Google tests new mobile shopping features, adds Eddystone for beacons

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has added in some new shopping features to help encourage users to make purchases and released Eddystone, a new, open format for beacons.

The first enhancement to Google shopping affects product listing ads on mobile devices. Now, a user can swipe the ad to expand the product photo and get more information such as ratings, availability and nearby stores, WebProNews reported. In return, retailers listed in these ads will get more qualified traffic driven directly to their sites.

Mobile device use before or during shopping trips is on the rise and according to Google, influenced nearly a trillion dollars in U.S. sales, or roughly 28 percent of sales in stores.

Another new feature is newly designed shopping ads with authoritative ranking and product ratings on searches for top-rated products. According to VP of product management, Jonathan Alferness, the new design has helped increase the click-through rate up to 11 percent for retailers.

Third, product queries that include "reviews" or "recommendations" will now show snippets from the most useful reviews found around the Web.

Finally, shoppers who want details about product features can now view product attribute cards with the most relevant information.

Google also reported that it would start prioritizing ads for local inventory when a shopper is specifically looking for a product at a nearby store. Google reports that this method increased clicks on shopping ads by 85 percent for relevant queries.

Simultaneously Google released two new shopping cards for Google Now—the in-store card, which appears when a shopper is near a store, and the price drop card, which highlights price reductions.

Google also released a new set of features last week to help developers create apps that use beacon technology, according to a post on Google's developers blog. The goal is to create an open format for use with both Android and Apple devices.

"Working closely with partners in the BLE beacon industry, we've learned a lot about the needs and the limitations of existing beacon technology. So we set out to build a new class of beacons that addresses real-life use-cases, cross-platform support, and security," wrote Engineering Director Chandu Thota and Matthew Kulick, product manager. "At the core of what it means to be a BLE beacon is the frame format—i.e., a language—that a beacon sends out into the world. Today, we're expanding the range of use cases for beacon technology by publishing a new and open format for BLE beacons that anyone can use: Eddystone."

Eddystone is open source and cross-platform, able to work with any platform that supports BLE beacons.

There are two new APIs. The Nearby API for Android and iOS is intended to make it easier for apps to find and communicate with nearby devices and beacons. The Proximity Beacon API lets developers associate a specific location with related data stored in the cloud. This API will also be used in existing location APIs, such as the next version of the Places API, according to Google.

Google began testing beacon-based transit notifications in Portland, Oregon, earlier this year. The service provided more accurate real-time transit schedules, and Google Now will soon use this contextual information to help prioritize the most relevant cards, like showing a user menu items while they're inside a restaurant.

There is even an initiative to push beacon messages without a mobile. Using Google's Physical Web project, URLs can be broadcasted via beacon, helping people to interact with their surroundings.

And finally, Google admitted to testing its long-rumored buy button in search ads. The test is to help retailers improve mobile engagement and sales. Being called "Purchases," the buttons are designed to help retailers and other e-commerce businesses transact more easily online, FierceMobileMarketer reported.

"For retailers, opting in to Purchases on Google means improved mobile conversions thanks to a simplified checkout process," Alferness said. "Participating retailers only pay for clicks on the shopping ads to the product page; all clicks and interactions on the product page are free. While Google hosts the product page and provides purchase protection for customers, retailers own the customer communication and can offer customers the option to receive marketing and promotional messages."

Google's initial test will run with about a dozen retail partners, including Staples, and eventually it will be available in the United States.

*An earlier version of this story originally appeared in FierceMobileRetail's sister publication, FierceRetail. Executive Editor Laura Heller contributed to this story.


For more:
-See this WebProNews article
-See this FierceMobileMarketer article
-See this Google message to developers

Related stories:
Google draws closer to buy button
Google's algorithm change does little to harm retail
Google, Target data shows mobile search ads drive in-store sales
Google Express ready to take on Amazon
Beacons reach 1 in 3 millennial moms