The assumption that more variety means an increase in sales has been applied to both online and offline retail. Imagine supermarket aisles with fridges packed with different flavoured yoghurts, shelves crammed with multi-coloured cereal boxes, and racks laden with every fruit and vegetable imaginable. But does more choice really mean increased sales? Although consumers enjoy the prospect of a wide variety of products, could we actually get higher conversion rates by limiting those options?
The fact is that when presented with a lot of options, consumers are excited at the prospect of finding exactly what they want. However the mental burden of making choices, including weighing up all the options and coming to a final conclusion, can often feel too difficult, resulting in a failure to make a decision at all. By failing to make a decision, we eliminate the risk of making the wrong decision.
This phenomenon was illustrated in a variety of studies by Iyengar and Lepper at Stamford and Columbia Universities. One key study, which has become known as the jam study, involved two identical jam tasting booths, one of which had 6 flavours of jam on offer, while the other had 24 flavours.
The booth with 24 flavours of jam was clearly more attractive to customers, as 60% of those that passed the booth stopped for a taste, compared with 40% at the booth with only 6 flavours. However, in both booths the average number of flavours that customers chose to taste was the same at 1-2 per customer. When it came to making a purchase, the conversion rate was 30% at the booth with only 6 options, considerably higher than the 3% that made a purchase at the booth with 24 options.
When consumers do decide to make a purchase, we are more likely to be satisfied with that purchase if we have chosen from a limited number of options, than if we have had had a lot of different products to choose from. This is because a greater choice makes us worried that we didn’t spend enough time researching our purchase and that we may have missed out on something better.
This was illustrated in another study by Iyengar and Lepper, which involved participants choosing from a limited selection of 6 chocolates, or from an extensive selection of 30 chocolates. The participants that chose from the selection of 30 were more likely to enjoy the selection process, but the participants that chose from the selection of 6 were more likely to be satisfied with their choice, and to make the same choice again.
These studies show that, while choice is appealing to customers, it can reduce the eventual motivation to buy and can reduce satisfaction with a purchase. Limiting choices, and making it easy for customers to make choices is likely to result in better conversion rates both online and offline, as well as more satisfied customers.
Here are some practical ways that online retailers can keep the decision making process simple for their customers:
- Reduce the number of products that are displayed simultaneously on one page
- Use large images on category pages so customers can get an overview of what is available without needing to click on each product in turn
- Provide a clear and intuitive filtering process so that customers can easily narrow down the choice to suit their needs
- Provide expert recommendations and reviews so that customers feel they are sharing the burden of choice with informed individuals
- Limit product numbers, for example just list one product with multiple variants such as colour, rather than listing a product for each variant
- Enclose the checkout so that customers aren’t reminded by menus and sidebars that they could have researched their choice more thoroughly
By reducing the number of options available, and helping to keep choices simple, you reduce the burden of choice on the customer and increase the likelihood of them actually making a purchase.
If you run an online shop, we would be very interested to share your findings in your own market?
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The advent of digital media often appears to bring opposing choices. Online or offline? E-book or paperback? E-commerce store or bricks and mortar shop? However, the recent launch of Porter, Net-a-Porter’s new shoppable print magazine, is just one example of how these distinctions can be blurred, producing a solution that makes the best of both traditional print media and digital technology.
The Net-A-Porter website
Porter is a bi-monthly magazine produced by Net-a-Porter, the online luxury fashion shop which launched in 2000 in the style of a glossy fashion magazine, and which stocks products from hundreds of designers. The twist with Porter is that readers will be able to buy the products they see in the magazine instantly, by scanning them using a smartphone.
Customers will need to download the Net-a-Porter app which includes image recognition technology. If the product they wish to buy is stocked by Net-a-Porter they will be taken to the product page of the Net-a-Porter website where they will be able to get further details and make a purchase. If the item is not stocked by Net-a-Porter, and many of them aren’t, the customer will be taken to a 24 concierge service that will help them to track down the product elsewhere, without apparently taking any commission for doing so.
This begs the question why not just produce Porter as a digital magazine with links to the products? Well of course there is a digital version which readers can access on their tablets or smartphones, but Net-a-Porter believes that it is important to have a print version too. They suggest that reading print magazines is a luxury that their target audience enjoys, and that it provides ‘me time’ as well as the opportunity to spend a few minutes away from the screens that most of us are continually looking at during the day. They also believe that print magazines are still a vital way for fashion designers to showcase their products.
