It is almost four years since Google’s ‘Zero Moment of Truth’ (ZMOT) concept highlighted just how multilayered the consumer decision-making process is in the online world. Despite this, many retailers overlook these findings in favour of focusing on websites and formats of digital retail that focus purely on acquisition.
The web is awash with highly-optimised ecommerce and retail sites that are great, but only if you know what you’re looking for. Marketers need to become savvier and adapt to this changing environment to avoid being left behind.
There are three core challenges that online retailers need to be prepared for:
Challenge 1: Marketing relevance
As ecommerce grew in popularity, retailers responded by making their promotional channels more competitive, but ultimately less effective as consumers became more digitally mature and began shopping around while also conducting their research online.
Consumers, who were far more confident with online channels and ecommerce, became less receptive to advertising and the relevance of online marketing declined.
As a result, conversion rates steadily dropped and this created an environment saturated by ‘offers’ optimised to convert but with an audience where few were actually at the point of purchase.
Challenge 2: Amazon
Recent research by Forrester found that last year almost a third of people looking to buy a product started their purchasing journey on Amazon – more than twice the number who went directly to Google. This year those figures have grown, with 39% of consumers starting on Amazon’s site, compared to 11% on Google. Amazon has also seen growth in its search volume of 75%.
If up until now you assumed Amazon isn’t really a competitor for your particular market, ask yourself: is it likely that Amazon could encroach on your offering if it wanted to? If the answer is yes, then you should consider working under the premise that it eventually will.
Challenge 3: Millennials
‘Millennials’ refers to consumers aged between 16 and 34. More digitally aware, they also have a purchasing power totalling $170bn per year in the US, surpassing their Generation X predecessors at $125bn.
A 2015 survey by Moosylvania that investigated the relationship between millennials and brands discovered that this generation rejects the traditional model of advertising. Instead, they prefer to engage and build relationships with brands.
The same report also revealed millennials’ favourite brands in 2015, with Amazon in 11th place, overtaking Google which is 12th.
So how do you combat these core challenges?
By engaging with the consumer throughout their entire journey, you can begin to add value beyond the Amazon experience and also begin to form meaningful and effective relationships with a new generation of consumers. Here’s how:
If we want our marketing to be relevant, we need to understand where our target consumers are in the overall journey. Let’s look closely at each stage of that process.
Awareness triggers can be stimulated by many different things, for example, a broken DVD player triggers the need to buy a new one. At this point, your multichannel strategy should be focused around reach, so your brand and proposition are front-of-mind whenever awareness arrives.
This can be achieved by producing strong creative campaigns backed with a robust PR campaign. By creating memorable content, tools, games, stunts and events, you will get your brand and its message in front of your target audience.
In Google’s ZMOT research, it was identified that consumers will, on average, look at around 11 different points of reference for research before purchasing; it is here that a gap presents itself and we can add value beyond that which Amazon offers. Here, brands have the opportunity to provide consumers with the answers to their questions long before they make a purchase. It is all in the content.
By producing a carefully planned content strategy with informative or inspirational content, you are showing Google that you are the best result served for that customer’s question at that time. Consider the questions your target audience needs to know at the start of their journey and produce content that answers them.
Conversion is where many online marketers focus their attention, but brands need to understand that being useful at the research stage can help persuade the customer to buy from them later on. Why wouldn’t they? You have already been helpful, shown authority in your industry and there is a familiarisation with your brand.
Once the customer arrives at your site, make sure your website design is as good as it can be, as customers rarely trust a poorly designed or cheap looking site. Again, platform is important; getting a fully responsive site across all digital devices not only helps with the user experience, but also Google has explicitly expressed a preference to rank mobile-optimised sites higher.
By engaging with existing customers you can create unique content that can be used to feed the research phase. Moreover, encouraging interaction with social campaigns helps to raise the profile of your brand. Finding innovative ways of adding value to your product or service will help you stand out and marry the online and offline experience for your consumers.
Engage with your customers from the very beginning of their journey and develop personalisation profiles that would take all previous interactions with your brand into account.
For instance, if you know that a customer bought a phone from you, they may want to see accessories on their next visit, not more phones. This kind of bespoke interaction will help your brand resonate with the individual needs of the consumer.
Having customer engagement at the heart of your digital marketing activity allows you to establish yourself early on in the customer journey and build relationships by providing value beyond the Amazon experience.