The changing feel of Amazon
I’d never really thought of Amazon as a ‘Google for products,’ until yesterday. That’s because it’s not really, but the way it’s increasingly filling out its search results 'sponsored’ listings is definitely reminiscent of Google’s approach to business.
Yes, you may have noticed 'Sponsored’ products showing up in your search results more lately. As Recode reports
“Amazon-sponsored product ads have been around since 2012. But lately, as the company has invested in growing its advertising business, they’ve become more aggressive…
"Nearly 8 percent of views on Amazon product pages came from sponsored links in May, more than double what it was a year earlier, according to data from analytics firm Jumpshot, which collects URL data from a panel of 100 million people.”
I recently bought a USB memory stick from a 'sponsored’ link. I didn’t really think about it – delivery was covered by Prime, and it was the kind of product what I wanted, so the 'Sponsored’ label didn’t bother me. But there’s no denying that by ramping up its ads business, Amazon is changing its relationship with customers.
Amazon is famed for its relentless focus on the customer
– for aligning its interests with ours. From one-click purchases, to Prime’s next-day delivery, to Prime Now’s same-day delivery, Amazon has made sure that whatever makes it more money also makes us happier as customers. But with sponsored listings, Amazon’s interests get the upper hand.
If Amazon’s search rankings once balanced factors like price, popularity, and Prime delivery to offer customers what they wanted, the new rankings prioritise something different – which companies can pay the right price to get top billing.
In Recode’s tests on the US version of Amazon, some sponsored results went way 'below the fold’ on the page. Searches for detergent and phone chargers brought up three rows of sponsored products ahead of the 'natural’ results. I got similar results in the UK today when searching for 'phone charger’ and 'USB memory stick.’
Amazon claims its commitment to the consumer is going nowhere, telling Recode it is “focused on creating value for customers by helping them discover new brands and products.” But there’s no doubt that these ads create a different feel on the site.
Many different companies are now using our searches to compete for our attention where once there was only Amazon’s choice. Will we be happy with that in the long term?