By Alan Coleman on 11 Feb 2016
Google and Amazon continue to duke it out in the battle for shopping related web searches. Here, Alan discusses the search trends in online shopping, the drive to shorten the journey to online purchase and the evolution to ‘conversational search’. Google stole a march against Amazon when it enabled voice activated searches on Android mobile phones, but Amazon have responded in kind with Amazon Echo. ‘It can hear you, anywhere’ and the possibilities this raises for the future of search and online shopping will turn up the heat on the ‘Battle for Shopping’ between these two internet giants.
Alan: So, I'm delighted to talk to you about one of my favourite topics, Battle of the Internet Giants and in this videoblog I'm going to talk to you about the battle for shopping between Google and Amazon right now. Some really interesting research came out very recently, which acts as a very interesting follow on to some research that happened in 2013.
Google v Amazon: Search Trends in Online Shopping
So you can see the bar chart here, and what we're looking at is where U.S. consumers start their product searches. The blue part of the bar chart is Amazon, the orange part is Google. There's a slight difference between the 2013 study and the 2015 study. In 2013, the orange just represents Google. In 2015, the orange represents search engines. So you can really take that 90% of that is Google anyway from our experience. The first thing we're seeing is that Amazon was winning in 2013 and is still winning. Its growth is a lot slower than Google. Amazon's gone from 30% share to 44%, while Google has gone from 13% to 34%. (I'm gonna say that of that 34%, upwards of 30% is Google.) So Amazon is still out in front but Google is catching up. The other key thing that I take away from this is just that the internet giants are really dominating this market right now. Back in 2013, 43% of searches started between the two, whereas we're now talking about just shy of 80% of searches will start on either Google or Amazon. Really interesting.
Google’s Push to Shorten the Journey to Purchase
Let's talk about some of the details in how this battle is playing out right now. Admittedly I'm an Amazon shopper. I'm a little bit afraid of Amazon, I don't think they're good for industry but they just make it so easy for me to buy from them. They have my delivery details, they have my credit cards, it's a really short journey to purchase. I'm pretty sure they have whatever it is I'm looking for. For that reason, I'm a shopper. Amazon are very litigious, in that they don't like other online retailers having a ‘buy now in one click’ and they do fight quite hard to stop other people doing it. However, Google are going whole hog right now to shorten that journey from search to purchase.
This is something that's rolling out in the States right now whereby people who have the eBay app can go direct from the search results to the payments page on their EBay app. So in the example here, somebody's searching "vintage alphabet blocks", and you can see they can be directed directly from the search to the payment page of their app and they can get that purchase made very easily.
Purchasing Directly From Google Search
Another example of how Google are shortening the purchase journey is this. Check this out. So someone searched for women's hoodies, one click, two clicks, three clicks: the order is made. And what's really interesting about this is that whole search sequence, from search right through to purchase, all happened on a Google property. So although you're buying from a third party, you're checking out on the Google property. Really, really interesting. We can see a really strong effort from Google to shorten that journey to purchase. Particularly on mobile devices, Google are hyper-aware that conversion rates on mobile devices are about half of what they are on desktop. Their share price has been depressed until quite recently, until Q3 of this year because investors are very concerned about Google's presence on mobile. So they're actively trying to encourage, bring out innovations which would increase conversion rates on mobile devices.
The Battle for Conversational Search
Another key battleground here between Amazon and Google is around conversational search. Any of you that are smartphone users, perhaps you’ve started talking to it, I certainly have. And Google have seen a rocket in voice searches. And conversational search begets conversational shopping, so we can now ask our iPhones, our Android phones, whatever they might be, to buy us things. So this puts Amazon at a significant strategic disadvantage because half of smartphone users have an Android device in their pocket. Google is very well placed to be part of this conversational shopping experience. But Amazon don't really have that as yet, or do they?
In July of this year, Amazon released the Amazon Echo in the States. It's not available outside the States yet. For those of you who aren't sure or haven't heard it before, here's a really brief video just to show you how it works.
Daughter: Well, what does it do?
Dad: Alexa, what do you do?
Alexa: I can play music, answer questions, get the news and weather, create to-do lists and much more.
Son: Awesome. Alexa, play rock music.
Alexa: Rock music.
Dad: Alexa, stop.
Mom: Wait, I wanna try. Alexa, what time is it?
Alexa: The time is 3:27
Dad: You actually don't have to yell at it. It uses far-field technology so it can hear you from anywhere in the room.
Son: So it can just hear you anywhere?
Dad: Yes, well everyone can hear you anyway.
Mom: Is that where we're gonna put it?
Dad: I was thinking of putting it there, but it works anywhere.
Amazon's Trojan Horse
Alan: So the key message there is ‘it can hear you, anywhere’. So here in Wolfgang we're calling this Amazon's Trojan horse. It's Amazon's play to get in your living room. We know that one of Amazon’s stated objectives is predictive order so it knows what you need to buy and sends it to you before you even put the order in. Can you imagine one of these things in your house listening: Listening to you giving out about the weather and suggesting some sort of travel experience. Listening to you, perhaps, having a fight with your better half and suggesting you send some flowers. Maybe it hears you talking about a kid's birthday party that's coming up this weekend and it's suggesting or even sending out some products for you to buy. Really, really interesting and really, really exciting times in the battle for shopping between the internet giants.