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Amazon and Google battle for shoppers, and that could help small retailers

Some say Google’s latest response to the online retail giant is a potential windfall for independent businesses.
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When it comes to online shopping, Amazon has stolen search traffic from Google for years, says Mike Massey, founder of the e-commerce platform, Locally.

"The very first concept to understand is that this all comes down to a brewing war between Google and Amazon,” Massey told SNEWS, an outdoor newsletter owned by Active Interest Media, the parent company of several publications including Soundings Trade Only. "This is a shot across the bow from one of the largest tech firms in the world to the other.”

More and more, shoppers are beginning and ending their product searches on Amazon, from initial query to final purchase — bad news for Google, a company that makes most of its money from ads on product searches run through its various platforms.

Google offers most of its products — Gmail and Google Maps, for example — for free, meaning the revenue comes from product searches, Massey explained.

“They're trying to address this Amazon problem by encouraging people to start their shopping searches on Google. That's what this new move is about," said Massey.

That could be a game changer for small retailers, he said.

"The kind of exposure that retailers are going to get from this is potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars a month,” said Massey.

To understand Google's move from the consumer side, Massey said he tells people to imagine doing a basic search for the word "pizza."

"What comes up at the top of the page? Not the Wikipedia article for pizza, not the names of famous pizza restaurants in New York City, but relevant local information — pizza places near you — that guide you toward a purchase,”

Now, that same concept will come to retail.

Before, if consumers typed “Yeti cooler” into a Google search, it would have mainly yielded ads from companies that had spent a lot of money on them, said Massey.

“Now you’re getting links to local retailers,” said Massey. “Google is essentially giving away free advertising."

There are some caveats.

To take advantage of the program, retailers need to have a viable e-commerce operation that can feed data to Google for the listings. And they need to set up a merchant account with Google as well.

To solve these problems, Locally has partnered with dbaPlatform to offer a set-up service that handles all aspects of syncing in-stock inventory from local retailers with Google. The service costs $49 a month for one location and an additional $39 a month for each location after that.

"What retailers should understand is that, even though this is a battle between two tech giants, small shops are the winners right now," Massey said.

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