Google has quietly launched a new merchant program called Shopping Actions, where retailers such as Target, Walmart and Home Depot pay Google each time it refers users who’re searching for where they can buy products.
The new service could help such retailers take advantage of Google’s voice assistant-based shopping services, so they can better defend themselves against Amazon‘s advances in this space.
Companies already pay Google (GOOGL) in order to place ads on its platform, and to run campaigns on Google Shopping. However, the new initiative—reported in a Reuters exclusive—is all to do with Google’s “organic search” service, whether on desktop, mobile, or voice-controlled devices such as Google Home.
At the moment, people asking Google where they can buy a certain product are very likely to be steered towards Amazon (AMZN), where they will make their purchase. Shopping Actions may help big retail chains fight back against the Amazon threat.
“We have taken a fundamentally different approach from the likes of Amazon because we see ourselves as an enabler of retail,” Google retail chief Daniel Alegre told Reuters.
According to the article, Shopping Actions is also tied in with Google’s Express home delivery service, and early results have shown the new feature leads customers to order more through that service.
As Search Engine Journal noted in a follow-up article, there are several questions that remain unanswered, such as whether retailers partnering with Google in this program will see their sites gain more prominence in Google’s search results, whether those sites will be clearly labelled as those of paid partners, and whether Google will steer users towards the cheapest products.