The problem with Google Certified Shops Programme

google certified shop badge

When Google started in 1998, they had the aim of ‘organising the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. This was backed up by the mantra or brand value ‘Don’t be Evil’. Over recent years however they seem to have concentrated more on the former and slightly less on the latter.

Their new ‘Certified Shops Programme‘, whilst not evil in concept, does seem to wrestle even more power under their control. So what is it?

On the surface it looks simple. It’s a programme that puts some standards into the sellers so that the buyer can buy with confidence from any online retailer that displays their symbol. It’s free to the seller and free to the buyer. They even offer you £1,000 of buyer protection, in case things go wrong. That’s brilliant. It’s a total win, win right?

Wrong.

Here’s my thinking – which is only conjecture and my opinion.

For the retailer

  • Signing up will become a necessity if you want to sell via the Google platform and with over 90% of the search market in the UK, you will not be able to trade without it.
  • Mediation of any issues is handled by Google, they decide what is right and wrong in the transaction and act as judge and jury.
  • You cannot deal with the irate or happy customer at all. You are allowing Google to negotiate any issues on your behalf.
  • If you disagree, you lose seller status and in the worst cases, they could put a manual penalty on your search position. This could kill your business overnight.
  • You have to hand over all of the transaction details of your customer to Google. As the customer has to sign in on a Google account to participate in the buyer protection, they are handing over ALL of their previous search behaviour too.
  • Google then have the right to speak to your buyer directly and ask them about their experiences with you and with others online, it’s in their terms and conditions.
  • Google can then build a perfect behavioural picture of ALL of your customers and who else they have shopped with, or ever considered shopping with.
  • With this profile of buyer behaviour they can feed this into their AdWords and PLA advertising algorithms, so all of your precious keywords and hard earned click/conversion behaviour are essentially made available to everyone else in the market if they are prepared to bid more for it than you are.
  • Google focus the seller power into fewer and fewer sellers as not all will have the sales figures to qualify for the Certified Shops Programme, and they control those sellers’ access to market. Maybe not evil, but certainly wielding an enormous amount of power over the market, maybe even monopolistic power.
  • You no longer own any element of your customer relationship, Google do. You signed it over without noticing. They can just cut you out of the deal next time and sell any access to your customers to the highest bidder.

But that’s okay as the buyer is protected right?

  • The £1,000 buyer protection is a lifetime figure. if you make a claim up to this limit, you lose out going forward, you can never be protected again.
  • You have 60 days to claim and they make it very clear that this is no form of warranty.
  • Buying on a credit card offers far greater protection, without any of the data sharing. The retailer pays the transaction fee.
  • By sharing all of the buyer and search behaviour you have ever done over to Google, you are allowing them to read every one of your emails and feed you tailored advertising and promotions.
  • Google now have the power to limit the searches you see. because they know you through studying all of your behaviour online, they can choose what they allow you to see. Maybe this is taking it too far, but they could genuinely only allow you to see sellers THEY approve rather than the ones who may be more up your own ethical or behavioural street.

So in summary, as yet it’s too early to say, where Google may take this, but it’s certainly a huge programme and one that could wreak total havoc on the seller environment and begin to affect all of our buyer behaviour online.

PS, if you ever want to trick the system try the difference between a logged in search in Google Chrome and then one that you do in private browsing mode in Safari or Firefox. You’ll find quite a difference in the results you see in search.

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The truth about Paypal – Can you really trust them?

We all love Paypal don’t we? They are friendly, quirky, simple and make all of our lives easier. The ad says so.

Or so they claim.

As a seller they have a brilliant seller protection programme, that protects you from chargebacks. So far so good.Paypal Seller protection Programme

But it happened to me on my data business that I recently sold. A person in the US paid £799 for a copy of my full business database, added all of the checks and balances required to pay with a credit card online. My system sent them the email with the download code and they duly downloaded it – even to the area of the city the card was registered in.

And two hours later they started a claim for a chargeback.

It’s okay i’m protected by Paypal’s first class cheeky, chirpy seller protection programme aren’t I?

But no. I’m not. Because I didn’t POST them a disk with the data on it.

So Paypal, a business that has grown entirely to serve the digital economy in which we trade, does not protect sales of items that can be paid for and transferred digitally.

It’s all clearly explained in paragraph 11.6 on page 12 of their 31 page terms and conditions that we’ve all read. Right?

Paypal Seller protection is worthless shit

 

How can they get away with it?

Well, apparently as the goods I sold weren’t ‘tangible’ they had no value.

Any brand that has a truth which is that far from a users reality will soon get found out. It’s an untrustworthy, rotten way to do business.

So be warned. If you are selling a service, a download a digital file or anything that won’t go in a good old fashioned letter box, then maybe Paypal isn’t for you. I’m not using them for my next business, I think i’ll give Sage Pay a try instead.

 

Christmas shopping – Online shopping

I may not be that normal in many respects, but I do often get onto trends quite early and this year, I have shopped for Christmas differently to any other year before – and I think shopping may never be the same again.

I’ve written lots about the perfect economy, price driven shopping and how branding can help build differentiation. I’ve even written about online/offline price matching but this year it all clicked into place and a few online retailers got all my business.

Some examples.

Fifa 11. RRP £52 HMV high street price £39.99. Game High Street Price £39.99. Amazon price £24.91 delivered. Using the Red Laser App on my phone, I actually bought it on my Amazon account on my phone standing in HMV. I hope Red Laser are taking a commission.

Red-Laser-Logo

Morse the Complete Collection. RRP £199.99 (yeah right!) Morrisons £50. Amazon price £34.97 delivered. Again, bought standing in Morrisons.

And I bought from Boots, Tesco, Dixons and a few others too. All turned up in plenty of time and I saved a small fortune without having to brave the ridiculous queues at the tills in the stores. There must have been 50 people queuing in the unsurprisingly poor performing HMV. They are playing into the hands of online retailers.

Again, I don’t think i’m particularly tight, but I can see no reason at all to pay more for an identical product and the privilige of buying on the high street.

If the high street doesn’t just want to become a gigantic Amazon showroom, it needs to find a way of reflecting the price of the online retailers.

Sports Direct match online to offline, and I’ve shown before that Waterstones and HMV don’t. Which do you think is likely to still be in business by February?