What the New Shopping Features in Edge and Google Search Mean for Online Retailers
It’s a fact of life: When you’re selling online, the platforms that send traffic your way can make or break your business. Therefore, you should always keep an eye out for any changes that can impact user behavior.
In recent months, two of the biggest platforms around — Google and Microsoft — have integrated coupons, price comparisons, and cashback into their shopping experiences. Let’s look at what’s been going on, what you need to know, and what you need to do.
New Native Tools for Bargain Hunters
In the second half of 2022, Google and Microsoft both introduced new features meant to lure online shoppers hunting for the best deals. Implementation details differ, but the idea is very similar: namely, to help users save money by highlighting coupons and price comparisons for products that have caught their attention.
In August, Microsoft announced new shopping features integrated into Microsoft Edge. It now scans the web for coupons and discount codes to apply at checkout on shopping sites, and shows you their availability right on the search engine results page (SERP). Once you’ve clicked into the online store, you can use the Edge sidebar to access coupons, cashback, price history and price comparisons. With these features, Microsoft claims to help users save an average of $400 annually.
Google quickly followed suit, launching its own set of shopping enhancements — initially only in the U.S. These features aren’t browser-dependent, but rather integrated into Google’s dominant search engine. They include a promotion badge, a coupon-clipping feature that lets users save promo codes, a side-by-side comparison feature for deals across multiple retailers, and insight into historical pricing trends. Users can track prices of products across several online stores at once and receive notifications about price drops.
What This Means for E-Commerce
Search is a major contributor to e-commerce sales. Any change at this scale is going to have downstream effects on online purchasing behavior.
As others have pointed out, the recent moves by the mega corporations that dominate online search can be seen as a direct challenge to browser extensions such as Honey and Rakuten Rewards, which provided similar coupon-scanning, cashback, and price comparison functionality.
E-commerce marketers have always had a complicated relationship with shopping extensions. Most would consider them a net positive since they help "seal the deal" for hesitant consumers and drive highly relevant traffic. However, challenges remain around some extensions’ potential to interrupt the browsing experience and muddle attribution.
Well, regardless of whether you like them or not, these features are becoming part and parcel of the online shopping experience. While only a fraction of users would install a shopping extension, the vast majority of shoppers will stay opted in to a setting that’s on by default in their browsers and search engines.
3 Strategies for Success
It’s still early days, but we can outline some reasonable next steps. Online stores should adapt their strategies to ensure that their own promotions are visible, while maintaining control and visibility over the impact that the new shopping features are having on consumer behavior. Here are three tips you should consider:
1. Optimize your own promotions.
If you’re running your own discounts or promotions, you want to make sure they’re front and center. Now more than ever, you need to create a sense of urgency and reduce the incentive to search for third-party coupons or other distractions.
Both Google and Microsoft provide tools to highlight your own promotions directly on the SERP (here and here, respectively). Now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with each platform's guidelines and tools, such as the types of promotions available and ways to use structured data to implement them.
Beyond the technical details, you want to focus on clear, specific promotions that are easy to understand. The user should have a very clear idea of which products are eligible and how to take advantage of discount codes or other promos. Limited-time offers can do wonders to drive action.
2. Understand how native browser features are impacting the shopping experience.
While there’s no simple way to understand the impact of things happening on the SERP level, you can monitor user behavior on your own site. Keep a close eye on user behavior data, especially on the pages where features such as the Edge sidebar are active.
For example, you can track metrics such as time on site, bounce rate, and conversion rate to identify any changes that might be attributed to the new shopping features. Additionally, consider using tools like heat maps and session recordings to better understand user interactions with these tools and how they're impacting their shopping experience. This will allow you to adjust your own pricing or UX to try and counteract (or capitalize on) what you’re seeing in the data.
3. Review existing coupons and affiliate relationships.
Any coupon-based promotion you’ve run in the past is going to be scanned and made much easier to find. Now is the time to "clean house" and ensure that the promotions you’re running, especially through partners and affiliates, are still beneficial for your business. Revenue margins are the obvious thing to consider, but you might also want to verify that you’re not running any kind of campaign that could hurt your brand’s reputation.
You should review active coupon codes and analyze the historical performance of different campaigns. Decide whether any adjustments need to be made to your affiliate program, such as updating commission structures, promoting different products, or removing less scrupulous partners.
Closing: Stay Ahead of the Curve
You can’t control Microsoft and Google’s decisions to tinker with their online shopping features. As an online retailer, it's crucial to stay informed, adapt your strategies, and continue to prioritize the needs of your customers. Keep a close eye on your promotion strategy and user behavior metrics to ensure your online business makes the most of the new reality.
Ohad Greenshpan is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Namogoo, pioneer of the world’s first digital journey continuity platform.
Ohad Greenshpan is co-founder and CTO at Namogoo, a company that was created with the mission of preserving an optimized online customer journey. The Namogoo platform provides visibility and control over the impact of third-party services on website performance and business KPIs. Ohad is an entrepreneur with a rich background in advanced Big Data and Machine Learning technologies.