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2020 Prediction Month: Google Aims to Acquire More of Amazon’s Ecommerce Territory – Collin Colburn // Forrester

Episode Overview: We’re only a month into 2020 and Google is already squaring up with ecommerce heavyweights like Amazon, releasing two updates with one vastly improving the Google Shopping Experience. As Google makes inroads to acquire valuable ecommerce territory, Amazon remains a stalwart competitor as the preferred performance marketing channel with consumer package companies. Join host Ben and Forrester Analyst Collin Colburn as they analyze Google’s new plan of attack, how Amazon may respond and who could emerge the victor in the battle for ecommerce territory.

Summary

  • Google is innovating features where Amazon can’t compete, such as providing users the ability to search and book flights on its platform.
  • Amazon should remain owning a significant share of ecommerce queries as consumer packaging companies continue contributing ad dollars. It’s the one performance marketing channel where CPCs can see direct conversions from their investments.
  • One problem facing consumer packaging companies is the inability to access user data from both Google and Amazon, preventing them from retargeting customers and making it difficult to acquire more information.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome back to 2020 predictions month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re looking into the crystal ball to tell you SEOs and content marketers what you can expect in 2020. Joining us again today is Collin Colburn, who is an analyst at Forrester, which is one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world. Collin’s research focuses on current and future trends in performance marketing, including strategies and best practices for SEO, paid search advertising, Amazon advertising, voice search, mobile advertising, local marketing and emerging marketing trends. Today Collin and I are going to talk about his predictions for the ecommerce landscape. Okay. Here’s my conversation with Collin Colburn, analyst at Forrester. Collin, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

Collin:              Great to be here again.

Ben:                 Very excited to have you on the show. We’ve covered a lot of ground already. We talked about some of your predictions for SEO, how the channel is becoming more of a priority in terms of the greater landscape. Yesterday we talked about some of the changes in the overall marketing landscape and how they could affect SEOs, where paid advertising is going to get more expensive because of the 2020 election here in the United States. We’re going to see more impact and focus on influencer marketing that affects people’s linking strategies. Also podcast advertising and content is going to become more of a priority in 2020, which allows SEOs to potentially have another tool to play with to be able to transcribe their podcast content and reuse other forms of new media.

Ben:                 Today I want to double-click down into one specific industry that you focus on, which is ecommerce. In our conversation when we talked about what’s going to happen with SEOs, you said that Google is mostly interested in keeping people on the Google.com domain and building more functionality into the search experience, something we’ve also seen in ecommerce. Talk to me about some of your predictions for what’s going to happen in the ecommerce space, and how is Google trying to keep more of the shopping and conversion traffic on their site?

Collin:              Yeah, I mean, I think that Google is trying very hard to compete with Amazon in areas where Amazon literally cannot compete. Google is investing a lot in things like being able to book flights, for instance, and some other areas outside of the traditional product ecommerce that Amazon so dominates. I think that we’re going to see more and more of that going forward, where Google is going to try and look at things from a very industry vertical specific point of view and see where can they make inroads against Amazon to better influence how ad dollars are going to be spent by companies that have an ecommerce component, but it might not just be around physical products that they could sell on Amazon.

Ben:                 It seems to me that this is where there’s the most risk for Google is that for most things when people start a search they think, “I’m going to go into Google and I’m going to look for the answer or the product.” Now it looks like more and more people are increasingly going to Amazon to do their product search and they’re not even thinking about what their ecommerce options are. They’re just going to buy directly from the marketplace. How do you think Google can combat this or what do you think the trend is? Are they actually going to try to compete in product search or has that ship sailed?

Collin:              I think the ship has sailed. I think that that’s sort of why I went down the path that I went down at first, which is I think Google is going to just try and find other industries to dominate, and things in the CPG industry they’re just going to leave to Amazon, because like you said, people are just going there without even thinking as sort of their search destination, which is why you’ve seen so much in ad budget, ad dollars go to Amazon from CPG companies is because they’re treating it as their one performance marketing channel where they can see direct conversions happening because of their investment.

Ben:                 Talk to me about some of the things that you anticipate happening on the Amazon platform that are going to affect product search and visibility.

Collin:              Yeah, I think if I had to make one prediction about Amazon, sort of this ecommerce stuff going into 2020, especially with an SEO spin on it, I think that 2020 is going to be for any company that has an ecommerce website and you are selling products or some products through Amazon, Amazon SEO is going to have to be part of your remit. You can’t just focus on your own website. I think it’s going to have to be working with merchandising or ecommerce teams within your organization and optimizing those product pages for search results within Amazon. I see this so much, where companies are struggling because it’s the merchandiser team that is optimizing this stuff and they don’t really know like what are the keywords you should be using, what are the different tactics you can use from the description of the product to the product title page, so all these other different things. I think that would be one of my predictions for 2020 is you’re going to see more SEO, especially in the retail, ecommerce, CPG space, have to take over through Amazon SEO.

Ben:                 It seems like from the vendor perspective, that also means that there’s going to be more competition focused on people understanding how to optimize their SEO specifically for Amazon. There’s a host of tools and services that are obviously doing this for Google already. Searchmetrics, the sponsor of the podcast, is one of them, but there’s an opportunity for vendors to start building Amazon-specific tools that may or may not already exist.

Collin:              Totally. I think that that is a huge area of opportunity if you’re in the vendor space. I know that there are some niche Amazon-only kind of vendors that only do this for Amazon that are out there, but if you’re one of the major SEO platforms or technologies that are out there, I think that’s a great area of opportunity.

Ben:                 One of the things that surprises me when we think about how Google and Amazon are going to compete, and one of the problems that I have with Amazon, if you’re a consumer package company you don’t get access to the user data. You don’t have the ability to re-target to your customer, or at least it’s very difficult to be able to do. One of the ways that I assume Google would be able to compete is by enabling the vendors to get access to the conversion data to do re-targeting. As you think about who owns the relationship with the vendor in ecommerce, do you see an opportunity for the merchants to start working with different platforms, or essentially pushing back on Amazon owning the user data and entire experience? Is there any risk for Amazon basically keeping their walled garden closed?

Collin:              Is there any risk? I think that Amazon would argue that, yes, there is risk, and that they own the relationship with the customer. I think that is probably the angle that they would take is that this is a risk about our relationship with our customer if we share this data with outside providers. I don’t really see a reason why Amazon would open up their walled garden, unfortunately. That kind of goes for Facebook and Google as well. I think that marketers as a whole, it can’t just be one brand, it can’t just be one marketer, I think as a whole, as an industry, really have to put the pressure on these walled gardens, I think, to demand this data, this information, and make the case for why, yes, Google and Facebook and Amazon own part of the relationship with the customer, but so does the brand and so does the manufacturer, whatever the situation is, also has right to that ownership of that relationship with the customer.

Ben:                 Can I give you my SEO prediction for 2020?

Collin:              Sure.

Ben:                 That ain’t happening.

Collin:              Yeah.

Ben:                 Not this year.

Collin:              I agree. I think it’s a long time coming.

Ben:                 As we think about product and SEO, what other predictions do you have for the CPG companies? Are there any products or any verticals that you think are specifically notable or developing?

Collin:              I think that it will be very interesting to see how as a lot of these CPG companies, you would assume, will invest more in digital advertising, digital marketing, because the impact that Amazon is having on their business, it’ll be interesting to see how they work with or sort of rebalance themselves across all marketing formats. You look at CPG companies, they have some of the most complex marketing programs out there, whether it’s trade marketing, shopper marketing, co-op marketing with retailers, and then obviously digital being a part of this, and then more traditional formats, but how are they going to balance their budgeting and their resource allocation across all of those types of marketing? Then more importantly, how do they take data and information and insights from each of those channels, if you will, to enrich others?

Collin:              For me, I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for an SEO at a CPG company to work more closely with shopper marketing teams to better understand what are they seeing in terms of what is incentivizing shoppers to go to retailers and how can that influence the content that is being created on the website and being optimized for on the website?

Ben:                 Well, Collin, I think that the ecommerce space is interesting. This is really a battle of the titans in my mind, where you have Amazon and Google trying to pick off a few various verticals, but also the people that are playing in the ecommerce space for the most part are also really large, really important companies, you mentioned the CPGs, large marketing budgets. It’s really complex and really interesting. Any last comments or predictions for the ecommerce landscape that might be relevant to SEOs?

Collin:              No, I think we covered it all.

Ben:                 Okay. Well, Collin, I appreciate you coming on and being our guest this week. Thanks so much for sharing the insights, not only for SEO, for the general marketing space and ecommerce.

Collin:              Yeah. Thank you for having me. Great to be here.

Ben:                 All right. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Collin Colburn, analyst at Forrester. If you’d like to get in touch with Collin, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is CollinColburn, C-O-L-L-I-N-C-O-L-B-U-R-N, or you can visit his company’s website, which is Forrester.com. Just one link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to VoicesofSearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions, or you can apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast.

Ben:     Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is VoicesofSearch on Twitter, or you could reach out to me personally. My handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes four to five times a week, so hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.