About 42% of holiday shoppers will buy most or all their gift purchases on Amazon this year, according to a global survey of 4,500 shoppers in the U.S., U.K. and several other countries. During holiday shopping, 32% of consumers will start on Amazon, followed by Google (18%) according to the survey.

That stands in contrast to the rest of the year “when Google is the first stop whether they have a product in mind or not, although Amazon is a close second.” The Episerver survey was fielded earlier this year.

Nearly half won’t buy on Amazon. While those stats may sound daunting for Amazon’s competitors (not named Google), the “half-full” narrative is that 47% of people “will buy few or none” of their gifts on Amazon. Episerver also argues that it is very possible to compete with Amazon and offers a number of specific recommendations in its “Holiday Online Shopping Trends 2019” report.

The company further explains that not all shopping categories are equal in terms of consumer patterns and preferences. In apparel, for example, shoppers are more likely to first visit a brand or retailer website (43%) than both Google (29%) and Amazon (30%). Episerver also says that consumers tend to visit stores to shop for apparel (and furniture) before buying online.

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Social media traffic to e-commerce sites has doubled. Episerver adds that social media will play “a larger role than ever in influencing product purchases this holiday season,” pointing out that social media traffic to e-commerce websites has doubled in the first half of 2019 vs. 2018. This stands in marked contrast to recent survey data from Deloitte, which argues that social media will play a diminished role this year in holiday shopping.

Specifically, Episerver argues influencer marketing will have a tangible impact retail sales, finding that 52% of shoppers have clicked on influencer posts. Only 23% percent of survey respondents said they don’t follow influencers. However, I suspect these numbers vary dramatically by age cohort and may not be representative of the population at large: 67% of all consumers don’t follow social media influencers.

How to compete with Amazon. Episerver offers a number of general and specific recommendations about how to effectively compete with Amazon:

  • Content and service are key differentiators: “Make sure your customer service team is dialed-in to serve and content teams are pumping out useful holiday guides for their websites.”
  • Use paid search, which has the “highest conversion rate of all” and place ads on Amazon’s site.
  • Use social media/influencer marketing. The company also emphasizes organic content and SEO.
  • Invest in mobile and implement a number of technical “quick fixes.”

The report also says the top three communication channels consumers are most receptive to are email, social media and “a brand/retailer’s mobile app,” which I assume means notifications, in that order.

Why we should care. The report emphasizes being “customer-centric,” which extends to the holistic customer experience. Amazon offers massive inventory, speed and convenience. That’s very challenging to compete with.

However, Episerver recommends investing in technical upgrades to remove transaction friction and increase speed. More broadly, retailers should “humanize” shopping experiences with content and service. “Amazon prides itself on customer obsession but when it comes to product education, inspirational content, how-to guides and fanatical customer service, they come up short.”

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.