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Google brings shopping ads to image searches to fend off Amazon

The search giant is adding new offline perks for retailers, too.

Black Friday Bargain Hunters Hit The Streets In Madrid And Barcelona Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

As people use mobile phones more to shop, Google is doing more and more to make sure it's not cut out of the process. Its latest move: Two new ad formats designed to grease the wheels of commerce purchases through search.

Starting on Monday, Google is adding product ads into the image results under search. It's also expanding ads for local retailers, letting shoppers make purchases for in-store pickup and check inventory directly within search.

For Google, this is part of its ongoing pitch to advertisers that it is the best source of consumer's purchasing intent. And it's a pitch to shoppers to use Google — rather than Amazon. That's particularly evident with the emphasis on local and offline retail.

New shopping ads in Google image searches
Google

"Local context is continuing to become a bigger and bigger deal," said Jon Alferness, VP for Google's shopping and travel products, who is introducing the products at the Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas. "Folks are using their mobile phones as remote controls for the physical world."

Both ad formats are coming to mobile first, another Google priority. (A desktop version of ads in images is in the works, Alferness said.) But Google is using its mobile "buy button," which rolled out last summer, sparingly. Alferness claimed that's to make sure it is deployed when consumers want it.

"Everything that precedes the buy button really influences whether the consumer is going down this instant-purchase path or actually wants to go into the store," he said.

This offline-sales focus signals to retailers that Google is fine sending shoppers to stores (with an ad toll), but doesn't need to take a cut of every transaction, a la Amazon. With the new formats, Google is rolling out a feature that adds a store's inventory in the Knowledge Panel, the box that appears in searches with a map and store information.

"Dammit, I don’t just want to know where the store is and how late it’s open," Alferness said, channeling a Google searcher. "I want to know if they have — I dunno — the Chromecast dongle in the store."

Google's commerce efforts are broadly seen as underwhelming. The exception may be these product-listing ads, which people inside Google and the ads industry tell me are growing at a solid clip.

That product is also the subject of an ongoing antitrust investigation in the European Union. Getty Images has filed to bring an additional case in the EU around Google image search.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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