The reaction from traditional publishers has been mixed, with the editor of British Vogue apparently dismissing Porter as “a grand Sainsbury’s magazine”, but it seems that the new shoppable magazine could provide real competition to established publications. It launched in 220 cities in 60 different countries, with a print run of 400,000 and aims to be the first truly global fashion magazine.
Porter is not a retail magazine, but a consumer publication, with features on everything from business and travel to beauty and health as well as fashion. Although most of the pages are shoppable, there is no hard sell and the shoppability doesn’t detract from the readability.
Net-a-Porter’s vice president and publishing director Tess Macleod-Smith states that, “There are shopping pathways for everything, from fashion to travel to beauty products. Plus for people in cities like London, New York and Hong Kong, they will be able to scan a page, order it through the app and receive delivery in a few hours. This is shortening the path between inspiration and transaction.”
It may be early days for the Net-a-Porter shoppable magazine but it will be fascinating to see how this new combination of print media and e-commerce works. It provides a great example of how, instead of replacing the traditional offline channels that we know and love, modern technology can work together with them and help to bring them into the digital age.
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When we’re advising our customers on optimising their online presence we often recommend that they write a business blog. A blog is an effective way to attract, engage, and convert customers, but it does require effort to maintain, and as such is often seen as too time consuming or is given a low priority. Here are three reasons why your business blog should be viewed as a real asset to your business that is worth maintaining.
1. A blog drives thought leadership
If you want to be seen as an authority in your industry, a blog is the perfect forum for publishing your knowledge. In your blog posts you can answer your customers’ questions, bring new insights to common industry issues, and explain the latest developments in your business. When visitors arrive at your site, the content of your blog posts will convince them that you have the expertise and experience that they are looking for and can help to convert them into customers.
2. A blog is ideal for search engine optimisation
For your website to be attractive to search engines such as Google, it requires fresh, good quality content on a regular basis. Every time you publish a blog post, you are providing a new page for the search engines to index, increasing the chances of customers finding you through organic search. You can use your blog posts to target specific keywords or phrases, by including them in headers as well as in the main content. You can also add relevant links from your blog posts to your website’s main pages to create an internal link structure that will help search engines to index your site.
3. A blog is a driver for social media
Your business blog gives you something solid on which to base your social media campaign. When you publish a blog post you can tweet it, pin it, or link to it from Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn. You can encourage others to share your post on their own social media accounts, and can use your post to invite comments, opinions, or questions, engaging your customers or other businesses within your networks.
Top tips for business blogging
The content and tone of your blog posts will vary greatly according to your industry and the brand image you have chosen, but these general business blogging tips will help you to get started.
- Write about current issues that will interest your customers, perhaps items in the media, recent surveys, or topical research; ideally adding value with your own angle or opinion.
- Vary your content so you have some serious or educational pieces, combined with more light-hearted posts, but try to maintain a consistent business voice throughout.
- Think about common questions that your customers might have, and try to answer them in your blog posts. As well as creating valuable content you will be able to direct customers to your post each time the question is raised.
- Add interest to your blog posts with images, videos, infographics, charts, or any other illustrations that will add depth to your writing.
- Include some links to external websites, especially if they are authority sites in your industry and you have quoted facts and figures that they have provided.
- Try to maintain a regular blog schedule, whether you post every day, once a week, or once per month. Keep a list of possible topics and plan some posts to coincide with seasonal events in your industry, as well as responding to immediate developments.
A business blog may be a little time consuming to maintain, but the benefits are wide ranging. Your blog can attract visitors to your site through organic search, can engage your social networks, and can demonstrate thought leadership, converting website visitors to customers. As a simple and relatively low cost strategy for optimising your online presence, a business blog really is an invaluable asset.
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Online Predictions for 2014
With 2014 finally underway we thought it would be a good time to look at a few predictions for the coming year. What will the hot topics be in the online world? Where are the big developments likely to be, and how will we be doing things differently by the time we decorate the Christmas tree again at the end of the year? Here are a few online predictions for 2014 in the fields of mobile internet, SEO, social media, and ecommerce.
