COVID-19 has drastically altered consumer behaviour, leading to an unprecedented impact on retail. As stores were forced to close, online demand for products has increased, and retailers have had to quickly expand their digital offering in order to survive. The magnitude of this change is best highlighted by the following graph, showing online sales soaring compared to in-store experiences:
Internet sales as a percentage of all retail sales, source.
In summary, an effective digital marketing strategy is going to be more important than ever in the second half of 2020. As lockdown slowly lifts, experts predict that recent trends will translate to a permanent change in consumer behaviour. Enders estimates that 25-27% of purchases will be made online this Christmas, while searches for click and collect have grown and remain elevated above historic rates (see below). Consumers are seeking a more streamlined shopping experience, and digital is becoming an increasingly meaningful touchpoint on that journey.
Indexed UK search volume for “click and collect” and “buy online”, source: Google trends
With an uncertain future ahead for marketers and retailers, we have provided a comprehensive guide to help you navigate your way through these difficult times
Use automated bidding to respond to changing demand
During lockdown, buying behaviour has become increasingly volatile. This is captured clearly in the following graph from google trends – demand for “dress” plummets by 51% in a week, while laptop soars by 68%.
UK indexed search volume for the terms “desk”, “hand sanitiser”, “laptop” and “dress” over the past 12 months. Source: Google Trends
Manually updating bids during these shifts can be labour intensive guesswork. Instead, you should use a properly set-up bid strategy, which will be able to quickly react to changes in search volume, click volume, and conversion rates using machine learning. The most successful retailers during any future spikes will be those that are able to adapt as quickly as possible, while still making decisions using real data.
Plan positive responses for negative events
Every signal from 2020 indicates that this year’s holiday peak will be bigger and earlier than previously experienced. In preparation for increased demand, it’s important to have a strategy for when your products are out of stock to maintain consumer interest. Retailers should look to promote alternative products on the page, or add an “email when back in stock” option. Where users are browsing the site, add an “in-stock” filter to enhance the experience.
On-site opportunities can be enhanced by your marketing strategy. Build remarketing audiences from users interested in out of stock products to facilitate highly targeted ads for when they are restocked. Additionally, where products are expected to sell out, consider pausing ads ahead of time to divert spend toward areas of your store that have lower sales, to maximise overall revenue.
Improve your mobile experience
When a user first lands on your website, first impressions are everything. Even the best targeted ads can lead to a poor user experience, sabotaging any potential to see return on your investment. Often, retailers will focus initial development work on their desktop site, neglecting their mobile site – which drives nearly 50% of searches.
Google recently carried out a study suggesting that improving site loading speed by 0.1s leads to conversion rates increasing by up to 8%. Test my site was recently expanded to provide more personalised recommendations for how to improve site speed – some of which can be very quick wins.
Next, you need to consider whether you’re showing users the right content. We’ve always known that a more specific landing page leads to better performance, improving quality score as well as conversion rates. If a mobile click results in opening an app, deep linking ensures that users are taken to the most relevant page. Deep linking is already available for search, display and shopping ads, and will soon be available for YouTube, hotel, Gmail and discovery ads.
Support in-store experiences
As the soaring demand for click and collect demonstrates, consumers are still willing to travel to stores, and there are a number of actions you can take to promote in-person shopping. First of all, using the “click and collect” annotation for your local inventory campaigns. The curbside pickup annotation is also in beta, promoting a contact-free experience.
Make sure that you have a properly set-up Google My Business account. GMB is a free tool that shares information about your physical store. This guide gives some great tips for making the most of the platform. During the worst of the lockdown, Google launched some new features to facilitate supporting local businesses. As we recover, make sure that your listing has the most up-to-date opening hours, as well as a full explanation of your products and services.
Use all the free tools available
Free shopping listings became available in the US in April, and will soon be available globally. Make sure you’re prepared for when they’re available, to take advantage of the free inventory. Advertisers using smart campaigns and set up on GMB are also eligible for free promoted pins on Google Maps until the end of September.
Finally, we’ve shared a list of our favourite free tools to help inform your strategy and analysis.