Google Commerce Search adds 'Search as You Type' and 'Local Product Availability' tools
Google rolled out new products for e-commerce websites on Monday including auto-completion and product previews for search fields and a search function that enables consumers to see what a local store has in stock, in real time.
The updates, which also include a recommendations system and what Google calls "Enhanced Merchandising" tools to allow retailers to feature on-sale items in search results, make up Google Commerce Search 3.0, the latest update to the company's offerings for online retailers.
"Most websites don't have a good e-commerce experience," said Nitin Mangtani, a group product manager working on Google's Commerce Search team. "Consumers are demanding a better online experience. But a lot of websites have told us they can't afford 1,000 engineers to develop their site and add the features that consumers are asking for."
So, Google is hoping to step in and offer medium- to large-sized online retailers a few products to bring their e-shops up to speed in the increasingly competitive world of online shopping, Mangtani said.
Google charges companys licensing fees for its Commerce Search tools, with a low-point of about $25,000 a year to implement Search as You Type, he said.
Google's Search as You Type feature returns product results with photos of items and prices, changing with each keystroke in a drop-down menu from a retailer's search bar.
This tool is already in use by a few Google Commerce Search Customers, such as BabyAge.com and SmartFurniture.com. Companies using other Google Commerce Search tools include brands such as Forever 21, GNC and Birkenstock, Mangtani said.
And in the next week or two, L'Occitane En Provence, a skincare and fragrance retailer, will be adding Search as You Type to its website too.
"This will be our first integration from Google," said Christine Burke, L'Occitane's vice president of international e-commerce. "We have about 42 L'Occitane websites worldwide and we do the majority of our development internally and the ease of the integration with Google is pretty fantastic.
"It took our development team three hours to come back to me with a test of Google's Search As You Type functions in place. That's really fast."
But, the tool L'Occitane is most interested in using is the Commerce Search's Local Product Availability tool.
"We're a retailer first before we're an online retailer," Burke said. "We have about 170 stores in the U.S. and about 1,500 around the world and we have an ambiance and experience in our stores that you simply can't replicate on a website. But allowing people to see online what we have in their neighborhood store so they can go to our store and pick something up, if they want to, is what we're really excited about."
Burke said L'Occitane is going to be testing out the Local Product Availability feature in the U.S. after it rolls out the Search As You Type function to its websites. If Local Product Availability proves accurate, then the company is planning to roll it out to its U.S. website, and to more of its e-shops depending on its success in driving business up.
"We're not looking for a ton of functionality," she said. "Other companies offer everything from gift cards, to fulfillment, to call centers and we're just not looking for that full-service approach. We're looking to making searching our website the best we can and Google is the pretty obvious approach for search."
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Images: Google Commerce Search 3.0 "Search as You Type" tool in use at BabyAge.com and SmartFurniture.com. Credit: BabyAge.com and Smart Furniture.com