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July 16, 2015

Google Starts Testing a 'Buy Button' for Advertising

One of the biggest parts of advertising is the “call to action,” or the part of the ad that specifically exhorts the viewer—or listener, reader, etc.—to go and actually make the purchase. The advertising equivalent of asking for the sale, it's always had one big problem: a lag between the call and the action. Online shopping has helped reduce that lag, but now, Google is testing a new feature that allows consumers to buy products directly by clicking on advertisements, essentially, a “buy button.”

Right now, the service reportedly calls for Google's Purchases on Google service to allow smartphone users on certain search ads to proceed to a retailer-branded page upon clicking an ad. The tools will also only work with a certain number of retailers to begin with, at least for the time being. Some project that the Google project is a response to Amazon, giving shoppers and retailers more reason to turn to Google's mobile services as more of those shoppers turn to smartphones to consider purchases. News that Google would make this jump, meanwhile, had been expected since earlier this spring.

That wasn't all Google had on its plate; reports note an effort to drive smartphone users to information about local stores, including relevant sales or loyalty programs available as part of the Google Now platform. Google is also stepping up information on product ratings in advertising, and offering more information on locally-available inventory as well.

Several improvements have all come to light here, and all revolving around a basic theme: giving shoppers more information and the tools to better respond to that information. The idea of a “buy button” added to advertising is a smart one, as basic advertising theory will note. It allows less time to pass between encountering the advertisement and the followup. That's good business; the more time that elapses between the call to action and the opportunity to act, the less chance there will be of the call to action being taken. If the ad is for an area store, and it's seen at 10:00 that night when the store is closed, the response can't take place until the next day. Calls to action like “go to our website” or “call now” are better because these can be done within seconds. But a contact built right into an ad? That's almost instant, and represents some of the shortest lag there is. Plus, offering more information right at the advertising level can help break down some resistances; if a buyer feels informed right from the call to action, making a buying decision the buyer can live with becomes a lot more likely.

Though even a titan like Google has no shortage of competitors in the field; the Internet giant is clearly making a push here to improve shopping prospects using its muscle as a search engine, and that's a sound enough idea by itself. Shortening the lag between call to action and action is even better, and this should prove to be a development that helps push Google and its partners in the right direction.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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