Mobile Internet Predictions
Mobile internet has been expanding significantly over the past couple of years but with the expansion of 4G, 2014 is likely to be the year when mobile internet becomes more integrated into everyday life than ever before. According to an Ericsson report entitled 10 Hot Consumer Trends Report 2014, this year will see a 25% increase in mobile services relating to shopping, leisure activities, childcare, communication with authorities, and traffic.
The report also suggests that smartphone owners will expect to be able to connect to mobile internet in any location, that they will be using their devices to track health and exercise, and that they will be sharing and streaming more video than ever before, often switching between devices to do so. This highlights the importance of having a responsive website which works across multiple platforms and devices in 2014.
2014 will be a year when search and advertising move from keyword targeting towards audience targeting. There is now such a wealth of consumer data available that it is becoming far easier to target messages to a specific audience, and when this ability is combined with keyword search data the results are likely to be very powerful.
There will be more of a focus on the lifetime value of customers, rather than immediate sales, meaning that SEO campaigns may be used to attract a customers’ attention, perhaps getting them to sign up for a newsletter or like a page on Facebook, with the idea that exposure to the brand may result in sales at a later date.
For online retailers the Product Listing Ads, or PLAs that now appear at the top of Google search results are likely to be a key focus in paid advertising as they have a high conversion rate and are eye-catching for consumers.
Social Media Predictions
Although there has been some talk that teens are no longer using Facebook, social media is certainly not declining, just maturing and adjusting. Other networks such as SnapChat, where messages, images, and video clips are deleted just seconds after being viewed are proving popular with the younger generation.
According to Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, social media is becoming an accepted method for evaluating applicants for jobs or educational courses, meaning that users need to take more care with their profiles and social media use. This is something you may want to share with your children and teenagers to help them understand wider implications of their social media use. Social media is also being used more in the workplace, and many job applicants are now expected to be able to demonstrate business related social media skills.
The way that businesses use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter is likely to change slightly during 2014. Those businesses that have already built up a good following on these networks will begin to use them to drive traffic to their own websites to view features or take part in competitions with slightly less interaction on the platforms themselves, although some engagement will still be necessary to maintain their network. Native social media ads will continue to be popular, and with increased location targeting on most networks you might start to feel like they’re following you around.
Online shopping is still increasing at a dramatic rate and this was demonstrated clearly over Christmas. According to the Telegraph millions of shoppers in the UK were expected to begin sale shopping early by browsing and buying online on Christmas Day instead of waiting for the shops to open on Boxing Day. They estimated that around £228 million would be spent online on Christmas Day, in around 6 million transactions, during a month that had already broken all records for online shopping.
The Telegraph estimated £28 million would be spent Christmas Day online
2014 will see a continuation in the trend for online shopping, with click and collect services that reduce delivery issues becoming even more popular. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will be used more widely for online shopping.
Overall, the biggest trend of 2014 is likely to be personalisation and individual targeting, with a user’s online experience being tailored to the type of device they are using, their location, their previous online history, and their demographic. Whether we are searching for services, viewing ads on Facebook, or shopping on our mobile phones, the online content that we see is more likely to be targeted specifically to us, which can be both a blessing and a curse as a user! Let’s see how this pans out.
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London will soon have its own domain name meaning that businesses will be able to register for web addresses ending in dot London. Many large London based brands or businesses have already indicated their interest in the dot London domain, including Selfridges, Carnaby, The London Eye, Delfont Mackintosh, and ExCel, and it’s likely that many smaller businesses will also be registering for the new domain.
London & Partners, the promotional agency for London, applied for the domain name last year, and a contract has now been signed with Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers for a ten year license. A subsidiary of London & Partners, Dot London Domains Ltd, will operate the domain, with registrations expected to start in spring 2014, and the domain going live in the summer.
Capital to Receive Dot London Domain Name
Image courtesy of http://mydotlondon.com
The Benefits of Dot London
According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-24948055), London’s Mayor Boris Johnson believes that the new domain name will be a great way for businesses to associate themselves with London’s global brand, and will also boost the capital’s economy. “Adopting the .london suffix will enable organisations to more closely associate themselves with our great city’s powerful global brand. This is also an excellent opportunity to expand London’s digital presence, which in turn is set to generate funds to invest back into the city.”
The availability of dot London domain names will allow a huge range of businesses to link their products or services with the London brand. A dot London domain could be especially beneficial for companies who aren’t based in London itself, but predominantly do business in the capital, and will be a great opportunity for Kent-based businesses.
