Thursday, January 28th, 2010
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It seems like you can’t open The New York Times lately without seeing Vic Gundotra touting Google’s latest innovation or acquisition (disclosure: Fluid worked with Vic when he was at Microsoft — we’re fans).
In addition to Google dominating all-things-mobile, some recent significant announcements:
Any of the above looked at individually are significant and innovative but not a game changer in their own right.
But when you look at them as a coordinated whole, what begins to emerge is that Google is assembling a new breed of multi-channel ecommerce platform with the potential to deliver consumers a complete shopping experience without ever needing to interact with a retailer’s website, app or social presence.
Whether this is master plan or strategic by-product is up for discussion. But add to the above list the foundation that Google already has put in place:
• Search UPC codes
• Shop Savvy
• Package tracking
• Google Checkout
• Google Analytics
• My Shopping List, Gallery View, parametric filtering, etc. etc.
It’s an easy leap to envision this scenario:
A consumer searches Google for “spring trenchcoat belt.” Google returns her a product grid of trenchcoats in interactive merchandising displays allowing for zoom and multiple views across a range of brands. More interesting is tagged user-generated content (e.g. my colleague Vanessa’s twitpic of herself trying on a red Ledstone Trench at Burberry on Spring Street). Real-time results deliver relevant posts/tweets from other similarly focused shoppers. User reviews (courtesy of Yelp or similar) deliver a trove of ratings and geo-located user opinions including the best places to buy online and the best local stores in your area.
Sound familiar? Sounds like your ecommerce site except with more choice, more functionality, and more options making it better for the consumer. Sounds like a pretty awesome digital shopping experience to me – one that decidedly shifts the balance of power to the consumer and turbo-enables the digital shopping patterns we all saw emerge this holiday.
Perhaps most interesting is that Google is not bound to the need to convert. Instead, they benefit most by embracing a new paradigm of the shopping funnel as a non-linear, cross-brand, multi-branched journey. What makes this so powerful is that this is what consumers want and, most often, is in opposition to what individual retailers want to control.
The scenarios get more interesting and paradigm-bending:
- Find the perfect chair while browsing a home design magazine in airport lounge at JFK > use Goggles to identify the product > mobile search for best prices online + local availability in Seattle > share my shopping list to my wife who goes to see them in person and buys from our local design store.
- A Patagonia brand loyalist is shopping in a Patagonia store > decides on the jacket he wants but wants to make sure he isn’t overpaying > mobile UPC search returns not only best prices but comparable jackets from other outdoor brands > even more relevant is the user-generated content, specifically one outdoor enthusiast’s tweet linking to a mobile video where he demonstrates the advantages of The North Face Mercurial Jacket > former brand loyalist is now comparison shopping.
There are many more scenarios, all plausible, readily possible and direct outgrowths of consumer behavior patterns that are already happening (brands and retailers are catching up).
The most interesting thing here is that consumers are driving this. They want this new shopping paradigm to fuel their rapidly evolving digital lifestyles. Google’s genius is their relentless commitment to a user-centric strategy and ultimately leading consumers to a vision of their own creation.