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The Rapid Pace of Change in eCommerce Search and Shopping

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eCommerce doesn’t stand still. Search algorithms evolve, consumer preferences shift, and new technologies disrupt retail at a dizzying pace. For online stores, sustained success means constantly adapting – no easy feat, with change accelerating faster than ever. Those who fail to keep up lose visibility and revenue over time.

“We help many mid-sized and enterprise eCommerce merchants optimize organic growth strategies,” says Cassandra Gucwa, CEO of Menerva Digital. “Increasingly we see them struggle with the rapid rate of change in search and shopping behaviors. Internal bandwidth can’t match external shifts.”

According to Gucwa, these growing mismatches strain resources for brands dependent on customer acquisition from sites like Google and Amazon. Revenue declines unless marketing strategies and investments realign with new marketplace realities.

Unfortunately, most eCommerce companies optimize for current states, not future evolution. Their systems aren’t built to pivot efficiently. Merchandising, analytics, SEO, operations – all cycles take planning, budget cycles and testing before actualizing change at scale for established brands. The larger the company, the slower internal transformation happens relative to external disruptions.

“Many eCommerce brands prioritize technology upgrades like moving to the cloud, replatforming their website or consolidating martech stacks to drive agility in the coming years,” Gucwa explains. “But unless business processes also evolve, technology alone doesn’t boost flexibility enough to match today’s retail innovation pace.”

So where should eCommerce merchants focus to keep visibility and revenues growing amidst relentless change? Two areas provide the most leverage: search algorithm diversification and optimizing for shifts in consumer journeys.

The Rise of Visual Search and Multi-Engine Strategies

Google retains search dominance…for now. But its share slowly recedes year after year. That 12% of queries in 2020 moved to alternative destinations like Instagram, Amazon, TikTok and Pinterest will only accelerate. Consumer adoption of voice assistants like Alexa and visual search on apps like Snapchat also erode Google’s central position for product discovery.

“In response to these shifts, smart eCommerce brands evolved SEO programs beyond just Google several years ago,” Gucwa says. “They map customer journeys to understand exactly where and how target consumers search for relevant products across the key platforms.”

These insights inform more balanced investment across Google, visual engines, social media, Amazon and newer destinations. As algorithm updates and innovations happen in parallel, diversification mitigates volatility. Casting a wider visibility net also captures more revenue as consumer attention scatters.

Gucwa expects multi-engine optimization to become standard for most brands within three years as no single platform retains dominance. The capabilities to track, test and optimize simultaneously across search destinations move from nice-to-have to necessity.

Social Commerce Reshapes Consumer Journeys

Diversifying search optimization only addresses part of the consumer journey disruption for eCommerce. Even more transformational are shifts earlier and later in shopper funnels. Social networks and influencer marketing change how audiences discover and evaluate products. Augmented reality, virtual dressing rooms, and live stream shopping alter path-to-purchase behavior even more.

“Many brands still underinvest in these emerging channels despite hockey stick adoption by consumers,” Gucwa observes. “They cling to a outdated linear buyer journey focused on Google and Amazon product reviews even as next generation social platforms reshape awareness and consideration far upstream.”

Gucwa anticipates brands that embrace social commerce will gain an advantage through influencer collaborations, shoppable video and experiential virtual try-on technology. TikTok, Instagram and influencer marketing activations must connect with product pages and transaction systems to enable seamless social selling.

Without unified commerce architectures, brands will struggle to understand and nurture consumers across touchpoints. They lose sales data visibility from critical social interactions. Paid and organic social efforts suffer poor attribution and optimization. In turn, revenues lag competitors, marrying shopping to the social experience.

The Bottom Line for eCommerce Brands

Gucwa distills recommendations for sustained growth amidst rapidly evolving search and shopping into three imperatives:

“One, eCommerce brands must architect technology and processes for speed and agility to adapt to non-stop change. Two, diversify visibility across more search and discovery sources rather than over-relying on Google. And three, activate social commerce through influencer strategies and experiential product engagement.”

Early adopters will gain the advantage, while brands clinging to legacy web searches will lose ground. With the right strategies and system flexibility, algorithm updates and consumer behavior shifts become business opportunities. But without urgent realignment to the pace of innovation, many eCommerce sites will find organic visibility, traffic and sales hard to sustain.

About the author


Cassandra Gucwa

Cassandra Gucwa is the founder and CEO of Menerva Digital.