The search giant today launched Purchases on Google, which turns it into an online marketplace.

Google Inc. is getting in on the Buy button boom.

The search giant today officially launched Purchases on Google, which lets consumers on smartphones click on a Buy button to buy products directly on Product Listing Ads. PLAs are the listings that show a product’s image, price and the retailer selling it prominently in Google search results for product-related searches.

A shopper who searches on a smartphone for a “women’s sweater,” for example, may see a shopping ad with a Buy on Google button. After clicking the ad, she’ll connect to a retailer-branded product page hosted by Google. Checkout takes place through the consumer’s Google account, which can store payment information for subsequent purchases. 

The addition of a Buy button is Google’s efforts to boost conversation rates on mobile devices. More than half of Google’s searches occur on mobile devices, but mobile consumers convert at one-third the rate of desktop and tablet shoppers, according to a Google blog post

“Mobile conversion rates are a lot lower than desktop conversion rates,” says Frank Poore, CEO of CommerceHub, a vendor that helps merchants list products and sell on online marketplaces. “Google realizes that the current Google Shopping model, which drives consumers to retailers’ sites, wasn’t working because it was too cumbersome. Until easier payment mechanisms like Apple Pay or Android Pay enable shoppers to buy wherever they’d like with their fingerprints, there’s an opportunity here. And Google is trying to capitalize on that.”


If Google can help reduce the disparity between desktop and smartphone it would be a “huge win” for e-commerce, says Scot Wingo, executive chairman of ChannelAdvisor Corp., an e-commerce services provider that helps merchants sell through such online portals as those run by Amazon and eBay Inc.. as well as through Purchases on Google. “The new Google Buy button should dramatically improve and streamline the mobile buying experience which is good for everyone.”

While Google will host the product pages, merchants will handle fulfillment and communication with buyers. And Unlike Inc.’s online marketplace, which doesn’t enable retailers selling on its platform to market to buyers, Google says retailers can offer consumers the option to receive marketing and promotional messages. That approach is “good for everyone,” Wingo says.

Google is charging retailers participating in Purchases on Google only for clicks to the product page; all subsequent clicks and interactions on the product page are free. CommerceHub, which earlier this year acquired Mercent Corp., is among vendors offering services that help retailers integrate back-end systems to accept orders via Purchases on Google.

Google is far from the only platform rolling out a Buy button. Nearly every social network, including Pinterest, FacebookTwitter and Instagram, have introduced or tested Buy buttons or related initiatives over the past year. But Google’s effort may be different because consumers use the search engine with a clear intent, unlike such social networks as Pinterest or Instagram, which serve as forums for users to gather items they aspire to buy—and where they’re also interested in engaging with friends.


At least one analyst isn’t sure that Purchases on Google will satisfy shoppers looking for product information before making a purchase. “Google needs to bring in all the alternative images, all the content verbiage, ratings and reviews, shipping information, time to delivery, etc.” says Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research Inc. vice president, principal analyst.  “If any of that is missing, and most of that isn’t in the average data feed now, Google won’t do so well. This definitely means a different execution than the previous ways that Google has worked with merchants in the past.”