Any fashionistas out there may be surprised to learn that I have a famous fashion uncle – his name is Donald Pliner and he makes very cool shoes for both women and men (if you’re interested in checking out his shoes and supporting this blog, use this affiliate link and buy some of his shoes!). In any event, I always check up on my Uncle Donald via Google News and simply Google searches. On a recent search of “Donald Pliner” I found these AdWords ads:
As you can see from the image on the right, the BlueFly.com advertisement looks a little different than all the other ads, due to the prominent red shopping cart to the left of the URL. This cart, of course, represents the Google Checkout feature – the rival product to PayPal.
I have no idea whether this works as good or better than PayPal. My guess is that it is probably a bit buggy at the moment (in line with most Google betas), and that over time it will become a pretty useful feature.
The actual functionality, however, is irrelevant to this post. What’s more important is that the shopping cart clearly helps BlueFly stand out from the crowd. Some searchers will probably conclude that a shopping cart means that you can buy online and therefore all other companies in the search results cannot process online orders. The end result is probably a windfall for BlueFly – higher click-throughs, lower CPCs, and a huge competitive advantage.
Now if you were a competitor of BlueFly, how would you react to this shopping cart? You’d probably get on the phone to your Google rep post haste and demand that you are immediately set up with a Google checkout. In other words, if just a few companies use Google Checkout, all of their competitors on AdWords will have no choice but to also sign up for Checkout.
If you thought that the viral marketing campaign Google used to promote GMail was brilliant, I assure you that this strategy around Google Checkout will be far, far more effective.
Loyal readers of Blogation would probably expect me to launch into one of my typical critiques of Google at this point. And I have to admit, I was about to. I was going to talk about how this was yet another blatant example of Google using its strangle-hold on Internet marketing to force a product or a world view (like Quality Score) on advertisers who have no choice but to accept Google’s will.
In this instance, however, I actually have a little compassion for Google. Google is battling PayPal here and PayPal is about an entrenched competitor as you could possibly ask for (other than, perhaps eBay’s dominance in online auctions). Given the choice between offering PayPal, Google Checkout, or PayPal and Google Checkout, I suspect that most merchants would rather just stick to PayPal, simply because its what 99.9% of users are used to, and there comes a point when too many payment options simply confusers potential purchasers. And just to rub a little bit more dirt in Google’s wounds, eBay has made it more than clear that Google Checkout is not welcome on eBay.
On top of that, I think that the novelty of Google product releases is starting to wear thin. Back in the day, people went bonkers over every little thing Google launched (let’s face it, Google Base really wasn’t the eBay/Craigslist killer it was portrayed to be).
So my guess is that Google Checkout could very easily have been met with a collective yawn from the online community unless Google gave businesses a really good reason to sign up. And getting a competitive advantage in AdWords is a really good reason for most ecommerce companies these days.
Of course, none of this eBay-Google battling is really good for ecommerce sites or for consumers. If you think that letting consumers know that a site accepts online payments is good for user experience, you should probably allow sites with either PayPal or Google Checkout to display a shopping cart logo (or something similar to that on eBay).
But that’s not what’s behind this. This is just one salvo in the big fight that’s already brewing between eBay and Google. One of these days, Google is going to find a way (other than Google Base) to create a true online auction competitor to eBay. And if you think that the shopping cart being used to promote Google Checkout is brash, just imagine how they’ll incent AdWords users to add auctions to their sites. It may be a great opportunity for some of us to fly with Larry and Sergei in their pimped out plane! Hey, maybe all of this competition isn’t so bad after all . . .