Google recently announced that their Google Shopping feeds will no longer offer up product details in search results for free. The original program, started about 5 years ago, let manufacturers, retailers, and distributors load specific product information into Google's search system. Product detail results would show up within the main search itself or within the specialty shopping tab http://www.google.com/shopping.
The original system (called Froogle) started off gathering information by crawling existing ecommerce sites, but Google eventually decided that allowing vendors to upload their own data would make it easier for everyone. Microsoft soon followed with their own version for MSN/Bing.
Neither service charged for product listings, allowing them to crush pay-per-click price comparison sites like shopzilla, pricegrabber, nextag, bizrate, etc. But now Google has decided to switch to the very same pay-per-click model it was competing against only a short while ago.
Anti-monopoly forces will likely cry foul; the #1 search vendor introduces a 'free' product listing service that directly competes with paid price engines, builds up market share and acceptance, then adopts its competition's pricing model four years later?
They may be able to prove their point. Yeoman did an analysis of the traffic of five of the top price engine sites and saw a marked decrease in activity from 2009-2011. What is interesting is that these sites' traffic seems to be ticking up given the recent changes (Source Compete Data 2009-2011). What's even more interesting is that many of these sites modified their models and began using Google's shopping API to pull in relevant data.
How does this impact you?
For a manufacturer there are several items that should be addressed:
The challenge for all will be to make sure this change is addressed at multiple levels including your overall marketing/branding strategy, online data quality programs and your online sales and distribution model.
How can we help?
Yeoman has a passion for online sales and distribution and optimizing the components that make a manufacturer successful. Each organization has a unique marketing and sales strategy, but there are core components that everyone needs in order to be successful. We live those components, whether it's price engine analysis, data quality programs, or outsourced web operations. Give us a call or chat now to learn more.
Official Google post:
Background anti-trust stories / complaints:
US Hearings (2011): http://www.pcworld.com/article/240330/google_faces_antitrust_accuse...
Brazilian Charges (2012): http://thenextweb.com/google/2011/12/21/anti-trust-investigation-lo...
European Investigation (2012): http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jun/01/google-european-co...