The attractions of online shopping draw hundreds of millions Americans to the web every year, and Google is taking advantage, offering thousands of items at prices similar to a brick-and-mortar store. The search giant is also offering an entire catalog of more than 40 million recipes, with links to the corresponding recipe websites in addition to direct links to online purchases of the ingredients.
Amazon, in contrast, is focusing its efforts on making sure you can order anything online from an individual retailer or an online retailer. According to the company’s latest earnings report, “online sales have grown to $20 billion annually, representing one-quarter of the company’s overall business.”
That means we’ll likely see more and more direct-to-consumer businesses entering the online-shopping market. Online shoppers like to be able to see a list of exactly what they’re going to pay for and have the ability to compare options at different price points. Consumers also like to visit websites like https://www.raise.com/coupons/target where they are able to obtain coupon codes from different retailers and save money on their purchase.
Amazon can give that to them, and Google doesn’t need to make a large investment in its search infrastructure to pull that off. The company will need to do more, though, to get better at this. In the second quarter of 2013, Amazon’s e-commerce operations had a $2.5 billion net loss, but the company spent $3 billion on marketing, advertising, and other content creation efforts.
In addition to shopping directly from the site, Amazon could make its search results better through a better-quality algorithm. That’s already a problem with its search results. In a December blog post, Amazon said that its software-driven search engine was still a work in progress, and that it had just started to use neural-network-based machine learning, which is still in its early days.
The other option for Amazon is to keep trying and continue to use this data in its own services. Amazon’s Fire TV has a built-in search function that can pull data from its own store, so Amazon could provide it to its own television partners. Amazon would then have its own “search” product that would be available on its own service.
The reality is, the ability to match data and ideas is one of the most interesting things about the internet. And the things we’re learning about how our brains work are changing the way we interact with all sorts of things on the internet, from the way we write to how we store and organize our thoughts to how we engage with our favorite authors.
Amazon doesn’t need to find the next big thing. It just needs to keep innovating.
The company is not about to give up its ability to own its own destiny. It just wants to ensure it doesn’t make the same mistakes as its predecessors did in the past and alienate its most loyal customers. “The people who love Amazon and the people who loved Amazon are going to be very, very excited when they see this,” says Fuchs.