Watch out, eBay and Amazon. Google is coming for you.
The world’s largest search engine has made it known that it will be aggressively expanding features on its Product Search service in the coming weeks and months in an effort to compete with the likes of Amazon.com and eBay for an even bigger slice of the rapidly growing e-commerce market in the U.S.
Foremost among the upgrades is the quick implementation of image-recognition technology for products, a tool Google picked up when it acquired the shopping search engine Like.com back in August.
The visual search feature is unique to the industry and obviously, one that Google believes it can use to get some separation from other e-commerce competitors. Basically, shoppers can use it to search for items based on colors or other aesthetic attributes, thus widening the net of search parameters that a Google Product Search user can employ as they shop.
Incorporating image-recognition into the online shopping process could prove especially useful for “soft goods” such as clothing, shoes and apparel, an area that Like.com did well enough in to capture the attention of the decision-makers at Google even before they decided to acquire the company.
While soft goods may be one of the most popular product categories out there for consumers, e-commerce entities have historically struggled to convert visits and searches for those items into sales. The reason why is pretty simple. Most, if not all, product search engines don’t recognize certain physical characteristics, subtle or otherwise. As such, it’s hard to comprehensively find and compare soft good items that are of a similar nature.
The technology Google inherited as a result of its acquisition of Like.com changes all that—visual search will display countless items that have shared details and attributes for a shopper all at once.
In addition, when Google bought Like, it also got the rights to Couturious.com, a site that allows users to mix and match soft goods items to create online outfits that they can share with their friends. Google plans to incorporate that feature into its refreshed Product Search offerings as well.
Google has certainly come a long way in its e-commerce efforts, which began back in 2002 with Froogle before the rebranding as Product Search in 2007. Though still outperformed by the likes of Amazon and eBay, Product Search processed more than 226 million searches in the third quarter this year, up 123 percent over Q3 2009. And with e-commerce now a $140 billion a year industry here in the U.S., cutting into the big boys’ share even a little would put some serious coin in Google’s pockets moving forward.
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