Much like Facebook (FB) , Alphabet/Google (GOOGL) has been making its e-commerce efforts -- both in terms of driving more online shopping activity on its platforms and growing its e-commerce ad sales -- a bigger priority in recent months.
In April, Google announced that its Google Shopping platform, which underpins its giant search e-commerce ad business and had long shown only paid listings, will also show free listings when users click the "Shopping" tab within search results. The company also said that it would work with companies such as PayPal (PYPL) and Shopify (SHOP) to help merchants list more products and manage existing listings.
And this week, YouTube unveiled a new ad format that lets users browse a feed of product listings and (if they wish) click on a link to visit the advertiser's website.
More moves might be on the way. Last week, The Information reported that Google is working on an overhaul of its Google Pay app that would make it a "one-stop portal for commerce," with product listings from both online and physical retailers. Such a move would follow the rollout in recent years of a service (known as Buy on Google) that lets Google Shopping users pay for some listed items on Google's own website.
Also, in April, TechCrunch reported that Google is prepping physical and virtual debit cards that would be linked to an app.
Likely having something to do with many of these moves: In December, Google hired former PayPal COO Bill Ready to be its president of commerce. Notably, Ready reports to Prabhakar Raghavan, Google's SVP of ads, payments and commerce. On Thursday, The Information reported that Raghavan is now also in charge of Google's bread-and-butter search business, while noting that his promotion could speed the pace at which new shopping features are introduced to Google Search.
All of these actions come of course at a time when e-commerce activity has soared thanks to COVID-19, and provided a boost to e-commerce ad sales along the way. On Alphabet's Q1 earnings call, CFO Ruth Porat said that YouTube's direct response ad sales -- they cover ads meant to do things such as drive e-commerce transactions, app downloads or subscription sign-ups -- continued seeing "substantial" annual growth through the end of Q1, even as brand ad sales slumped in the final weeks of March.
The efforts also come at a time when Facebook is trying hard to drive more commerce activity on its platforms (and sell more e-commerce ads in the process), and when the challenge posed to Google's e-commerce ad sales by Amazon.com (AMZN) still looms large. Given that Amazon shoppers often bypass Google Search in favor of searching for products on Amazon's website and apps, Amazon has long been a major indirect threat to Google. And with Amazon now more aggressive about selling e-commerce ads on non-Amazon properties, it's also increasingly becoming a direct threat.
But e-commerce is far from a winner-takes-all market. It's also a market that has been growing at a double-digit clip for a long time, and which has seen growth accelerate meaningfully since March. And as its latest moves show, Google is definitely taking e-commerce seriously right now.