Ep 67: Apple search engine, GBP product kerfuffle, Walmart stores to be used for 3rd party local delivery

Apple search engine coming to a browser near you? Google Business Profile product kerfuffle when ability to add products disappeared. Walmart to use stores for 3rd party local delivery.

Ep 67: Apple search engine, GBP product kerfuffle, Walmart stores to be used for 3rd party local delivery
Photo by Bagus Hernawan / Unsplash

Part 1 Video start 0:13 - Rumors of an Apple Search Engine have surfaced

Part 2 Video start 7:39 - The disappearance of the Product feature from the Google Business Profile caused lots of speculation

Part 3 Video start 13:12 - Walmart announced that they will offer last mile same day delivery to 3rd parties from their stores

Reference Articles:

Apple Search Engine

Google Products Shake-Up: Is the Products Feature Moving to Merchant Center?

Google Business Profiles Bug Temporarily Drops Product Management Features For Merchant Center

Walmart is using its thousands of stores to battle Amazon for e-commerce market share

Transcript Ep 67:

Greg: David is off playing golf or riding space X to the next destination to wherever he is. Do you know where David is? I don't know where he is.

Adam Dorfman: I assume he's drinking beer somewhere on a golf course.

Greg: It's probably too early for him since he's on the west coast. Unless he's got a serious drinking problem, which I'm not aware of.

Okay. All right. Having said that we're going to move on. And you know, a lot of stuff happened this week. As always, we pick three items and then unpack them and see where that discussion takes us. And today I'm going to lead off with the rumor that Apple would be introducing some sort of search engine or new search capability at their developer conference WWDC, which starts on Monday.

And so, you know, over time, Apple has put more and more investment into search serious, a search engine of sorts, a spotlight search is a search engine and they have continued to improve that and kind of peel away. I think some of the volume that Google might see, we don't have any numbers on. But there is, there is some usage of these things.

And so we're, we're kind of speculating on whether or not, and I wrote about this this week, we're going to see anything new or whether we're just going to see some sort of incremental improvement of the capability. So what do you, what are you guys.

Mike: The rumor was specifically about, I think, a web-based search as standalone search engine search.

And as I sat here listening to the one reason I think Apple would do it is because they think that it, the only time they break things out of their ecosystem. For example, TV plus music, etc. is when they think it can be a lever to bring people into their ecosystem. And it is conceivable to me that search a private search where the experience is really good and the results are really good, et cetera could do that to Apple.

But for the most part, I see them with device-based as you called it, federated search where search is just a feature within the device. And I, I have a little hard time envisioning going out of that frame for this, although it is conceivable,

Adam Dorfman: you know, I was thinking about this And when I think about Apple, one of the 10 poles that they always lay a stake to whatever the phrases is privacy.

Right. And I think often about how they are constantly pushing privacy rights. And then I also think about. Like search engines up and coming search engines like duck, duck go. And the, I would be, I think what I'm saying is I think I would be surprised if they launched a web based search engine without some sort of acquisition happening at the same time, because we all know searches really hard to get, right.

Even to get to like, it's easy to get to 80%. Right. But to get that last 20% is. Incredibly difficult. And a lot of companies have struggled with it, but if they could somehow roll this into their privacy push I could see it building more trust with customers that care about them. And I could also see it potentially making a bigger difference from in the search industry as a whole, as well to,

Greg: I think they're the only party that has the capacity to really capture meaningful.

Search volume from Google at this point would be through the.

Mike: It was just announced this week. And I think you wrote about it and there's a letter that there that's a Safari is at a billion users or, and so far a, the, the search, the URL bar in Safari is a pretty powerful search tool that I use all the time, because it gives me the, I feel lucky result from Apple.

It gives me my Google results. It gives me any open tabs that might have, which is a huge issues, spawning tabs. And it allows me to search the page. So. The Safari search bar is a very powerful tool. Do either of you use it a lot?

Greg: Yeah, I do. Yep.

Mike: So that's powerful. The question is whether, how, how would Apple push that out into, into the web?

Right? They didn't push maps onto the web. They kept it largely as a Macintosh & iOS.

