Hard to believe, but consumers are no longer Googling their product searches – they’re Amazoning them. Yes, the Seattle-based titan has discovered all kinds of schemes to pull us into their e-commerce orbit. But Amazon’s trajectory to becoming the top search engine for consumers didn’t happen by accident. It began with a business plan and steady, solid, methodical decision-making based on digital marketing technology.
Amazon: Reinventing the Consumer Search Engine
I know, you’re saying that’s all well and good, but how DID Amazon grow to where it is today, rivaling Google for consumers’ top terminus?
The excerpts below are from the company’s 2015 letter to its shareholders giving them a blueprint of Amazon’s long-term plans, which include:
- Reach: Amazon’s initial business growth is based on a detailed approach to SEO and AdWords that target millions of keywords.
- Act: Creating clear, simple experiences through continuous testing and learning.
- Convert: Using personalization – i.e., targeted ads – to make recommendations to consumers, plus a simple checkout process that many of its rivals imitate.
- Engage: Amazon calls it “Customer Obsession,” which means giving consumers low prices, fast and reliable delivery, and siding with consumers in disputes with third-party sellers.
At its core, Amazon has always been a data-driven company, collecting details on just about every transaction in their swiftly expanding cosmos. It’s the age of the consumer. Your customers are not what you assume – they don’t want to be served, they want to be charmed. Which is why Amazon’s customers are attracted by the value it offers, not its shopping carts. Other e-commerce sites are locked in a life-or-death battle to hold their places in the SERPs against retailers like Amazon. The company has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a simple online bookstore, as indicated in the chart below:
Amazon’s Digital DNA
Amazon relies on huge amounts of data. Every search, every purchase and every page viewed is documented and stored. The company uses a platform that tracks discounted products and encourages Amazon customers to make purchases. This so-called ‘recommendation’ algorithm is paying off huge dividends for the company’s coffers. A recent survey by BloomReach states that 40 percent of American consumers bypass web searches and go directly to Amazon, while 30 percent of folks opted for search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo to satisfy their product cravings. Amazon’s search engines – together with its product recommendation features –means Amazon can connect its products with people interested in those products.
“The growth of Amazon as the consumer’s first product search stop has come primarily at the expense of retailers,” said Sam Moore, Head of Global Public Relations for BloomReach. “In fact, 75 percent of consumers in our survey said Amazon personalized the best among other retailers. Amazon has built a very capable data engine that delivers great recommendations to each and every customer. Customers have come to realize that they can quickly find exactly what they want on Amazon.”
Many platforms like Amazon have built ‘bunkers’ around their advertising technology. Google already restricts marketers from buying YouTube ads via third-party companies through its DoubleClick ad exchange. Data has become a commodity – a currency worth more than CPC clicks – because when retailers understand the kinds of products that attract people away from a rival, they can then use that information to build their own advertising audience.
Here’s Amazon’s logic: if we don’t have a product on our site, we’ll just sell traffic to someone that does. Thanks to its Marketplace, Amazon’s chances of selling or stocking a product via a partner’s website is higher. Why dedicate ad space that might earn a pittance when you could drive customers to a product that can earn you as nice profit?
A typical Amazon search is composed of four separate components that generate leads and traffic for its sites’ third-part businesses:
- Sales: Money talks on Amazon. Stop thinking about searches in terms of traffic generated. Start thinking more like a traditional lead generator, where you drive traffic to a teaser product where you make some money that leads people to larger products down the road.
- Keywords: Amazon’s algorithms run on keyword searches. The difference between doing a Google versus an Amazon search is that with Amazon you don’t want to rely on long-tail keywords. Use fewer keywords. You want to find the exact words people are using when searching for your products.
- Category: Choose your categories. If you’re looking for a book on building your home-based internet business, a keyword like entrepreneur my not be enough to get results.
- Reviews: Reviews help, but be strategic with the reviews you get because you’ll find it helps in getting sales.
Amazon and Consumer Behavior
Amazon has discovered that personal data is the surest way to earn customer loyalty in the face of increasing competition. Not only does use of data empower you to treat customers as individuals, it does so without precipitating some of the fixed expenses associated with improving customer service. Good data doesn’t require an expanded workforce.
As long as you give customers transparency and control, they’ll keep returning to buy and telling you a little bit more about themselves with each click. When that happens, the question won’t be ‘How much do you know about me?’ but rather ‘what are you going to do with the information you’ve found?’
“Retailers just haven’t done a good enough job creating seamless, personalized search and navigation on their websites,” Moore said. “Since consumers know that they can find almost anything on Amazon easily, more and more just start there. Honestly– it’s the retailers that should invest in and integrate technology that creates a better digital experience for customers across all channels.”
What do you think about Amazon's strategy as a marketer and as a consumer? Let us know in the comments!