Google Shopping Now Includes the Amazon Kindle (and Why That’s a Big Deal)

One of the big holdouts from Google’s new shopping experience has been Amazon, which has been refusing to pay to have its products listed in the search engine.

But there are signs that the freeze between the two companies is starting to thaw. Over the past couple of weeks, Amazon’s Kindle devices have started appearing in search results on Google Shopping. While that may not sound very significant, it means that Amazon realized it could no longer afford to ignore the search engine — even if it means it has to pay.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on the Kindle’s sudden appearance in Google Shopping, and a Google spokesperson also had nothing to say.

When Google first announced it was rolling out Google Shopping earlier this year, it promised a better shopping experience on Google. While the program has been fairly under the radar, it represents a huge shift for the search engine, which used to accept product feeds for free. For the most part, the change has gone smoothly, with many retailers reporting positive results and few complaints by consumers (the one exception is Microsoft’s Bing, which has plenty to say).

However, early on, Google came under fire for not delivering the best experience, as promised. Most notably, since Amazon was refusing to participate, it eliminated many products from results, including the Kindle. For example, SearchEngineLand reported in early November that Google’s results were less than stellar when searching for the Kindle Fire. While several online merchants and brick-and-mortar stores showed up as selling the device, shoppers could not see Amazon as an option. It would be like buying an iPad from another retailer without first checking prices on Apple.com.

But starting sometime a couple of weeks ago, that was no longer the case. Today, Amazon is showing up in the results for the Kindle on Google Shopping. Sources say that Amazon is paying to participate, rather than this being a move by Google to include the Kindle for the sake of having more complete listings. Amazon is not otherwise participating on Google Shopping, although some of its subsidiaries are, such as Zappos and Diapers.com.

For most shoppers, the Google-Amazon rivalry is easy to miss — one company is a search engine and the other is an e-commerce site. But this holiday season, it’s in full swing, with most consumers starting their online shopping experience at one of the two sites. According to Forrester, 30 percent of online shoppers went directly to Amazon, compared with 13 percent of shoppers who went to Google first. This year, Google is seeing a huge lift after revamping its shopping experience. In addition to starting to charge retailers for inclusion, it created a more visual experience, including product images. It also allows consumers to easily conduct price comparisons across numerous sites.

Google’s efforts are already paying off, according to Eric Best, the CEO of Mercent, which provides retailers with tools to help them compete on Amazon and Google. He said across Mercent’s customer base, which includes 1-800-Flowers, REI and Office Depot, transactions this holiday season are up 60 percent year over year on Google and 37 percent on Amazon.

“Google is growing so much faster in its conversion to paid than we were expecting or we would have hoped,” he said. “I think Google is working hard to recover some ground against Amazon with these moves. After all, how defensible is search if you don’t own commerce?”


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google