Amazon vs. Search: The Retailer’s Dilemma

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Posted by Craig Maloney | September 28, 2017 | Filed under: CMO Articles, eCommerce, Marketing, Website

Amazon vs. Search: The Retailer’s Dilemma

Online retailers face a fundamental conundrum in how they are to allocate their marketing resources: Is it best to sink everything into Amazon, or is a more varied search strategy recommended?

There are three basic questions you can use to guide your thinking here:

  1. Where are consumers going to look for your products on the Web?
  2. How will these consumers behave differently on Amazon vs. search engines?
  3. Can your search engine and Amazon marketing efforts benefit each other somehow?

Here’s why these questions matter: From the marketer’s standpoint, these various and intersecting online channels can look quite complicated—but from the consumer’s standpoint, the journey may seem quite a bit more simple and straightforward. Understanding it from that perspective can illuminate your best course of action.

With that said, let’s walk through these questions one by one, and understand their implications for the Amazon vs. search quandary.

Where are consumers going to look for your products on the Web?

For this first question, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. The oft-repeated myth is that the overwhelming majority of retail searches take place on The reality is a bit more complicated than that. In truth, consumers turn to Amazon just for certain types of searches—usually lower-funnel ones. But these make up a small fragment of overall retail search volume.

For example, say that you know exactly which brand of vacuum cleaner you want, and you just want to see a few different models and their corresponding prices. You might go to Amazon and search for Dyson vacuum cleaners to pull up that information. But let’s say you’re starting at a much broader place, with a search like a best vacuum cleaner or top vacuum brands.

Where do you think you’d most likely turn for such a search—to Amazon, or to a search engine? Instinct says you’d probably use Google or Bing for something so general, so top-funnel.

And studies bear this out; our data show that just around 30 percent of retail searches take place on Amazon, with the rest happening on search engines. So while Amazon may be important for closing, it’s not necessarily going to help you carry your consumer through the entire sales journey.

The implication for marketers? You’ve got to connect with customers at every touch point along the retail journey—and while Amazon is definitely a big part of that, it’s not the full story. A focus on search is just as critical.

How will these consumers behave differently on Amazon vs. search engines?

Amazon vs. search engines

This second question asks us to consider user behavior and how it changes from one channel to another. Here, we’ve done some research and come up with a few telling facts and figures:

  • About a quarter of consumers who use search engines never visit Amazon at all;
  • Many consumers who use both Amazon and search do not conduct the same queries on both sites;
  • In other words, someone might spend time on search engines looking for their next household appliance, then head to Amazon for a totally different query—books, children’s toys, etc.
  • Only about 25 percent of retail searchers span from search to Amazon. These searches mostly fall within the pattern we laid out above—top-funnel and general queries on Google, then more specific product searches on Amazon.

Also worth noting: Search engines are often used for more educational queries that can lead to product-oriented ones. For example, a Google search for cold symptoms or what to do for a cold can very easily be linked to an Amazon search for a particularly cold and sinus medication. But you’re probably not going to see a lot of people go straight to Amazon to search for cold symptoms.

One more thing: Search engines are often used as a means for consumers to find out where to buy something—hence the high volume of searches that involve phrases like best deal, most affordable, etc.

The implication for marketers here is upper-funnel search queries are a great, even essential way to build interest in your product—and they’re really best served by search engines.

Can your search engine and Amazon marketing efforts benefit each other somehow?

Our last question has to do with synergy. Are there good ways for you to invest in top-funnel and bottom-funnel activity, uniting search and Amazon?

This one has an easy answer: According to our research, consumers who have been exposed to search ads are much more likely to look up that brand once they get to—as in, three or four times more likely.

Don’t neglect the potential of search ads for building brand awareness—and for sowing seeds that you can harvest in your store.

The bottom line in all of this is that retailers can’t put all their eggs in one basket. Amazon is non-negotiable, but search engines play a critical role in the process. And by looking at things from the consumer’s point of view, you can begin to understand how all of these channels work together.

Ready to put together a holistic e-commerce marketing approach that unites search and Amazon? That’s our wheelhouse. If you are looking for a digital marketing firm in Orange County, reach out to EverythingOnline.


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