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How to align your ecommerce strategy to consumers search habits online

17 December 2019

By Drew Smith

Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Upp and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.

Retail Technology

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With the great migration to online shopping, the shopping habits of our consumers have changed. Instead of relying on building great customer service and enticing VM displays that would typically captivate a consumer to shop in store, we now have to find a way to capture consumers based on their online shopping habits.

Some of the habits that are the most valuable of all are tied to your search engine optimisation and marketing efforts. More and more, search engines are acting as the gateway to our ecommerce websites, both through natural link-building and through the advertising networks that run throughout them, giving customers a direct peek into the products that they’re searching for.

Here, we’re going to look at how to make search engines a cornerstone of your multi-channel, data-driven ecommerce campaign. By learning more about your potential customers’ search habits online and by aligning your campaign to them, you can start to truly make use of this marketing channel.


Filtered search is narrowing the playing field

When it comes to shopping online, consumers often know what they are looking for, and so they can get quite specific in their searches. However, it’s no longer easy to simply find the products you want by typing in the right keywords — consumers are now searching using more natural language, meaning they may not add all of the keywords you need in order for them to find your products. 

This new way of shopping means that brands need to be on top of not only what keywords they are using, but also what categories they are placing each item in. Brands need to make it easy for customers to pick the size or colour of the product they want. That’s where filtered search comes in. 

Both Google and ecommerce websites are allowing shoppers to get a lot more specific through the filtered search feature, which is why it’s vital your brand need to keep up with this way of searching. Filtered search enables customers to input their search query, then go a step beyond by choosing from dropdown lists of different criteria. For fashion ecommerce stores, this might include size, colour, fit, material and more. As such, their thousands of choices can be immediately narrowed down to those that are most appropriate.

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Your filtered search strategy

One of the issues with filtered search is that there are some ecommerce stores that will be cut out of the loop entirely. This is because they don’t have their product listing details in place. Without these details to help customers filter to them, those products disappear from sight, even if they’re entirely relevant to the search.

It’s crucial to ensure your product description details and information fields are accurate, up-to-date and follow a consistent format. Purpose-built ecommerce platforms can ensure this by pulling product description data directly from the source. This automatically ensures that all the data applicable is put in the right fields and highlights missing or mismatched information so that you can easily fix it.

Otherwise, your team might have to individually go through different products, manually typing or copying in the missing or correct data in the different fields, which is simply too inefficient for most to be feasible.


The rising role of online research

As consumers needs are changing, they are now looking at more than one source before making their purchase decisions. For consumers who know what they want, 50% of ecommerce journeys start with a retailer and 50% start with a search engine, meaning it is essential for brands to also be on external shopping platforms. 

Consumers want to be able to do online research on the products they buy, which has caused fewer and fewer ecommerce brands to provide all of their products solely on their own webstore or online shopping platforms. Having your brand on more external channels means that a consumer is more likely to find your product and buy it. Another benefit of being on many shopping platforms is that, as customers browse for what they want before making a purchasing decision, they will see your brand, keeping you in mind and increasing the chance of converting. 

This is why it is important for brands to have optimised Google shopping campaigns but also be visible on alternative platforms such as Amazon. These third-party platforms allow direct product and price comparisons, multiple item selection from across categories and a single point of payment instead of having to hop from one ecommerce platform to another.

Amazon is currently the “top dog” when it comes to the ecommerce market and by a long shot. However, the tie-in with their search engine and its filtered search options means that Google’s move to incorporate check-out and express delivery could make it just as much of a marketplace, rather than just a more specific search engine tool. Customers already use Google Shopping to find specific products, so it won’t be too surprising if they start using it to order them, as well.


Your third-party strategy

It is unlikely that you’re going to be able to offer the convenience of such major platforms like Google Shopping and Amazon. So, as the saying goes: “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Incorporating the major third parties in your ecommerce chain and getting your products on their store offers them too much exposure and offers you too much potential revenue to miss out on.

However, for ecommerce brands with hundreds, if not thousands, of items, ensuring that your products get best represented can be a hassle. That is a lot of uploading to do. To make sure that your products have high-quality photos, engaging item descriptions and the product property data that helps customers find them through the above-mentioned filtered search, automating ecommerce platforms can take a lot of the work off the shoulders of your team.

Multi-channel ecommerce solutions also offer analytics and reporting to help you directly compare your results between the different platforms that your products are on, as well. Third parties offer not just a signal boost, but another source of insight to improve your product descriptions, marketing and inventory choices.


Shopping has gone social

One of the most recent changes to shopping habits online is just how many customers are getting their first impression of their next purchases through social media. Recent research has found that it is important for one third of UK consumers to be able to discover and buy products through social platforms. 

Influencer marketing programs, celebrity endorsement posts and the positive social proof that comes with seeing a brand’s supporters engaging with product posts creates a lot of momentum for interested customers to follow through and convert directly from social media.


Your social shopping strategy

Social media is all about creating engagement through the community and there are two major strategies to do this. Of course, to benefit from them, you have to have an engaging social media presence, learn how to use it and learn how to place ads.

Building a following through customer engagement is number one. Social media offers your brand a continuous touchpoint that it can continue to engage and benefit from. It has become a customer support and service channel for many brands, as well as a marketing channel. Your existing customers are likely to engage and follow to find solutions to their problems, which ends up giving you a means of nudging them towards impulse buys with further product posts.

Influencer marketing campaigns can play just as big a role on social media, as well. Getting in touch with influencers, such as bloggers, models and YouTubers, who have a large following on social media and having them show off your products can create positive social proof. This acts as the endorsement that your brand could benefit from and creates a desire to buy in those who are fans of those influencers.


The importance of keeping an eye on the habits of your customers

The online world is ever changing. Ten years ago, we would never have anticipated how significant the role of online shopping would be to consumers. The changes in shoppers’ search habits and shopping behaviours on social media, third party shopping channels and filtered search has made it essential to align your ecommerce strategies. Being amongst the first to recognise shifts in online shopping and search trends offers you an advantage that can be hard to beat.

Purpose-built ecommerce platforms can help you be amongst the first to catch those trends through valuable reporting and analytics that spot those changes in habits before anyone else. Furthermore, they help you connect with third parties, with search marketing and online advertising tools all the quicker, helping your ecommerce brand to become more flexible.

As online shoppers only become more tech-savvy, we anticipate that the next big change in habit is just over the horizon. Get caught up now so it’s easier to adapt to those changes when they come.

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