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Exclusive: 'Where can I buy?' - Google makes push to turn product searches into cash

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03/19/2018 | 11:11am CET
A man checks Google devices outside its booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (>> Alphabet) Google routinely fields product queries from millions of shoppers. Now it wants to take a cut of their purchases, too.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc Google routinely fields product queries from millions of shoppers. Now it wants to take a cut of their purchases, too.

The U.S. technology company is teaming up with retailers including Target Corp (>> Target Corporation), Walmart Inc (>> Wal-Mart Stores), Home Depot Inc, Costco Wholesale Corp (>> Costco Wholesale Corporation) and Ulta Beauty Inc.

Under a new program, retailers can list their products on Google Search, as well as on the Google Express shopping service, and Google Assistant on mobile phones and voice devices.

In exchange for Google listings and linking to retailer loyalty programs, the retailers pay Google a piece of each purchase, which is different from payments that retailers make to place ads on Google platforms.

Google's pitch to retailers is a better chance to influence shoppers' purchasing decisions, a move that is likely to help them compete with rival Amazon.com Inc. Google hopes the program helps retailers capture more purchases on desktop, cell phones and smart home devices with voice search – the next frontier for e-commerce.

The previously unreported initiative sprang from Google's observation that tens of millions of consumers were sending image searches of products, asking "Where can I buy this?" "Where can I find it?" "How can I buy it?" "How do I transact?" Daniel Alegre, Google's president for retail and shopping, told Reuters exclusively.

Over the past two years, mobile searches asking where to buy products soared by 85 percent, Alegre said.

But the current default choice for many consumers is a Google search that ends with an Amazon purchase, analysts said. The new Google program, Shopping Actions, will be available in the United States to retailers of all sizes and could help retail chains keep those customers.

"We have taken a fundamentally different approach from the likes of Amazon because we see ourselves as an enabler of retail," Alegre said. "We see ourselves as part of a solution for retailers to be able to drive better transactions ... and get closer to the consumer." For consumers faced with a surfeit of choices, the idea is to make online buying easier by giving them a single shopping cart and instant checkout – a core feature of Amazon's retail dominance.

Retail chains can also offer products through the Google Home voice shopping device, holding on to those who may be headed to Amazon for better deals and giving them personalized recommendations based on previous purchase history.

For example, a shopper looking for sneakers on Google on his phone can see a retailer's listing and add that to his Google Express cart. Later, the customer can stand in the kitchen, and use the Google Home voice device to add paper towels to the same cart and buy everything at once.

Retail partners saw the average size of a customer's shopping basket increase by 30 percent, Alegre said, pointing to early results from the Shopping Actions program.

Ulta Beauty's average order value has jumped 35 percent since partnering with Google, Chief Executive Officer Mary Dillon said. Ulta sells makeup and skin care products from brands such as MAC, Estee Lauder and Clinique.

Over the past six months, Target said the number of items in shoppers' Google Express baskets have increased by nearly 20 percent, on average, as a result of its tie-up with the internet company.


The retailers are also eager to get in on the rapidly growing voice shopping market dominated by Amazon's popular Echo home device, analysts and consultants said.

Both Walmart and Target last year struck deals to appear in search results via Google Home.

Smart voice devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home will be installed in 55 percent of U.S. households by 2022, according to Juniper Research. Amazon's Alexa platform could generate $10 billion in revenues by 2020, a separate report from RBC Capital Markets estimated.

"Brands are looking at Google as the enemy of the enemy and that makes Google their friend," said Guru Hariharan, CEO of retail technology firm Boomerang Commerce, referring to the competition between Amazon and chains like Walmart and Target.

Target shoppers "love the ease and convenience of making their Target run without lifting a finger by using a voice interface," Chief Information and Digital Officer Mike McNamara said.

"This is just the beginning for Target and Google," he added.

Target shoppers will soon be able to link their online account and loyalty card with their Google accounts and get 5 percent off on purchases and free shipping, McNamara said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York; Editing by Vanessa O'Connell and Jeffrey Benkoe)

By Nandita Bose

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
ALPHABET -1.41% 1134.42 Delayed Quote.7.69%
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION 0.19% 185.87 Delayed Quote.-0.13%
ESTEE LAUDER COMPANIES 1.49% 146.27 Delayed Quote.14.96%
HOME DEPOT (THE) 0.50% 178.96 Delayed Quote.-5.58%
TARGET CORPORATION 0.51% 70.99 Delayed Quote.8.80%
ULTA BEAUTY 7.64% 221.88 Delayed Quote.-0.80%
WAL-MART STORES 1.90% 89.17 Delayed Quote.-11.38%
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Financials ($)
Sales 2019 511 B
EBIT 2019 22 259 M
Net income 2019 14 313 M
Debt 2019 37 016 M
Yield 2019 2,38%
P/E ratio 2019 18,26
P/E ratio 2020 17,01
EV / Sales 2019 0,59x
EV / Sales 2020 0,57x
Capitalization 264 B
Duration : Period :
Wal-Mart Stores Technical Analysis Chart | WMT | US9311421039 | 4-Traders
Technical analysis trends WAL-MART STORES
Short TermMid-TermLong Term
Income Statement Evolution
Mean consensus OUTPERFORM
Number of Analysts 34
Average target price 104 $
Spread / Average Target 17%
EPS Revisions
C. Douglas McMillon President, Chief Executive Officer & Director
Gregory B. Penner Non-Executive Chairman
Jonathan Barker Chief Operating Officer
Brett M. Biggs Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President
Jeremy King Chief Technology Officer & Executive VP
Sector and Competitors
1st jan.Capitalization (M$)
WAL-MART STORES-11.38%264 156
CARREFOUR-6.07%16 084