From High Street to Click Street

Adrian Rowe 6 mins

How Google Shopping is Transforming Online Fashion Retailing

Type ‘’ into your favourite search engine – duh – and you’ll find yourself directed to Google Shopping, because not so long ago that’s exactly what Google’s product price comparison service was called. It was a free service for merchants, and the name was a pun on the term ‘frugal’.

Fast-forward a decade or so, and Google Shopping has become one of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tools for any retailer. A veritable online bazaar offering millions of competing goods from thousands of retailers, all directly accessible with a single mouse click.

So just how much attention do consumers pay to the pack of ‘product thumbnails’, and how can retailers make the most of Google Shopping?

Our most recent research study – we eye tracked over 60 consumers on more than 400 search tasks and forensically analysed the results – suggests that Google Shopping punches above its weight in ecommerce searches, influencing other Paid and Organic clicks on the page. What’s more, many of our respondents told us that, for some types of search, Shopping helps them to decide on the type or style of product to look for.

An influential part of the purchase journey

We know from AdWords data that Shopping drives a lot of ‘click-assisted’ and ‘impression-assisted’ conversions, and the research shows exactly how it plays a vital role early in the Sales Funnel.

On the desktop, Shopping results seem to most often appear as a ‘nine-pack’ to the right of the PPC results, so they are always in peripheral vision. Over two thirds of our desktop ecommerce searchers at least glanced at the product thumbnail results.

Image showing an eye tracking gazeplot

Google Shopping captures significant attention in the SERP

And on mobile devices, Shopping displays even more prominently as a carousel, and 100% of our respondents viewed them, with almost 20% interacting with the carousel, swiping through images as part of the consideration process.

Heatmap image of a mobile search result

The prominent Shopping carousel on Mobile grabs attention

We quickly realised from respondents’ behaviour that Shopping images were grabbing attention, and it became obvious that it was influencing their choice of click, even if that was to an Organic link.

“About the Shopping images, I like that you can see the names of the retailers they’re coming from. If there’s a good deal and a brand that I like, then I am very likely to go straight to that.”

Male – Family Lifestage – Desktop

We often saw respondents scroll through fashion search results to the bottom of the page, then scroll back up to click on a Google Shopping result. It seemed that if they couldn’t find a link to a favourite brand on Page One, then the Shopping images helped them to get started on the search journey.

Shopping drives up PPC click-share in fashion

Overall, across the six men’s and women’s fashion ecommerce search terms that we researched, Paid Search accounted for 36% of the first clicks. As the graph below shows, this was much higher for women than men, with female respondents choosing a Paid result in 41% of cases.

Pie charts of click percentages by channel

Paid search takes 36% of first clicks for fashion searches

What is fascinating is that Shopping dramatically increases Paid search’s share of clicks. While PPC typically accounts for about 25% of first clicks across other sectors in our study, the impact of Shopping in ecommerce searches on the Google interface is to drive up the Paid click-share to well over one-third.

Pie chart showing percentages of clicks by channel in detail

Google Shopping alone accounts for 10% of first clicks

A recent discovery for many

And although Google Shopping has been around in one form of another for years, it was clear that many of our respondents – across all lifestages – were just getting used to it.

“I’ve only recently discovered the Shopping tab…it gives you a bit more choice that you might not search for, so it widens the brands you’re looking at…and it takes you straight to the page of the product you want instead of the whole website where you’d have to find it yourself.”

Male – Pre-family Lifestage – Mobile

Thus for this respondent, and others in our study, Shopping was being used as a ‘discovery tool’, to spot products they might like from unfamiliar brands. What’s more, some consumers found it especially helpful when they were less confident about what style or type of product they wanted.

“I tend to pay more attention to the Google Shopping images not necessarily for fashion, but for more random stuff for which I don’t necessarily know where to go.”

Male – Family Lifestage – Desktop

On mobile devices, Google Shopping is very prominent, and we saw 18% of respondents interact with the carousel by swiping through the product images presented, often before moving further down the page.

“I like to use the carousel because it is like a preview of what’s available on the websites…”

Female – Family Lifestage – Mobile

In fact, on both mobile and desktop devices, it seemed that Shopping was playing an influential role in the click, even when it didn’t win the click itself. On desktop, the Shopping images are always in peripheral vision when consumers are scrolling down the results, and we saw many zig-zag across to the product images.

Image showing one user's gazeplot

Zig-zagging of attention between Search and Shopping

The Shopping Tab is a key differentiator for Google

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the fashion ecommerce part of our research was the finding that a full 16% of our respondents chose one of the ‘tabs’ at the top of the page as their first click. And of these, half went for the Shopping tab, meaning that the total click-share for fashion PPC jumped to 44% when the Shopping Tab clicks are included!

The Shopping Tab adds a further eight percent of first clicks

And for those savvy consumers who chose this route, it was a real benefit of using Google compared with their experience of other search engines:

“I noticed Google has this Shopping option which other search engines don’t…I always use it as a filtering thing to get the best prices. It’s good for specific items ‘cos you can see all the different places you can buy from and where there’s an offer on…”

Female – Pre-family Lifestage – Mobile

The key benefits of Google Shopping for fashion brands

What are the implications for fashion retailers?

There are four key benefits that Google Shopping is unique in providing for ecommerce brands:

1. Incremental traffic

Shopping punches above its weight on the SERP, delivering significant incremental clicks for ecommerce brands.

2. Synergy of search effort

Retailers integrating their PPC, Shopping and Organic efforts benefit from the influential impact of the product results.

3. Attracting new shoppers

Shopping offers hope for challenger brands, by showing styles and providing inspiration to encourage consumers to consider new brands.

4. Enhanced customer experience

Consumers appreciate the ‘direct to product page’ experience of a Shopping click, and the easy carousel interaction on mobile devices.

Our research suggests that the impact of Google Shopping will continue to transform online fashion retailing. It is now vital for any ecommerce brand to be present and visible in the Shopping channel, not just for the valuable direct clicks, but for the influence and synergy with other digital channels.

What’s more, the study also emphasised the growth potential, with more consumers across all lifestages discovering the benefits of ‘Click Street Shopping’.

Secret Life of Search

Over this series of articles, and in our new white paper on the full results of this landmark study – The Secret Life of Search – you will learn how to make the most of your Paid and Organic search marketing…how to win the battle for first click…how to attract more eyeballs to your copy…and much more. With findings from more than 40 search terms and 100’s of search journeys, no matter what your market sector, you will uncover strategies for search success. Download your free copy here!


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