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Google unveils new features for shopping ads and hotel search

TechCrunch TechCrunch 12/07/2016 Anthony Ha

Google is giving more tools to retail and travel businesses hoping to promote themselves through search results and ads.

These new features were announced at a New York City press event this morning, and then outlined in an AdWords blog post.

On the retail side, changes include a new Showcase Shopping ad format. The company says those ads are designed for broader shopping search terms like “women’s athletic clothing” or “living room furniture,” where just presenting users with a single product might not be the best result. Instead, merchants can create a gallery of related products.

Google is also tweaking shopping ads on YouTube. The core idea of allowing viewers to buy products that were featured in a video is the same, but now advertisers can add a companion banner ad below the video to highlight more products, as well as a product picker that will allow them to select the specific products featured in an ad (rather than just going with Google’s automatic choices).

The final shopping announcement involves cross-border searches and purchases — Google says it’s testing tools that will automatically convert prices into the searcher’s local currency. So if you’re buying a product from another country, you don’t have to wonder what it will really cost you.

Then on the travel side, Google says it’s adding “smart filters,” where users can filter their hotel results based on specific factors (such as like pricing or ratings) with a single tap. It will also support more complex searches like “pet friendly hotels in San Francisco for under $170.”

Google is also adding Deal labels to hotel results to help searchers spot unusually low prices, tips for how travelers can get those lower prices (like changing their travel dates slightly) and notifications when there are significant price changes to flights that you’re tracking.

The broader theme of the event was a general shift to mobile. For example, the company says that according to its own data, visits to mobile sites made up 42 percent of all travel-related web traffic in the first three months of 2016, while shopping- and travel-related searches have grown 30 percent over the past year.

“Mobile has really become the new normal in shopping and travel,” said Jonathan Alferness, Google’s vice president of shopping and travel products. He said these new features will likely become available on Google’s desktop and laptop interfaces, but he described them as “certainly mobile-first products.”

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