As the nation continues to withdraw from public life to thwart the spread of COVID-19, the consumer economy has come to a near-screeching halt, with businesses large and small taking massive hits.
That being said, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to start using the Google Shopping platform, since Google has announced that it will be free for merchants to start selling.
UPDATE!: Google Merchant Center has now integrated with PayPal, allowing merchants to streamline their merchant verification process, once they connect with PayPal. Check out our article on this, here.
While many companies have implemented strict work-from-home policies, this simply isn’t an option for some of the harder-hit industries like sports, entertainment, tourism, hospitality, and retail.
Individuals are being advised to avoid social gatherings and traveling, which means that these limitations are leading to an unprecedented business slowdown in sectors that depend on the movement and attendance of people.
How COVID-19 is Affecting E-Commerce Sales
Everyone is still coming to terms with their living situations, which means they must adapt to suit their needs. From panic buying to online spending, it would be an understatement to say that shopping behavior has changed over the course of the last few months.
Since congregating in public places is still out of the question, fears surrounding the coronavirus presents opportunities for the e-commerce business to thrive in the coming months. As consumers turn to digital options in order to avoid physical shopping environments, here are some of the trends we’ve seen in the industry so far:
- A Nielson data investigation found a 69% correlation between locally confirmed cases and the online purchases of cleaning supplies within a specific area.
- The investigation also revealed a 78% correlation between COVID-19 cases and an uptick in diaper purchases.
- Items like hygienic and medical mask sales have increased by more than 300% since the start of the pandemic.
- Grocery e-commerce skyrocketed during the second week of March after shoppers began searching online to find the goods they needed but couldn’t find at their local grocery stores.
- Downloads of popular apps like Instacart and Shipt have increased by between 124% (for Shipt) and 218% (for Instacart).
- Online apparel has seen an overall 20% decrease in sales month-over-month since February 16th.
- Between January 1st and March 11th, over-the-counter medications have jumped 217% in sales, while canned and non-perishable food items increased by 87%, according to a study commissioned by Adobe Analytics.
- The Commerce Department reports that online and offline retail sales and food and beverage spending dropped by 8.7% in March, which is the biggest drop in the nearly 30 years the federal government has been tracking the metric.
Sell on Google Shopping for Free
As consumers continue to shop online in light of the challenges presented by COVID-19, Google is making a significant change to its Google Shopping platform by opening up its Shopping search results to unpaid, organic listings.
On April 21st, Google officially announced that it would soon be free for merchants to sell in the Shopping tab.
Prior to 2012, an e-commerce operation was required to pay for ad placement on Google Shopping. Now, the company says it will allow anyone who operates a website or manages a store on a marketplace platform to list without having to pay a fee. However, Google still plans to bill businesses for top placement as promoted listings.
But unlike before, to list your products on Google Shopping, you no longer need to have accounts on both Google Merchant Center and Google Ads. Having a Merchant Center account enabled users to categorize their product feed in a Google-friendly format, while Ads is where they could manage the bidding and advertising aspect of the listing. Creating a Merchant Center account is still recommended, however.
Google Partners with PayPal
Google revealed its new partnership with PayPal. This collaboration will undoubtedly create a seamless experience for merchants already using PayPal as they will be able to link those accounts to Google Merchant Center.
Google is also working in tandem with leading e-commerce software platforms like Shopify to ensure companies that operate mainly through their own websites can easily transition to selling on Google Shopping.
“What we’re seeing is that they are many, many retailers and small businesses that stand ready to serve shoppers, but don’t yet have a great way to connect with them digitally,” Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce, stated. “We think that by doing this, it helps many more shoppers find what they’re looking for, but it also helps bring some quite needed relief to the retail and small business ecosystem.”
What is Google Shopping?
Google Shopping is a valuable service that’s integrated into the search engine, allowing users to browse products on online shopping websites and compare prices between vendors. Similar to Facebook or Instagram ads, Google Shopping ads – also known as Product Listing Ads (PLAs) – are a powerful way to attract customers and boost sales. Although Google Shopping ads haven’t yet become as popular with drop shippers as social media ads, they currently account for more than 16% of ecommerce site sales.
These PLAs appear either at the top of search results, to the right of search results, or in the Shopping tab. They differ from traditional text ads seen in search results because they feature images of the product.
Because PLAs provide shoppers with all the relevant data they need – price, image, product name, and store name – those who view the ads have a greater chance of completing a transaction. In fact, Google Shopping yields a 30 percent higher conversion rate than text ads, making it one of the more powerful platforms on the internet.
Why You Need to Take Advantage of this Opportunity
When you consider the sheer volume of product-related searches performed on Google on any given day, this free exposure creates a win-win scenario for all involved.
- For retailers, this announcement from Google means the ability to connect to millions of potential customers who visit Google every day to take care of their shopping needs.
- For shoppers, this means gaining access to more products from more stores, all searchable through the Google Shopping tab.
- For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be enhanced with free listings.
While there is no clear indication of when businesses will be able to full reopen again, one thing is for sure—Google just handed e-commerce businesses a major opportunity.
With more consumers shopping online than ever before, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Brick-and-mortars that are struggling with closures can find a new life online with the help of Google Shopping’s new free listings!