Next up: Google Shopping?

Froogle logo, (c) 2005 by GoogleI’ve just spent much of the last few days discussing Google with a sharp reporter from Fortune Small Business. We spent most of our time talking about strategic directions for the company, asking questions about how free wi-fi, Open Office via Sun Microsystems, and the Google toolbar all fit together (and, yes, they do), but what’s most stuck in my head is trying to figure out the answer to the question:
    Froogle + Google Base = ?
For a long time I’ve paid close attention to Froogle, Google’s shopping engine, waiting for the company to put some energy into really making it a full member of the Google family. But still, even with yet another facelift, it languishes and isn’t discussed or used very much, as far as I can see. And yet compared to just about any other online “shopping engine'”, Froogle has two fabulous things going for it from a vendor’s perspective: inclusion in Froogle is free and Froogle = Google.


So what’s missing? Why isn’t Froogle a compelling and interesting shopping engine?
One place to look is Yahoo Shopping: with its aggregation of thousands of Yahoo stores, Yahoo Shopping is in fact a splendid place to research purchases and compare prices. (and shopping in the future will be all about price as we move into a fully commoditized future, the implications of which my co-author and I explore in our upcoming book Let Go To Grow).
The only stores and products represented in Yahoo Shopping, however, are those that are actually paying the monthly fee to have a Yahoo Store. If you already have an ecommerce solution or online store, is it really worth it to have a duplicate store at Yahoo just to get into their shopping engine? (perhaps, there are certainly some high-profile vendors that also have a presence on Yahoo Shopping, including Crabtree & Evelyn, Cirque du Soleil, Vermont Teddy Bear and the Guggenheim)
Another site to compare is Amazon‘s merchant program. Amazon is perhaps more interesting than Yahoo because it has its own store, plus it has a high-level partnership with a small number of larger merchants (including Borders, J&R Music, and Toys “R” Us), and then it has thousands of smaller merchants offering products through Amazon Marketplace or even Amazon auctions. But, again, to get into the Amazon world of online shopping, you have to pay and you have to sell through their system.
Doesn’t it seem that the 800-pound gorilla, Google, should be able to eclipse these sort of solutions with its free-for-merchants alternative?
There are other players in the shopping engine world too, of course, including the slowly decreasing set of shopping comparison sites like Shopping.com and NexTag, but they’re easily matched and are frankly lackluster services anyway.
What about eBay? Well, eBay is another company that is very savvy and it’s no surprise to see that more and more of the transactions on the site are non-auction transactions: eBay now has a bunch of different selling formats, including fixed price, best offer, store inventory, and more. eBay is an interesting contender as a shopping engine, especially with its earlier acquisition and absorption of Half.com, but, again, there’s the same limitation: you can’t have your products in the eBay engine unless you pay to include them.
And so we circle back to Google and its Froogle engine.
The main problem with Froogle, in my opinion, is that it’s too darn hard to add products to the system. It’s a puzzling text-only file format that takes quite a while to master (I discuss it in my Google book, actually).
But put Froogle and Google Base together and all of a sudden you solve the problem. No worry about weird or tedious data formats, and a simple web-based data management system for inventory pops up. In fact, here’s proof from Google that this is where things are heading:

New! If you have a physical store, visit Google Base to upload your inventory and display it on Froogle’s local shopping results.

Where’s that bullet point located? On the Froogle Welcome Page, right up top.
So now we can see the answer start to crystallize:
    Froogle + Google Base = Google Shopping
That’s the equation. Stay tuned, we’re going to see a much bigger push from Google in this area. It’s a very logical direction for growth, and the combination of Google Shopping and the increasingly sophisticated geotargeting ad options through AdWords are going to usher in a new generation of online shopping for all of us, a venue where any merchant will be able to have their products listed in what will quickly become the #1 shopping engine on the Web (do you doubt it?)
If you’re a shopper, don’t forget to use Froogle for researching prices and competitive offerings, and if you’re a merchant now’s the time to start connecting your inventory management system with Google Base to ensure that you’re in Froogle.
It’s the next big thing.

7 comments on “Next up: Google Shopping?

