Just in time for the busy holiday shopping season, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Commerce team Oct. 3 said it is testing Trusted Stores, a program to help shoppers pick the best e-commerce vendors from whom to buy things online.
Acting on complaints from consumers who say they're wary of buying goods from online stores they've never patronized, Google is giving special badges to e-commerce Websites that show they can provide excellent customer service and ship goods in a timely fashion.
Early participants include O.co, Wayfair, BabyAge.com and Beach Audio. Consumers can expect to see more partners for this program in the future.
Here's how it works. When a consumer visits a "qualifying store" online, they can hover over the Trusted Store badge and see metrics on the store's shipping and customer service performance. Google shows how the metrics are rendered by a badge in this blog post.
E-commerce companies can join Google Trusted Stores by agreeing to share info about shipments. Google in turn collects customer service metrics when shoppers seek Google's help with a problem.
If a problem arises with their purchase, shoppers can tap Google for help and Google will serve as the go-between for the merchant and customer as it mitigates the issue.
Moreover, when a shopper buys something from a Google Trusted Store, they may select up to $1,000 in free purchase protection from Google. If there is a problem with one of the retailers, users will receive some financial protection.
Google is clearly ramping up its commerce efforts. There is a lot of money to be made in online shopping, and Google increasingly wants to be at the warm, fuzzy center of that experience for consumers, to whom it may serve more retail-related ads.
One way to support this effort is to have more data about companies at its disposal. At least, that's a theory. Google isn't owning up to any advertising connection for Trusted Stores.
Google told Search Engine Land there was no connection between the certification program and Google AdWords, but no final decision has been made whether to sprinkle some of the magic ad pixie dust onto the new pilot.
One also suspects Google may use the e-tailer data in the future to provide its own ratings and recommendation Website that consumers could access from their desktops and mobile phones.