Google to add 'buy' buttons to some search results

In what is being seen as an attempt to challenge Amazon and eBay, in the coming weeks Google will begin including 'buy' buttons on some of its mobile search results, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Virginia Mayo/AP/File
The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels.

In a move that could challenge the commercial giants Amazon and eBay, Google will be including a ‘buy' button alongside some of its mobile search results, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Unlike the paid ads that appear in Google’s search results, clicking on the buy button will not bring shoppers to a retailers website to complete the purchase. Instead it will take them to a Google page where they can customize their orders and shipping preferences. The products will still be sold by the retailers, however.

And unlike Amazon and eBay, Google does not plan to take a cut from the sale price of the product. Instead retailers will pay the search giant via the advertising system it already has in place.

The buy button will display only on mobile devices, not on personal computers. Those making purchases via this method will need to enter payment details into their phones or tablets only once; Google will automatically load this information for subsequent purchases.

To encourage retailers to participate, Google will share the email addresses of its customers with merchants – a valuable marketing tool that Amazon keeps to itself. Additionally, Google’s purchasing pages will be branded for specific companies, and related items will advertise only that retailers wares.

Several stores, including Macy’s, are currently in talks with Google about taking part in the launch, according to the Journal.

But other retailers are reluctant to hand over their online shopping experience to Google, the Journal reports. Having customers purchase products via Google gives retailers less control over how the product is presented to shoppers, could weaken relationships with shoppers, and creates price competition.

A Google buy button could spell bad news for Amazon. The buy button would give shoppers the ability to bypass Amazon and both search for and purchase products exclusively through Google.

“Amazon is increasingly running away with online retail in North America, which poses a huge problem for Google,” Jeremy Levine, an e-commerce investor at Bessemer Venture Partners, told the Wall Street Journal in 2014. “Google has to get in front of this and create a reasonable alternative.”

The buy button is more than just an attempt to one-up Amazon: it is also a way to keep up with mobile phone shoppers.

Google searches on mobile devices outnumber those on computers, but customers are also less likely to make purchases on their phones, probably because of the hassle associated with typing credit card numbers into tiny text fields. Each mobile search, therefore, is less lucrative than its desktop counterpart. By allowing customers to store addresses and credit-card numbers with Google so that they automatically load for future purchases, Google hopes to make more cash from searches for products on mobile devices.

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