Digital has transformed retail. That’s pretty obvious.
Every retailer — from the largest corporate behemoth to the smallest mom-and-pop shop — has either adjusted its marketing strategy for the digital/mobile/social environment or taken a step into the abyss.
“Retail is one of the most rapidly changing verticals across the world and is often at the forefront of technological advancement to keep pace with the evolving needs of a 24/7 customer base,” notes the i-scoop Digital Transformation in Retail report. “We can add ‘hungry for innovative experiences’ to that customer base.”
So that’s the billion-dollar question – why does a retail marketing strategy succeed for some businesses, while others go belly-up?
5 Digital Retail Marketing Strategy Mistakes
That would be true in any era of retail, but it’s particularly relevant today. Digital has sucker-punched the concept of territory. No one is forced to shop anywhere anymore.
And while digital research and in-store shopping go hand-in-hand — 90 percent of pre-purchasing research happens online, and nine out of 10 people use their smartphones in-store while shopping, according to the i-scoop report — it’s also completely changed the rules.
Here are some of the reasons why retailers fail to successfully negotiate this perilous retail environment.
1. Marketing attribution tools are missing.
Some retailers sell exclusively online. Others, particularly those that sell big-ticket items that require some expertise, want to drive store visits.
Google has provided the ability for retailers to align ad visibility with store visits for years. So has Facebook.
There are plenty of third-party attribution tools available. Tracking these metrics should be a no-brainer in any retail marketing strategy.
There’s more: Google is going even further now, rolling out tools to give retailers the ability to track actual Store Visit Conversions based on ad clicks by tying together the data informing location history, ad clicks and store visits.
"A custom algorithm extrapolates the data to account for non signed-in users who exhibit the same behavior," according to Google Small Business. "The custom algorithm is tailored specifically to the individual ad account and campaign using a number of signals such as location history opt-in rate, google sign-in rate, and country. Google Ads only reports store visits data if it reaches a strict, highly conservative confidence level."
Why is Google doing this? Simple — the more data it can provide retailers, the more likely those retailers are to spend money in Google’s ad platforms.
“Google's goal is to provide the data so you can attribute the online value of your ad spend,” Mr. Kim noted. “In less than 2 years, advertisers in the retail, restaurant, travel, automotive, and finance industries have counted more than 1 billion store visits globally.”
Does your business meet Google’s requirements to track Store Visit Conversions? Check now.
The bottom line is simple. If a retail business that relies upon its physical presence can’t determine whether or not its online efforts are driving visits and sales, it’s in big trouble.
2. The shopping experience isn’t personal — or easy — enough.
Some retailers do a great job with personalization. You buy a shirt, you’re recommended a pair of pants. You abandon your cart, you get an email reminder — and a coupon.
Others, however, deliver a digital experience that mirrors the worst parts of the physical shopping experience: everyone sees exactly the same thing, the inventory never seems to be updated and heaven forbid you actually need someone’s help.
“It’s really important to create a positive brand experience across all channels — brick-and-mortar, website and social,” says Adam Smith, Silverback Strategies’ director of development. “That means personalized loyalty programs instead of a blanket one. It means curated product suggestions based on customer history and input.
"Constantly remind users their information is safe, and put your money where your mouth is by backing it up with security best practices. Offer live chat and support documentation to help the customer when they need it.”
Optimizing the digital experience is not a project that has a completion date. Fine-tuning for customer experience, search engine optimization and conversion rates should never end.
“There are a lot of reasons why someone won’t convert at your online store,” Adam says. “There could be technical issues. The user will bail if they run across anything that isn’t working.
"If the site doesn’t provide the user’s payment option of choice — two normal omissions are AMEX and PayPal — that may drive them off. Anything that slows them down or takes too much time, even if it’s just forcing someone to register, can be a killer, as well.”
Failing to identify those problems — and acting on them — will weigh down the success of any retailer, big or small.
3. Reputation management issues can be deadly.
Greenpeace made a hand-painted film calling out Unilever and Nestle on the destruction wreaked on orangutan habitats in pursuit of palm oil. The 91-second video ends with a memorial for the 25 orangutans killed each day as a result of habitat loss.
