Market Awareness

Google Product Search API – Retired. So?

Google has been doing some “Spring Cleaning”, and while spring-cleaning for most of us tends to happen once during the spring, for Google, this has been ongoing since 2011. They have retired 70 features or services since they have begun and among the latest to be taken out to the curb is Google Shopping API. Their shopping API allowed developers to create shopping apps based on Google’s Product Search data. The API displays results based on data that Google collected via feeds from their Merchant Center or programmatically via the Google Content API for Shopping. Google retiring yet another feature may not seem like anything beyond “so?”, however, this particular retirement is likely to have some significant “so what” affects. With Google product search API depreciated (as Google refers to it), numerous developers will be affected come this fall. Many have used the API to build complete websites, mobile apps, and other shopping-related apps. While it Google has long been considered a “safe bet”, this drives home the value of building on your own data as opposed to anyone else’s or at least having alternative options when it comes to “foundation” elements of a service or product you offer.

For many of the features and services Google has taken curbside, there has either been little demand or Google itself has retired them to make room for something better or at least something that could be used as a replacement. In this instance, with Google product search API set to retire September 16, 2013, there have been no announcements from Google about a replacement. It may be worth bearing in mind that it has been less than three years since the predecessor, Google Base, was deprecated, and Google Search for Shopping was announced as a part of the replacement. This time around, it seems that Google is closing the door permanently on developers looking to access their shopping data. In Google’s own words “While we believe in the value this offering provided, we’re shifting our focus to concentrate on creating a better shopping experience for users through Google Shopping“. They want people doing their shopping and searching through Google Shopping, not your online store. (This may be because they collect more data when people shop through Google Shopping than your store)

What exactly did the API actually do? How has it been actually be used from practical perspective? The API provided data about specific products including a name, description, bar code, pricing, and availability. A query for “mp3 player” would return list of products fitting that category along with their pricing and availability in the online stores that uploaded their data via Google Merchant Center or Google Content Shopping API. This data would often be used to fill in catalog details and run price comparisons for online stores. Using the API, you were able to query for specific products and use the returned information to get pricing and product data that could then be used to update your own product catalog. Using any popular programming language, developers were able to build programs that automated the process, allowing your store to update its catalog information automatically using data returned from the Google Content Shopping API.

We know that Google wants people doing their searching and shopping via Google Shopping, but you have your own online store and you have been using the API for pricing and catalog data. What are your alternatives now?

A few notable options to consider include: (You may want to try out a few of these options to find the best fit for your specific need)

  • Wiser, (disclosure: I’m a co-founder) – offers several services designed to complete missing product catalog details as well as provide real-time pricing intelligence
  • InvisibleHand Product API – features product matching technology as well as access to real-time pricing. For US retailers, their API can bypass MAP, allowing “hidden” prices to be displayed. (Service is currently in beta testing)
  • Prosperent – has more of an affiliate blend of services, but does offer an API that can be used for product details and pricing
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