MYTH: Most Retail Searches Happen on Amazon

Perspective / Sep 28, 2017
Sally - Lucca Alla Moda
by Sally Baker Digital Marketing Manager

Amazon. The name we all know, especially if you’re a retailer. However, it is more than a common myth that most retail searches happen within Amazon. Getting straight to the point, this is monetarily vital information for those who have invested all, or most, of their eCommerce efforts on Amazon.

Let’s take a deeper look into the journey of consumer decisions.

amazon vs search - ecommerce

Amazon vs. Search

Online Shopping: Where do people look for products?

A consumer’s decision of where to buy products is usually an easy process. The way they search, what they search, and where they search. This path feeling second nature to them is far more complicated when their behaviors are analyzed by retail marketers.

In today’s world, it is common that when someone is looking to buy something, they will search for it — or about it — online. Let’s say one person knows what they are looking to buy. That person most likely already knows exactly where they’re going to search for that product online. Amazon is usually the website that these consumers go to. However, it is not necessarily where the consumer does their searches for shopping. In addition, it is not always the place they end up making their purchase.


Columnist Purna Virji provided data into the analysis of “shopper behavior” below:

Test: Where do consumers look for products online?

Goal of Test: To study how consumers shop online, and to learn how both Amazon and Search fit within customer decisions.

  • Sampled 9 million users in the U.S. who visited Amazon (on a web browser) or performed a retail-related search.
  • Tracked user activity on Amazon and Bing. Based on their searches, users were categorized in different retail segments.
  • Tracked the user journey from searching on our site, to visiting and searching on Amazon, and vice versa. This was done to best understand the patterns around user groups that come back to search engines.
  • Scaled analysis using comScore data to be representative of both app and mobile usage.

The Myth: Majority of all searches performed for retail happen on Amazon.

Because so many people have repeated this myth, many believe it to be fact simply because they have heard it so much. Likely, it is due to studies which have reported 56% of users start their shopping on Amazon. However, this number is widely misinterpreted as 55% of “overall” retail searches happen on Amazon. That statistic is just not true.

Data does not always provide the full story. If someone started their search for a product on Amazon, does that necessarily mean that person will always go to Amazon to start searches for each and every product they are looking for? Or that person does not perform other searches after Amazon?

Conceptually speaking, that is not true. This is why researchers used behavioral data to answer those questions.

The Reality: We use Amazon for Specific Searches, a Tiny Fraction of Overall Retail Searches.

For example, imagine searches like “how do I cure a headache,” “what’s better for you vitamin c or zinc,” or “best brand of soccer shoes.” Would your first instinct be to search for those queries using Amazon, or a search engine?

Obviously, the answer would be search engines, as Amazon does not perform as a search engine to answer these questions.

The point? People use search to get answers to their retail related questions which span across the entire funnel of retail. That is where the majority of retail searches occur, and yes, the research confirms.

The Results

Testing and analyzing millions of consumers, most retail searches do no happen on Amazon. To the contrary, an astounding 70% of these searches are performed on search engines.

What does that mean for eCommerce businesses?

The strength and continued growth of Amazon is important to utilize as a part of an online store, but should not stand alone in a business’s strategy. eCommerce businesses can gain a great deal of success from search, as well as use search to strengthen their current Amazon listings. In short, these two can work together beautifully and provide a healthy business when done right.

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