Adam Dorfman: And I think the, the other thing too, it's a good point, Mike. When you think of windows users that when they start using Chrome or add to whatever the current Microsoft web browser is by default Google still has what, 90, 95% search share as it relates to serve.

So even if Apple was to launch a web-based search browser, Are people still going to use Google anyways, even if they default to, to the new search engine that Apple launches, I think mobile is a different story, but desktop seems like

Greg: I don't think they need to launch a desktop offering. I mean, I think the current, you know, the current stuff that Apple is doing around search is useful, but it doesn't replace Google.

If they wanted to do something that's sort of positioned as a Google replacement. I don't think they need to go onto. They can just have it be device-based as you said, Mike. I think it would be pretty interesting. I've I've sort of long believed that if they were going to get serious about search, they would buy somebody like nivo or or somebody, even though those guys are, I guess, relying to some degree on, on the Bing index.

Cause my understanding I'm not a hundred percent sure about that, but you know, I, I, I see, I see Apple's motivations being, I mean, beyond what you said, Mike, about bringing new people into the clinic. You know, completing the privacy equation for them kind of having a more that this is kind of a whole in a way in that, in that whole iPhone privacy marketing kind of bundle.

And this is what you were saying. There's also a revenue opportunity for them. You know, they've been making more and more money with the search ads on the app store. In fact, Facebook and others are critical of them, you know, kind of shifting revenue from third parties onto their own platform through app tracking transparency.

And I think as, as Tim cook looks to grow services revenue, as one of the sort of drivers of additional growth search advertising could be very lucrative for them. They could do a very simple, you know, search ad. Product and it might be effective, but again, I don't think we're going to see any standalone, you know, new announcements.

I think we'll see some incremental improvements of what already exists in all. Like

Mike: instead of, I feel lucky result in, sorry, they'll give us two results. Double their exposure.

Greg: All right. So we're going to, we're going to transition now to Adam this week, Adam there was sort of discovery of the removal of the ability to manage manually manage inventory in Google business profile.

Why don't you talk a little bit about that and maybe what, what you think is.

Adam Dorfman: Yeah. So it ended up being at bug, but white spark earlier this week reported that the ability to manually manage product inventory on Google business profiles had been removed and that it was going to be shifting completely to Google merchant center.

Since then it's been reported that it was a bug and all functionality has been restored, but. Upon hearing that I had a stream of thoughts. It was almost like a rabbit hole of why would they do something like that? And it's, I think you guys have been reporting on this and it comes up frequently on this podcast about how local product inventory is a true difference.

For, for Google, especially when going up against Amazon. And my first suspicion was if they're removing the ability to manually manage products, maybe it's a quality issue. Maybe they want to be more confident on the inventory that's actually there. And so want to have direct partnerships with POS systems and work directly through their, through or inventory feeds through Google merchant center.

Somewhat similar to how they typically will. Exclusively with third-party vendors or reserve with Google, as opposed to directly with individual scheduling tools that companies might build for their own purposes. But yeah, I, regardless of whether it was a bug I'm making air quotes or potentially a failed test that was supposed to be kept private and made it to public, I do think there's something to be said about Google being concerned about the quality of local product inventory.


Mike: They are. So there's several things that are happening with display there. Right? And I, I, I would perceive that product inventory products has pushed through the GP. Business profile, whatever the fuck they call it. These days you can call it

Greg: Google my business, right?

Mike: So product pushed you that versus their real need, which is real-time product inventory.

In other words, their, their need is satisfied by real-time product inventory that satisfies their ad needs. It satisfies local product or local pack delivery on. Product searches. Whereas the way that product is currently structured in Google my business for the most part, and it alls and product feeds also feed into Google my, into the profile with a greater degree of accuracy.

So, whereas the product feature adding one or two products is a very static view. Of a business and not particularly helpful to anybody other than as marketing. So that's one side of that. So I don't know if they're going to get rid of that. They are sort of, they did recently sort of get rid of the, the business off the welcome off.

That you used to get, and the follow that business, which never really worked, where you can follow a business and their offer would appear on your posts. And there does seem to be something going on with offer post right now, not working correctly, not being visible on the desktop which I think is part of a bigger plan to sort of make offers more visible across the board.

