Google just announced that Google Trusted Stores is shutting down. The search giant hasn’t provided a specific end date for the certification program for online sellers, which was rolled out in 2012. I’ll be replaced by a new program called Google Customer Reviews. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics.
What is Google Trusted Stores?
Google Trusted Stores has been a program for online sellers to show that they provide a positive buying experience. Getting a certification has been a somewhat rigorous process. Some of the notable criteria include:
- You provide site security through https:// pages when sending financial and customer information
- 90% of orders are shipped on time, and at least 50% of orders are trackable
- Less than 10% of orders get backordered or pre-ordered (a problem for certain in-demand sites)
- 99% of customer service queries get a response within 2 working days
- You don’t cancel more than 2.5% of your orders
Provided sellers meet these and other standards, customers shopping at these stores get $1000 worth of purchase protection from Google, plus extra peace of mind. Sellers, meanwhile, generally get better positioning in both organic search through Google Shopping and in text ads.
Indicators of trust and authenticity are always crucial in e-commerce. While it’s hard to find data on exactly how much having a Google Trusted Stores certificate helps sellers in terms of actual acquisition and conversion, the consensus has been that it’s particularly useful for smaller sellers or for large brands who are sometimes imitated. Recent plagues of fake shopping apps have shown how names like Michael Kors can be subject to fraud of this kind. We also know that other sorts of solutions that boost site trust, like ratings and reviews software and other user generated content, can increase revenue by 18%.
Why Google Trusted Stores is Shutting Down and What’s Next
We can glean why Google Trusted Stores is shutting down by looking at what we know about its replacement, Google Customer Reviews. In comparison, the latter looks more streamlined and less burdensome for merchants, especially as it’s not a formal certification program. The biggest difference is that Google Customer Reviews, as true to its name, will be reliant on shopper feedback.
There’s no indication that Google Customer Reviews would pertain to specific products in the way that most ratings and reviews platforms do. Rather than leaving feedback about individual items, shoppers would be surveyed about their overall experience.
Merchants will access the new feature through Google Merchant Center, and those who currently have Google Trusted Stores accounts will be migrated automatically to Google Customer Reviews. Merchants using the new tool will need to add a survey opt-in box to their sites. Customers who opt in to Google Customer Reviews will be contacted by Google and asked to rate their purchase once they’ve received it. In order to be in the program, sellers will have to give all customers this option.
After customers submit ratings, the seller can put a Google Customer Reviews badge on their site. It can be customized and show their Seller Ratings if applicable.
What does this mean for sellers?
The fact that Google Trusted Stores is shutting down in exchange for Google Customer Reviews looks largely beneficial for online sellers. It looks like they’ll have to devote fewer internal resources to making sure that they’re compliant, and won’t have to share data with Google about their shipping volume, delivery practices, and so on. This offers a distinct extra benefit to sellers whose time to shipment is slow due to unavoidable factors like stocking customized products.
Instead, by relying on customer feedback, sellers will get a more direct assessment of how they’re exceeding or not meeting expectations. Rather than getting a passing or failing grade based purely on Google’s definitions, they’ll have another avenue in which the ultimate judge’s voice–that of the customer–is clearly heard. This has always been a benefit of product reviews, but now it’ll be more widely applied to the overall customer experience.
The drawback is that if sellers don’t get good reviews, they’ll face challenges. While there are some benefits of negative reviews, it might be the case that merchants will be held to higher standards than they were before.