanied by a substantial drop in paid content and an influx of free and organic product listings. That’s not to say paid ad spaces are redundant – retailers will still be able to pay for their listings – however the focus will be on optimising their existing product feeds rather than a war over bids. Paid ads will continue to elevate customer reach, with organic listings alongside to compliment them.

Once the bid element is removed, Google ranks product listings purely off of feed content within the Google Merchant Centre. In order to compete within the new Shopping Tab, retailers will have to maximise their product exposure by enriching their feeds to compliment Google’s algorithm.  Be sure to watch our webinar, The Feed Maturity Pyramid to learn some top tips on feed optimisation.

What will this mean for Amazon?

So what will this mean for Amazon? With 63% of customers worldwide starting their product search on Amazon marketplace, it’s no surprise that they are dominating the industry as the number one starting point for a consumer’s shopping journey – the real question is, can they maintain this? 

Despite their 2019 UK turnover of  $25.21 billion in retail ecommerce sales, Amazon’s success is primarily built upon their ranking model, research resource and diverse product selection. And, with little competition, they’ve maintained their position at the forefront of the ecommerce industry since 2018. But this could all change.

Although Google advertised free listings as a means by which to reconnect struggling businesses with consumers post Covid-19, it is also an opportunity for the platform to draw customers away from Amazon and reclaim their former glory as the go-to-platform for product search. With the shopping tab consisting of primarily free listings, consumers can discover a vast range of products specific to their search, with additional details such as category/condition/size available due to retailers optimising their product feeds. These changes to the SERP reintroduce Google as a competitor to Amazon – and as they begin to reclaim their market share, Amazon may start to lose its shine. Previously loyal consumers could easily revert back to Google Shopping for their product search, and in turn cannibalise Amazon’s colossal share of product searches.

Will 2021 knock Amazon off their previously impenetrable pedestal? Only time will tell.

What will this mean for small retailers?

Regardless of the rivalry between Google and Amazon, the implementation of free product listings will immediately have a beneficial impact, and act as a lifeline for small businesses – particularly those hit hard by Covid-19. 

With physical stores closing, and consumer behaviour shifting, many businesses are struggling to stay afloat with digital commerce and the cost of advertising. Introducing free listings will level the playing field, and grant all retailers access to Google Ads, allowing exposure to the millions of consumers visiting the site everyday. Google Shopping will help small-scale businesses to bypass the cost barrier, boosting sales and expanding brand awareness in the process.

Until organic shopping is rolled out in the EEA, it’s near impossible to predict the actual impact it will have on our digital commerce industry. For now, we can only speculate and plan for every eventuality.

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