Online shopping is an ever-changing beast, thanks in no small part to Google. In a blog post published Oct. 22, our search engine overlords have introduced a slew of new features as part of Google Shopping to help make shopping experts out of all of us.
If Prime Day taught us anything, it’s that deals happen all the time, regardless of proximity to any real holidays. Trying to keep up with when you should actually take the plunge and buy something is dizzying. To make it easier for you, Google Shopping has introduced new and revamped features including price insights, price comparisons, and price tracking.
In case you’re not familiar with Google Shopping, it’s a section of the browser that compares products and prices between various vendors. Let’s say you’re looking for a 74-inch white couch, for example (a very specific thing that I actually searched for). Just type that into Google, click the shopping tab, and you’re presented with tons of options from brands and retailers across the internet. It aggregates all of your choices into one convenient place, so you don’t have to hop from site to site.
Here’s what Google’s been cooking up, just in time for the holiday shopping season. (Black Friday is in five weeks: Consider yourself warned.)
A way to determine if the sale price is actually a good deal
When you see a discounted price on an item, it’s hard to know if it’s truly a good deal or if it has been inflated and you’re being presented with a sale price that looks better than it is. Sites like exist, but that only compares data from Amazon, leaving out other retailers across the web. When using Google Shopping, you can now see if a product’s current price is high, low, or typical compared to other prices across the internet and from other retailers.
Comparing pricing and shipping
Also on the Google Shopping tab, you can now compare prices from a range of sellers — both online and local, which is very cool. All the top retailers will show up side by side, so you can easily see which one has the best price. You’ll also be able to tell whether or not the item you want is available for curbside and in-store pickup.
Set alerts for price drops
If you missed a good deal or suspect the price will drop even lower in the future, you can turn on price tracking to get alerts for discounts on the products you’re looking at. You’ll either get these to your email account or on the Google Search app, depending on how you set up the alert.
How this affects online shopping
While these new tools are admittedly super useful and helpful, their introduction does raise some questions.
The U.S. Department of Justice just filed an Oct. 20 that accuses the company of illegally holding monopolies in search and search advertising. It’s not out of line to say that these new features could aid in that monopolization.
Sites that provide shopping guidance (like the one you happen to be reading right now) will face big challenges when put up against Google’s own shopping tools. Which means, the tech giant can control the amount of competition it faces in search. This doesn’t directly affect consumers, per se, but it does give Google more power on the business side of the market.