Amazon Q3 ad revenues surpass $1 billion, up roughly 2X from early 2016

Yesterday Amazon announced third-quarter earnings. The company reported sales growth of 34 percent to $43.7 billion. A year ago Amazon reported $32.7 billion in sales.
For purposes of this post, the notworthy part is Amazon’s “other” revenue, which is basically advertising. Buried at the bottom of the Net Sales chart in the press release was this line item:

Other is defined by Amazon to include “sales not otherwise included above, such as certain advertising services and our co-branded credit card agreements.” It’s a safe bet then that ad sales for the quarter were $1+ billion, which represented 58 percent year over year growth. Since Q2 of 2016 ad sales have basically doubled.
On the earnings call, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said “Advertising revenue continues to grow very quickly and its year-over-year growth rate is actually faster than the other revenue line item that you see there [in the ‘other’ category].”
The fact that Amazon is now on par with or surpasses Google in product

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Google Assistant now offering a wide range of games for kids and families

The battle of the smart speakers and home assistants is in full swing. And both Amazon and Google think that gaming and fun will help provide a competitive edge.
Amazon introduced Echo Buttons, which enable families to play Alexa-based games together, in September. Today Google announced a trove of games for families and kids: “[T]he Google Assistant now has more than 50 new games, activities and stories designed for families with kids.” They include trivia, musical chairs, storytelling and more.
Games for Google Assistant are available on Home devices, smartphones and other devices where the Assistant is available. This is also where Google seeks to compete, as a platform across more devices (“ambient computing”) than Amazon can offer.
Google has also made it possible to personalize the Assistant for kids under 13. Home devices can recognize up to six different voices. Accordingly, kids can use the same devices as their parents, but the Assistant will recognize the child’s voice and offer

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Amazon vs. search: Why you shouldn’t put too many eggs in one shopping basket

No matter where they’re located or what market they serve, retailers around the globe have questions about how consumers use search and Amazon.
At Bing (my employer), we’ve found that retailers — regardless of size — ask us about the same three things:

Where do consumers look for products online?
How do users behave differently on search vs. Amazon?
Can my search and Amazon channels benefit each other?

The answers are likely to surprise you.
The consumer decision journey looks incredibly complicated to us marketers with its interweaving between research, comparison, intent and transaction, but it feels far less complicated from the consumer point of view.
As consumers, we follow certain behavior patterns almost subconsciously:

If we have questions around what it is we need, or want more information before we make a selection, then it’s natural to turn to search.
If we know what we’re looking to buy, often we have a predefined preference for which retailer website to begin looking for it.

For many customers,

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Walmart offering voice shopping via Google Assistant and Home

Google and Walmart have announced a partnership to bring Walmart voice shopping to the Google Assistant and Google Home. Free delivery will also be available through Google Express, which is changing its pricing structure.
Though not discussed in either company’s blog post, the move is likely a response to Amazon voice shopping via Alexa devices. It’s also part of Walmart’s efforts to increase its e-commerce business and reach new audiences.
The initial use case will be product reordering, but beyond that, Walmart intends to use its data to make personalized shopping recommendations based on purchase history. The company also has ambitious plans for voice shopping and offline fulfillment:
One of the primary use cases for voice shopping will be the ability to build a basket of previously purchased everyday essentials. That’s why we decided to deeply integrate our Easy Reorder feature into Google Express. This will enable us to deliver highly personalized shopping recommendations based on customers’ previous purchases, including those

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Google rolling out hands-free calling on Google Home to US and Canada

At Google I/O, the company announced that it was going to allow calling via Google Home. Now, Mountain View is rolling out the capability for the US and Canada in English, with Canadian French coming soon.
The device will permit calling to your Google contacts and businesses by voice alone. Alexa devices can call one another or users with Alexa apps on their smartphones. Microsoft’s Cortana has also promised calling capabilities via Skype. However, Google Home’s calling range is broader and more useful than the Amazon feature because it doesn’t require a corresponding app on the other end. Most business owners, for example, aren’t going to have Alexa devices to receive calls.
I wasn’t able to test the new calling feature because my Google Home told me, “Sorry, I can’t make calls yet.” Once it fully rolls out, users are supposed to be able to initiate calls by simply saying, “Hey Google, call…” Calls will then be routed over

