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Consumers tend to prefer starting their online purchasing research with Amazon rather than Google: 30% of online buyers surveyed say they began researching their most recent online purchase via Amazon, more than twice the proportion (13%) who began their research with Google, according to report by Forrester Research.

Moreover, that's almost a complete reversal from the third quarter of 2009, when 24% of consumers said they began researching previous online purchases at Google, compared with 18% who did so via Amazon.

Below, additional findings from the Forrester report titled "Why Amazon Matters Now More Than Ever."

Amazon's global net sales amounted to $48 billion last year. In the US, its sales have outpaced e-commerce growth as a whole, accounting for 19% of all online sales in the country in 2011, up from 9% in 2001.

Some 86% of Americans who said they've made a purchase online said they have purchased something from Amazon at some point.

Though the company is known as a vendor of media products, including books, e-books, music, and video, other categories are recording strong growth as well, particularly consumer electronics.

As of 2010, revenue from non-media products dominated Amazon sales, making up more than one-half (56%) of the total. Moreover, non-media products grew to 63% of sales in 2011:

In addition, Amazon is expanding its marketplaces (third-party sellers) business: In 2005, marketplace sales comprised 28% of total units shipped; by the first quarter of 2012, that figure had grown to nearly 40%.

Even so, Amazon's continued dominance will require more innovation, according to the report.

"While it's anyone's guess, Forrester believes that further innovation will drive Amazon's future," wrote Sucharita Mulpuru and Brian Walker, the report's authors. "Logical next steps include opening physical stores and distribution centers that enable same-day delivery, and expanding website features for merchant services and product verticals."

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