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…