Google’s efforts to improve the omnichannel shopping ecosystem gets a new set of eyes today as the search giant rolls out enhancements to its Google Lens technology for iOS and Chrome browsers, creating new levels of discoverability and satisfaction in digital shopping experiences.
Speaking with Karen Webster ahead of Google’s Search On ’21 event set for Wednesday (Sept. 29), Matt Madrigal, VP/GM of merchant shopping at Google, previewed plans to leverage Google Lens image recognition tech along with Google’s Shopping Graph database tracking some 24 billion listings from millions of merchants to make discovering and buying seamless.
Telling Webster that Google “available near me” searches have grown globally by over a 100% in the past year, Madrigal said that starting Wednesday, thanks to enhanced Google Lens functionality “you’ll be able to select a new in-stock filter to see only stores that have a specific product you’re looking for on their shelves.”
Madrigal said the new tools help consumers discover new stores and give them confidence before they head out to buy, while also allowing small businesses a better way to display their inventory.
Find It, See It, Confirm It, Buy It
PYMNTS research has found clear correlations between inventory in-stock positions and shopper satisfaction. The recent Global Digital Shopping Index noted, “The top four features that have seen increased usage since the outbreak include buy online, pickup from a store employee — curbside pickup — with 34.2 percent of consumers using this option more … followed by verifying that a product is in stock (at 28 percent).”
Assurance that an item is in-stock triggers store visits from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to enterprise merchants. Google’s moves announced today are meant to strengthen and expand that effect.
“If you’re a large merchant that has feeds already with Google, that’s something that you’ll just update,” Madrigal said. “But if you’re an SMB we acquired a company called Pointy in 2019 that allows SMBs to just scan … inventory immediately associated with your business profile. And now with this, they’ll be able to surface the inventory with that specific in-stock filter.”
Making Search More Shoppable
Noting that Google Lens is currently used over 3 billion times per month for product searches, Madrigal told Webster the updated Google Lens for iOS iPhones requires that users first download the Google App. With the updates announced today, Madrigal said, “Within the Google app in the search bar, you’ll see a Lens icon. Click that, it will pull up your camera, you can snap [the image] and you’ll get the information on the object back. On Android, you can access Lens through the Google app or through Google photos.”
By bringing Lens to the Chrome desktop computers, “you can select images, video, text, content and then search with Lens to see results in the same tab. If you’re on a home design website … with the Google app on iOS all the products on the screen will be shoppable with Lens. All you have to do is tap the screen where the product is, let’s say like a lamp and a bedroom set, and the details for that lamp and the similar products will … appear.”
Today’s other big change to shopping in the Google ecosystem involves enhanced visual search results that create more experiential interactions on-screen, delivering more comprehensive results and a more enjoyable end-to-end shopping journey for consumers.
“You’re now going to see a visual feed of products … interspersed with video content and style guides,” Madrigal said.
“For example, if you search for men’s sweatshirts, you’ll see … a visual feed of men’s sweatshirts with different styles and colors, along with style guides deals, and then YouTube videos. When you find something you like, you can click to check out more reviews and ratings and then compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal. With this change … we’re making it easier to window shop your favorite brands and then discover new brands, and at the same time, help more brands get discovered.”
Surfacing Relevant Deals Across More Platforms
With Webster noting the attraction in cross-platform functionality for Google Lens, Madrigal said, “This is available for mobile in the U.S. with apparel to start,” including accessories and footwear. “And what’s also nice is that you see this … really nice visual experience, which will help in both … product discovery and inspiration as you see the filter chips up top — women’s, casual workwear — it will filter all the information as well while you’re in that journey.”
With PYMNTS research finding that 92% of sales come from physical channels — and inventory availability a deciding factor in whether millions will make a trip to the store — Webster pointed out that the key to success for stores today is marrying physical with digital experience.
Madrigal said the new Google Lens enhancements build on the company made last year including free product listings and no commissions, adding, “What we’re going to see now … as we head into Black Friday and Cyber Monday [that] people can search for … Black Friday deals or Cyber Monday sales and we’ll surface those deals right in search.”
Google’s previously announced deals with Shopify and Square play into the creation of a more connected and value-driven ecosystem and experience, and “have helped us build a pretty comprehensive product inventory on Google,” he said.