Tag Archive: search

  1. Should Google be worried about Amazon?

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    It’s no secret that Amazon is no longer ‘just’ the world’s biggest retailer. Its ‘other’ business – digital advertising – is having a seismic impact on the advertising industry, so much so that is now a threat to the traditional digital advertising duopoly, Facebook and Google. This week, eMarketer released a report claiming that Amazon is ‘chipping away’ at the very core of Google’s business – search.

    Amazon is increasing its share of US digital ad spend

    Amazon’s star has been on the ascendant for a significant period of time, but 2019 has truly been a stellar year. Revenue for its ad business climbed by 37% to $3 billion in the second quarter of 2019, while back in February eMarketer predicted that Amazon would claim 8.8% of US digital adspend this year, up from 6.8% in 2018. This is impressive in itself, but even more so when you consider that Google’s share was predicted to drop to 37.2%, down from 38.2% in 2018, while Facebook would only increase theirs by 0.3%.

    Google’s near-monopoly of search is set to decrease

    This was the backdrop for the latest eMarketer report about Amazon’s search share. The US search market is set to grow by 17% this year, to a huge $55.17 billion. While Google still of course owns the lion’s share of the market, with 73.1% ($40.3bn), eMarketer anticipates that that will fall to 70.5% by 2021. Amazon, on the other hand, is expected to have grown its share of the market to 12.9% by the end of 2019, and to 15.9% in 2021. Microsoft has now been relegated to third place in the search market, with a 6.5% share.

    What’s behind Amazon’s success in the space?

    So what is behind Amazon’s increasing prominence in digital advertising? The key reason is its understanding of consumers’ purchasing behaviours. It has a treasure trove of data about buying habits which is of course very valuable for advertisers, as they can reach customers right at the time that they intend to make a purchase. Amazon’s data even allows advertisers to understand when a buyer might want to repurchase a product, so that they can be targeted at the right time, with less wastage.

    Consumers’ research behaviour is changing as well: they now increasingly use Amazon as a research resource rather than just a purchasing platform, and use broader search terms such as ‘gift’ or ‘makeup’, offering ample opportunities for brands to reach them. And it’s not just brands that sell directly on Amazon that can benefit; advertisers that sell products and services that can’t be bought on Amazon, such as cars or insurance, can use the retailer’s extensive customer data to understand who might be interested in buying their products. Finally, Amazon has very high conversion rates, particularly for products sold on their platform: 20-30%, versus 1-10% on Facebook, for example, where ads are seen as more intrusive and trust is an issue.

    Harnessing its advantages

    Amazon has wasted no time in harnessing these advantages over its competitors. Last year, it simplified the branding for its advertising products, creating Amazon Advertising. This includes sponsored ads which work in a similar way to Google search, allowing advertisers to bid for search terms, with the highest bidders more likely to appear in ad listings. Display ads are available programmatically for both Amazon and third-party sites using the Amazon DSP, which allows advertisers to see easily how well their media spend translates into sales.

    In 2018, Amazon acquired Sizmek’s adserving and dynamic creative units; the dynamic creative allows for more tailored ads which incorporate data such as location or shopper behaviour, while the ad server side helps advertisers to place ads and measure effectiveness, helping Amazon to better compete with Google. Overall, these acquisitions have helped Amazon improve the functionality that had been lacking in comparison to its two major competitors in the digital advertising space.

    An unexpected benefit for both Google and Amazon

    While Google will no doubt be alarmed that Amazon is encroaching on its search dominance, there is something of a silver lining. Both organisations are being examined by regulators at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission – Google because of its search stranglehold and Amazon for using its e-commerce marketplace to promote its own brands over those of rivals. While these investigations continue, it won’t hurt either of them to have increased perception of competition.

    An increasingly important player

    As Amazon increases its functionality and collects and organises evermore customer data, it will become an increasingly important player in the digital advertising sector and undoubtedly an ever more worthy recipient of valuable ad dollars. Advertisers – even those that don’t sell via the platform itself – should seriously consider Amazon’s advertising solutions for three reasons: lower pricing thanks to increased competition in the search space; remarkable conversion rates; and Amazon’s wealth of rich data from its sales funnel.

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  2. How smart speakers are changing the way we search and shop

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    Its Black Friday at the end of this week and bargain hunters across the US and Europe are readying themselves and their wallets to snap up bargains both online and in store. One thing that we can comfortably predict is that many will have their eye on a new smart speaker. The rise of the smart speaker over the last few years has been remarkable: in the US, an estimated 43.9m Americans used a smart speaker at least once a month in 2017, rising to 61.1m in 2018 and expected to increase to 76.5m by 2020 (source: eMarketer, 2018). This proliferation of smart speakers has inevitably fuelled a spike in voice search and voice commerce – and those, of course, have implications for marketers.