London will soon have its own domain name
Image courtesy of http://mydotlondon.com
According the Dot London website (http://mydotlondon.com) there are many other benefits of the new domain:
- As it is a new domain with all addresses available, businesses will be able to choose a concise, relevant, memorable address. Possible types of addresses would include www.yourcompany.london, www.yourproduct.london, www.yourslogan.london, and www.yourservice.london.
- Customers looking for a London based business will instantly recognise companies that provide products or services locally from their web address, and they will trust the association with the dot London domain.
- The domain will be run profitably and for the benefit of London. It will create new jobs, and will generate funds for the promotion of London globally. It will also help to place London as a leader of the digital age.
The application put forward by London & Partners was for a TLD, or Top Level Domain. A TDL is the last part of any web address, and these fall into two categories, country-codes and generic codes. Country codes are always two letters, for example .fr or .de whereas generic codes can be three characters or longer, for example .com or .org.
Last year the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decided to allow more than the previously existing 22 generic TLDs, enabling cities such as London to apply for their own domain. London is not the only major city to apply for its own domain name, and it is thought that New York, Paris and Berlin have also applied for theirs, while Sydney and Rome have expressed an interest in doing so.
The new dot London domain will be a fantastic opportunity for businesses to acquire a relevant, trusted web address that will associate their brand with London. At the same time it will raise the digital profile of the capital, and will provide jobs and funds that will benefit London as a whole.
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Learning the basics of Twitter may be simple and easy but using Twitter to promote your business isn’t as easy as it may seem. Knowing how to use Hashtags and Retweets in the correct way can get all too confusing. A few helpful hints and tips here may just be what you are in need of.
How Twitter can help your business
Hashtags - Hashtags organise a conversation and automatically create a topic for your tweets. Whether you have an event coming up or you want to talk about a conference, hashtags can help this. Choosing a single hashtag as early as possible is key as you can then begin to tweet as often as you like about what you have coming up while using the hashtag you have chosen. Hashtags can be searched for so the more you use a single hashtag the higher it will list in Twitter searches. Make hashtags relevant to your company and make them unique to what you are tweeting about. Hashtags play an important role in Twitter for your business so if you are ever not sure of what hashtags to use for your topical tweets there are websites out there that can help you; http://www.hashtags.org/
Replies - Replies are a direct response. It is always useful to see what other companies are saying in their replies to see how they come back to questions and how they respond to feedback. Mentions broadcast your message so in theory mentions are like a public reply. When someone mentions you in one of their tweets you will be notified, this gives you the opportunity to retweet or reply. When Twitter users do mention you in their tweets its a good idea to engage with them. Mentions are effectively someone tagging you in their tweet.
Retweets - Retweets are like word of mouth recommendations. When someone retweets something you tweet they help you to reach a new audience. Try to retweet something at least once a day and make sure what you are retweeting is something interesting and relevant. By retweeting other twitter users tweets they may do the same for you so its good to form those types on Twitter relationships. Informal tweets generate more retweets and mentions.
Retweets are like word of mouth recommendations
What to tweet about - They key thing to remember when tweeting is your audience. It’s a good idea to listen to other Twitter users to see what they are tweeting about and see their conversations and questions. Try to be helpful but non intrusive. Tweet about business goals, this is a great way to introduce hashtags. Make tweets entertaining, a recent Twitter Webinar has shown that links, quotes and images are more successful for retweeting and generally catching the eye of someone scrolling down their Twitter feed. Try not to be too formal. Although you are a business and it is important to keep a certain tone to your tweets, it is equally as important to upkeep a human tone to your tweets also.
When to tweet - According to a Twitter Webinar the best times to tweet throughout the day are: The morning commute, lunch time and the evening. These are the peak times when Twitter users are out in force. However you don’t want someone to scroll right past your tweets so it is still important to keep them useful and interesting and above all keep them consistent. Keeping them consistent simply means to tweet a similar amount of times from day to day. Try to avoid a day where there is no Twitter interaction.
Plan your tweets and tweet your plans - This is a quote that you will hear often within Twitter for business. It simply does exactly what it says. Plan your tweets over a week. For example; Monday tweet about promotions, Tuesday tweet about any upcoming events, Wednesday tweet about Staff activities and so on. Tweeting your plans helps your Twitter followers to feel as though they are in the loop. They know what events and projects you have coming up and they would also be able to track this with the use of hashtags.
