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Google has jumped into the trustmarks game by launching Trusted Stores, in a bid to allow consumers to “shop online with confidence”.

At first glance it may seem like this is a standard issue trustmarks scheme, but there’s much more to it than that. E-commerce companies need to take note.

How it works

Participating merchants need to display a badge on their site, in common with other trustmark schemes, but they also need to “voluntary share data about shipments”. 

Google will also offer consumers purchase protection. It said:

When a shopper makes a purchase at a Google Trusted Store, they have the option to select free purchase protection from Google. Then, if a problem arises with their purchase, they can request Google’s help, and Google will work with the merchant and customer to address the issue. As part of this, Google offers up to $1,000 lifetime purchase protection for eligible purchases."

In the event that Google wades into the fray on behalf of an aggrieved customer it will “collect customer service metrics”. That alone could be a game changer, depending on what it might affect.

Here's the official Google on the product release:

So what are we looking at here exactly? There are three clear aspects to Trusted Stores, which is:

  1. A trustmarks scheme. 
  2. A consumer protection programme. 
  3. A benchmarking operation (shipping and service data).

It’s a bold move and coming from Google we should consider what this might mean more broadly. 

Experience as a search ranking factor

I’m in no doubt that Google is seriously paying attention to ‘experience’ as a ranking factor for search. Trusted Stores suggests that Google is moving beyond the ‘user experience’ and into the more complex, multichannel world of ‘customer experience’. 

Measuring certain aspects of the user experience is comparatively straightforward. Google has recently embarked on a mission to “make the web faster”, launching tools that will go as far as rewriting web pages to help web companies. As such we know that page speed is a ranking factor. There are many others.

Measuring the customer experience is a far more difficult task, not least because it requires the participation of merchants and customers. With Trusted Stores, Google has managed to do exactly that. By accessing third party data it can make sense of the customer experience, and it can benchmark retailers (against themselves, and against one another) and identify trends. 

How will the data be used?

This is the $1,000,000 question, or potentially a big multiple of that amount if you’re a major retailer that takes little pride in the customer experience. 

In time we’ll find out more about how Google uses data from the likes of Trusted Stores, and how negative scores (lousy customer service ratings / late shipping) might affect search results and Adwords Quality Scores. 

I can’t believe that it wouldn’t have an impact on search results, in some shape or form. Otherwise what’s the incentive to take part in the scheme, or the disincentive not to do so? Moreover, why wouldn’t Google want to use this data as a ranking factor?

Pros and cons

We can look at this from two angles. On the one hand Google is single-handedly demanding that merchants improve service and satisfaction. That’s something I’ve been banging on about for years and as such I warmly applaud the effort.

But on the other hand, merchants may be required to participate in Trusted Scores in order to optimise organic and paid search. Sharing data and metrics with Google could become compulsory in that respect. Where will that end?

Thoughts?

Like most new Google products, Trusted Stores is currently in beta. You can apply to take part here. We’ve talked about trustmarks in the past and my own view is that they’re not essential. Trusted Stores could become the exception to the rule.

There are more questions than answers at this stage, but I’m interested in thinking about how this might play out. I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Chris Lake

Published 4 October, 2011 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Lord Manley

Lord Manley, Principle Strategist / Director at BloomReach

This gives me the shuddering fear!

almost 5 years ago

Nigel Sarbutts

Nigel Sarbutts, Managing Director at BrandAlert

What I find odd about this is that it comes barely a month after Google shut down its Sidewiki product for user reviews of sites.

That could have been a huge development at the interesting meeting point of customer service and social media.

almost 5 years ago

Adrian Bold

Adrian Bold, Director at Bold Internet Ltd

This seems like it should be a great idea, warmly received; so why does it make me feel apprehensive?

