logo_lockup_partners_icon_verticalby Sean Bucher, Bayshore Solutions Account Manager

Google Shopping – Don’t Put the “Cart” Before the Horse.

After taking a deep dive into the world of mobile on Day 1 of the Google Partner Academy, the team at Google took us further down the rabbit hole of optimization with a look at best practices in shopping. On Day 2, we continued to examine various shopping patterns as well as discuss how mobile shopping impacts and shapes eCommerce experiences.

The retail industry commonly sees a change every 25 years — from development of regional department stores in the 40’s and 50’s, to the expansion of big box in the 70’s and 80’s, to the contraction of retail space and increase of “e-shopping” that we see today.

An interesting trend to note is that in-store traffic has seen a dramatic decline over the past 5-10 years (of around 55%), but the value of in-store visits has doubled. Meaning, people are doing more of their research outside of the store environment before making their final purchase. This begs the question, “are we connecting with consumers at each touch point on the path of their journey?” This includes the early-research phase where rapport with the potential consumer can be built by sharing product knowledge.

When we analyze online transactions, we often give credit to the “last-click” online channel (Organic, Direct, Paid, etc.) for the transaction. However, a single-channel visit is rarely an accurate view of how shoppers buy products. We know that shoppers engage multiple channels. Whether they are seeking reviews of the retailer, the product itself, or seeking the best price — the journey does not occur only on one channel.

Perhaps it makes sense to liken the buyer’s journey across different online channels to that of walking down different aisles at a supermarket. The goal is to understand what the buyer is specifically looking for while walking down each aisle. To that end, much like the shelf space at a supermarket, Google encourages marketers to think of the experiences they provide like a placement on the shelf at the supermarket; think of SERP’s like shelving and your content as being placed on that shelf. Prime real estate and good visibility are a huge boost to eCommerce performance, but also think about what kind of content you want published about the product. It should be based on the specific channel and current touch point of your buyer’s journey.

Some major things to consider as a retailer:

  1. Be there — You can’t sell a product if you don’t have the product available. You also might not be able to sell the product in your store at all hours of the day (which is why leveraging online sales is so important). If the sale gets completed at 2 am, not only have you made a sale, but you’ve probably captured a new customer based on the convenient experience you just provided.
  2. Be Relevant — For example, offer local inventory ads for shoppers looking to buy a product in-store near them, include “in store pick-up available” as a Call To Action, and leverage video overviews where applicable. Also make sure that your opportunities to interact with the consumer are relevant, easy, and seamless. This includes single sign-ons for retailers, wish lists or easy shopping cart access for cross-device behaviors, and click to call features for orders that are more complex.
  3. Be Optimized — Optimization is not only important with copy and placement, but also in regards to tracking and reporting. Be ready to track and improve your multi-channel experience. According to FutureScape research on eCommerce, omni-channel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than single channel shoppers.

Keep in mind when striving to be relevant and optimized that consistency breeds results; which, in this case, is powered by CLEAN DATA & INVENTORY.

As marketing professionals, it’s easy to overlook the value of clean data when we’re caught up in creating flashy campaigns and messaging. Do we as marketers and brands accurately deliver relevant experiences based on the promises we have communicated to potential buyers? Is there consistency between what we communicate in paid campaign messaging and the on-site experience for the potential customer? Do your product feeds and items in Google Shopping properly reflect what’s on site?

In the online retail space, consistency is king. Not only for Google and other engines to be able to properly index your products, but also for users to be able to go cross channel and get a consistent experience throughout their shopping cycle.

So before you launch a paid online media campaign in order to drive more traffic to your shopping cart, ask yourself a few simple questions. Have you created easy ways for engines and users to find your inventory? Will you update that inventory regularly? Online and in-store, you never want someone’s experience ruined by a false promise like showing availability for a product that isn’t there.

Think about your digital shelf space. When placing items in your store for visibility are you sacrificing accuracy thinking you can get an up-sell? Be accurate with availability and the user will reward your brand because they didn’t feel bamboozled.

One flaw that can also come from data mismanagement is serving up the wrong experience. Let’s say your brand engaged the consumer really well, initially, but in the end they did’t buy the product from you. What made that user leave? Time, money, need?

How you choose to further engage that user after that first impression will greatly influence if they decide to buy. Make your follow-up experience decisions based on previous user interactions. For example, break out your re-marketing tactics by product viewed, segment target audiences based on whether they added the product to their cart or not, and then customize all downstream experiences accordingly in order to effectively connect and engage with your customer. Please note that data accuracy among site visitors in this regard is extremely important.

All of these factors shape a good shopping campaign and eCommerce experience. Relevance and optimization are key to building your customer base. When you think about selling your product first, before understanding who wants it and how they research or locate it, is sure to produce a much less engaging experience for both parties.

That wraps it up for Day 2. I hope you found this recap useful. I want to thank our partner, Google, for taking the time to put on such an excellent training event. I look forward to the next one.

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