Google site search: Hurdle for retailers or consumer service?

Google is in constant evolution, and it remains the number one search engine. It is important for retailers to follow the company’s updates, difficult to decipher as they may be.

In a move to keep users on their search page for longer, Google launched search within a site. The clumsy name simply indicates that below the header for a particular retailer, is another Google search box. Instead of immediately clicking on the retailer’s website, the user may enter a secondary search on the same Google page.

Search within a site searches are treated like other search result pages. Which means, relevant advertising is also returned. The organic results are from the specific retailer. The ads are from any company that has purchased advertising – including the direct competition. We searched ‘marc jacobs’ at Revolve Clothing (above), and Shopbop – another ecommerce retailer was the top return (below). The rest of the results were all from Revolve Clothing.


As Mark Ballard, director of research at Rimm Kaufman Group LLC articulates, “You’d end up generating ads for your competition on a search that otherwise would have taken place on your site”.

Google argues that the search feature on many commerce sites are plainly not very good, and the company is looking to fill that second query result on its own search pages.


There is a solution for retailers wanting to control the returned results, and eliminate any advertising. Google has allowed for the retailer’s own search results page, as long as it’s formatted correctly and submitted to Google. Amazon and Walmart have already opted-in.




The search within a site feature is one of the newest the company is using to keep retailers on the Google search page longer. Structured and Rich Snippets pull key product and site details (like a camera’s dimensions, resolution, etc.) from brand and retailer websites, displaying them on the search results page. Thus, delaying the click to a retailer / brand’s webpage.


At this point, search within a site doesn’t seem to be altering consumer behavior in a significant way, but Google is actively expanding both the Snippits and Site Search features.

Amazon and Walmart set up on eachother's turf

This week, two major retailers took a step out of their comfort zones, across the country, to play in their competition’s playground.  Walmart has expanded its west-coast technology lab, and Amazon has opened a photography facility in New York.



Image source: Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times   

Image source: Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times


Amazon announced the opening of a 40,000 square-foot photography facility in New York, which plans to run 24/7 when it’s fully operational in a few weeks.  Fashion, lead by Cathy Beaudoin, is estimated to be a significant blend of the company’s expected $95 billion business in 2013, which includes women’s contemporary, men’s, and which is the flash sale component.

Amazon is west-coast based, with headquarters in Seattle and a significant presence in Silicon Valley, but the company was eager to make a home in New York.  The studio is expected to serve it’s own businesses, in addition to those sellers who use the Amazon site as a third party sales outlet and platform. 

 “New York is a magnet for talent — models, photographers, digitech people, hair and makeup stylists,” Beaudoin said.  It’s as much about cost-cutting and convenience as it is about image excellence.  “This is allowing us to scale and obsess over the customer experience”.



Image: Walmart via Wired

Image: Walmart via Wired

While Amazon is focused on improving its soft-lines and ‘customer-browsing’ capabilities, Wal-Mart is looking to compete and play catch-up with the etailer in e-commerce technology.  The discount retailer is pouring money into mobile and talent, expanding it’s offices in San Bruno, California to include foosball tables and salmon entrees. 

Talented engineers are what the company is after, as Walmart continues to grow its $10 billion ecommerce channel.  Same-day delivery, online pricing, and free delivery (without membership) are the areas Walmart continues to make head-way. 

Walmart’s online revenue may only be a fraction of Amazon’s, there is significant opportunity with the volume of unique visitors to the site.  Walmart counted just shy of 63 million unique visitors in August – which is about half of Amazon’s 133 million.  That is a much smaller delta than the revenue measurement.  It shows that Walmart has the customer’s interest – it just needs a larger share of their dollar.  

Earlier in the month Walmart also opened two new online fulfillment centres so it could increase its product selection and ship packages to customers quickly and cheaply – the two strategies which enabled Amazon to become dominant in the channel. 

Both retailers have significant strength: Walmart has scale and profitability, Amazon dominates the e-commerce world.  Both have the vision and awareness to know they need to expand into new areas.  That is good news for the future of both.   


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Opposing strategies for the used tech market

AMAZON may sell used e-books

Amazon received a patent which will allow e-book owners to re-sell to another purchaser, transfering access to the content.  Within the patent is the right to limit the amount of times an e-book can be resold.  While Amazon hasn't communicated their intent with the patent, this has the potential to significantly decrease e-book sales overall.  Unlike used books, used e-books remain in perfect condition - exactly as the original begging the question: why would consumers purchase new? Publishers are worried, as with the used video-game market, they see no financial benefit from the resale of a game.  However, if Amazon exercises the right to limit the number of resales possible, this could be the bridge between the Publishers and the retailer.  WIRED's article here.

MICROSOFT blocks used games 

On the other side of the coin, Microsoft's next console requires an internet connection and one-time activation code to play games.  This prevents the consumer from being able to resell their games.  It is widely understood that the resale market serves to benefit the overall demand for product (as consumers are able to buy more, knowing they can get money back on their purchases at time of resale), the potential consumer backlash and slowing of sales will be something to watch for once the new console is released.  Canadian Business article here.