Perhaps I'm just overly worried about Google's dominance. Probably, nothing to be concerned about and it may not stand the test of time after all.

almost 5 years ago

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Stuart

We are a small business and currently have a Top Ebayer status which works very well, and at first glance the Google tool could work in a similar way which is positive. You get the Ebay staus by being consistently good at customer service and everyone who buys from you gives you a score so there's no hiding.

However I do have similar reservations about it being Google and how the scores are achieved. If it becomes a volume game so that bigger companies then see the reward with better listings in Google etc, once again the tools are punishing those with smaller budgets.

Will it be linked into Google Checkout which again punishes those who have not chosen that route?

And referring back to the Ebay Top Seller reward, all Ebay customers are registered, how will Google really capture a clear picture of customer without adding an additional step for customers to sign up to purchase protection and register for programme?

Going to be interesting to see how this pans out.

almost 5 years ago

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Tommy Newman, Technical Director at RSCPP Ltd

I wonder if they will extend it to services bought online as well as retail.

almost 5 years ago

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Sarah Quinlan

Very interesting move from Google - this could have the potential of TripAdvisor on speed. I wonder what the SEO impact of a bad review will be, or, if Google has to step in on behalf of a consumer, will that blow the retailers online rankings entirely? There's also no reason why Google couldn't roll this out to other sectors in time...

almost 5 years ago

Steve Harvey-Franklin

Steve Harvey-Franklin, Director at AttercopiaSmall Business

Adding a few things together:
Google + (now on adverts)
Rating systems on Places
Shopping Feeds
Payment Systems
Now Trusted Stores

Good to see the internet being cleaned up
But is Google owning too much?
The post suggests (and I agree) this will find its way into the algorithm (essentially social voting)

Could be a good way to keep rich scammers from dominating results, but who's to say that this itself won't be scammed so may be it will just tidy up the low end? How many reviews are really genuine anyway?

We can see issues with Trip Advisor this will be more important.

Hmmmm as I think Google says "don't be evil"

almost 5 years ago

Steve Harvey-Franklin

Steve Harvey-Franklin, Director at AttercopiaSmall Business

Adding a few things together:
Google + (now on adverts)
Rating systems on Places
Shopping Feeds
Payment Systems
Now Trusted Stores

Good to see the internet being cleaned up
But is Google owning too much?
The post suggests (and I agree) this will find its way into the algorithm (essentially social voting)

Could be a good way to keep rich scammers from dominating results, but who's to say that this itself won't be scammed so may be it will just tidy up the low end? How many reviews are really genuine anyway?

We can see issues with Trip Advisor this will be more important.

Hmmmm as I think Google says "don't be evil"

almost 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Adamo Crespi, Student at ---

I think it's more a move against ebay, rather than a new seo rank. The fact that it COULD be a SEO factor in my opinion takes a second place. Do not forget X.commerce and the announce from eBay about changing the world of e-commerce. And e-commerce, together with social networking (and mobile, and netbooks, and phones, and op systems, and browsers, and many many more) is a great market for Google. If you consider also the partnership between Facebook and eBay... the conclusion is simple... My two cents

almost 5 years ago

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, MARKETING at Reevoo

Working for a company with a similar business service (service reviews for brands and retailers), I can testify that there are great conversion increases available from offering consumers this sort of reassurance.

I'll be interested to see how Google uses these to influence search results/direct searchers towards particularly rated sites.

I do think that they'll need to solve the authentication problem first, however. Otherwise they'll just end up in the same difficulties as Yelp/Tripadvisor et al.

almost 5 years ago

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Lesley Cutts

Reading this makes me both excited and apprehensive. Excited as my first response is that I am proud of my on-line fulfilment times, proud of my customer experience and feedback and would love Google to endorse the positive feedback and reviews we receive.

However, is giving Google such unguarded access to such metrics just plain naivety in the long run? Endorsement, but at what long term cost?

almost 5 years ago

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casino

Awesome blog.I wonder what the SEO impact of a bad review.I am proud of my on-line fulfilment times, Thanks for sharing this blog.good luck.

almost 5 years ago

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