SGE: Google’s Answer to Shaking up Online Retail


Google’s continuous evolution in search technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, with exciting and unprecedented new breakthroughs re-imagining what a search engine can do. Characterised by Google as ‘Supercharging Search with generative AI’, they are currently testing out their new Search Generative Experience (SGE) through their innovative search labs – an experimental space for them to test early-stage experiments to gain feedback. Although this powerful new technology is incredibly compelling, it also begs a lot of questions around how this new era of Search will impact those who rely on search to keep various areas of their industries running. Previously, we have focused more holistically on the impacts of SGE on the search industry (read more here). In this piece, we will focus on the retail sector and delve into the potential implications of Google’s new SGE for the industry. 

An overview: What is SGE?  

Anyone who keeps tabs on the world of SEO will know that Google is constantly switching things up within the world of Search – whether that be with the introduction of featured snippets or E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority & Trust) principles, they are constantly trying to improve user experience. However, SGE (although it’s not yet rolled out fully across the UK) is likely to be one of the biggest changes we’ve seen for a while. It’s set to impact various stages of the eCommerce funnel, despite being designed to guide the consumer toward a purchase without having to leave the comfort of their space bar. 

The aim of this new capability is for Google to work towards “taking more of the work out of searching, so you’ll be able to understand a topic faster, uncover new viewpoints and insights, and get things done more easily.” Essentially, the Google search engine results pages (SERPs) will feature an AI-powered snapshot of key information with links to dig deeper into topics; so, a personalised answer will be created for you with follow-up questions included so that you can keep exploring.

The impact of SGE on customer experience:  

Likened to the ChatGPT of search, Google’s SGE will undoubtedly change the way people search, by creating a more personal and customer-led experience. So, what does this mean for retail brands? It means that consumers will be able to make complex purchase decisions much faster and easier than ever before.  

When searching for a product, consumers will get a “snapshot of noteworthy factors to consider and products that fit the bill”- according to Google. Reviews, ratings, prices and product images will all factor into the personalised AI response that will appear. However, SGE will only be able to use content that is already in existence to create these unique answers. So, retail brands will need to refocus their strategies to be visible in space’s that consumers are already going to be searching and engaging in, to stay at the forefront of their minds. With the launch of SGE, searches will become more focused on the customer and their needs; brands won’t be able to force their desired purchase journey onto them. Authenticity, in conjunction with the other E-E-A-T principles, will continue to be crucial when it comes to the content brands produce and how consumers will engage with it. 

SGE will bring both opportunities and challenges for retailers, but it will be those that can adapt quickly and capitalise on these advanced new features that will maintain a competitive edge.

Is SEO dead then? How should retail brands re-strategise based on SGE?  

No, SEO is not over and done with – it never will be. It will continue to be an instrumental part of digital marketing strategies for retailers, influencing their online visibility and helping to drive organic traffic. The arrival of SGE will impact SEO strategies, as it may reduce organic traffic, but it should also help to generate leads who are more likely to convert. Google has described SGE as a ‘jumping-off point to explore web content’. The aim is for Google to provide a combination of generative content with traditional search results, which will still be available underneath the AI-generated response.

Adapting to changing consumer behaviours

In today’s digital age we are seeing shifts towards hyper-personalisation and instant gratification, which SGE will only strengthen in terms of how consumers engage with brands online. Retailers will need to keep this in mind as they align to a more customer-centric approach, as it will be those that fit with the search intent and authentic language expectations of their consumers who will come out on top.

SGE will aim to influence the entire buyer journey, from research to checkout, meaning that retail brands will want to be one of the (roughly five) sources SGE will extract information from for its output. Being a part of this easier and smoother customer journey will work in favour for brands who can capitalise on impulse buyer behaviour – driving conversions through this frictionless purchasing journey. The hope for retailers is that SGE will streamline online shopping experiences, enabling seamless product discovery and transactional capabilities directly within search results.

What have we been telling our clients?  

As search evolves, so must our approach. SGE will bring new ways of searching, as we move away from information retrieval and into a space where Google will provide answers to things consumers didn’t even know they wanted to search for. So, how do we prepare for this? 

  • Instead of focusing on keywords in silo, we need to think more about broader audiences and topics. What related content could feed into a particular query? What might a user research journey look like around a certain topic, and how does your brand relate to that?  
  • Moving away from the idea of a traditional search engine, times are changing. Users are expecting much more visual and engaging, multi-platform experiences.  
  • Rather than simply optimising content, the focus needs to be on prioritising content that is credible, and user tested. E-E-A-T principles have never been more important.  
  • Go beyond link building - brands should take an integrated approach to awareness and authority, involving PR, Social and Brand activation.  
  • When considering SEO measurement tactics, multi KPI and platform measurement should be considered. 
  • Instead of single channel activation, brands need to shift to integrated channel experiences.  

As always, this new landscape will present both challenges and opportunities – particularly for retail brands who are looking to evolve and grow. Much like featured snippets in the past, SGE will make that number one generated AI spot even more of a crucial asset than ever before - particularly for organic content. There are still plenty of questions, as SGE is still in the testing phase, but the best moves for now are to focus on creating helpful and authentic content for your consumers that clearly matches their search intent.  

If you need help with navigating this new world of search, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts.