Why Google's Click-to-Buy Ads Would Be a Big Deal

Google Hints at Pending Ad Product in Response to Agencies' Inquiries

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Credit: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Marketers are aflutter over the possibility that they'll soon be able to sell products within Google's search ads.

Google reportedly plans to add a "buy" button to its mobile search ads that would let people purchase an advertised product without leaving Google's properties, according to The Wall Street Journal. That would mean removing a step for advertisers that for years have been using Google's search ads to push people to e-commerce sites to close a sale -- and bringing them a step closer for marketers looking to measure ads' performance against sales.

"It's a big deal," said Charlotte Lim, a senior partner at MEC who heads the agency's North American search division.

A click-to-buy ad on Google is a big deal because it could close the loop on advertisers' campaigns by giving brands cold, hard evidence that an ad led to a sale -- something hard to come by when people see an ad for a product but don't buy the product until sometime later.

Google and its chief digital ad sales rival Facebook have been trying to do a better job of mapping that purchase path, but the hardest part is considered to be bridging that final transaction with everything that came before it. It would be a lot easier if the transaction and the ads that led to it all live in the same place, which appears to be Google's plan.

But many advertisers are still in the dark about Google's plans.

"They haven't really been communicating about it at all," Ms. Lim said. Macy's is reportedly in talks to use the click-to-buy ads, but others are trying to kick-start the conversation.

Google has responded to some agency inquiries with an oblique memo that neither confirms nor denies the report. In the memo -- which was provided to Ad Age on the condition that it only be paraphrased -- Google said that it has been working on ways to make the purchase experience on retailers' mobile sites and apps better and has a product in early development to make the mobile purchase experience better on Google's own properties.

Google may need to offer more answers before some of its biggest advertisers are willing to try out the new ad product. Brands may be concerned that, in exchange for the buy button, they'll need to hand Google even more data about their products. Walmart reportedly stopped buying Google's ads that display which local stores have a product in stock and at what price over such concerns. However advertisers may not have much to fear.

"My understanding was that they don't have to provide that data [to Google]. Google will be privy to transactional data, but that would be to [brands'] benefit because it will let them target ads based on buying patterns," Ms. Lim said.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent on Tuesday.

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