Google your groceries: Tech giant debuts powerful search, purchase and delivery features
- Since Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods last year, a number of retailers — including Target, Walmart and Costco — have joined a new advertising program with Google that makes their products appear in search and through the tech company's voice-activated Assistant.
- The program includes a shopping cart that routes purchases through Google’s Express shopping delivery service, according to CNBC. Instead of paying an advertising fee for these Google listings and links to retailer loyalty programs, companies will give Google a cut of each purchase. The listings appear as “sponsored shopping results” and don’t affect regular search results, according to Reuters.
- Guru Hariharan, CEO of e-commerce startup Boomerang, told CNBC that retailers' fears of losing sales to Amazon and Google's concerns about losing product advertising have converged in an interesting way. "The Whole Foods acquisition created a tremendous amount of urgency in the market. Both sides are feeling pain. If you're fighting the same enemy, maybe you can figure something out."
Amazon’s disruption in the grocery space may be subtler than many predicted, but it’s substantial nonetheless. The now-year-old acquisition of Whole Foods sent major grocers scrambling to add startups just to keep pace with Amazon's technology capabilities.
Google’s new advertising program has provided a way to do just that. The tech giant makes money on transactions and receives access to data — an asset critical for the tech giant — while retailers get the chance to influence a whole bunch of shoppers, leverage Google’s Express delivery service, and give consumers a consistent and convenient purchasing process. About 3.5 billion searches take place on Google every day, and 1.2 trillion per year.
Further, as voice e-commerce continues to grow, retailers will likely benefit from Google’s Assistant, which is available on more than 400 million devices. According to The Wall Street Journal, consulting firm Capgemini predicts that within three years, consumers will use voice technology for 18% of their total spending — up from 3% now. A relationship with retailers will also help Google monetize its virtual assistant, which has been a lingering puzzle for the company as voice commerce grows.
Google’s presence in the grocery space will likely be strengthened by its partnership with French supermarket company Carrefour, launched in June, that includes a buying experience through Google platforms and an innovation lab. The Carrefour partnership could provide plenty of insight for Google. A similar partner in the U.S. could help grocers better compete with Amazon’s sheer size, technology infrastructure and initiatives such as Amazon Go.
Questions remain. Google, for example, won't likely play the part of distribution supplier, like Amazon. But for now, the move forges a new way for advertisers to reach consumers, brings an added layer of convenience to consumers, and gives the tech giant some pretty solid footing in an increasingly competitive industry.
Follow Alicia Kelso on Twitter