Most retailers don’t have to deal with reputation issues of that magnitude. That does not mean, however, that bad reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other digital platforms can’t take the wind out of a business.
“Reviews can impact retailers at the awareness, consideration and decision levels of their purchasing funnel,” says Amy Goffe, an SEO account manager at Silverback. “Google is allowing reviews to be visible for multiple keyword types with different searcher intent that can impact how a new customer views and values your brand, your product, your business operations and your website.”
Who do bad reviews and poor reputation impact the most? According to Amy, any retailer that is particularly stung by local search problems.
“Consumers value reviews,” she continues. “Google has recognized this and is now emphasizing reviews in multiple ways, bringing consumers closer to what others think about your brand and product. From a search perspective, reviews are shown to users in the Local Map Pack, a business’s Google My Business Knowledge Graph, Google Maps, and standard Organic listings.
"According to Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors, review signals are the third most influential factor of Local Map pack rankings at 15.44 percent and the seventh-most influential factor of organic rankings at 6.47 percent. While reviews on third-party platforms don’t pass SEO rank signals through to your website to improve performance, at Silverback, we’ve found the platforms like Yelp tend to rank well for service-related local searches.”
Businesses that fail to proactively encourage customer reviews (within the fickle guidelines of key platforms, of course) or resolve customer service issues should expect to see bad things online — and their potential customers will, too.
4. An SEO program that doesn’t stay current is a great way to tank digital visibility.
Google’s search algorithm is tweaked several hundred times each year. If a business expects to get by with a strategy that fails to account for voice search, mobile search, Featured Snippets or other game-changers, good luck.
What are some ways retailers can tack into the new search headwinds?
“Two ways: a strong Local SEO presence and optimized editorial content,” Amy says. “For users asking about location information, such as ‘where is’ or ‘where are’ questions, Google often pulls in the first results that rank in the Local Map Pack for that phrase. It’s important that your Google My Business profiles for all physical locations are completely optimized. Editorial content is also a great way to effectively target Featured Snippets and Answer Boxes that Google often pulls for voice search.
"There are tools and strategies to help figure out what keywords Google is pulling Featured Snippets or the People Also Ask feature. Start to generate content that flat-out answers questions.”
5. The retail marketing strategy isn’t focused on the future.
“It's easy for retailers to get hyper focused on sales and move more and more ad dollars to the campaigns driving the very lowest cost per acquisition,” says Carissa McStay, Silverback’s director of client services. “Search and shopping campaigns is were we tend to see this happen most often. The problem is, focusing only on those bottom-funnel strategies neglects the top of the funnel, which can limit volume and cause even bottom funnel campaign CPAs to increase over time.”
How can retailers take their eyes off of the instant gratification (and diminishing returns) of chasing low CPLs? By keeping an eye on what works today and what will work tomorrow.
- Video. We are all told that video is the new standard for successful ad and content campaigns. So why don’t more retailers pursue digital video solutions? Cost is a factor, but agencies like Silverback have found ways to mitigate overhead while optimizing performance.
- Social Media. Everyone knows by now that social media has transformed society — and yet many retailers still have lackluster social presences. Social retail tools are improving regularly — Instagram now gives customers the ability to make purchases in-app — so why is social still being “figured out?”
Thirty percent of all time spent online by Americans is spent in social media. It’s almost shocking to say that, after all these years, retailers still need to optimize their social presence.
- CX. Personalized content experiences, artificial intelligence and machine learning may seem outside the grasp of retailers who have traditionally struggled to execute on digital.
These types of technologies are not as frightening or as complicated to implement as some may think — particularly when working with performance marketing experts.
Businesses that make the investment in working with specialists instead of trying to solve every problem in-house will be rewarded with speedier adaptation to the new environment and much better results, in-store and online.
Make it Easy for The Customer
Accenture boils retail success down to answering three important questions that every shopper asks every time they are ready to make a purchase:
- Where is my size/item?
- Where is an associate?
- Why do I have to wait in that line?
Using digital to solve those problems for customers as they research, engage and purchase both online and off are the keys to success in 2019 and the years ahead.
The first step is simply committing to solving those problems now.