At Google Marketing Live, among the flurry of AI-focused updates, Google announced that by 2024 they will eliminate the need for product feeds with Google Merchant Center Next.
This, along with the AI-guided campaign creation process, is largely aimed at small advertisers trying to manage their own campaigns. It also takes a lot of annoyances out of the process of getting product data into Google for advertisers that are only pushing products to the search giant.
While this is a positive step for Google’s customers (the advertisers), it’s also another instance of Google using their impossibly strong market position to inflict massive pain on an industry. This time it’s product feed management solutions. There will still be a place for product feed management platforms – plenty of online merchants still need to get product data to Amazon, Walmart, etc. – but those platforms are surely panicking right now. Most of them offer an entry-level plan for people just trying to get their data on Google. But moreso, this likely sets a standard going forward that the marketplaces will be expected to handle getting products from your site into their systems.
These changes result in real conflict, making it difficult for analysts and regulators to call it predatory. Google is doing what they’re supposed to do – making Google more money and protecting their market share. But they’re doing it by making it easier for you to advertise with them. There’s benefit for the customer. But it’s also another occassion where Google sees an industry that is a gatekeeper to online/business data and their response is to aggressively pursue ownership of that data.
As this rolls out, the thing I’ll be watching closely is what amount of control you’re giving up for use of Merchant Center Next. Will Google decide how your products are represented in ads? Will you have to submit to Google making “enhancements” to your descriptions or images? Will you be limited or restricted in the ability to port your product data from Google to other platforms?
There may not be a monthly subscription fee attached to the new thing from Google, but there is always a cost.