  1. I appreciate Google for giving me a lot of free items, from Gmail to Blogspot, and for constantly innovating and improving their offerings.
    The main problem for online shopping will be identity theft and spoofed sites.
    As the lazies who hate weather, or the smarties who wage war against terrorism by conserving gas and oil, as they serendiptiously order products in the cozy comfort of their own homes, the cyber criminals will be lurking, scheming, and attacking.
    Convenience is the new idol, the brother of Speed.
    We will pay dearly for this net-powered convenience and speed.
    I advise everyone to not shop, or conduct any sensitive information transaction, online.
    But, having said this, I agree with you about where Google could be heading, and it makes sense from a marketing viewpoint.
    We need to remember, marketing and mammonism are not the only perspectives.

  2. “We need to remember, marketing and mammonism are not the only perspectives.”
    Certainly – but there are more than 16 shades of gray. You don’t have to be a Luddite to avoid being materialistic. I’m ever more appreciative of the convenience that online shopping – or nearly any Google offering – has provided me to do things I’ve always wanted to do… but never seemed to have the time.
    [X] Amazon: I like to read. Amazon (esp. Amazon Prime) have made it painless for me to grow my library and get my hands on the books I *really* want. When I hear/read a book review or have an idea, I fire an order off from my net connected phone. The book(s) show up at my home a couple days later. No more keeping scribbled booklists in my wallet or trips to bookstores to pick through their limited selection.
    [X] Gmail: I like to correspond with friends and family but do not necessarily want to be “on call” for a telephone. Gmail serves up my mail anywhere I am, saving me cost of stationary & postage, saving me time wasted in drop off & delivery of post, and allowing me to move much richer content digitally than I could conveniently do with paper. Attachments and URLs substitute for the photo prints or photocopies of articles/letters/reviews.
    [X] Google Maps: Also accessed through my phone, Gmail gets me anywhere I am going – at the time I need the directions. I no longer need ask someone to give me directions ahead of time, write or print directions out, stop to ask locals where I am, or carry three road atlases with me.
    [X] Google Local: Any phone number or address of a person or business – whenever I need it. I don’t even have to know specifically who (or which business) I need to reach. Google Local serves up the answers in response to my generalized queries “Toyota near ” or “Smith near “.
    Google has consistently provided better methods of accomplishing things that I already want & need. So much so, that I find myself “going where Google goes”. When they have a new offering – I am more inclined to put aside what might be my normal skepticism (say, with other well known service providers) and jump in with both feet.

  3. It is fascinating to watch Google as they innovate relevant tools. What will be next that benefits my business? Like http://www.google.com/video to sell videos of workshops and personal assistant to do research and name generation for business development and recruiting, inexpensively. Google is directly affecting many industry practices and in some cases will replace people. i.e. researchers in executive search firms. People need to pay attention to their environment and adjust accordingly!

  4. What about GoogleTalk? Wikipedia claims it is “underwhelming”. Based on Jabber, is it secure?
    GoogleShop and GoogleTalk, plus GoogleBase, could be a powerful consumer-friendly tool suite.
    When consumers can pretty much all corporate hype, and discover their own deals, this will be good for us.

  5. I ordered a book through Froogle and went through an unending wilderness of superfluous and idiotic hoops and actually entered by VISA number and maiing/billing address and password invention and alternate password and performed visual puzzles etc etc etc in good faith and never revieved a confimation that my order had been registered and recorded. I then spent an hour fruitlessly trying to access my account with Froogle or make some contact with Froogle as a buyer rather than as a vendor. Fruitlessly. I feel jerked around and denuded of two hours of my life and utterly fed with Froogle and with Gates and with the industrial revolution. Is there an answer outside of saint john’s wort and a violin case full of small arms and a return to Amazon which itself can be sloppy. But not that sloppy. Sloppy. Unprofessional. Actionable. Incapable. Shitty.

  6. Online shopping has already increased numbers this year and I think that online shopping will soon be the shooping trend of the next generation of kids. I mean, you can almost shop for anything online. Is there something that you can’t actually order online. I’m 35 and I use easysaver as my main website to find information about discounts, coupons, coupon codes etc etc. After that I start shopping to see where I can save money better for me and my family.

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