Thursday, June 29, 2006

Google Checkout Integrates Google Advertisers with a Universal Wallet

While it's not the most amazing development in ecommerce - universal online "wallets" have come and gone through the years, after all - the new Google Checkout ecommerce capability is noteworthy for Googlish simplicity and universality that makes it a breeze to integrate. Neither a PayPal substitute nor a shopping cart service per se, Google Checkout provides a person the ability to execute one-off purchases on the Web via any site that chooses to embed Google Checkout payment buttons into a Web page displaying an item for sale. Click on a Google Checkout "Buy Now" button and you will get a one-click shopping experience that clears the payment and alerts the merchant of your purchase. There is no fulfillment or shopping cart management: purchases are limited to single items, though there is the ability to define multiple price points and descriptions for a single item. You buy it, and you're out. Google does have a network of popular shopping cart software vendors that have integrated Google Checkout buttons already with their software, so it is feasible to have some more sophisticated capabilities from the get-go.

The nifty part of the Google Checkout program is that it offers a slight discount to advertisers using the Google AdWords program and the option of a common administrative login, encouraging merchants to have a one-stop source to acquire and monetize online audiences. Since Google Checkout integrates so easily with a Web site it's quite feasible to maintain existing ecommerce capabilities and drop in Google Checkout buttons in parallel, making it easy for users to get a trusted feeling coming in from a Google ad and a trusted feeling on the way out via their purchase capabilities. The combination of the ad program and the checkout program makes for an instant distributed eBay competitor: Froogle, Google Base, standard search results, Google Books or Google Scholar is the shopping center, but via AdWords and the AdSense network or direct browsing consumers can bypass the shopping center altogether and go straight to the merchant - while still offering Google a piece of the action as a trusted neutral party. This combination could be a powerful deterrent to the growth of the eBay ad network

It's too early to tell if Google Checkout will attain widespread use quickly, but one senses that Google's brand value as a neutral third party with fewer hidden agendas than other companies (we're talking perceptions here, mind you) and the lack of any localized software "hooks" via the service will encourage users and merchants to sign up. The lack of sophisticated infrastructure in Google Checkout is rather a plus for most publishers, in that content purchasers can be encouraged to execute a purchase via a trusted financial venue while keeping the management of online subscription access and purchase fulfillment services undisturbed. Google Checkout is not going to change the ecommerce strategies of publishers in a large way but it is yet another tool that can be used in both personal and professional settings to facilitate the acquisition of premium content sources on an "on the fly" basis simply and effectively. Looks like GoogleZon may not have been necessary after all...
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