Big Data Is the Only Way to Compete With Google

luckywmThere is no denying Google’s unrelenting grip on Web search. It is, after all, the verb most commonly used to describe it. But Google’s impressive product and service suite is no longer confined to a query box.

In addition to diverse search tools, Google’s assets also include a powerhouse of advertising services (AdWords, etc.), communication and publishing tools (Drive, Hangouts), developmental resources (OpenSocial), social platforms (Google Plus), map-related products (Google Maps), streaming entertainment (Google Play), statistical tools (Analytics), operating systems (Android, Chrome OS), desktop and mobile Web applications (Gmail), and even hardware (Galaxy Nexus).

And yes, while Google’s search business continues to grow and expand successfully, it isn’t without potential competitors in major areas of its permeating business model. And while there may be obvious competitors like Microsoft and Apple, there are other partners that could also become more fearsome competitors over time.

Two that come to mind are Amazon and Salesforce. As Amazon continues to become the e-commerce giant, it may be able to siphon advertising revenue by diverting e-commerce traffic away from Google, and Salesforce’s combination of sales data with social insight may redirect real spend away from search into the more social arenas online.

Perhaps it’s how they use data in their own areas of strength. The one thing these companies have in common is the desire for more data, because the only way any competitor will stand a chance to compete with Google is with very big data. Whether it’s focusing on control over one source of traffic, acquisitions, or innovative technology, it’s less of a race against Google, and more of a battle for acquiring data that can be leveraged to drive revenues.

Amazon

Amazon’s growing dominance over e-commerce is slowly cutting into Google’s revenue stream. Just as the Google brand is becoming tantamount with search, the Amazon brand is becoming synonymous with e-commerce. Google estimates that 30 percent to 40 percent of its revenue from search advertising is e-commerce in nature, but as Amazon continues to grow into the Internet’s one-stop shop, how many users will begin to bypass the initial Google search step and navigate directly to Amazon.com?

With over 10 million Amazon Prime subscribers and over 103 million monthly shoppers in the U.S., the proclivity to go directly to Amazon must be growing. My wife’s first stop for almost anything online was Google but now, for product searches, she frequently goes straight to Amazon because of the free shipping afforded through her Prime account. Amazon and its enormous number of third-party merchants now are able to offer selection, and very often the lowest prices available, on thousands of common products. It’s no wonder she goes there directly when buying anything from costumes for Halloween or clothing for our kids.

Aside from slowly redirecting e-commerce traffic from Google, the real key to beating Google is big data, which is one asset no one can deny Amazon. The company possesses personal information, purchase patterns and preferences of millions of customers. Does Google have similar information? Perhaps, but Amazon might actually have more shopping data than anyone at this point.

Salesforce

Salesforce has long been a leader in CRM, B2B marketing and SaaS. However, the past couple years’ acquisitions have taken the popular customer relationship management system beyond sales, and into a full integrated marketing platform.

Two years ago, the company acquired Radian 6, a powerhouse in social media measurement, and just last year it took over Buddy Media, a social media management platform. Late last month, Salesforce flexed its growing muscles by announcing yet another major acquisition with ExactTarget, a cloud-based marketing software, for a mere 2.5 billion dollars in cash. Continuing on its acquisition spree, Salesforce also just purchased EdgeSpring, an enterprise business intelligence and analytics startup.

What do all these acquisitions mean? Data.

More specifically, data that ties the loop between end sales and social marketing. Salesforce’s number one value is that it’s a sales tool that can powerfully track a potential lead until it becomes a customer. Now with these added social programs and technology, the suite of services not only determines when a lead becomes measurable revenue, but it has the ability to tie social marketing efforts directly to revenue — which no doubt will convince companies to spend more on social media than they do today. The question is, who actually wins in that scenario?

If Salesforce can provide data showing how social media activity drives revenue, then it will become an essential suite of tools for anyone to leverage when investing in social media. As a result of Salesforce connecting the dots between social media activity and ROI, Facebook would come out a huge winner with increased spend, but other social platforms conducive to brand marketing like Pinterest could also see tangential success.

Additionally, Salesforce’s integrated suite of services and technology powered by comprehensive data is beefing up to compete with Google Analytics. As it stands, Google Analytics isn’t nearly as inclusive as Radian 6 when it comes to social measurement. As social media continues its ascent as a meaningful and viable marketing tool, many companies will be searching for social measurement solutions to justify spend.

It’s clear that while Google is a terrific company that is earning its success through great execution, it can’t become too comfortable with competitors looming. However, no matter the number of companies, products or technologies acquired, they will mean nothing in the race against Google without big data to back it up. It will be exciting to see how this competition continues to unfold. There is room for many companies to succeed and Google is a formidable competitor especially when it comes to data. But just as Google can change the fortunes of entire industries, it is interesting to think about other companies that might be able to impact Google just as much …

David Hughes joined The Search Agency in early 2004 as Chief Executive Officer with hands-on management for its product, technology, operations, sales and account management functions. Prior to The Search Agency, David served as Senior Vice-President, Corporate Development for United Online, Inc.


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