Direct messages - Direct messages are private. This is where a conversation that you do not want to go publically can happen. Direct messages are also useful for negative tweets. If you were to receive negative tweets it is important to keep your reply private and professional.
Twitter is a quick and cost effective way to communicate with all audiences. It is also a great way of integrating with other social media you may use. For example, you are able to share your tweets on Facebook and you can post your Tweets on Facebook.
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Amazon UK record 47 orders per second - the busiest shopping day on record
This week Amazon UK saw the busiest shopping day on record, as consumers took advantage of Cyber Monday offers to get their Christmas shopping out of the way. The online retailer is reported to have sold 4.1 million items in the UK on Monday, at a rate of 47 orders per second, with a peak in orders at around 21:22. Other stores also reported an increase in online visitors, with Tesco indicating that their website saw a 114% increase in visitors compared to a standard Monday.
What is so special about Cyber Monday?
For the past few years, the first Monday in December has been the busiest online shopping day in the year for a number of reasons:
* For many people it follows the last pay day before Christmas
* People begin to feel more festive as it’s actually December
* Shoppers start to worry about items arriving in time for Christmas
* Many will have spent the weekend showrooming and now want to order online
* Retailers try to entice Christmas shoppers by offering Cyber Monday offers
According to Richard Lim, Head of Business Information at the British Retail Consortium, “This is the most important time of year for seasonal spending both in-store and online, with payday and the start of December making thoughts turn to making some headway on Christmas lists for many of us.”
Cyber Monday is the online answer to Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving, which is an extremely busy shopping day in the U.S. Stores open early and provide discounts or offers to attract shoppers. Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers were first introduced to Britain by Amazon UK, and have now been embraced by many online retailers.
It’s possible that the importance of Cyber Monday may decline a little in the coming years. Next Monday, 9th December is already expected to be almost as busy because Cyber Monday fell so early in December this year. As delivery of online shopping becomes more efficient, and consumers enjoy options such as click and collect, shoppers may be more willing to leave their online purchases until closer to Christmas, safe in the knowledge they will still be able to get everything they need.
Everyone is Shopping Online
Everyone is Christmas shopping online
According to PayPal’s Global Holiday Shopping Study, a huge number of us are doing at least part of our Christmas shopping online. The survey showed that 90% of Britons will do some Christmas shopping online, using computers, tablets, or smartphones, and that around half of our purchases will be made online, more than any other country that took part in the study. According to Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all card transactions in the UK, online shopping is already up 10% this year compared with the same time last year.
The main reason that was given for shopping online was wanting to avoid busy shops with long queues. Another common reason was the ability to shop at any time of the day or night, and PayPal has also revealed that a staggering number of young people, 64% of the 18 to 24 age group, will be doing their Christmas shopping from their beds, using a tablet or smartphone. In the U.S. the total expenditure on Cyber Monday was around £1.4billion, with a significant number of purchases being made using mobile devices.
Although many shoppers are still enjoying a visit to the High Street for their festive gifts, it seems that the number of people doing their Christmas shopping online continues to rise. For retailers the message is clear; an effective online store, and preferably one that is optimised for mobile devices, is essential for any retailer that wants to remain competitive during the festive season.
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The importance of product descriptions is sometimes overlooked in ecommerce. Online retailers spend a lot of time on photographing their products to get the perfect images, and of course this is essential, but product descriptions are also crucial in converting visitors into orders.
Product descriptions are essential
With online shopping your customers can’t actually pick up your product, look at it, or test it out before they buy, so your product description is essential for giving them all the details necessary to convince them to make that purchase. Here are our top ten tips on writing compelling product descriptions.
Make the features clear. There are bound to be fundamental things that your customers need to know about your products such as size, dimensions, colour, make, model, and materials. These should be stated clearly and accurately, possibly using bullet points.
Sell the benefits. Once you’ve stated the features you can use the rest of the description to sell the benefits. What is in it for the buyer? How will the product change their life? Will it make them happier, healthier, or more productive? Will it change the way other people see them? Will it save them time or address a specific problem they may have?
Inspire the imagination. An effective product description should give the buyer examples of how the product can be used. It should paint a picture of a particular scene or occasion which includes the product and should emphasise the product’s role in that picture.
Use your brand voice. Product descriptions should be written in the same voice as every type of communication you have with your customers, from advertising to social media. By injecting your own brand personality into your product descriptions you will make them unique and appealing, which will give you an advantage if the same product is for sale in other online shops.
