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A Retailer's Guide to the New Consumer Purchase Process

Published in The Retail Observer | February 2017

In the last decade we’ve seen the rise of the internet’s influence in how we source and purchase a variety of products and services. And, with the addition of smartphones in palms of our hands, retailers today must embrace digital to stay relevant.

Retailer Web Services, a website provider for the retail channel published a book in 2015 called Re:THINK—11 surprising things you should do now to win retail customers in the digital age. In this book, there are many great facts and strategies for how the independent retailer can win with digital. One of the most important facts presented is to understand where our customers are and how to gain their attention.

Data shows us that more than 90% of consumers looking to purchase a major appliance, bedding, furniture or electronics turn to the internet first, then a retailer’s marketing budget and strategy should focus heavily on this channel. But, it goes beyond having a nice looking website. If it doesn’t rank well on search, your local listings aren’t claimed and updated, and if you aren’t measuring the traffic to the site, the money spent is wasted.

Consumers have so many options available, and they’re going to do their research before they buy. Looking up product information, stores closest to them, lowest price, rebates and store reviews are all factors relevant to the consumer buying process today. Today, the web is your consumer’s first step in the buying process. According to a Google study from October 2014, if consumers find information online helpful, 3 out of 4 will visit your brick-and-mortar location. (Source: Google, Ipsos MediaCT & Sterling Brands - Digital Impact on In-Store Shopping, Oct 2014)

HERE ARE A FEW MUST DOS FOR A RETAILER TODAY:

1. Think mobile-first. Your website must provide a mobile-friendly user experience, as well as desktop. In 2015 Google, who sees the lion-share of search traffic, changed their algorithm to promote "mobile-friendly" websites to a higher rank which sent web designers scurrying to create mobile versions of sites, and focus on things like page speed, mobile navigation and mobile templates.

Today, SEO experts like Gianluca Fiorelli from MOZ predict that Google will continue to push mobile-first site indexing as we move further into 2017. (Source: moz.com/blog/seo-and-digitaltrends-in-2017) Why wouldn’t they, after nearly two years of forcing a change from desktop to mobile?

Recent stats from this November, arguably the most important month of the entire retail year, only further support the lightning fast rise of mobile traffic. "Across our network of about 2,000 independent retailer websites, we saw almost double the percentage of mobile traffic this November over last," says Jennie Gilbert, COO of Retailer Web Services. "In fact, over 50% of all traffic during the month of November was from consumers on smart phones, up from only 27% during this same time period in 2015," Gobert commented.

2. Manage your reviews. The search engine’s primary goal is to provide relevant and current results, therefore, online reviews now play a bigger role than previous years in a retailers’ ranking. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that Google now includes star rankings for top results for most search queries. With the new algorithm, Google considers you more relevant when you have more reviews, and they want to provide "quality" results to its users. When thinking of reviews, you need quantity and quality.

3. Track buying signals. For every marketer, our goal is to connect each marketing dollar spent with how much it drives in sales. While there are consumers who will purchase a mattress online or even an appliance, many times digital marketing dollars don’t connect with a sale conversion online. So we track buying signals.

  • How many impressions and clicks are you getting for top local keyword searches?
  • How many product pages are viewed?
  • How many rebate forms are downloaded?
  • How many times is your phone number clicked on from mobile, or your store navigated to on mobile?

Over time, are you seeing an increase in all of these metrics? Are you asking each customer how they heard about you? Tracking takes consistency, but this practice is the best way to help you measure success from your marketing efforts. Today, retailers must embrace digital to remain relevant and to capture a consumer’s attention, and ultimately sales.

You can read this article on page 58 & 59 of The Retail Observer by clicking here,
or you can download the article pdf by clicking here.