Retail Operations Fall 2022 e-commerce

Gift Shop Plus Fall 2022
E-commerce options for retailers By Keith Loria

Platforms provide avenues for selling products and reaching customers

Retailers care about boosting sales, pricing their items right and understanding what their customers want. That’s why e-commerce platforms are relentlessly rolling out new tools for merchants to help them be a success.

After all, during the pandemic, studies show that a whopping 81 percent of consumers shopped for items online and many merchants were forced to close up brick-and-mortar shops and concentrate their efforts on e-commerce.

GOING WITH GOOGLE

The Google shopping platform, now called Google Merchant Center, is a platform for retailers to list their products for sale and is one of the most successful e-commerce options for retailers.

The difference between the old Google shopping platform and Google Merchant Center is that the latter offers retailers the ability to create product listings that include more information, such as product images, prices, and descriptions. Additionally, Google Merchant Center allows retailers to target their product listings to specific audiences, such as consumers in a certain geographic area or consumers who have expressed an interest in a particular type of product.

“Google Merchant Center is a one-stop-shop for retailers looking to grow their business and get discovered,” says Matt Madrigal, VP and GM of Merchant Shopping at Google. “It allows you to list your products for free across Google Search, YouTube, Maps and Image Search, in just a few clicks—even if you use a platform like Shopify.”

Merchant Center can also help a retailer more easily connect with local shoppers and measure and analyze how people are interacting with listings on Google.

“No one wants to live in a world where there’s only one place to buy things, which is why we’re working every day to help connect merchants with more shoppers,” Madrigal said.

In recent years, Google has rolled out a few major updates that have made it easier for merchants — especially small- and medium-sized merchants — to get discovered on Google for free thanks to free listings, integrations with third-party platforms and free insights and analytics tools. These are all accessed within the Merchant Center, a merchant’s one-stop-shop for managing their presence on Google.

Any merchant who has a Merchant Center account can list their products on Google, which means a small, local business can have their products show up right alongside the world’s biggest retailers to shoppers who are seeking them out.

“Before we rolled out free listings, merchants were required to pay for listings on Google Shopping,” Madrigal says. “Our goal is that this change will help level the playing field, remove barriers and ultimately support an open and free commerce ecosystem where any merchant can get discovered at no cost to them.”

Another way Google is supporting small- and midsized merchants is through expanded partnerships with Shopify, GoDaddy, WooCommerce and other platforms that make it easy for merchants on those platforms to list their products with Google in just a few clicks.

This means that in just a few simple steps, Shopify merchants can connect to Google one time and become discoverable across Google Search, Shopping, Image
Search and YouTube.

This is great for merchants for two primary reasons — people shop on Google more than a billion times a day, a point that underscores the opportunities for merchants on third-party platforms that now have access to an even bigger audience through Google; and there is a huge amount of intent across these surfaces, whether you’re watching an unboxing video on YouTube, image searching for furniture, or reading publisher reviews, people are shopping and looking for new ideas on what to buy.

MORE WAYS TO SELL

But while Google may have the lion’s share of business, there are plenty of other e-commerce options for retailers to look into.

For those who want to set something up quickly, Shopify is recommended. Square is for retailers who are selling evenly between in-person and online, while BigCommerce is for large-volume sellers.

Charles Wood, an e-commerce expert based in Los Angeles, notes new social media platforms are emerging with e-commerce functionality, including Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.

“Instagram has recently introduced a feature that allows users to purchase products directly from within the app,” he says. “Pinterest has a feature called ‘Buyable Pins’ that allows users to purchase products directly from pins containing images of the products. Snapchat has a feature called ‘Snap Store’ that allows users to purchase products directly from within the app.”

These can impact what retailers are already doing on these platforms. For example, retailers may need to start using Instagram or Pinterest if they are not currently doing so, and they may need to adjust their advertising strategies on AdWords in order to take into account the changes that are happening with Google’s shopping platforms.

Kate Zhang, founder of Kate Backdrop, an online retailer who has found success with these platforms, notes all three allow retailers to list their products and provide potential customers with a way to purchase them directly from the platform.

“These present both opportunities and challenges for retailers,” she says. “On the one hand, these platforms provide a new avenue for selling products and reaching potential customers. On the other hand, they also require retailers to be more strategic in their social media marketing, as they need to ensure that their products are being seen by people who are likely to purchase them.”

Lou Haverty, owner of Enhanced Leisure, a direct to consumer e-commerce family-owned small business, has found social media platforms to not nearly be as effective as Google shopping.

“The reason is primarily buying intent,” he says. “Social media traffic tends to be too cold to make purchases. I’ve found social media is most effective for bringing people into an email list and gradually warming them up for a purchase. In comparison, Google is very effective at sending you traffic which is highly targeted and ready to make a purchase.”

Whether Google or one of the others, it’s important to take advantage of e-commerce platforms to get ahead.

Keith Loria

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is an award-winning journalist who has been writing for major newspapers and magazines for close to 20 years, on topics as diverse as sports, business, theater and retail. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at Rinkside, BCA Insider and Soap Opera Digest. You can view some of his recent writing at keithloria.contently.com.




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