Google's new message to partner wannabes: "Give us a call."
On Wednesday, it launched the Google Commerce Search Reseller Program with a handy-dandy sign-up form for system integrators, digital agencies and commerce platform providers who want to offer their own retail clients access to the product.
"We are currently seeking new partnership opportunities," concluded Nitin Mangtani, Google Commerce product manager, in a blog post announcing the program.
Google Commerce Search is a hosted search solution that lets merchants rank, display and merchandise their products within online stores. The third-generation version of the product, released in March 2011, emphasized the ability of large retailers to optimize for the mobile channel in about one week.
"Think of them as the Go Daddy for mobile commerce. It's cloud-based templates that let people customize quickly," said Mark Beccue, senior analyst for mobile payments and commerce, ABI Research. He thinks that the partner program will help Google insert its tentacles into the middle of the mobile market.
Pricing depends on the volume of search traffic, and the number of items uploaded to the Google Merchant Center. Pricing starts at $25,000 per year.
"Most of the large retailers have mobile-optimized websites. It was something they had to do to meet competition," Beccue said. But an estimated 80 percent of retailers have not gotten sites up to mobile speed yet. "It's to their benefit to do that. It helps the retailer and it helps Google."
Resellers will get technical and sales training and support; marketing programs and collateral; and a discount off the annual list price for Google Commerce Search. They may offer client services ranging from full site implementation and integration or new feature implementations to user experience design and ongoing support.
A Google spokesperson said the program is not unprecedented. The company launched the Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program almost three years ago and now has more than 3,000 authorized resellers.
Sam Liu, VP of marketing at Partnerpedia, a provider of mobile app management and marketplace solutions such as Enterprise AppZone, said that the Google Commerce Search Reseller Program is similar to that of traditional enterprise software vendors.
"Most partner programs fall short when it comes to helping partners get new business," Liu said. "They hurry up and try to train the partners, get them excited about the platform and then, once they're enabled, when it comes to sales and marketing, the critical last mile, they hope partners can do it on their own."
Maybe the mobile hype will get partners over that last mile. Google forecasts that 15 percent of total Black Friday searches this year will be from mobile devices.
Arthur Chaparyan, CEO of CornerBlue, a mobile marketing firm, said Commerce Search will lead to more mobile purchases and greater investment in mobile ads.
"It's an obvious next step in providing more services directly to mobile consumers," he said.
Sameer Peera, principle, national commerce practice, for Perficient, one of Google's launch resellers, said the program gives the IT consultancy the opportunity to expand its multi-channel capabilities. "Being able to pull up local inventory in search results is a huge benefit. Clients want to drive traffic to local stores, and this gives us an easier way to do that," Peera said.
Even though Google Commerce Search is cloud-based, there is usually some configuration and integration involved, he said - for example, understanding what data attributes are required and how to tailor the search results.
Nevertheless, the offering will speed mobile site development and ultimately save clients money while improving their ROI, Peera said.
"Being able to integrate inventory into search results and localize it is a powerful feature," he added. "It will enhance the multi-channel experience, and that's where I see the biggest value."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
March 19, 2014