Google's Commerce Search For Retailers Now Better And Cheaper

For any e-retailer, product search is the foundation of a commerce platform. Many times, a consumer goes directly to the search box to find the object they want. And the ability to easily find products on a retailers site affects the consumer interaction and experience with their site and produces higher conversion rates. Google began powering search platforms for retailers last year, with the launch of Commerce Search, a hosted enterprise search product to power online retail stores and e-commerce websites. Today, Google is launching the next iteration of Commerce Search which offers retailers a more powerful and less-expensive version of the product.

The first version of Google Commerce offered a variety of features that are optimized for retail and product search, such as parametric search, sorting of results, spell checker, stemming, and synonym suggestion. The newest version builds on these features, by offering a more in-depth search experience for users and merchants. As Commerce product manager Nitin Mangtani tells me, version 2.0 focuses on enhancing navigation and the user experience.

The Merchandising Dashboard: A new merchandising dashboard gives merchants more options within their search portals. Retailers can now rank products, so that certain products rank higher in search results than others. Additionally, retailers can feature promotions and sales within search portals within a given timeline. And retailers can add customized filters or ‘facets’ to search, and Google’s technology will present the appropriate results accordingly. All of these features can be implemented through a rules wizard that requires no custom code so a marketer or merchandiser could easily implement changes.

Search Improvements: Google is adding realtime query autocompletion, which is a necessary element of any retail site. And Google will customize auto suggestions for each site, depending on the product indexed. Google has also improved speed of search results in Commerce search, and claim that search results are returned to shoppers in less than a second.

Price Drop: Google is dropping the price of Commerce search to a pricing model that starts at $25,000 per year. Previously, Commerce search pricing started at $50,000 per year. Pricing is based on total volume of queries and items indexed.

Google Commerce search also integrates Google products like Google Analytics and Google Product Search. Using Commerce, retailers can measure clicks, conversion rates, number of transactions, average order value and other data via Google Analytics. And e-commerce vendors can provide a single feed of products and catelogue items that will power Commerce and indexing of their products on Google Product Search.

Retailers using Commerce search include Birkenstock, Smart Furniture and Coveroo. Google declined to release the exact number of retailers who are using the Commerce search product, but did say that Google is powered enterprise search for 30,000 sites currently. Google also offers a general hosted search product that is used by organizations that want to add customized Google search functionality to their websites.

I’m curious if Google dropped their price because of a lack of retailers adopting the search product. As the retail industry steadily climbs out of the hole caused by the recession, I still think $25K is a lot to pay for search for smaller retailers. But it’s good to see that Google is dropping the price to allow for more retailers to use the product. And Google is pushing its product as an easily deployable, user-friendly way to integrate powerful search into a retail site. Google faces competition from Omniture, IBM, Endeca and others.