Google Bolsters Google Shopping Just in Time for the Holidays

Google adds curated "short lists" for popular shopping items, as well as a new and improved browsing experience for online shoppers.

Google Shopping has undergone some shopper-friendly tweaks, just in time for the holiday shopping that is about to start as Thanksgiving arrives on Nov. 28.

The online shopping improvements made on the Google Shopping web site include a myriad of new features, including new "short lists" for popular item categories, improved browsing capabilities and 360-degree images so shoppers can see prospective products from all angles. The new features were unveiled by Karen Corby, senior product manager for Google Shopping, in a Nov. 21 post on the Official Google Blog.

The new curated shopping lists are designed to assist shoppers as they seek out the gifts they are buying for family and friends, wrote Corby. "We've curated holiday shortlists for top gift categories including Hot Toys, Electronics, Google & Android Gadgets, Gifts for the Home, Gifts for Her and Gifts for Him."

The Google Shopping site will present a new look to shoppers this holiday season, whether they access it using their desktop, tablet or mobile devices, wrote Corby. "Click on a product to preview details like sizes, colors and description, and find out if it's available at a nearby local store," she wrote. "If you see an item that's almost perfect but not quite, click to view 'visually similar' items."

Shoppers can also use their short lists to help follow interesting gift items so they can be compared to other items or shared with others, she wrote. "Your shortlist now also stays with you at the top of each page while you browse Google Shopping, so you can keep track of items as you go."

The 360-degree images of items can help shoppers more closely visualize the purchases they are pondering, she wrote. "Sometimes it's hard to imagine what an item actually looks like from the online picture. Now, for many items on Google Shopping, you can see a 360° view of the products. These interactive images bring you the in-store feeling of holding and touching a product."

Google has been continuing to refine its Google Shopping offerings for consumers. In October, Google Shopping unveiled several new capabilities that made it easier for online shoppers to buy what they are seeking from stores close to where they live and work. The updates included product listing ads that display where the items can be purchased locally, as well as local storefronts where shoppers can peruse other inventory. These new local features are seen by Google as a way to help local retailers take advantage of Google Shopping searches to increase their sales in their physical stores.

In July, Google began making some changes to how people shop online using its services when it announced that it would shut down its stand-alone Google Shopper app on Aug. 30. The company made the move to transition users to instead shop online using the browser-based Google Shopping for search on desktops or the Google Search app on mobile devices. Google wanted to reduce the number of competing services it offers to do the same activities, such as online shopping.

That's where Google Shopping came in, to give users the opportunity to search directly on Google (or use the Google Search app on mobile devices), according to the company. Google Shopping aims to feature more than 1 billion products from more than 100,000 sellers. Google made the move because each week an increasing number of people are doing their searches and buying through use of mobile devices.

Earlier in November, Google announced that it is also opening real-world, temporary Google "Winter Wonderlab" stores in six cities, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, to showcase its latest high-tech gadgets just in time for the Christmas holiday season. The stores will be filled with Nexus 7 tablets, the latest Chromebooks, the Chromecast video dongle and more so that shoppers can check out the products and place online orders on the spot.

The stores, which will certainly compete with Apple retail stores and traditional electronics retailers such as Best Buy and h.h.gregg, will allow Google to feature its own products without any distractions. Google does already sell some of its products, such as Chromebooks and Android phones and tablets, inside many Best Buy stores across the nation and on the Website. Apple, one of Google's key competitors, has a successful history running its own chain of stores to sell its own products.