Guest blog post written by Andrew Rayner, founder of internet marketing agency e-mphasis.
The phrase “Multi-channel” has been a buzz word for some time now in the retail sector and this has led to 3 main changes in the market:
- With e-commerce capabilities accessible to even the tiniest of single-store independent retailers, the ability to shop across different channels has become almost universal.
- The consumer has became more confident shopping across channels (e.g. researching online and then purchasing in store, or reserving online and then collecting in store) and is becoming increasingly demanding about their online shopping experience.
- The use of social media means that consumers are no longer relying on the brands own marketing messages to make key purchasing decisions – they are looking to “people like them” (ie, other customers) to help make decisions.
Typically retailers have been working on a multi-channel strategy that ensures customers who already shop with them get the expected brand experience at every touch point. There has been little regard for those who have not yet committed to any one specific retailer or store. So what is the best way to capture these prospective customers?
The answer is to apply multi-channel retail thinking to search and social media marketing. This means providing access to all channels from the moment when consumers start searching for products and services online, enabling the retailer to present a comprehensive search result to consumers that satisfies their exact requirements.
And with the consumer leading the purchasing decisions of their peers and influencing purchases through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and product ratings and reviews, retailers need to ensure they also tap into the social media as part of their multichannel strategy.
One approach to this could be to use Google Places Optimisation (GPO). GPO works for retailers because it returns results for location based searches. In excess of 43% of all Google searches return a local result and so the opportunity for businesses with multiple locations is phenomenal.
GPO also provides a great opportunity for multi-channel retailers as it can link to a retailers transactional website, and if that website allows it, the complete customer journey, from search to basket, can be tracked. It can also provide all other relevant information to the customer, including contact details, opening hours and even information like parking facilities or food outlets. Google Places will also contain that all-important consumer review and feedback information a vital feature of the consumer decision making process in the age of social shopping.
Effective GPO will not only save SEO and PPC costs, but will also deliver more relevant impressions and enable retailers to leverage social media more effectively. And as most consumers searching the web for a product or service are often not brand loyal (yet), they do not have a destination store in mind. But by using GPO as part of your multichannel search strategy you will put all routes to market in front of shoppers who are actively looking to buy.