When people think of buying stuff on the internet, they usually turn first to Amazon. Google wants to change that.
At the search giant’s Marketing Live conference on Tuesday in San Francisco, the company introduced a slew of new tools aimed at getting people to shop and discover new items on Google services.
One announcement is a revamped version of Google Shopping, the search giant’s its retail hub. The updated offering lets people browse items and gives them options to buy things either from a retailer’s website, from a nearby physical store, or on Google’s site itself. (For those items, you’ll see a blue cart icon that lets you add it to your cart.)
Google said it will step in if customers don’t get what they expected or have issues getting a refund. As part of the announcement, Google will phase out its Google Express brand for shopping and deliveries.
As part of the revamp, Google will also let people buy products shown on YouTube videos. For example, if a video creator posts a makeup tutorial video, Google would give people the chance to purchase that specific item, like a type of lipstick or mascara, and continue watching the video. The features will launch “later this year.”
The new tool could be tricky when it comes to videos and products directed at children. At a press event on Monday, Oliver Heckmann, vice president of engineering for Google shopping and travel, said Google is looking into those “concerns,” but didn’t offer any specifics. A YouTube spokesman later said Google is specifically meant for people who are 13 or older, so wouldn’t accept any ads targeting anyone younger.
The new tools mark a bigger push for Google into shopping. The ability for the search giant to facilitate a sale directly is a big step — a move that puts the company in more direct competition with Amazon. The two tech giants have already been warring on multiple fronts, including smart home technology. Google’s Home smart speaker and Assistant voice software have been sprinting to catch up to Amazon’s Echo and Alexa.
The updates come as Google spars with competitors from Amazon to Facebook’s Instagram over new shopping tools. Google wants to attract more marketers to its platforms, where it can use its massive cache of user data to make sure ads get in front of specific audiences that brands want to reach.
And last month, parent company Alphabet posted a rare miss on sales estimates, its slowest growth since 2015. It didn’t help that Google was hit with a $1.7 billion fine from the EU for what the commission called “abusive” ad practices. But the disappointing report also stemmed from growing ad competition from rivals like Amazon.
Google also announced new “gallery” ads it will stick in Google search. The format will use swipeable photos similar to Instagram ads. The company also introduced “discovery” ads — photo and video campaigns that can be targeted to certain demographics — they’ll insert into YouTube feeds, the Gmail promotions tab, and the Discovery news feed in the Google app.
The tech industry lately has been reckoning with its advertising business models. Both Google and Facebook have recently been pushing messages of privacy and responsibility when it comes to data collection. Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s senior vice president of advertising and commerce, told CNET in an interview the company should use “as little of that data as possible over time” for targeting, while still showing people relevant ads.