February 19, 2013, 3:52 PM

Google will phase out Google Commerce Search

Instead of its own site search tool, it will offer add-ons to other systems.

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Google Inc. is discontinuing Google Commerce Search, its site search tool that retailers can use for merchandising within site search results. 

The company launched Google Commerce Search in 2009 as a software application hosted on the Internet, with features including the ability to insert product promotional displays at the top of search results. Instead, Google will offer software tools that complement a web site’s site search application, the company says.

“We are making a strategy shift towards offering more flexible, easier-to-adopt modules for retailers, such as the Search as You Type widget, rather than a full site search replacement,” a Google spokeswoman says. “We will continue to support our current retail customers using Google Commerce Search and will try to help them on the best migration process to alternate solutions." The Search as You Type widget instantly shows search results, including product details and pricing, as someone begins entering letters into a site search window.

Google Commerce Search is separate from Google Site Search, which the company is continuing to offer.  Online retailers also use Google Site Search to let shoppers find things on their e-commerce sites, but the application is not specifically designed to support the merchandising of products.

Google didn’t give a deadline for when it would expect online retailers using Commerce Search to migrate to another site search application. But Shaun Ryan, CEO of site search vendor SLI Systems, says SLI has been speaking with existing Google Commerce Search clients who have said they need to deploy a new site search system by January 2014.

Jack Kiefer, CEO of web-only baby products retailers BabyAge.com, says he is evaluating other site search options after what he called a positive experience with Google. He refers to Google  Commerce Search as “an extremely effective tool” that helped BabyAge to increase conversion rates through more effective merchandising in search results. For example, the tool lets retailers place their best-selling products at the top of related search results, an option that helped boost sales at BabyAge, he adds.

But others say Google missed out on expanding its market for site search technology. Google is listed as the site search vendor for 20 retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 and 14 in the Second 500. (Those listings don’t break out whether retailers deploy Google Commerce Search or Google Site Search.) By comparison, Google Analytics, a web analytics application that online retailers use to track clickstream data on their web sites, is listed by 164 retailers in the Top 500 and 300 in the Second 500.

However, the entry-level version of Google Analytics is free, whereas Google Commerce Search pricing begins at $25,000 and goes up based on volume of search traffic and the number of items in the system, Google says.

Google may have failed to attain a broader client base for Commerce Search because it lacked an effective sales and support team, says Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst for e-business at Forrester Research Inc.

Google Commerce Search “probably wasn’t as self-service as Google would have liked,” she says. “You need a sales and service team dedicated to anything like that, which is not something that is standard operating procedure for Google.”

Other retailers contacted by Internet Retailer for comment did not immediately reply.

Ryan adds that Google’s Commerce Search tool focuses primarily on making product content appear in site search results, but that online retailers are now looking for the ability to also serve up other content, including customer reviews, videos and social media content. SLI Systems is ranked sixth among the top 10 site search vendors in Internet Retailer’s Leading Vendors to the Top 1000 E-Retailers guide; Google is listed tenth.

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