Amazon is the first stop for 44% of shoppers looking to buy or research a product on-line, according to e-commerce software company Bloomreach’s survey cited in Re/Code. 34% use Google as their first stop, and only 21% use some other online retailer, according to the survey.
A 2012 Forrester Research study showed 30% of US online shoppers started with Amazon, and only 13% with search engines. The surveys aren’t really directly comparable, since they could have used different methodologies, but Amazon’s recent expansions of its e-commerce programs, such as the Amazon Prime Now same-day delivery service, make it plausible that it could have grown over the last few years.
Bloomreach conducted the survey to support its contention that more-personalized product pages (of the sort it sells software to produce) can help e-tailers compete with Amazon. But the thing that interests me is the parallel to the e-book industry, where Amazon holds an even stronger lead.
For whatever reason, no one seems to be able to compete effectively with Amazon, at least insofar as mass-market e-books are concerned. Some publishers are even finding it most effective to go all-in with Amazon, and stop trying to sell through competing e-book retailers. Is Amazon likely to get big enough in general on-line retail to have the same effect?
On the face of it, it seems unlikely. And yet, you never know. But if it did happen, would it lead to antitrust charges? In brick-and-mortar retail, Wal-Mart’s growth—and its obnoxious habit of killing off mom-and-pop stores in any town where it opened a new branch—provide an obvious basis for comparison. But Wal-Mart didn’t face anti-trust charges because by that time, antitrust enforcement had moved away from protecting businesses toward protecting consumers—and since Wal-Mart brought along low prices for consumers, the government didn’t see anything to worry about.
And yet, might that kind of size and reach coupled with stunts like kicking competitors out of its store change the government’s mind? If Amazon were to get too big and too big for its britches, it’s possible some kind of break-up might be in the offing. (But then again, Wal-Mart’s obnoxious habit of squeezing its suppliers doesn’t seem to have had that effect in physical retail, so who knows what it will take for the government to take notice?)