Include targeted language. Think about your target audience and tailor your language accordingly to avoid alienating them. There are many words and phrases that younger people use, and are happy to read online, which could put off the older generation, and vice versa. If you’re going to use adjectives to describe your products try to make use of sensory adjectives that appeal to the five senses, such as smooth, zesty, crunchy, and velvety, as these are proven to engage customers.
Be consistent. We’ve already discussed consistency in voice and language when writing product descriptions, but there are other areas that need to be consistent too. Try to keep your descriptions to a similar length and format, and include a similar level of detail. Once your customers have viewed a couple of your product pages their expectations will have been set and they will become confused if further descriptions are not consistent.
Product descriptions are the ideal place for cross selling
Cross sell other products. Your product description is the ideal place for a little cross selling. Think about what other products could be worn with, added to, or used alongside the product you are describing, and weave links to these products into your description. Ideally this would work alongside images that display the immediate product with additional products.
Answer customer questions. Knowing your target audience is crucial when you’re writing product descriptions. Think about what they might want from the product and make a list of questions that they are likely to ask about it. Make sure you answer as many of these questions as possible in your product description.
Avoid bland phrases. The effectiveness of your product descriptions will be diluted if you start to add bland phrases such as ‘high quality’ or ‘good value’, after all what retailer is going to say that their products are poor quality or a rip-off? Be specific in your product descriptions and highlight details that illustrate the quality and value instead.
Consider the search engines. While product descriptions should be written primarily for the customer, you shouldn’t forget the search engines. Product descriptions should always be unique; don’t be tempted to copy your description from another site or you will be penalised for duplicate content. Ideally they will be over 100 words, and will include the main keyword once in the title, and once in the description, but no more than that.
A well written product description should help your customer to visualise the benefits they will receive from buying your product. By injecting your own brand personality into the description, appealing to your customer’s imagination using appropriate language, and answering any questions that they may have about the product, you are sure to maximise your conversion rate. Keep your descriptions unique and consistent, avoid bland phrases, and cross sell with other products for the most effective product descriptions.
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Showrooming is the trend that’s getting the blame for the downfall of large retailers such as Jessops and Comet, but what exactly is it and can it really have that great an impact on retail?
Showrooming – shopping around with a new name
Showrooming is the practice of visiting a bricks and mortar shop to research a particular purchase, and then using a mobile device to check out the same product online, potentially ordering it from another retailer for a cheaper price whilst you are still in the store.
Showrooming is not a new concept; it’s just shopping around with a new name. People have always compared the prices of a product they wanted in different shops, or with different online retailers; the difference now is that with the evolution of mobile technology this process is quicker, easier, and much more obvious.
According to the JiWire Mobile Audience Insights Report Q2 2013 showrooming is a phenomenon that is on the increase in the U.S. meaning that the UK won’t be far behind. In Q1 of 2012 only 12% of respondents to a JiWire survey stated that they had made a purchase using a mobile device whilst they were in a bricks and mortar store; a figure that had risen to 23% by the time of the Q2 2013 survey. The survey results also indicated that 40% of shoppers who researched a product in store would ultimately end up placing an order online using a smartphone or tablet.
How Does Showrooming Impact Retail?
Make sure your website is fully optimised for mobile
Many bricks and mortar stores believe that showrooming spells disaster for their business, as people will only use their shops as showrooms for product research and will then buy online. However, many customers still enjoy going shopping and as long as shops can offer a unique experience, relatively competitive prices, great customer service, and perhaps a few exclusive products, alongside optimising their own websites for mobile use, e-commerce stores and high street shops should be able to exist side by side.
For online retailers, showrooming initially appears to be beneficial. If customers can check out the products you offer in physical store and then order from you that is all well and good. However, there are other factors to consider. If a customer is using their mobile device to check out products online, you can be sure it isn’t just your shop they are looking at. Benefiting from the showrooming phenomenon means being able to compete with other online retailers as well as bricks and mortar stores.
It is also possible that the use of mobiles can actually drive customers into physical shops instead of shopping online. Imagine if one of your customers spotted a product on your website whilst browsing on their smartphone but saw that it would take a week to deliver. Because they wanted the product immediately they then looked for a local bricks and mortar shop that had the product in stock and popped in to buy it right away.
