Google Shopping has been giving itself a makeover in time for holiday shopping — and it is starting to look a lot more like Amazon.com.
Last week, it introduced wish lists for saving items and sharing them with friends, 360-degree photographs of items, retailer promotions and product reviews.
These updates came after Google made a big change this fall, for the first time including retailers in Google Shopping only if they pay to list their products there. Google said this would make the listings better, because retailers would have an incentive to list up-to-date items.
But as a result, Google Shopping’s listings are less comprehensive than they were before. For example, Amazon has so far refused to pay for listings, so a Google search for the Kindle does not show Amazon, which makes the Kindle, in shopping results.
On Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan, a search industry expert, outlined in greater detail some of the service’s recent weaknesses in a post called “The Mess That Is Google Shopping.”
The lack of comprehensiveness means that Google risks losing shoppers to other comparison shopping sites or to Amazon, even as it tries to keep them. In a shift, more people now start product searches on Amazon instead of Google, according to Forrester data. That is a problem for Google for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that retail searches and search ads are among its biggest businesses.
Google is trying to lure retailers by offering new features for its shopping search. They include 360-degree photos of items, starting with holiday toys. With Shortlists, people can save items they like and share lists with friends, and Google and retailers gain insight into what shoppers want to buy.
Google is also trying to attract shoppers with exclusive promotions that retailers can offer through the site. These also show up on mobile apps for Google Maps and Google Offers. And Google has expanded its product reviews. Google has long drawn product reviews from around the Web, but now people can write their own on Google and see reviews from people they know on Google Plus ranked at the top when they do a product search.
Reviews have been one of Amazon’s biggest selling points for shopping search because of the volume of shoppers there. This shopping season will provide some clues as to whether Google can lure back some of the shoppers who have turned to Amazon for search.