This morning, Google officially announced that it is now free for retailers to list products on Google Shopping through the Merchant Center program Shopping Actions in the US.
In 2019, at Google Marketing Live, Google officially announced the New Google Shopping Experience in the United States only. What was once known as Google Express, Google did away with Express, and “rebranded” to Google Shopping.
For retailers to be able to list products on Google Shopping, they must go through the Merchant Center program Shopping Actions.
Just as with Shopping ads and Surfaces across Google, Shopping Actions requires that retailers submit a product feed, have approved products, and must also meet additional, unique criteria specifically for the Shopping Actions program.
Originally, the program operated on a CPS or Cost Per Sale model wherein retailers paid a percentage to Google when a product was purchased through Shopping Actions. The amount paid varied based on certain elements such as product category.
Today’s announcement marks the coming roll out of zero commission fees for Buy on Google, AKA Shopping Actions.
Wait, what exactly is Google Shopping Actions?
Surprisingly, many merchants in the US are still not fully aware of this retail program offered by Google.
Often, marketers will refer to Shopping Actions as Google’s “Marketplace” solution or its attempted rival to the likes of other platforms for sellers such as Amazon.
In reality though, Shopping Actions lets shoppers buy your products from wherever they are on Google including Search, Images, and the new Google Shopping experience.
(Note that listings on YouTube are not fully available as of yet)
The shopping cart lets potential customers know they can buy directly on Google, and shop worry free, with simple returns and customer support backed by a Google guarantee.
“And you pay only when a purchase is made.” <<< This is the line that no longer applies per this latest announcement.
One of the most exciting aspects of selling through Shopping Actions is the access it provides retailers to sell products through emerging Google technologies such as Google Assistant on smart phones and even Google Home devices:
Today’s announcement marks what can only be described as a seemingly never-ending series of exciting changes that Google has been making to its retail solutions – clearly fueled by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and continued spread of COVID-19 in the US and throughout the world.
It started in April with the official roll out of Free Product Listings in the US through the program Surfaces across Google. Now, the Shopping tab on Google consists almost entirely of these free listings.
Though there have been other enhancements throughout, just a few days ago we announced our integration with Google’s new free and fast annotations for Shopping ads.
Rounding out for this trio today, there will no longer be a cost associated with listing your products through Shopping Actions and subsequently having products purchased by eager shoppers, what is most commonly referred to as Buy on Google.
According to Google, those new to Shopping Actions will be instantly rolled into the new format.
Those already selling through Shopping Actions will be migrating over the coming weeks, but its important to note that the commission rate will soon cap at 5% or less starting July 30th:
Google has baked in some additional updates including:
- A requirement to leverage their existing integration with PayPal as a preferred payment provider
- More choices regarding the production of return labels
- And the ability for merchants to communicate directly with customers regarding purchases made
What’s does this mean for retailers?
While certainly adding an entirely new (or, at least, enhanced) layer to Google’s retail solutions, US-based merchants should be leaping to get their products listed through Shopping Actions.
It has become yet another, entirely free-to-play way to expose products to the millions of shoppers who use Google to find and purchase goods online.
At the same time, this also adds and reveals a whole new set of challenges to overcome:
Another Product Feed
As I had mentioned previously, Shopping Actions is considered a unique “destination” within Merchant Center. Thus, it technically requires its own separate feed. Although retailers can simply enable an existing feed for this new destination, many may want to generate a standalone feed just for Shopping Actions. With that, you would not be able to utilize the same product IDs.
There are also some unique feed issues and product errors specific to Shopping Actions that retailers may run into. For one, it is a little more challenging to include product variants in this feed as Google rejects duplicate product data.
When consumers click on Shopping ads or even Free Product Listings, they are directed back to the retailer’s website to finalize the purchase journey.
Shopping Actions, again, is a Buy on Google experience for consumers. Purchases made are captured as Orders through one’s Merchant Center account. These orders then must be processed and fulfilled by the retailer, and fulfillment statuses must be provided to Google.
Right now, this is a bit of a manual process unless you are partnered with an approved order syncing solution for Shopping Actions such as with us at Sales & Orders for select ecommerce platforms.
Also unique to Shopping Actions is Google’s “rating system” for retailers based on a set of metrics they need to hit such as thresholds for Item defect rate, Shipping defect rate, and even Sales volume.
Originally, meeting certain “levels” of the Retailer Standards, such as Top Retailer meant that retailers got a nice discount on the commission payout to Google when a product was purchased through Shopping Actions.
Just because Shopping Actions has gone free-to-play doesn’t mean that retailers should be shirking their responsibilities under the Retailer Standards. Being a Top Retailer can still net you more prominent product appearance because of the consistently great experience you provide.
Being below these standards could jeopardize your ability to remain eligible to list products through Shopping Actions.
How to get started with Google Shopping Actions (The New Way)
The rules have changed for those signing up new for the program starting with the requirement to submit an Interest Form in Merchant Center under Manage programs > Shopping Actions.
This form will add you to a waitlist as opposed to previously allowing you to fill in more information and submit your feed:
As of today, PayPal is the only payment processor allowed for inclusion in the program: