Google expands shopping searches with Lens and in-store inventory checks


Shopping online isn’t always a convenience. If you enjoy window shopping or browsing curated collections at a brick-and-mortar store for inspiration, finding something online you don’t yet know you want or are unaware of is tricky if you start with a text search. Google is announcing new shopping search tools to try to alleviate this, with features that utilize Google Lens for finding products to buy from pictures online, broader search terms to help you browse clothing, and the ability to check in-store inventory from home. It claims the new tools will help shoppers “find what they’re looking for in a more visual way.” This comes after Google allowed all businesses to create listings on Google Shopping for free last year. Now, it wants more window shopping to be done right from Google search

Google Lens has been around since 2017, replacing Google Goggles that came before it, with the ability to use a smartphone camera to conduct visual searches based on the identification of objects found in the real world. Those image searches have allowed users to learn more about the things around them, even finding the same or similar item to buy without looking for a label or barcode to scan. Now, Google wants to make it possible to shop for any product you see in an image or video on the web with nothing more than the picture itself. Soon, iOS users will have a new dedicated button in the Google app, allowing a Google Lens search of any image on a page to bring up Google Shopping listings for purchase through a visual match. The feature will also be coming to Chrome on the desktop.

Google did not give specific dates for this feature launching on iOS or desktop, stating that it hopes to roll them out by the end of the year. There was no initial mention of if or when this feature may come to Android, but Google has clarified that it plans to extend this functionality to Android at a later date, after the iOS and desktop versions.

Another shopping-focused feature coming from Google, which has surely been spurred on by the boom in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, is easier browsing of clothing, accessories, and shoes via search results based on general terms. Google says that if you search for a generic article on mobile, for example, “cropped jackets,” you will see a visual feed of that type of clothing in a variety of colors and designs. These visual results will be accompanied by relevant videos, style guides, or local shops that carry those styles. From there, you can filter your search further according to brand, style, or department; check ratings and reviews; or compare prices on the results that appeal to you most.

Google calls this window shopping, which is one of the challenges of shopping for clothes online compared to going to a physical store to see what’s on display. It claims the dataset is pulled from over 24 billion product listings. The new feature is available only on mobile and is usable right from a Google search beginning today.

The third and final Google Shopping update allows users to remotely check in-store inventory directly within a Google search. Shoppers searching for a product are able to filter by “in stock.” This selection should show nearby stores that have the item available. Google claims the new feature can help a small business attract new customers, though it remains to be seen how accurate it might be across a variety of retailers and how one might ensure a product is there for them once they arrive — particularly at small businesses that do not have curbside or in-store pickup.

Google has indicated that it does rely on data from the retailer to determine stock status and claims it will only indicate an item is in stock when there is high confidence; otherwise, it may show limited stock.

The new “in stock” filter is available today across mobile web browsers and the Google app on both iOS and Android.


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