    Who’s using them?

    In May this year, eMarketer released its report,‘Hey Alexa, who’s using smart speakers?’. In it, the research firm points out that ‘not since the smartphone has any tech device been adopted as quickly as the smart speaker’. In fact, growth has been so strong that they predicted that the number of smart speaker users would surpass that of wearable users this year. The typical user is still the classic early tech-adopter – affluent, older millennial male – but the device is gaining traction in other demographics, particularly younger generation X women with children. What’s driving this surge? As eMarketer’s co-founder and Chief Content Officer Geoff Ramsey pointed out in his ‘Emerging Trends’ session at the ANA Masters of Marketing last month, it’s easier to talk to a device than to type into one and – crucially – smart speakers adapt to our voices and behaviour, not the other way around.

    The new battleground for the tech giants

    As is to be expected with any major technological development, the smart speaker has become the latest battleground for the tech giants, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. Facebook and Microsoft are still to make waves in the field: the former delayed the release of its smart speaker due to user privacy concerns (understandable, given the year it has had), while Microsoft has partnered with another hardware maker instead of creating an own-brand speaker. Apple released its HomePod speaker, but the high price point and less-than-glowing reviews means it is yet to be a major player, in this space at least. That leaves Google and Amazon as the undisputed kings of the smart speaker arena. Google’s Google Home has a 29.5% share of the market, but eMarketer projected that Amazon Echo – of Alexa fame – would claim 66.6% of the smart speaker market in 2018.

    Transforming how we shop…

    As we discussed in an earlier post, Amazon is well on its way to adding a third leg to the Facebook-Google digital duopoly by increasing its advertising revenue – and its Echo smart speaker is a key way in which it will achieve this. eMarketer points out that voice is the next frontier for online commerce, and while the number of people who shop using their purchases is small (28.2% of US smart speaker owners), they predict that the number of US smart speaker buyers will double to 17.2 million between 2017 and 2018. And it is of course Amazon that benefits from this, thanks to their success in the smart speaker space and their dominance of the general ecommerce space. Echo owners can and do shop using Amazon Prime: indeed, they spend an average of $1700 a year, according to a CIRP report. That’s $400 higher than what ‘regular’ Prime customers spend annually on Amazon and 66% higher than non-Prime Amazon shoppers. CIRP’s co-founder Josh Lowitz said “We’ve long thought that Amazon is keenly focused on building increasingly loyal and frequent shopping customers, and Echo seems to promote that goal.” Brands can also create third-party apps; however, many are choosing to do this with Google Home rather than Alexa so they don’t have to compete with Amazon’s inventory.

    …and how we search

    That’s not the only way that Google may have an edge over the thus-far dominant Echo. The second most popular way that consumers use their smart speakers, after music, is search. Ramsey noted that 72% of US smart speaker users who have a smart device use them to search – it’s the second most popular activity after listening to music, and that doesn’t even include the news, weather or traffic. One third of users use them every day to search for something that they would previously have typed into a device. The implications of this for brands are particularly important. Why’s that? Because voice search usually only yields one result: consumers don’t want to listen to reams of results, and that actually could be a reason that they are choosing to use their smart speaker rather than traditional methods, so that they don’t have to sift through results. Furthermore, they don’t have to stop what they are doing.

    A voice search optimisation strategy

    The fact that there is only one search result on smart speakers means that brands either get first position or no position: it’s critically important that they start developing a solid voice search optimisation strategy to take them to the top of the search results. Econsultancy suggests that an effective way to do this is to help people when they need support with a specific task, such as cooking or trying to remove a stain – what Google has termed a ‘micro-moment’. That fits in with Ramsey’s view that voice is not just another ad vehicle – it’s a utility, and advertisers need to see it as a personalised experience that will bring consumers closer to their brand. Voice can be used to literally start a conversation with a consumer and ultimately set them along the path to purchase. As far as paid search is concerned, sponsored ad words aren’t yet available but that can surely only be a matter of time.

    Will mobile ads be impacted?

    Something else that brands need to bear in mind is that, as consumers are increasingly drawn consumers away from their mobile devices by smart speakers, they will be exposed to fewer mobile ads. We believe that it is unlikely that Amazon and Google will allow brands to ‘broadcast’ ads via their smart speakers; could this mean that digital advertising will start to see a decline?

    Agility and readiness are critical

    As the tech giants look to implement their voice assistants into other gadgets, household appliances, furniture and even cars, the opportunities for brands to become intrinsically valuable and useful to the consumer grows. With that opportunity comes complexity that will need to be navigated. As Ramsey pointed out, even the pneumonics of brand and product names will need to be considered! There is much to be gained by those who are most agile and can stay ahead.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock