Online retail has traditionally been perceived as a threat to offline retail due to the lower prices it offers consumers, however in the current economy online shopping is increasingly becoming an integral part of the consumer’s retail experience. While online retail typically does remain cheaper and pose a challenge to traditional shopping, how can retailers engage with consumers and successfully leverage online retail to give shoppers a more seamless experience? This article will outline three considerations for the retailer in 2010.
Despite the market downturn, there are still opportunities
We’ve seen growth in online shopping propelled during the recession and with the rise of social media and technology advances, the online retail space has become increasingly crowded. Vouchers have grown significantly in popularity in the last year, representing opportunities for retailers. Retailers not offering vouchers may see them as a margin threat however we have seen that vouchers support offline consumer behaviour by building awareness or brand loyalty. During the recession vouchers enabled consumers to continue to purchase their favourite brands or experience new brands that would otherwise not have been affordable. Vouchers are a short term and manageable alternative to ’price dropping’, when retailers drop prices to match competition or falling demand. Drops in prices can devalue a brand’s positioning, price point expectations and profitability. The use of vouchers offer short term and high visibility promotional activity targeted at the savvy online shopper or bargain hunter. This allows the retailer to stay in contact with the consumer through their chosen online channel.
Understand the new consumer shopping process in 2010
Online shoppers are increasingly using social media sites to connect with retailers and discover their latest offers; we’ve seen a shift in consumers using social media sites to learn about promotions. The use of user generated and shared content reflect a new consumer who is interested in taking the time to learn about new products, features or services from their peers. Retailers need to go where the consumers are and adapt their communication to suit the audience. These social sites demand discussion, user generated ratings and product and service ranking. To the retailer they should be looked upon as valuable sources that help identify brand advocates, customer satisfaction levels and queries.
Aid movement in consumer behavior and developing trends
With the tightened economy, more consumers are combing the internet for information and value added deals. They spend significantly more time on price comparison sites, using third party sources, reading user generated comments, ratings and selected blogs. They also take in shared content or comments from their own social network through platforms such as facebook.
Another source of information is Search. Many consumers search for a ’brand + voucher generic term’ but often have a challenging time finding a live deal that is genuinely offered by a retailer. Many of the organic search results click through to expired offers or generic pages which serve to confuse consumers so they get distracted or move to a different retailer or product. Their experience with paid search listings results in similar challenges. Results appear for ’broad match’ voucher terms so the consumer still needs to complete another on-site search to find the retailer and their current deals by which time they may well give up and abandon their shopping cart. Understanding how to improve retailers’ listings in the search space is key to exposing opportunities in online retail. Changes can be made within days to make sales through this channel a lot more effective. Making the purchase process easy is a key element to effectively engaging with consumers; asking a shopper to register filling in 15 plus data fields before they have even got to the online check out is sure way to lose all but the most determined shoppers.
Consumers are using vouchers in greater numbers during the recession and retailers with a proactive deal strategy are winning the sales in this area. Audiences can increasingly be found online taking advantage of voucher codes, user generated content and third party reviews and ratings. In order to stand out from their competitors, retailers need to ensure they go beyond having a presence and engage with their potential customers throughout the shopping process from initial search terms to eventual checkout. By doing this, retailers will leverage their online offering, retain customers and increase their profitability.
Sarah Escott is the UK Director of Retail Partnerships at Savoo.co.uk, one of the fastest-growing voucher code sites, which features offers such as Dell discount codes and Apple promo codes. Sarah’s commercial development expertise includes over twenty years’ experience at some of the UK’s biggest media organisations and working with leading, online retailer brands, including Hello! Magazine, BBC Worldwide, ValueClick and TradeDoubler.