5 Ways Google Is Changing the Way You Shop

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) is already an Internet behemoth, but it now has set its sights on the retail space.

Over the last few months the company has rolled out several new products that have directly (or indirectly) targeted the consumer in an attempt to win back lost ad revenue from Amazon's (Stock Quote: AMZN) marketplace and Prime shipping service.

Ultimately, these moves have raised questions as to whether Google's real goal is to create a full-out marketplace. While there are differing opinions as to Google's potential success in this space, it's clear the company is looking to snag a slice of the retail market.

Here's a look at how Google is laying down the framework to reinvent how consumers shop.

Shipping Service

Google is reportedly in talks with retailers to offer fast, cheap delivery to compete with Amazon Prime.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has made pitches to retailers like Macy's (Stock Quote: M), Gap (Stock Quote: GPS) and OfficeMax (Stock Quote: OMX). Google may also be looking to partner with shippers like UPS (Stock Quote: UPS).

Amazon, through its $79 per year Prime service, provides users with two-day shipping for free.

According to the newspaper, Google plans to meld an existing product-search feature that directs shopper to retail Web sites with a new quick-shipping service that it will oversee. When shoppers place an order on those retailers' sites, Google's system could offer them an option for same-day or possibly next-day delivery, the Journal reported.

Google plans to pilot test the service in San Francisco sometime next year, the Journal said.

In-store Maps

Google launched earlier in the week its in-door maps program, a tool that allows users to navigate, among other things, retail stores and shopping malls.

Macy's, Home Depot (Stock Quote: HD) and Ikea are among the major retailers that have already partnered with Google, and it is expected more retailers will sign on following the initial rollout.

On Google's blog, Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering, Google Earth & Map, said: "When you're inside an airport, shopping mall or retail store, a common way to figure out where you are is to look for a freestanding map directory or ask an employee for help. Starting today, with the release of Google Maps 6.0 for Android, that directory is brought to the palm of your hands, helping you determine where you are, what floor you're on, and where to go indoors."

Shoppers can use the tool to search store layouts via their mobile device.

Google Plus

Google's attempt at entering the social media space has also introduced a new outlet for retailers to build their brands.

Macy's has made the biggest splash on the service, boasting 14,266 followers, and Starbucks (Stock Quote: SBUX), Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT), Gap and Urban Outfitters (Stock Quote: URBN) are among the other brands utilizing Google Plus.

But overall, there hasn't been a widespread adoption by shoppers of these branded Google pages. What the service does provide is a chance for consumers to have a more intimate relationship with their favorite retailers, and an outlet for brands to speak directly to their loyal shoppers with little interruption from other posts.

The Hangout feature allows live audio and video chats and could be a vehicle for retailers to offer exclusive content to their followers.

Virtual Wallet

Google Wallet went live in September after the service was tested at select retailers for several months.

The goal is to make physical wallets obsolete, allowing users to store all payment cards on Google Wallet. It supports most Citi MasterCard PayPass-enabled credit card and the Google Prepaid Card. And as of now, users can only access the app via Sprint's Samsung Nexus S smartphones.

Currently, retailers like Gap, American Eagle Outfitters (Stock Quote: AEO), Guess (Stock Quote: GES), Foot Locker (Stock Quote: FL) and OfficeMax accept the Google Wallet payment service.

Local Offers

Google launched its daily deal feature under the name Google Offers six months ago. Since then, the service has grown to 41 local markets.

The service directly takes on the likes of Groupon (Stock Quote: GRPN) and LivingSocial, which provide "personalized" deals based on location.

Google Offers users can opt into certain categories, like music, movies and home and garden, to further personalize their offerings.

Whether you use technology to plan your gift-giving this time of year, you should take a look at MainStreet's 10 Holiday Shopping Trends You'll See This Year to know what to expect!

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