Google has long made it obvious that they have some interest in online shopping. Now with the potential of Groupon to be acquired within the next few hours, their plans appear to be coming to fruition. This post is going to be a brief history of Google's entrance into online shopping arena.
Froogle (pronounced "frugal") was Google's first attempt to enter into the online shopping arena. Froogle was a product price comparison service. It did not seem to be well received at first, but over time it has gained popularity. A few years back Froogle rebranded to Google Products. Google Base, the site used to submit product feeds for Froogle, has been largely abandoned for the Google Merchant Center.
Google launched Google Checkout back in 2006. Google Checkout was quickly integrated into Google Products search. With a Google account you could now shop on Google Products and purchase using Google Checkout.
Overnight, Google was able to monetize Google Products. Google Checkout users pay a percentage plus $.30 per sale made using the system. It is easily integrated into the Google Adwords system so they were effectively able to increase their revenues from Adwords and Google Product search.
Last August Google purchased Like.com. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Like.com, it is a search engine that is able to "search visually" by creating mathematical representations of images based on over 10,000 variables. It is particularly useful for those who are trying to find a similar looking product.
Another recent online-shopping venture that Google has embarked on is Boutiques.com. With the purchase of Like.com, Google also acquired this domain name and has been working on developing Boutiques.com into a high-fashion extension of Google Products. Boutiques.com integrates the Like.com visual search software to help you find visually similar products. Google is planning on launching Google Editions early on in 2011.
Google Editions a direct competitor to Amazon.com's Kindle and Apple's iBook software. The difference being, with Google Editions you can purchase from any online retailer, add them to your personal online library which is attached to your Google account, and then access them from anywhere.
Google has also been working on a Google Vouchers program. Although the program is still in beta, the idea behind the Google Vouchers program is that Adwords users will be able to print a "voucher" instead of clicking through on an ad.
For each voucher that is printed the advertiser will be charged as if someone clicked though onto the website. The Google Vouchers program seems to be a perfect fit for when (and if) Google completes the transaction for Groupon.com. Google has apparently offered $6 billion to purchase Groupon.com.
An astounding amount for a company that is only 2 years old. Google can use Groupon's already existing base of customers to generate more ad revenue and integrate the Groupon coupons into local search listings, etc. My question is, why does Google, with it's enormous number of users, need to purchase Groupon.com?
There are plenty of other competitors to Groupon.com that have sprung up, and while none of these competitors have seen the amount of success that Groupon.com has seen so far, it seems to be an easy concept to replicate.
With Google's brand name and intellectual capital, I am certain that they could replicate the success of Groupon within a short period of time.