Google unveils e-commerce search tool in time for holidays

Search service for retail Web sites seen as a new Google move to the enterprise

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Google Inc. today unveiled a new search engine service designed specifically for e-commerce sites.

The search company today released Google Commerce Search, which includes features like spell check, synonyms, sorting and parametric search, and is aimed to serve as the search engine on Web sites of retailers and other companies of all sizes.

"We're excited to bring Google Commerce Search to market in time for the holidays," said Dave Girouard, president of Google Enterprise, in a statement. "To date the technology powering retail website stores has not kept pace with innovation in search. Google Commerce Search will help customers find accurate results extremely fast, to the benefit of retailers and customers alike."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, Inc., said it's a bit of an odd move for Google.

"Well, Google tries a lot of things, and has been trying to make its way in the enterprise with Google Apps, but this is aimed at a vertical -- ecommerce vendors," said Gottheil. "It does seem odd... It doesn't seem strategic to me."

Google's main search rival, Microsoft's new Bing engine, has been making online shopping one of its top focuses. And while some would see Google Commerce Search as a way to fend off Bing's e-commerce efforts, Google is going after the retailer, while Bing is going after the actual shopper.

"This may be an attempt to head off something they expect Microsoft to do," added Gottheil.

Jim Murphy, an analyst with AMR Research, said this could be beneficial to e-tailers since many of them are dissatisfied with their product search capability.

"My sense is that the very top retailers have solid search/e-commerce solutions, but there seems to be a lot of opportunity for mid-to-large retailers," he added. "I see it as a fledgling product. It might serve as a stop-gap solution for search-hungry retailers today, though proving it's worth it for this holiday season might be a challenge. But in Google's typical style, I'm sure it will improve quickly over a short period of time."

Birkenstock USA has started using Commerce Search on its retail site, according to Google.

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