Google is using its dominance in search to hit Amazon where it hurts

Just think of it like a virtual mall.
Just think of it like a virtual mall.
Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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People shop on Google. But they buy on Amazon. Google wants to change that.

The search giant is rolling out a program to make it easier to find products online—and take a cut of the resulting sales. As part of the new effort, US retailers will be able to list their products on Google platforms including the Shopping section of Search, the delivery service Google Express, and Google Assistant on mobile and voice, Reuters reported. Retailers will pay Google a cut of each purchase made in exchange for the listings and links to retailer loyalty programs. The fee is separate from what retailers already pay Google to advertise on the service.

The listings will surface under sponsored shopping results and will not impact regular search results on Google, the company said.

Google is partnering with major brands including Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Costco, and Ulta Beauty to start. The program, called Shopping Actions, will be available to all US retailers.

It could create real competition for Amazon, if Google gets it right. Search engines like Google gained ground on Amazon last year, as the second place US shoppers went first when looking for products online, Bloomberg reported. That was due in part to the rise of mobile shopping.

Google has improved its smartphone experience, and mobile searches on Google asking where to buy products rose by 85% over the past two years, Daniel Alegre, Google’s president for retail and shopping, told Reuters. He added that “tens of millions” of people also used image searches for products.

Voice search, which Google is also expanding, could help Google gain on Amazon, too, as more people get accustomed to shopping with smart speakers. Before Google entered the marketplace with Google Home, Amazon dominated the smart-speaker market.

Google has been trying to get in on the last end of the shopping pipeline for years, as it noticed more and more product searches on its platforms. It has a Shopping tab, which retailers pay to list (paywall) their products on. Five years ago, it launched Google Express, a delivery service where customers can buy things from retailers like Walmart, Costco, and PetSmart.

Update (7:55pm ET): This post was updated to include a clarification from Google, which did not return Quartz’s request for comment prior to publication.