Google Takes A Page From Amazon’s Pricing Playbook

Amazon is not the only eCommerce player that builds comparison pricing into its product pages.

Google has begun applying a similar feature to select product pages that come up in search results, highlighting prices on certain items as being significantly lower than average or in comparison to specific competing brands and retailers, reports ChannelAdvisor.

In response to inquiries from The Wall Street Journal about the matter, a Google spokesman commented, “as part of our efforts to help people find great deals and useful pricing information, we’re currently running a small test of a feature that highlights particularly good prices for products.”

As the WSJ report explains, merchants bid against each other and pay Google to be included among results for applicable search inquiries, appearing in what the company calls Product Listing Ads — which usually feature images. Google itself, however, is the party responsible for including price notations to the ads, and does so at no cost to the merchant.

According to Scott Wingo, Executive Chairman of ChannelAdvisor, it’s unlikely that merchants would want to pay for that feature — since, he said, it’s not exactly in their best interests. He told the WSJ that a lot of companies dislike explicit price comparisons as online, as they believe the practice drives down prices across the board, to the seller’s detriment. In fact, says Wingo, Google’s initial practice of featuring price comparisons could cause it to lose business.

“It could disrupt the cash cow of Google’s search and upset some retailers,” he remarked, putting a particular emphasis on the hesitance of luxury goods and apparel retailers to appear in ads that feature price comparisons.

Regardless of those concerns — which for right now remain in the hypothetical realm — Google was compelled to make a move that mimics a practice of Amazon’s by the very fact that the search engine is losing traffic to the eCommerce giant, as more and more shoppers begin their product searches directly on Amazon’s site, as opposed to using Google.

Said Wingo to the WSJ, Google is “raising the possibility that they make less money on ads, but for a long-term payoff that shoppers use the service more.”

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