The JiWire report indicated that 37% of shoppers who research a product on their smartphone actually end up purchasing the product in-store. The figures are similar for shoppers who research products using a tablet or laptop.
How Can Retailers Embrace Showrooming?
There are many ways that both online and offline retailers can embrace the trend for showrooming and make it work to their advantage:
1. Make sure you website is fully optimised for mobile so that when customers are researching purchases on the move your website is easy for them to access.
2. Keep your prices competitive, regularly checking prices offered by your competitors, and offering a price match service if appropriate.
3. Use your customers’ browsing history to provide immediate on screen special offers and discounts relevant to the products they have been looking at.
4. Try to stock at least some exclusive products, or offer value-add services such as gift wrapping, which means you can’t be directly compared with other retailers.
5. Provide a wide range of delivery options, including free delivery with a minimum spend, next day delivery, and timed delivery where possible.
With advances in mobile technology, and particularly with the arrival of 4G, customers are inevitably going to be doing more product research and shopping on their mobile devices. Showrooming is an unavoidable result of improved mobile technology, and retailers need to work with it rather than against it to stay one step ahead.
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The four factors which should help your site reach the top spot
Making sense of search engine algorithms is a difficult task, and one that few website owners would care to try, not least because the complexity and sophistication of the algorithms is continually increasing.
However, Search Metrics has recently published a white paper entitled SEO Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013 for Google UK, which does a little of the hard work for you and provides some insight into what Google values in a website. Although the paper can’t reveal the exact criteria that the search engine uses, it has evaluated a number of websites that achieve high rankings with Google UK, and drawn some useful conclusions from its findings.
According to the Search Metrics report, these four factors can have a significant impact on your website’s ranking with Google UK.
1. Social Media Presence
It’s official; an active presence on the major social media networks does have an impact on your Google ranking. Search Metrics discovered that the best ranking sites had high numbers of social signals such as comments, Twitter tweets, Facebook likes and shares, and Pinterst pins. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most positive impact on Google rank came from a +1 on Google+, Google’s own social network.
2. High Quality Content
The findings of the Search Metrics paper support the view that Google rewards high quality content. Despite the fact that modern website design tends to reduce the amount of text on webpages, Google still expects to see a certain amount of original content above the fold. There was a positive correlation between the length of HTML code, word count, and Google rank so make sure you site has plenty of original content.
A good mixture of content types, including images and videos as well as text, was also rewarded. Although it is not advisable to overload your website with advertising, limited and appropriate use of adverts, especially Google’s Adwords or Adlinks also seems to have a mildly positive impact on ranking.
3. Natural Link Patterns
Incoming links are still very valuable, and are Google’s primary method of assessing a website’s worth using PageRank. However, in an attempt to minimise the manipulation of backlinks, Google now expects to see a variety of links that website owners may have previously been advised to avoid. These include ‘nofollow’ links, and links with stop words such as ‘on’, ‘of’, or ‘the’, in their anchor text. Google also rewards sites that have a variety of anchor text in their backlinks and not just their keywords.
Outgoing links to relevant authority sites are also important, just make sure you don’t link to external sites using your main keyword as Google will see this as a suggestion that the external site is more relevant than your own site for that keyword. Internal links within your website are still very important for a high ranking.
4. The Brand Factor
The Search Metrics paper indicates that, where relevant, Google reserves the top ranks in its search results for brand websites. This is great news for online shops, and businesses with a strong, unique brand name. The findings in the white paper suggest that it is possible for an identifiable brand website to reach the top of the search engine results, even if other ranking factors are quite weak. The paper suggests that the Google algorithm is able to distinguish between brands and keywords, stating that “The decoupling and separation of the “brand” factor from the “keyword” factor has been put into practice very well by Google”.
Many of the factors that used to assist with search engine ranking are now taken for granted by the search engines. Adequate site speed, effective on-page coding, and page titles and descriptions will no longer improve your search engine position, but their absence may have a negative impact. According to the Search Metrics paper, the most important factors for a website to achieve high rankings with the search engines, are social media signals, high quality content, a natural pattern of incoming, outgoing, and internal links, and a strong unique brand name.
The entire Search Metrics white paper SEO Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013 for Google UK, is available at http://www.searchmetrics.com/media/documents/ranking-faktoren/searchmetrics-seo-ranking-factors-2013-uk.pdf
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