So I think. They may be freeing up. They may also want to free up space is what I'm saying. For display purposes of a more serious display of offers and more display of real-time inventory.

Greg: I was at Google marketing live. You'll hear my

Mike: constant. He's a commentator. It's one of these welcomed voices.


Greg: Yes. She's a big believer in real-time inventory. She's been telling me,

Mike: listen carefully. The differentiator

Adam Dorfman: for Google producer. I didn't realize that.

Greg: Yeah. Yeah. She's a producer, but not of this program. She produces a lot of stuff, but anyway I, I w I was talking to some folks at a Google marketing live, and I was trying to get a sense of how, how consumers were responding to real, real, you know, local inventory in, in the SERP.

And I didn't get any kind of data, of course, Google that never delivers that. But th but the general kind of gist of the comments that I got is that th that there, that, that it's a very positive response that people do like it, and are, are clicking and responding. So. We, I think we've talked about for a long time that inventory local inventory combined with online inventory e-commerce is a, is a kind of a conceptually at least a winning strategy for Google, whether they can execute against that as fully as they envision is a different, different matter.

But it's, it's, it's, it's quite powerful. And I think we'll see more and more and more efforts to get, you know, as you say, Adam quality more, more volume. Yeah, go ahead. I was going to say

Adam Dorfman: when I think about choices that Google makes when updating features and search results and so on more often than not like they're going to do things that are in the best interest of the shareholders, but not at the expense of them potentially losing searchers to being or duct up goers, something along those lines.

And what I was thinking about that when I was thinking about this, I was wondering, is. If you're going to put local product inventory and have local product in inventory influence the order that Google business profiles are being returned, organic results are being returned there should they probably are going to want to have a high degree of confidence that if you do a search for a specific.

I don't know, humidifier near me that, and you go to that store, then it's going to be there because if not, that's a really crappy search results and not a good user experience at all.

Greg: Absolutely. But I mean, I think Mike you wrote about this in a, in a longer piece a couple of weeks ago that, that there is a ranking boost that we're starting to see for real real-time inventory, which makes sense, because it's a relevance thing, right.

Obviously, Yeah. So let's, let's move on to our final item, which related to this today, which is kind of the many and varied things that Walmart is doing to compete. You know, Google is competing with Amazon using this kind of agnostic approach to products online often. And Amazon is doing some very interesting things or excuse me, Walmart is doing some very interesting things also to compete, compete with Amazon.

So once it tells us, so last

Mike: week we talked about their drone project, which was being rolled out to six states and they hoped to have a million orders by the end of this year or something by delivering a product that's 10, 10 pounds non-perishable products. In those six states and I Walmart's doing some other very interesting step.

So in the most recent conversation that I read with their, I don't know if it was a CEO or COO or maybe it was their chief e-commerce officer, Tom ward. They talked about how they were going to start fulfilling. Local delivery for third-party products out of local stores which is something I speculated on several weeks ago and makes all kinds of sense.

And if those products were successful, they would even consider carrying those products in their store. So when it comes down to local search and delivery, Walmart has a tremendous. E-commerce local search local delivery. Walmart has an incredible sort of infrastructure advantage because they have 4,500 physic large, a hundred thousand square foot stores with lots of inventory with.

90% of the U S population. And they are, have been working on both last mile delivery options with their own drivers. We have goals. That's their go local go local product. They've been working on the drone thing. They've even been working on the in-home service, which they are expanding where people are walking into your home and putting things into your fridge.

Yeah, that's a little friend. Well, they'll put the hamburger helper that the drone delivered instead of the drone delivery, don't put demographically in here covered. And so they're, they're, they're obviously investing very heavily in this last mile and then turning their local stores into warehouses of sorts and then offering that to third parties, which all of which is very interesting to me.

I quit Amazon though, having moved into groceries where. Art is currently very successful at delivering this online, offline experience. Amazon is switching over to a bespoke facilities to store and pick products, not picking it out of a. Grocery store. And I just wonder how efficient from a picking point of view, it is to send an employee out to the floor to go pick the hamburger helper, to put on the drone or for the third party product.

