Forrester: Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook dominate e-commerce

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Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook will continue to dominate online business, but Internet retailers and marketers should tread carefully in partnering with them, according to a Feb. 7 Forrester report.

Half of online shoppers begin their searches on either Amazon or a search engine like Google, while 47% of Internet users visit Google daily and 43% make at least daily visits to Facebook, according to the report. Additionally, 21% of iPhone owners and 49% of iPad owners purchase products using the device.

With the number of new product releases, acquisitions and organizational changes that have taken place at the four tech titans in just the past year, the report notes that online business and marketing is increasingly tied to these four major companies.

Google is moving more heavily into local marketing, with the launch of Google Offers, Google Wallet, and the acquisitions of DailyDeal and Zagat. Amazon is poised to diversify even further into travel, insurance, and financial services, while Apple has made apps work like “Trojan horses” that provide the company with client information and allow it to charge a tariff for transactions and upgrades, the report said.

As the influence of these giants grows, marketers must be careful to choose carefully in how they partner with them, said Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester principal analyst and the author of the report.

“Every time these guys have a product release, there's a wild frenzy about ‘what will it mean for my business?'” Mulpuru said. “There is a reckless and naïve way to work with them, and there is a smart way to work with them.”

Mulpuru gave the example of online retailers that jump on the opportunity to offer Google Wallet or open a Facebook Store without looking into whether it would actually enhance sales.

The report noted areas of weakness for each of the giants. Facebook faces challenges in demonstrating how its targeted marketing impacts a company's bottom line. Mulpuru also cites Google's “attention deficit disorder” as it tends to launch products, such as Google Checkout, then abandons them shortly after, while Apple must keep up its pace of new products.

Mulpuru suggested that for Facebook, marketers focus on earned and owned media, which doesn't require them to buy anything. For Google, she recommends marketers continue to focus on search and optimizing search, and pay more attention to mobile search, which they may be neglecting at the expense of other initiatives.

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