As retail specialists in the digital marketing sphere, it’s our job to stay up to date with what’s happening online, from keeping watch for Google algorithm updates, to keeping tabs on hot software and promotional techniques.
As we progress through Q3 of the 2015 calendar year, we though we should review some of the key digital marketing trends that every retailer should know about.
If your agency isn’t talking to you about these things, they should be, because they’re already being used by other retailers to drive sales online — and even in the physical world too.
1. Mobile optimisation
I’ll start things off with a nice and easy no-brainer, because if your retail website isn’t optimised for mobile browsing and responsive to various screen sizes, you could soon lose a lot of visibility in searches from a mobile device.
Google announced earlier this year that on 21 April 2015, a major update to the Google algorithm would roll out which would directly affect the rankings of websites which aren’t optimised for Google search. A lot of retailers already had mobile optimised sites, because it simply makes sense to make the site easier to see and to use on a smartphone and generate more sales as a result.
Now, however, mobile isn’t just a CRO tool, it’s an SEO fundamental, because Google will only present mobile search users with mobile ready search results. And it doesn’t stop there. Google has also revealed that mobile users with certain apps, will find content from those apps presented in their search listings. It won’t just connect them to web pages, it will connect them to content from apps too.
2. Merging the online and off-line shopping experience
While we’re on the subject of mobile, we have to talk about the trend of merging online and real-world marketing techniques. This has been a topic of conversation for years, but is now growing increasingly popular; in order to provide shoppers with a more convenient and more personalised shopping experience.
In fact, many of the world’s biggest apparel retailers have already invested in state of the art technology and mobile applications to communicate with their customers via the web, while those customers are browsing in their stores.
Using push notifications, retailers can present their customers with product recommendations, review and even personal discounts and offers. They can also track their customers’ journeys around their physical store, monitor their viewing habits and trends; then incorporate this into their customer profiling.
3. Demographic targeting with Google Analytics
One great way to discover more about your valued customers online is demographic targeting through Google Analytics. The guys at Google are granting us access to more demographic information than ever before on the people who visit our retails sites and generate revenue for us too.
We can find out where in the country they’re browsing from, or their age and gender. We might even discover that our most profitable customers aren’t those that the founders of a retail brand had in mind when they originally set up their company and targeted a particular group. Once they know who is buying their wares, however, they can improve their marketing collateral with them in mind.
Google’s demographics data can also tell us a lot about the average visitors browsing habits, showing in clear, simple data what they’re interested in. It even categorised visitors by their interests, whether they’re movie geeks, travel buffs or dedicated followers of fashion.
Besides their interests and affinities, Analytics grants access to the in-market segments that web users occupy, so essentially a retailer can discover who their most valuable customer demographic is and where they can be found, and communicated with, online.
4. Programmatic display planning and buying
One of the ways that retailers are currently reaching out to their chosen demographics online is through programmatic display planning and buying. It sounds like a mouthful, but it’s a really great way for the retail industry’s challenger brands to get in front of people who will take interest in their products, but may not have heard of their brand.
Programmatic display allows you to place display ads on websites that are popular with web users just like those who currently buy your products. It’s the most targeted and reliable form of display advertising and it also gets better the longer it’s running for. That’s because the software behind it is constantly collecting data on which websites drive more traffic to the site and which aren’t driving any. Over time, these websites are phased out of the campaign to ensure that the ads placed land in front of the right audience.
Retargeting has been an important part of the retail marketing mix for a number of years. Programmatic display takes things to the next level by helping you roll out the same ad campaigns to a market reliably similar to the people you’re retargeting to. This isn’t going anywhere as a marketing technique and if you don’t pick it up in 2015, you probably will before too long thereafter.
5. Smart retargeting
At this point, you might be thinking “so if programmatic display ‘takes things to the next level’ is it time to give up on retargeting”?
The answer is a firm and hearty no.
Retargeting is still an important marketing channel online and it continues to grow more popular in 2015. Perhaps best of all, smart digi marketers are using it in new and inventive ways. It’s not just about following your visitors around the web with a sign to bring them back to your site; it’s about providing them with a useful service, and getting their business when they need you most.
Allow me to explain: when you collect data for retargeting, you don’t simply have to hit web users with generic banner ads, just as soon as they leave your site. You can choose the best time to roll them out and you can choose the specific products which every user sees.
Dynamic retargeting is an excellent retail tool, since you can display ads to shoppers which feature the specific products they were interested in. But we can still go further.
Let’s say your product or service has a specific shelf life, you can select an optimum timeframe in which to reach out to your customers again — at a time when they’ll need it most. An example of this, outside of the retail sphere, is the work we have been doing with an online car service booking system. Ideally, drivers should be servicing their car once a year. With this in mind, we can reach out to them with retargeting banners ads exactly 12 months from the date of their previous service. That’s an interesting proposition and there are loads of creative ways to use the same system in retail.
6. Paid social media
Every retailer and their dog is on social media now (if retailers have dogs) and some use these channels a lot more successfully than others. The reason their track records differ so greatly from one to the next is because social media is a number of different things at once.
The consensus in the digital marketing industry is that social media should always be treated as more than a pure broadcast tool and this is definitely true. But that does not mean that it isn’t a very useful broadcast tool — particularly if you’re prepared to spend some money.
That’s why one of the growing trends in retail marketing continues to be the use of paid social media. Paid social media posting offers brands a lot of targeting control and excellent exposure and more options are becoming available all the time.
In addition to sites like Instagram rolling out paid content promotion for the first time, sites like Facebook are getting better at doing it. Facebook’s local, demographic and interest targeting, in addition to its massive reach, make it a serious rival to Google PPC.
Yes, Google Shopping continues to drive ROI, but Facebook is hard to beat for placing your content in front of the right audience.
7. Brands as publishers
Which brings us to the magnificent number 7 on our list of retail marketing trends in 2015: it is brands becoming more than just pimps for their products, but publishers too.
Google’s job is to place relevant and useful content in front of search users, so the best way to gain organic visibility is to create and publish that content. Of course, “useful” comes in many shapes and sizes. It could be informative, editorial or simply flat-out entertaining — and the latter is where a lot of brands are becoming highly influential online. But you don’t have to split customer’s sides or give them a warm fuzzy feeling to become a successful publisher online.
Evergreen content, checklists, user guides and infographics are the gift that can keep on giving, so long as you promote the content in the right way and prolong its lifespan.
But beware a sales pitch designed as fresh content. Your audience are already wary of it and they’ll quickly switch off when a brand shamelessly self promotes.
For more detailed insight, call our retail team today on 0800 011 9270.