- Google unveiled updates to its e-commerce platform, Google Shopping, and its visual search camera technology Google Lens, via blog posts today. The changes arrive ahead of the holiday season.
- Shopping received a redesigned homepage that is more personalized based on user habits and has the option to complete purchases from online retailers, at nearby stores or directly through Google. With new location capabilities, users can see nearby stores that carry the products they're searching for and if they're in stock. Shopping also introduced a new price-tracking tool that pings users on their smartphone when the price of a tagged item drops. Google will extend the feature to email notifications in the coming weeks.
- Lens rolled out an image recognition solution that provides style inspiration. Users can scan an item of clothing in-store or take a screenshot on social media to see photos of how the piece has been styled by other people and find matching apparel. Both the Lens function and Shopping's refurbished storefront are live now in the U.S.
Google is using the critical holiday shopping season as a means to stake out a larger piece of the e-commerce market. The company's prior efforts to get an online retailing business off the ground, namely through Google Express, floundered. But Google has steadily built out more shoppable options across its suite of products this year, including through new advertising formats on Shopping, search and YouTube.
The latest updates come as the tech giant attempts to diversify its revenue streams amid some slowdown in growth for its core search advertising business. Google faces mounting threats on several fronts, especially as the e-commerce juggernaut Amazon scores a higher amount of brand dollars and attempts to establish a stronger foothold in the ad tech spaces Google has dominated for years.
Key categories like packaged goods have reportedly been diverting more of their search spending away from Google and toward Amazon, valuing the latter's ability to better close the purchase loop. Google layering better personalization, price-tracking and direct purchasing features into Shopping could combat the trend. Google said in the blog post that users can now buy from more than 1,000 stores directly via its redesigned e-commerce portal.
New capabilities for Lens show how Google is also looking to compete more closely with mobile-first sites like Pinterest, which offers a visual search function powered by machine learning that similarly carries the Lens moniker. Pinterest, which went public in April, has been aggressively moving into shopping as well. The platform late last month introduced Shop the Look ads in a collections format and more dynamic business profiles.
While Google's experiments with Lens are still relatively early days, the tool has started to win the interest of some marketers. In September, Uncle Ben's partnered with the visual search app to serve dynamic content, such as ingredient lists and cooking videos, to users who scanned its products or certain retail displays in stores.