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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Microsoft Bing expands Shopping options for users, gives retailers more options to reach shoppers

Bing Shopping now includes new customer-focused tabs to help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for all in one place. The new tabs categorize commerce options under headers like Departments, Deals, Trending products, Price drops, Stores, and more. “These enhanced options provide useful hover menus and informative page guides which highlight choices, deals, and trends,” said the announcement.

With shopping season already upon us, the options for retailers are opening up. Both Google and Microsoft (as well as Facebook and other social channels) are investing in ways to help both small retailers and big-box stores be where they need for customers to find them. Search Engine Land sat down with Sumit Chatterjee, Lead Product Manager at Microsoft Shopping, to chat about the future of Shopping at Bing and how the product roadmap will continue to help both users and retailers find each other.

How Shopping has worked in the past. Chatterjee emphasized that Bing Shopping was previously very search-driven and often only included products from advertisers who paid to show up in the carousels and listings. In August of last year, the company opened up an organic shopping listing option to retailers who participated via the Merchant Center. The feed-based system was limited at first but has grown since. Before this option was available, though, only advertisers who paid to have their product show in listings were able to get traffic from this section of Bing Shopping.

Bing Shopping moving up-market. Along with the upgraded Shopping tabs, Chatterjee says that Microsoft is moving Shopping up the funnel. The company announced in September that Shopping options will soon be available in Edge. The updates will include “easy access to online expert reviews and customer ratings for over 5 million products right from the address bar when shopping in Microsoft Edge” said Liat Ben-Zur, Corporate Vice President. Along with Shopping directly from your browser, Chatterjee also hinted at new shopping options tapping directly into the Windows user base.

Becoming a shopping recommendation engine. The new direction for Bing Shopping is to become a recommendation engine over just a search engine. Chatterjee explains that Microsoft is noticing three main types of shoppers who use Bing: trend seekers, passive shoppers, and deal seekers. Using privacy-focused shopper data, the shopping experience will eventually become “query-less” says Chatterjee. Being able to make “for you” recommendations will “add another dimension for users.” Bing will be able to customize shopping suggestions based on these shopper types and the overall retail landscape trends it’s seeing.

Bing shopper types. Trend seekers are looking for shopping recommendations based on what others are buying at the time. It could be fashion, trending holiday toys, or any other popular item or item type. For these types of shoppers, Microsoft will have recommended deals based on what the platform is seeing everyone else buying and the best pricing options for buyers. The “highly rated” indicator will also show that many other shoppers have reviewed a trending product for its quality. Passive shoppers would also benefit from the recommended or “for you” deals section. They may just be browsing to see what’s out there or out of boredom, so the personalized suggestions and indication of sales could be what tips them over the edge to buy. The deal seekers will be able to look into price history, ratings and reviews, too. A new section on the roadmap, Chatterjee explained, is a “Good/Great/Epic” deals section which will encourage these deal-seekers to buy while the prices are the best.

Stores have to opt in to make it work. In order for the model to work for both shoppers and retailers, stores will have to opt-in to providing their “entire corpus of products. Right now, they can do that through the Merchant Center:

  • If you’re currently a Microsoft Shopping Campaigns customer, there’s no action required by you to participate. All approved product offers in Microsoft Merchant Center will automatically be opted into [Bing Shopping listings].
  • If you’re not a Microsoft Shopping Campaigns customer, create a Microsoft Merchant Center store, submit all eligible products, and ensure they’re approved. When the Merchant Center store is created you’re opted-in to the free Product Listings offering, enabling your approved products to be eligible to show in the free products listings section on the Bing Shopping Tab.

Microsoft Bing’s new Shopify integration is another way they’re making this process as easy as possible for retailers. “Currently available in the U.S. and Canada, the Microsoft Channel app within Shopify allows businesses to show up automatically in the Microsoft Bing Shopping tab and the Microsoft Start Shopping tab for free as product listings,” Search Engine Land wrote in October of this year.

Going from a price comparison tool to a shopping destination. The Bing Shopping product roadmap includes new features that will bring convenience to purchase, Chatterjee also told Search Engine Land. Along with becoming a recommendation engine, Bing Shopping strives to become a shopping destination by integrating express checkout and shipping directly into Bing Shopping. Shoppers will be able to check out directly through Edge:

“To use this feature while shopping in Microsoft Edge, select guest checkout within the retailer site and then click Try express checkout in the address bar. If you’ve used this feature before, you’ll see your autofill information there. Review the information for accuracy and then click ‘Try all coupons and autofill details,’” said Ben-Zur.

The auto-fill option replicates services like Amazon’s one-click buy making the buying experience even more seamless for shoppers — and reducing checkout barriers that cause abandoned carts and prevent the final conversion.

Why we care. Chatterjee told us that there are 1 billion impressions per year in the Bing Shopping canvas. That number will likely only grow as Microsoft expands their shopping product offerings through to Edge and Windows. As a free listing service that opts in search marketers and retailers with easy-to-use integrations and feed-based systems, it seems like a no-brainer that commerce marketers and even SMBs could benefit from participating in their Shopping roadmap. Many shoppers already use the Bing Shopping tabs to price-compare, which can lead to products seeming like commodities. Many retailers would prefer their shoppers land on-site to discover the value of their products and drive value-based conversions. However, the buy now and checkout options could mean lower friction in the final buy. Either way, it’s worth participating in as the Shopping product continues to grow.

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