It’s long been rumored, and now it’s coming true: Google is officially adding a “Buy Now” button to its search results pages.
That means customers won’t even have to leave their search results page to make a purchase anymore — which is good news for compulsive shoppers, but not-so-good news for retail competitors like Amazon.
In fact, Google’s “Buy Now” button may signal a change in the winds of the online marketplace. A 2014 study found that 39% of online shoppers did their product research on Amazon, while only 11% started with Google or another search engine. But as the world’s number-one top-trafficked website in any category, Google is definitely in a position to make a play for that market share.
Can Google move in on Amazon, or will the “Buy Now” button follow in the less-than-epic footsteps of Google+? That’ll take some time to become clear — but one thing that’s clear already is that Amazon isn’t the only horse in this race.
Facebook and Twitter both introduced their own “Buy Now” buttons in the last few years. While neither of those sites ranks anywhere near Amazon in terms of retail market share, the click-through on those buttons still serves as a valuable source of detailed metrics on customer behavior.
Google’s execs haven’t publicly explained why, exactly, they chose to launch the “Buy Now” button in summer 2015; as opposed to launching it, say, a few years ago when Twitter and Facebook tried it out. But the search giant has been rolling out retail-related products for years — Google Shopping, for example, which lets users browse buyable products right from the search page; and the secure payment service known as Google Wallet — so the "Buy Now" button is really just the final piece of a puzzle that Google has been patiently assembling for a while.
A Growing Factor
My view, though, is that Google had a very good reason for rolling out the “Buy Now” button when they did. That reason is mobile retail; and more specifically, its poor conversion rates.
Amazon has been a major player in the mobile-app game from day one, and Facebook and Twitter are obviously comfortable on mobile devices too. But as mobile shopping became more and more prevalent, and an ever-growing list of mobile shopping apps offered customers one-tap access to their favorite stores, Google has been far from central in that picture.
I think they’re aiming to change that.
To give you an idea of what’s at stake here, more than 15% of online sales are made via mobile devices. That alone might not sound like much — until you count in the facts that 59% of tablet owners use their tablets for product research, and 46% of them say they’re less likely to comparison shop when using a mobile app. In other words, first results on mobile devices are a lot more likely to translate into conversions.
Now you can see why Google wants to become a bigger player in this space. If they’d waited much longer, they would’ve been on the verge of getting muscled out of online retail entirely — despite the fact that most consumers still begin their background research on Google.
“Missed opportunity” would be the understatement of the year.
Meaning for Marketers
OK, so you’re a marketer (or ecommerce store owner). You’re watching this all develop, and you’re thinking, “Clearly this 'Buy Now' thing means something for my business and my industry ... but what?”
Well, let me ask you this: Why did Google feel the need to move into mobile sales at all? Aren’t they already getting paid for every product search, whether the consumer buys or not?
Not exactly — and that’s the whole point.
Google stepped into this field because we as marketers have done a horrible job of improving mobile conversion rates. When we don’t convert mobile visitors, we don’t spend as much money on mobile ads — and that impacts Google’s bottom line.
Google is doing what any well-run business would do: protect their revenue stream. If they can make it “easy” to buy products in the SERP, then marketers are going to start raising their bid modifiers on mobile search traffic.
If you’re a marketer, this matters because — as we learned earlier this year — mobile search traffic accounts for more than 50% of all search volume on Google now.
Amazon is king of mobile search right now because they make it easy to convert on mobile. From a world-class mobile app to one-click ordering to the Amazon Prime program, they’ve made the entire mobile purchase process so simple that users barely even have to think about a given purchase — they just want, click, and buy.
Amazon’s dominance of mobile retail holds a crucial lesson for us as marketers: If you want to grab the largest market share possible, then you need to step up your mobile conversion game.
If you don’t want Google controlling the “checkout” for your customers, then it’s time to do something about it. Mobile isn’t going away. If anything it is going to become more dominant.
The ball is in your court. What are you going to do about it today?