Google has changed the requirements for its Trusted Stores program to make it easier for stores to join the program. What does this promise for the consumer, for merchants taking advantage of the offer, particularly those who went through the initial vetting process necessary to obtain the designation, as well as for Google? When Google first set up its Trusted Stores program, it provided a level of purchase protection for consumers and a conversion enhancement incentive for merchants displaying the Trusted Stores badge. The program badge provides consumers a level of confidence prior to purchase, and for consumers opting-in at time of purchase, a free purchase protection program; whereby, Google promises to intervene if there was an issue with the purchase. To display the Google Trusted Stores badge, the merchant had to submit feeds with shipping and cancellation information to prove that the merchant met specific levels of shipping and customer satisfaction performance set by Google.
What Has Changed and Who Benefits?
To increase merchant enrollment, Google has announced that it is dropping the requirement that stores submit shipping and cancellation information. To be a member of the program, a store must do a sales volume of 200 orders per month, so the program will still exclude the casual on-line merchant fulfilling just a few orders a day. The merchant must also provide assurances that email inquiries are addressed within one day. When the program was initiated some merchants were reluctant to join because they did not want to provide Google, an ad-selling monolith, business sensitive information on their order volumes. Google has removed this barrier.
A change benefitting all merchants in the program is that they can now custom position the badge on their site and display it on their https pages. Previously, it had to appear in the lower right hand corner of the home page. An additional carrot to attract new enrollees is that reviews garnered through the Trusted Stores program will help advertisers, using Google’s AdWords program, qualify for review extensions that boost click through rates by offering the consumer merchant quality assurances.
Google’s intent is clear. The ad giant wants to enroll more high volume merchants in its program. A greater number of stores would enhance Google’s position as a shopping resource. By dropping the data sharing requirement, Google removes a clear and significant barrier to participation. Surely, a merchant with a stellar performance rating, attaining the coveted review extensions for AdWords and enjoying enhanced click through rates will be more willing to purchase more AdWords, a clear win for Google. To industry watchers, this move is not just a program change or a way to gain more AdWord sales. It is a strategic move to counter the growing influence of Amazon as a commerce source for consumers and to consolidate Google’s position as a source of trusted reviews versus other review platforms. This program change is a signal of things to come and bears careful watching.