ARA Chairman Russell Zimmerman believes the proliferation of costs for marketing online retail businesses is making it harder for traditional retailers to make the transition to digital.
The internet search giant, Google, announced in May that it would begin charging a fee for retailers to list on its comparison shopping engine, Google Shopping. The change has sparked an outcry from retailers and their representatives, including the Australian Retailers Association Chairman Russell Zimmerman.
Recently, the Australian Financial Review published an interview with Zimmerman in which he calls these new fees “an impediment” for retailers, which he considers “disappointing” to see at this time.
However, isn’t Google well within its rights as a profit-driven company to charge for at least some of its services? Chris Morley, General Manager at Online Market Experts believes so.
“Google’s decision to charge for this service is in line with industry expectations for other comparison shopping sites,” Morley says.
As such, Google isn’t being particularly evil in charging for this offering; however, retailers that are already using the service, or had considered doing so when it was free, might not see it in the same light.
“Currently the retail industry is in a difficult patch and retailers need support, not barriers,” Zimmerman told Power Retail. “What’s even worse is that additional fees and charges like these can make it much harder for those retailers that haven’t yet moved online to take that leap. The gap between the online and offline players just keeps getting wider.”
From this perspective, the ARA’s stance on the issue is understandable. Google Shopping represents yet another paid marketing channel for retailers to consider – a field that seems to becoming more complex and crowded on a daily basis. How are smaller retailers expected to keep up with these constant changes, and how can they budget for them?
“Just over a week ago,” Zimmerman explains, “the ARA hosted a seminar on How to Create Success Online. Over 140 retailers attended – and while that was great for an engagement perspective, it also shows how hungry these companies are for information on making that digital transition. They want to join in online, but these costs only make it all the more painful for them.”
Morley, meanwhile, believes that this is all noise from the ARA and that complaining about what Google charges for this particular service is completely baseless.
“Given the success that Google Shopping has garnered in such a short time in Australia, charging for the service only seems fair. After all, Google has a 90 percent market share and it’s often the first place people start shopping online.”
On one side, it’s easy to agree with embattled retailers struggling to account for all their extraneous marketing costs. However, these same retailers must keep in mind that Google Shopping is just one method of gaining visibility online. In fact, there are plenty of successful online retailers that don’t use comparison shopping engines at all – so if you don’t like Google Shopping’s fees, perhaps its time to consider an alternative channel.