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How local businesses can turn the threat of on-demand deliveries to their own advantage

As a digital marketer, you have to stay on your toes. It sometimes feels like new market disruptions have become an annual rite of passage. What were once generational, seismic changes are now just the normal order of business.
The latest development in a long line of digital commerce revolutions is the emergence of on-demand delivery. Like any disruptive change, on-demand apps have created a lot of anxiety for brands and their local stores. Is this technology a threat to localized businesses, or an opportunity to improve brand engagement and drive customer loyalty?
Amazon leads another digital revolution
You have Amazon to thank for the current fervor whipping up around on-demand delivery. While Uber Eats, Instacart and Soothe, among others, laid the foundation for this change, Amazon will likely be the company to catapult on-demand local services into the wider consumer consciousness. The e-commerce giant’s recently announced plan to acquire supermarket chain Whole Foods signals a radical change in the way consumers

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Amazon’s Echo Show is a ‘1.0’ device, both exciting and frustrating

I’ve now been living with the Echo Show for several weeks. It has supplanted my original Amazon Echo in the kitchen. I find it both more exciting and more frustrating than the original.
The screen adds a compelling new element but creates expectations that are not fully realized — as though Amazon is ambivalent or uncertain how far to take the screen as a parallel way of controlling and navigating content.
The screen makes things more complicated, even as it makes the device more interesting and useful. It opens a door to a much larger set of use cases, including a much more obvious commerce opportunity. (It’s not clear whether Amazon’s rivals will follow and add screens to their devices. If the Show is a runaway hit, I suspect they will.)
Creates tablet-like expectations
Immediately for me, the Echo Show’s screen created UX expectations associated with a tablet. I wanted to touch it and get menus and navigation. I wanted to browse and search for things using the screen. I

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Report: 43% of millennials have made a voice-device purchase in past year

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According to a new “Future of Retail” report from Walker Sands, 19 percent of consumers have made a purchase using a voice-controlled device in the past 12 months. The numbers go way up, however, for millennials, with 37 percent reporting “they ‘always’ or ‘often’ shop online via voice-controlled devices.” Among this group, 43 percent made a purchase using voice in the past year.
The data are based on a recent US consumer survey of just over 1,600 adults and can be interpreted in bullish or bearish ways for voice. More than 80 percent of the overall survey population said they had not made a voice-driven purchase and nearly half (48 percent) said they were “not at all likely” to do so.

Source: Walker Sands Future of Retail report (July 2017)
Security, privacy, “lack of visuals” and uncertainty about price/payment were the top four reasons that people were hesitant to buy on voice-first devices or devices without a screen. Of

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Voice search becomes voice action: A key talking point at SMX London

From combining search and social to leveraging moments that matter, last week’s attendees at SMX London gained a deeper understanding of the numerous ways they can optimize their search strategies.
Described as the “ultimate survival guide to the dynamic and tumultuous world of search marketing,” SMX  — run by Search Engine Land’s parent, Third Door Media — is a conference series designed to highlight the reach and opportunities that can be achieved through search advertising and outline search’s position in the wider marketing mix.
From my own perspective, one of the more enlightening sessions of the London event featured a presentation by Pete Campbell, founder and managing director of Kaizen, on the subject of voice search — a prominent theme given the ongoing battle of the AI assistants.
Despite existing for half a decade — Siri has been around since 2011 — voice search has only recently surged in popularity, with over a quarter (27 percent) of US smartphone users now utilizing voice

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WSJ: How Siri went from virtual assistant market leader to laggard

Siri has gone from being a competitive differentiator for Apple to nearly its opposite, a product seen by many as falling behind its rivals. Regardless of the empirical truth, it’s the widely-held view among tech industry insiders who help shape popular opinion.
An article in the The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) provides an extensive look at how Siri went from market leader to its position as perceived laggard. The article suggests internal cultural issues and employee departures have slowed improvement of the virtual assistant:
In the years since [Siri was acquired], former Siri team members say, progress has been slowed by a failure to set ambitious goals, shifting strategies and a culture that prioritizes user privacy — making it difficult to personalize and improve the product. The project also has suffered from the departures of key team members, some of whom went to competitors.
Apple bought Siri in 2010. It was initially a ground-breaking addition to the iPhone. Recognizing the

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