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Google Unveils Shopping Graph, New Commerce Features
At their recent I/O conference, Google unveiled one of their newest (and farthest reaching) features to date – Shopping Graph.

Shopping Graph is an AI-enhanced model designed to show consumers relevant product listings and information as they search. Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce and payments, noted the following:

“Building on the Knowledge Graph, the Shopping Graph brings together information from websites, prices, reviews, videos and, most importantly, the product data we receive from brands and retailers.”

Shopping Graph appears to be a hybrid model built on:

  • Information Google can ascertain, based on what’s readily available
  • Information uploaded to Google directly via Merchant Center and Manufacturer Center

The second piece is where it veers from what we’ve come to know as the Knowledge Graph. The new layer consists of directly uploaded data combined with what Google can source via indexing. This piece is what will entice more and more manufacturers and retailers to upload their product information into Google’s product catalog-specific offerings.

Losing Ground as a Motivator

With these efforts, Google is looking to bridge the ever-widening chasm between its version of search and eventual online purchases.

They’ve made a few attempts to shorten this gap, most notably by adding free shopping listings and eliminating the fee associated with Buy on Google. They’re trying more and more to make their search platform into a one-stop commerce offering, one that is both beneficial to the people buying (a wealth of knowledge and the ability to comparison shop) and the companies selling (free access to consumers, less impact on margins). In a world where Amazon is making it harder and harder for brands to compete on their platform, Google is doing its best to make it easier to compete on theirs.

Despite the recent hand-outs from Google noted above, none of these improvements come from a kind, loving place. They’re all designed to steal share from – or at least divert attention away from – the behemoth that is Amazon. Google knows it’s losing ground in the commerce space. Google is also well aware that the majority of product-related searches now start on Amazon. This, as one can imagine, does not make Google – the world’s preeminent search engine – happy.

Attempting to Differentiate

In order to steal share from Amazon, Google needs to make itself less like Amazon. In addition to Shopping Graph, Google also noted an expanded integration with Shopify. This integration will allow any entity that has built their commerce efforts on Shopify’s platform to easily integrate their product data into Google’s ecosystem, with the ability to drop it right into Shopping Graph.

Google’s need to partner with DTC commerce platforms is born directly from these same commerce platforms serving as alternatives to Amazon; those beaten and downtrodden by Amazon that decided to push their own DTC narrative instead of relying solely on a marketplace they can’t fully control.

Google’s Shopping Graph is also all about options. When consumers go to Amazon, they’re given Amazon’s price for a particular product along with PDP/enhanced content, reviews, etc. Oftentimes, it’s a solid representation of the product (and its lowest possible pricing), but it’s still only one access point for that product. It all lives on Amazon. They’ve recently tried to tighten up their review process and brought in third-party editorial content on specific products, but it’s all still living within the Amazon ecosystem.

Google, on the other hand, is looking to provide access to the entirety of the internet in relation to that one product via shopping ads, Shopping Graph, image search, YouTube, reviews, maps and more. If Amazon’s motto is “buy it on Amazon,” Google’s motto in this instance would be “buy it wherever you want.”

Additional Features Announced

Google also released some interesting, commerce-heavy functionality along with the Shopping Graph announcement.

Google Lens and Image Search
When a user views a screenshot in Google Photos, a recommendation to search the photo with Lens will appear. Lens will then scan the image and provide a list of similar products to what is displayed in the image.

Cart Reminders
Available within Chrome, this feature shows previews of products that the consumer has left unpurchased in their shopping carts across various retailers (image below). Promotions for those retailers can also be shown if the user is interested in viewing them and opts in.

Loyalty Programs
Shoppers are able to link their loyalty programs from various retailers to their Google accounts. Doing so would open more purchasing options across Google.

Once again, these new features are all designed to bring data together from multiple options, as opposed to just one.

Nevertheless, Google may not become everything they aspire to be within the commerce realm. As of right now, they serve as a means more than an end. But if the goal is to shift the way consumers (and advertisers) interact with Google in relation to commerce, these newest additions certainly put them on the right path.