Google hopes Commerce search 2.0 boosts online sales
Google has taken the wraps off Google Commerce Search 2.0, the first major revision of its commerce offering that debuted last year for online retailers.
The new version of the cloud-based service is available now in the United States and United Kingdom.
The hosted cloud service leverages Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) search expertise to help smaller e-tailers better compete with the ecommerce giants such as Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).
"There's been a lot of innovation in the past 10 years, but the reality is that it's been limited to a handful of retailers. When you go to the other ones there's a big difference in the user experience," Nitin Mangtani, senior product manager at Google, told Evolve.
Mangtani noted that some ecommerce sites have no real search function and lack basic features like spell-checking, which can impact how well the search features they do have perform.
"Misspell Nike in a query and you'll get zero results, even when it's an item the store carries," he said. Commerce Search 2.0 includes spell-checking and an auto-completion feature similar to Google's main search engine that's designed to offer users suggestions as they begin to type in a query. With Commerce Search 2.0, auto-completion is specific to what the store offers, rather than offering suggestions from the Web at large.
A dashboard for ecommerce customisation
This kind of customisation is the biggest improvement in Commerce Search 2.0.
"What we heard from customers is that they want some control on top of the automation engine, and that's what this 2.0 launch is all about," Mangtani said.
The new version includes rules wizards and a dashboard designed to let the ecommerce site factor in promotions and sale prices items into search results. For example, a consumer electronics site can be sure a special on Nikon cameras shows up in response to a query for digital cameras anytime between Friday and Sunday when the sale price is in effect.
Google said it's designed the auto-completion and results ranking to be easy to implement without any custom coding.
The original Commerce Search had an entry price of $50,000 annually, but in a bid to broaden its appeal, Google has dropped the entry price to $25,000 annually, which also includes around-the-clock support.
High-traffic sites with lots of inventory may still be subject to the original higher rate, as Google charges based on the number of products (SKUs) in a site's catalog and the number of search queries entered on the site each year.
IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds said there are several other search companies, notably Endeca Technologies and Mercado Software (now owned by Adobe), that offer sophisticated ecommerce solutions with high levels of customization, though they're priced much higher than Google's product.
Hadley said Google is playing catch up with its dashboard interface, but thinks the service has great potential to appeal to Internet retailers who can't afford the competitive offerings and perhaps don't need the same depth of features.
"Lowering the price point underscores that Google is going after the low- to mid-range of the market that isn't being served today," Reynolds told Evolve. "When Google came out with Commerce last year it was considered a good opportunity, but it didn't make the splash a lot of people expected because it wasn't easy to build a good navigation experience and there was no dashboard console."
While he's waiting to see how well Commerce Search 2.0 performs, Hadley said his initial take is that it's following a similar path as Google's enterprise search offering.
"When Google introduced its enterprise search appliance it came with a relatively entry-level set of capabilities that they expanded over time, and it became much more competitive," he said. "I suspect the same thing is going on with Commerce Search. The 2.0 release fixes some of the obvious shortcomings of ecommerce search products, and I expect Google to continue to enhance the service."