June 11, 2012, 1:20 PM

Google rolls out Trusted Stores program

It has boosted conversion rates by an average of 3%, Google says.

Lead Photo

A screenshot of Trusted Stores information.

Google Inc. has announced the commercial availability of its Google Trusted Stores program, which provides online shoppers with ratings of a retailer’s performance in shipping and customer service. Among the approximately 50 retailers that have been testing the program since last fall, it has led to a 3.1% rise in conversion rates and a 5.5% rise in average order size. That’s according to a blog post by Tom Fallows, group product manager, Google Shopping.

“Shoppers tell us they’re often nervous about buying from online stores they don’t know,” Fallows writes. “We created the free Google Trusted Stores program to help solve this problem.” He adds: “It’s working better than we hoped, generating positive feedback from shoppers and increasing sales for merchants.”

Wayfair LLC, a home furnishings retailer that has been testing the Trusted Stores program, has increased sales through the program by 2.3%, a Wayfair spokeswoman says. Google lists that performance metric plus others for Wayfair and other retailers in Fallows’ June 7, 2012, blog posting. Wayfair is No. 50 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Ed Macri, vice president of business intelligence for Wayfair, says the Google Trusted Seal program is playing an important role in Wayfair’s migration from 200 niche retail sites to a main business-to-consumer e-commerce at Wayfair.com, plus two specialty sites at AllModern.com and the members-only Joss & Main. “One of our biggest challenges now is brand awareness, and Google Trusted Stores helps encourage more people to try out our new brand for the first time.”

A click of the Google Trusted Seal on Wayfair.com today displayed a “Reliable Shipping” designation with a 97% on-time shipping rate and an average shipping time of one day, plus an “Excellent Service” designation with 99% of customer service issues resolved in less than  two days and fewer than 1% of customers asking for help.

For the shipping information, Wayfair uses an application programming interface connection between its databases and Google’s databases to provide Google with a tracking number for each customer transaction and a promised delivery date, Macri says. Google then compares that information with order delivery data from UPS or FedEx to produce an on-time shipping percentage.

For the customer service information, Google tracks the number of complaints, if any, that consumers can send to Google through the Google Trusted Stores program.

Google says the Google Trusted Store seal will soon begin to also appear in paid search ads placed through Google AdWords and on product listings in Google Shopping, the search engine company’s shopping portal which is replacing Google Product Search. Wayfair plans to use the Google Trusted Seal in paid search ads as well as Google
Shopping listings. The retailer also uses a customer service rating service from StellaService, which has reported in a case study that Wayfair boosted its conversion rate by 4.5% last year after receiving an "Excellent" customer service rating. Macri says that the Google and Stella programs work well together in building consumer confidence in shopping on Wayfair's new sites.

Beau-Coup Favors Inc.. a retailer of wedding favors, says it recorded a sales increase of 8.6% in a test of the Google Trusted Stores program. "Consumers trust the Google brand, and we thought that the program would be a great way to communicate our commitment to superior customer experience to people who are not familiar with our brand," Beau-Coup CEO Tom Cole says. Beau-Coup is No. 519 in the Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide.

Jon Hoch, CEO of Power Equipment Direct Inc., which sells snowblowers, lawnmowers and other power equipment categories through 11 e-commerce sites, says that, unlike a prior seal his sites used to display, the Google Trusted Store seal has positively affected his company’s financial performance. “We ran a similar test in the past with a different third-party seal that actually resulted in a negative conversion rate,” he says. “Customers are starting to become blind to the lesser known badges.  Google, on the other hand, is a well-known trusted brand, which lends more credibility.” Power Equipment Direct is No. 197 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps retailers sell online, says Google’s Trusted Stores program appears to bring the search engine company closer to providing a full-fledged online marketplace to compete with Amazon.com Inc. and others. “Google Trusted Stores are very interesting, because it moves Google a step closer to the transaction, even if the transaction doesn’t go through Google’s Google Wallet payment system,” he says. “When we connect all those dots, it feels like a reaction to the marketplace model that Amazon is doing very, very well with, and could lead Google further down the path of providing a marketplace.”

Google Wallet, which Google says will eventually replace the online Google Checkout system, stores payment account information on the Internet for consumers who register with the program. Google Wallet lets registered shoppers make payment transactions on multiple sites by using a single log-in and password set, instead of setting up separate accounts for multiple e-commerce sites. Google Wallet is also available as a mobile app for storing payment account information on a smartphone, which can be used to make payments in physical stores. Google says Google Wallet is already accepted at thousands of merchants, including Macy’s Inc., Gap Inc. and Walgreen Co. Macy’s is No. 14 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Gap is No. 22 and Walgreen, No. 33.

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