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Retailers and brands battling against Amazon now have a new business partner ally — Google.

The search giant is expanding/replacing its Google Express shopping service with “Shopping Actions,” a program that promises to drive bigger sales for retailers and provide Google users with a seamless purchase journey whether it starts on a mobile device, a laptop, a desktop or through its voice assistant Google Home.

The goal is to help shoppers take action, no matter where or how they choose to shop, according to a Google blog post.

The upgraded retail partnership program comes at a time when consumers are increasingly using a variety of mobile and digital voice assistant tools to search and purchase items.

In announcing the program Google cited statistics that claim mobile search for ‘where to buy’ grew over 85 percent in the past two years and that 44 percent of consumers using a voice-activated speaker at least once a week are using it to order household and grocery items once a week.

“It’s clear that people want helpful, personal, and frictionless interactions that allow them to shop wherever and however they want — from making decisions on what to buy, to building baskets, to checking out more quickly than ever before. Put simply, they want an easier way to get their shopping tasks done,” stated Google in the blog post written by Surojit Chatterjee, director of product management, Google Shopping.

The blog post, in a clear pitch to retailers wanting to expand consumer base beyond their own ecommerce and mobile strategies, details several features of the Shopping Action program including a shareable list, a universal shopping cart, instant checkout and a saved payment credentials feature.

“For example, shopper Kai can do a search on Google for moisturizing hand soap, see a sponsored listing for up & up brand soap from Target, and add it to a Google Express cart. Later, in the kitchen, Kai can reorder foil through voice, add it to the same cart using Google Home, and purchase all items at once through a Google-hosted checkout flow,” noted the blog.

The program can increase consumer loyalty and engagement as well with a retailer’s highest value customers due to features such as one-click re-order, personalized recommendations and the ability to link Google accounts with a retailer’s loyalty programs such as Ulta’s Ultamate Rewards.

“If Kelly does a search for ‘peach blush,’ for example, and she has opted to link her Google account with her Ultamate Rewards status, we’ll recognize this and surface relevant blush results as well as related items — like makeup brushes — from Ulta Beauty to help her build a basket with her preferred retailer. If we know she regularly purchases makeup remover on a monthly basis, we’ll surface the same brand of makeup remover to her, right when she has the highest intent to re-order,” explained the blog post.

What will likely catch most retailers’ attention however is the pay-per-sale model Google is using for the program. That means retailers only pay when a sale takes place. Google did not indicate its take on a purchase.

And, according to Google, early retail partners are already reaping rewards from the program. It claims retailers are enjoying an increase in total conversations at a lower cost, when compared to running Google ads alone. Google said retailers have seen an 30 percent average increase in basket size and that a study of five merchants involved in the program revealed a customer spends more with that group of merchants in the four-month post period.

One of the early retailers involved is Target, which was also one of the first retailers to test drive Google Express (the initial shopping platform on which Shopping Actions has been built).

According to Google, Target has seen consumer Express baskets increased by nearly 20 percent.

“Our guests love the ease and convenience of making their Target run without lifting a finger by using voice interface. And since the orders are shipped from a nearby Target store, they’ll have their items delivered to their home in just two days,” said Mike McNamara, Target’s chief information and digital officer, in the blog post.

Target calls the shopping partnership “just the beginning” with Google and stated there are plans to link a customer’s account with Google accounts for a more “personalized and intuitive shopping experience.”

Yet some industry watchers aren’t so convinced consumers are interested in using voice assistant technology or even mobile devices much when it comes to product ordering.

A new Episerver report reveals that despite increasing popularity consumers rarely use mobile or voice assistants to shop and buy. Of the 40 percent of consumers owning such a device, 60 percent never browse on them and 66 percent never make a purchase, according to the report which surveyed over 4,000 global consumers.

Other key findings include:

  • While 35 percent of consumers own a smartwatch, 66 percent never browse on their device and 70 percent never purchase.
  • Nearly a third of shoppers (29 percent) browse on their smartphones daily, but only 27 percent of those shoppers go on to make a purchase on their devices at the same frequency.
  • More than half (51 percent) of shoppers who never want to try new technology functions again report it’s because these technologies did not improve their experiences.
  • Thirty percent of consumers are interested in trying drone delivery.

Google’s move, according to Tushar Patel, CMO at Kibo, is in direct response to the dominance Amazon has on the Google search platform when it comes to product search and discovery.

Patel, in an email note to Retail Customer Experience, noted that more than half, 61 percent of U.S. consumers use Amazon as a source of information for product search and purchase, nearly as many who use search engines to research and shop.

“Amazon has been dominate in e-commerce and is leading the way with smart home devices. Even shoppers going to Google first to search are often being directed to the highly ranked product pages of Amazon. By partnering with major retailers who also see Amazon as a threat, Google and their partners could provide consumers shopping convenience and a breadth of product variety and inventory that even Amazon may have trouble matching,” said Patel.

Kibo Digital Marketing Manager Bryant Goodall shared that Shopping Actions is Google’s “one answer to rule them all” and an “echo of how Amazon does it.”

“Google is leveraging their power to become an ally for retailers who are feeling the push from Amazon (Target, Walmart and others). With the integration of Google Express, Google Assistant, and Google Search, Google and others now have an environment similar to the Amazon ecosystem, with a likelihood of expansion and an opportunity to seize shoppers who are exiting that ecosystem for Amazon. The symbiosis of Amazon and Google may be changing right before our eyes,” said Goodall.

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Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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