Big data is the big business buzzword in recent years, and what firm has a bigger treasure trove of marketing data than Google? So, when Google announced on Oct. 20 the availability of its new Google Shopping Insights Beta tool, the business press was all-abuzz with eagerness to report on this new big data tool. Being ever the cynic, I looked for myself and considered how this might be of interest and utility to e-commerce merchants and the search marketers who work for them.
First, let’s take a quick look at what the tool is and promises to do, and let’s remember that it is in beta. Google has a track record of creating new products/tools releasing them into the wild in beta format and then either enhancing them into full-fledged products with user fees attached or eliminating them with little more than a blog post death notice. So let’s tap the brakes on our excitement until we take this new tool for an extensive test drive.
What Is Google’s New Shopping Insights Tool?
According to Google, Shopping Insights will make data about shopping habits and preferences more accessible. That is to say, the tool shows what shoppers are searching for online by product, geographic area and device. The tool in its current format is limited, covering just the 5,000-plus most popular products on Google Shopping between April 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015. It is at this juncture that users are asked to make their first leap of faith – that what shoppers search online correlates directly with what they actually buy in a local store. Google cautions that while 87 percent of shopping research happens online, 92 percent of goods are still sold in retail stores. This means the tool cannot address situations where the consumer will research a product heavily and then either not buy the product based on the research, or go in another direction and conduct yet another search and more research.
Who Will Use the Tool and How?
Further, the tool uses AdWords’ compatible geographic areas so buyers of regional AdWords campaigns may find the tool helpful. By offering shopping research by device information, merchants may be able to look at whole classes of products and determine if they need to provide shoppers an enhanced mobile experience. However, for online-only merchants, the tool offers little truly useful information. For clicks-and-mortar multi-locational merchants, the tool is very thin soup. Many large retailers have invested in robust information systems to provide data so that merchandise can be moved to where it will sell rapidly. With supply chains extended to accommodate huge volumes of products produced overseas, supply chain information systems are the backbone for commerce. While reviewing the tool, I found myself wishing for many more layers of information – population overlays for geographic areas, cell carrier popularity information to judge device use and other moderating data.
For the organic search marketer, the tool may provide correctional data for regional campaigns. It is often easy to view the world through the lens of our own local experience. With the ability to see patterns and trends outside of our local sphere, we can correct our own misgivings as to popularity of products and hence validity of actually targeting our organic campaigns toward rather specific products. As marketers give this tool a spin, more insights as to its usefulness will emerge; but for now, I will be using it as yet another tool for taking interesting data snapshots.