Google Merchant Search has quietly launched as a test program to compare products and services in shopping comparison engine fashion. Google Merchant Search is a test feature, apparently in the UK, and is not available for every search. You may see it when conducting some searches but not others.
Lead gen providers like Bankrate.com in financial services, one of Google's largest customer segments, can't be too pleased with Google offering a free service that competes indirectly with theirs.
Our friends over at SearchEngineLand had the story first with "Outing Google Merchant Search" as if GMS were in the closet.
Here's the view from Google and their FAQ for Google Merchant Search.
What is Google Merchant Search?
Google Merchant Search is an easy new way for you to find products or services from providers who match your needs.
What products or services are supported through Google Merchant Search?
The service is currently only available for secured loans from financial services providers.
How do you choose which providers to show me?
Our search results are based on the criteria you provided in your request; we compare your request with our list of participating providers, and show those that are most relevant for you. Participating providers pay Google when someone requests a quote through this system.
How does Google connect me to the provider?
You submit your contact details and request a time to speak to the provider. A Google operator will call you at the appointed time, then connect you with the provider. Because we do not share your contact information with the provider, they won't be able to contact you again about your request unless you decide to give then your contact details.
How much does it cost to use Google Merchant?
This service is free for the user (the person searching for services). Please note that when calling the free phone number from a mobile phone, operator or carrier charges may apply.