As we enter the holiday season retailers are struggling to keep up with the constantly evolving online consumer. The challenge used to be how a retailer could maintain a consistent experience in the store and on the web, with email marketing and print ads. Now those customers spend their time on even more channels like the social media sites, and much of their web activity might be on a mobile device. They have access to retailers on those channels and stores want to make sure they don’t get left behind. The following is an overview of new options stores have for reaching their customers:
Local and Mobile Search
Your customers still do a lot of searching; only it doesn’t all happen from the Google webpage. Shoppers are searching on their mobile device to see who has a wine in stock. They might be sitting in a restaurant scanning a barcode using RedLaser or using Google Local Search before heading to a store to make a purchase. Both services offer listings of items physically in stock and are updated several times a day. At the moment only a handful of wine stores are included in these results and have these customers to themselves.
Who Owns the Product page?
The page on your website that shows a wine label, tasting note and a rating used to be where you closed a sale, but increasingly this page is being presented by the referring site. Google has been building product pages as part of their Shopping channelmaking it increasingly important that stores optimize their Merchant Center feed. Now Amazon has launched a Wine, Beer and Liquor store to deliver customers to retailer websites. Amazon charges a higher click rate than other shopping comparison sites but has been able to deliver on the ROI by handing off the customer after they have viewed an item detail page.
This column recently described the growing opportunity for using Facebook to support customers who are enthusiastic about your business. Adding a Like button to your product page and links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts all signal that you want to make it easy for customer to share. While some stores have incorporated an ecommerce plugin with their Facebook page there is little evidence that customers prefer to complete the transaction on Facebook.
Free Shipping and Customer Loyalty
On a slightly different issue, there was an interesting discussion about free shipping at the Shop.org conference last month. Retailers were coming to terms with free shipping as a key component of the promotional landscape online. The discussion divided the retailers into two camps: one saw free shipping as a promotion to be used sparingly when necessary. The other camp saw free shipping as being central to a brand’s identity like Zappos, and Amazon. Amy Kennedy of Wine.com described their Steward-Ship program ($49 for free shipping all year) as their de facto loyalty program since it rewards customers for coming back with repeat orders.
Most stores have a varied customer demographic, some will respond to traditional advertising, other prefer email messages, while others are on Twitter all day long. Only the largest stores can expect to be effective on all these channels and most stores need to find a marketing mix that they can support.