Sam Moore

Oct 6, 2015

Amazon Commands Nearly Half of Consumers' First Product Search

BloomReach Surveys Reveals Personalization Key Differentiator; Digital Marketers Facing Dual Threats

Watch Guidance SVP E-commerce & Omni-Channel Strategy, Brian Beck, and BloomReach Head of Marketing and Partnerships, Joelle Kaufman as they dig deeper into the findings and learn what opportunities there are for online retailers. Watch here.

Philadelphia ( Digital Summit) – October 6, 2015 – Amazon’s dominance in the record-setting $300 billion American e-commerce market continues to rapidly grow over its competitors, top search engines like Google and online retailers, according to a new Survata study commissioned by BloomReach. In a survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers, 44 percent bypass the whole Web, going directly to Amazon first to search for products, compared to 34 percent who use top search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo!.

This represents a significant gain for Amazon since Forrester found in 2012 that 30 percent of consumers research products on Amazon first. Retailers fared worse with only 21 percent who say they’d start at a specific retailer. In addition, consumers are overwhelmingly being influenced by Web personalization technology; 87 percent said they’d specifically buy from the company that best predicts their intent and suggests products intuitively over all others.

Amazon has invested heavily in and touted its advanced algorithmic recommendation capabilities, and today a colossal 75 percent of consumers feel that no other online retailer can personalize experiences better than the company, with its nearest competitor registering 9 percent followed by eBay at 8 percent.

“Amazon has turned a slow-bleed of search engines’ and retailers’ e-commerce importance into a gushing wound,” said Joelle Kaufman, head of marketing and partnerships for BloomReach. “Search engines like Google have done their part by making product discovery and search intuitive, convenient and seamless; but if retailers want to slow Amazon’s dominance, then they must integrate technology that creates frictionless experiences for their customers across channels. Amazon has a commanding lead, but retailer personalization and brand experiences can power a counterattack.”

However, while Amazon advances the battlefield on one front, the traditional allies of retailers – the search engines – have inadvertently squeezed retailers from the other front. The BloomReach consumer survey found that consumers– by a 2:1 margin – are wondering why their favorite retailers aren’t delivering the same personalized discovery experience on site or on mobile that search engines provide on the wider Web.

Those facts were echoed as major concerns for digital marketers, when BloomReach surveyed 500 digital retail marketers. According to that survey, also conducted by Survata, marketers not only identified Amazon as their biggest threat (44 percent) compared to a direct competitor (20 percent) or eBay (21 percent), but 86 percent also feared that personalization technology from top search engines like Google was very or highly influential on consumers’ expectations for their sites. As a result of the growing technology gap from both ends, personalization ranked as the number-one priority that marketers will invest in over the next 18 months.

While both consumers and digital marketers agreed that convenience and relevance were the top two values that personalization offers, the two groups disagreed on what website personalization feature provided the most value. Consumers valued the onsite search box as the most-important feature, but marketers felt that navigation elements like facets and filters provided the best value. More significantly, marketers’ opinions on the best personalization value were all over the map – breaking down almost evenly across all categories: search box, navigation, suggested/related products and promoted products.

As the landscape for marketing technologies exploded to almost 2,000 participants, marketers have struggled to make sense of the noise. In fact, the BloomReach digital retail marketer survey revealed that marketers are split on how they define personalization: 38 percent believed it applied to consumer personas, 37 percent believed it applied to individual consumers and 24 percent still thought it applied to broad consumer segments or demographics.

BloomReach also studied consumer attitudes toward shopping on smartphones – compared to digital marketer perceptions and strategies. Conducting research on products and prices is the main reason (47 percent) people shop on smartphones, and almost half of those researching are specifically “showrooming” while in store.

Yet with mobile search traffic surpassing desktop for the first time in the U.S., 81 percent of consumers say that laptops/desktops still are the preferred way to make purchases, and 64 percent said the challenges of smartphones (smaller screens, typing) negatively affected their willingness to purchase. However, marketers don’t recognize that connecting and personalizing the mobile experience to other channels is important, while previous research shows that the majority of consumers would prefer to be recognized across channels. The BloomReach digital retail marketer study revealed that omnichannel technology ranked last in order of importance.

“People don’t think ‘Now I’m going to shop on my phone; now I’m going to shop on my laptop; now I’m back on my phone.’ They just shop,” said Kaufman. “But marketers often painfully approach omnichannel personalization in this way – siloing data and chalking every solution up to a responsive-design problem. Marketers are ignoring the 25x mobile-influence factor, inaccurately thinking that ‘omnichannel’ and ‘personalization’ are mutually exclusive.”

This study was unveiled one year after BloomReach released a similar study of UK consumers and marketers, finding that 82 percent of UK consumers thought Amazon was the best at personalizing.

About BloomReach

The BloomReach Personalized Discovery Platform makes your content and products more discoverable with applications for organic search, site-search and digital marketing and merchandising. BloomReach’s core technology – the Web Relevance Engine – uses natural-language processing and machine-learning to algorithmically understand content and visitors, matching it with demand and intent data from across the Web.

Created in 2009, BloomReach is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices worldwide and is backed by investment firms Bain Capital Ventures, NEA and Lightspeed Ventures. BloomReach’s portfolio of customers includes Neiman Marcus, Sears Outlet, Kohl’s, Staples, and Williams-Sonoma. Learn more:

Infographic supporting findings from the BloomReach Study of U.S. Consumers and Digital Marketers on Personalization and Online Shopping ###

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