EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 3005 - February 20, 2013     2 of 5

Different Opinions about Google's Commerce Search Exit

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Google confirmed on Tuesday it would stop offering Google Commerce Search, a product it launched in 2009 for large enterprise merchants. Instead, it will focus on a key feature of Commerce Search called Search-As-You-Type (SAYT), which it had de-bundled from Commerce Search over the summer.

Google Commerce Search offered retailers a hosted search solution, allowing them to customize their ecommerce search engines with features including targeted promotions within search.

A Google spokesperson explained in an email on Tuesday, "We are making a strategy shift towards offering more flexible, easier to adopt modules for retailers, such as the Search As You Type widget, rather than a full site search replacement and therefore will no longer be offering Google Commerce Search as core site search replacement product. We will continue to support our current retail customers using GCS and will try to help them on the best migration process to alternate solutions."

Google watchers in the ecommerce industry did not seem surprised, and pointed to several reasons why the move made sense. Mercent founder and CEO Eric Best said based on client feedback, it appeared that Commerce Search had very low adoption. Mercent works with retailers to connect them with ecommerce platforms and ad channels.

Best said SAYT was Google Commerce Search's best feature and allowed retailers the ability to leverage the full capabilities of Google's search suggestions on their own website. Spinning off SAYT as a stand-alone product was a good move by Google, he said, "as this requires significantly less resources to integrate for merchants but still offers Google visibility into on site search behavior in order to improve their own search experience."

Google Commerce Search pricing started at $25,000/year for 50,000 SKUs and 3 million queries, and $50,000/year for 100,000 SKUs and 10 million queries. Sayf Sharif of LunaMetrics believed the biggest obstacle to Google Commerce Search was its price versus functionality. "The companies that could make the most out of the features were most likely large enough to have developers on staff capable of building their own internal search engine, which they could then customize to their hearts content," he said. "Every company I worked with that was large enough to consider it had their own customized internal product search engines."

One company that found itself competing with Google when it launched Commerce Search was SLI Systems. Its founder and CEO Shaun Ryan said while Google is a technology innovator, it is not known for providing a high level of service.

"Google's biggest challenge was likely in its inability to offer users of its Commerce Search offering ongoing service to ensure companies were getting the most value out of their investment. Another challenge was that often site search now will cover much more than just products. You can use it to find relevant videos, blog posts, how to guides, Facebook posts etc. Google Commerce Search was restricted to products."

The value proposition of Google Commerce Search was that it used the product feed merchants were already providing Google for its paid shopping service, Ryan said. As for whether Google Commerce Search was priced appropriately, he said, "I think it was a little expensive for what it was."

SLI Systems had been firmly entrenched in offering enterprise search to large retailers before Google came on the scene, and Ryan said Google's choice to terminate its Commerce Search offering gives his company an opportunity. "We're giving any Google Commerce Search users a fast and easy migration path to our full-service site search solution with the added benefit of A/B testing capabilities to ensure they utilize the most effective search features."

Google would not comment on which services offered alternative solutions.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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