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The New York Times reports on how Amazon and Google "are waging a war to become the pre-eminent online mall. And e-commerce sites large and small are caught in the cross-fire. As for consumers, the question is whether they will see a full range of products available online."

The story notes that there is a fascinating dual metamorphosis taking place: "Google is a search engine, not a store, but it is increasingly inching into e-commerce with products like its comparison-shopping service, Google Shopping. At the same time, more people are using Amazon, a retailer, as a search engine to look for what they want to buy."

To this point, it seems to be a battle that Amazon is winning:

"In 2009, nearly a quarter of shoppers started research for an online purchase on a search engine like Google and 18 percent started on Amazon, according to a Forrester Research study. By last year, almost a third started on Amazon and just 13 percent on a search engine. Product searches on Amazon have grown 73 percent over the last year while searches on Google Shopping have been flat, according to comScore."

As a way of competing more effectively, the Times writes, "Google has recently changed Google Shopping to require e-commerce companies to pay to be included in shopping results, so product listings are now ads. Inclusion used to be free." The company apparently feels that this shift will provide more targeted and accurate shopping information to consumers.
KC's View:
Don't know about you, when when I'm thinking of buying anything online, the first place I go to is Amazon. In fact, I often go there for research purposes, looking for a quote or a reference that I can integrate into a column, or at least some piece of information that can point me in the right direction.

The thing about Amazon is how transparent the pricing is - you know what they are charging, what third party retailers are charging for the same item, and can work from there. And, of course, the user reviews are equally transparent. It is a good lesson for every retailer about what is necessary to compete in today's marketplace.