When it comes to online retail, “bigger than Amazon” is a hard concept to wrap your head around. But the world’s largest online marketplace will be dwarfed if some new initiatives from Google are anything to judge by.
Purchases On Google
The first of those two initiatives is named Purchases On Google, but more commonly called “the buy button.” This is a long-awaited feature where searchers can buy merchandise directly from the search results, without being passed to a third-party retailer. The feature is now live, albeit in a pilot program with a select few retailers.
This is not exactly Google stepping on the toes of retailers like Amazon. Google itself will never own inventory and does not handle fulfilling the orders. Instead, retailers can buy Purchase On Google ads, which include a buy button. When a user buys via the ad, the retailer gets the money and fulfills the order.
Still, this is a major step for Google, which is now less of an index and more of a destination. It also represents a major opportunity for e-commerce sites. The first retailers who jump on the buy button may well get a spike in sales while their competitors’ traffic falls.
Retail isn’t the only sector where Google is now taking payments. Next time you want to book a hotel, you might find that you can complete the entire checkout process without leaving the Google search results. This feature is apparently experimental and is not available in all (or even most) locations yet.
If you do stumble upon the feature, the normal “Book” button won’t take you to a travel site to finish your purchase. Instead, you’ll choose your dates, confirm the amount and enter your credit card info via Google. You would then get a confirmation from the hotel itself.
Good or Bad?
Both of these moves are controversial, but the hotel feature is by far the bolder of the two. The retail feature at least passes the customer on to an actual retail company; the hotel feature, however, has Google usurping the role of travel sites like Priceline and Booking.com. Many of those sites are Google’s advertising customers, putting the search engine in the unsettling position of competing with its own clients.
At the same time the booking feature could be a boon for hotels themselves. They pay a fee for third-party bookings whether they come from Google or Priceline, but with the convenience of Google they may see an increase in reservations.
We’ll keep you posted if these features expand—and make sure you know how to take advantage of them, particularly the buy now button.