Google Image Search will now include shopping ads

As more of today’s consumers shop online using their mobile devices, often bypassing Google for e-commerce sites directly – and especially Amazon – Google has moved to combat the trend by launching its own visual shopping ads. Announced just ahead of its annual I/O developer conference this week, Google unveiled Shopping ads on image search.

That means when shoppers are browsing through Google Image search results, they’ll now see ads for related products, Google explained in an announcement on Monday. These ads appear at the top of the search results, above the images sourced from around the web.

Google’s newer filter buttons can also be used with the ads, allowing customers to narrow down what they’re looking for and then be directed to a retailer who sells them. The company says that many people who are browsing product images today have questions about the price of the item, or want to know where they can buy it.

With this launch, when a consumer now sees one of these image-based ads, they can click through and have those questions answered – and they can buy the product immediately from the retailer’s website.

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The company notes that people who search on smartphones at least once per week turn to product image ads as the shopping feature they use the most. What it didn’t say is how many of online shoppers are now skipping over Google entirely when they’re looking to buy. A recent survey found that 44 percent of shoppers go straight to Amazon versus just 34 percent who turn to search engines, and 21 percent who go to specific retailers’ websites.

Google says advertisers’ ads are automatically eligible to be displayed on Google Image Search as part of the Google Search Network. Swarovski is an early adopter of the new format, with plans to showcase its jewelry in Google Image Search.

While shopping ads in Image Search was one of the bigger announcements for online advertisers this week, it wasn’t the only news related to mobile shopping. The company is also now allowing retailers to cater to the online shopping trend where customers buy online, then pick up at their local store.


Starting this week, retailers can display if they offer this feature by adding a ‘store pickup link’ to their Google-hosted local product page. Kohl’s was using this feature during pilot testing, and reported a 40 to 50 percent increase in clicks, it said.

In addition, advertisers who use local inventory ads will now see their inventory searchable on in the local Knowledge Panel – this is the box that pops up with other information, like store hours and directions.

The company also offered a brief update on its same-day delivery service Google Express, though it didn’t speak about any hard numbers, like total revenues generated by participating retailers.

Instead, Google said that mobile accounted for over half of Google Express orders, that of Google Express customers buying from participating merchants, over 50% are new to the merchant, and for existing customers of those merchants, they see sales growth of 18%. 

Google says it’s continuing to expand the service, and, with the addition of 23 million coming online next month in Texas, Google Express will reach over 120 million customers.