And now in the pre-talk you mentioned that it's cheaper from a distribution point of view, moving massive amounts of inventory to these 4,500 stores. Putting them out to the Publix, but I'm just curious. So when I look at all of this, I see Amazon, I see Google trying to do their inventory thing in local to fight Amazon.

But I see Walmart as sort of the real player in local. And I see it as a three of them sort of fighting for this space itself,

Greg: three, three sort of different models, which is really interesting, you know I mean, I, one of the things that strikes me is when, you know, Walmart is w we talk about whatever term we want to use.

Omni-channel commerce, unified commerce hybrid commerce. Now Walmart had really is embodying that. So they're, they're offering many, many different options delivery pickup in store, you know, third-party delivery drones. So they've, they've got all these different options available, but in order to, in order to sort of maintain.

Kind of visibility on what's actually available for e-commerce for in-store pickup or for shoppers. You've got to have a pretty sophisticated inventory. All right. The

Mike: integrated inventory system, integrated apps, which it said that they were finally solving that problem. In this article that they were building a single app for both product and grocery.

They were consolidating all their inventory information into one place. So it would get delivered in one consistent experience.

Greg: I think. Mistaken. I think that the employees also have, and maybe Sam's club, which is owned by Walmart and not Walmart itself. But I think the employees also have some sort of.

That that is reflective of, of inventory, but I, I, that, that may be wrong. They do have

Mike: an app where they get all their scheduling. And in fact, they're given phones to do this. They actually, each were given a Samsung phone. So there's sort of this geo-fencing of the employees using the phone, which is a little bit this topian I suppose.

Greg: And this, this is, this is this been the, the, the problem for many, many years with, with retailers is that they have not had a kind of a backend integrated back in that. Sort of visibility across the, the whole system and th and you know, Walmart has ha has to solve that in order to make, to pull

Mike: this up.

And they do have apparently saw that though in the grocery retail right. Successfully. I don't think anybody's doing buy online pickup. And I'll pick up at the store as successfully as they are with groceries.

Greg: Well, whole foods is print is pretty good. I mean, I was using whole foods delivery and occasionally I would do buy online pickup in store when the delivery windows weren't available.

And I, and I found that experience to be pretty good. You know, once, once whole foods and Amazon added that $10 delivery fee, I stopped doing it. And I haven't had groceries delivered since because of. You know, with all the grocery price inflation to add an additional fee on top of that is not something I want.

Adam Dorfman: I found you also miss out on a lot of the in store sales and so on when you, when you rely on,

Mike: you can squeeze the avocados either.

Greg: Well, you know, you know, it's interesting that's, that was my initial fear against about grocery delivery is that the produce would be all messed up or it would be undesirable.

And what I found by and large is that they do a pretty good job with the produce produce. And I haven't had too many problems, but again, I stopped doing it once they, once the fee, the fee.

Adam Dorfman: So I'm a big fan of that card. I used it. I didn't want to say though, the one thing that occurred to me when we were talking about this before is Amazon marketplace, they make a lot of money from those third parties, small business sellers just to allow Amazon to fulfill shipping for them.

It does seem if Walmart can figure this out no. Way to diversify their revenue streams and assuming that they can even take the 10% or 15% of what Amazon's doing, that's going to be a really large number for

Greg: them. Yeah. A lot of, a lot of merchants are trying to do the marketplace kind of third-party seller thing.

But I mean, Walmart is really the only one that's in maybe target maybe is in a position to do that. I think giving them visibility.

Mike: Oh, didn't you read Amazon's blog posts so that if the Kobe char antitrust bill goes through, they may have to forego third party delivery through their prime service or something.

I don't know. I love reading those emails.

Greg: Yeah. That's all, that's all sort of hiding behind the small business. The, the, the, you know, all these guys sort of default to that you're going to hurt small businesses. We've talked about that in the past. It's a crock pretty much.

Mike: Yeah. The ones that are, I mean, many of them have already gotten a business, so it's a little late, the new ones and around are functioning a whole different model,

composer-1654273048750: so,

Greg: yep.

Okay. That brings us to the end of another exciting near memo as always subscribed to near media.co and give us feedback and we will see you next week.