I was recently lucky enough to speak at an event co-authored by Google and Power Digital regarding tactics for eCommerce as we start to near the 2017 Holiday season. Excluding myself, the presenters were terrific, the panelists were informative, and the lunch spread was exquisite. Quite frankly, I have no idea why I was invited; but I digress…
Whilst I was listening to some of the top experts in the industry after my mediocre-at-best spiel, I realized a few things about the upcoming 2017 Holiday season that are quite unique when compared to past seasons (at least from my own narrow perspective).
Literally EVERYONE Is Online
Now more than ever people are engaging with content online. From social influencers to interactive online store-fronts to chat bots to twitter, there is massive inter-connectivity between brand and user to an extent that we’ve never seen before. There are so many open lines of communication and intent-signals that it’s enough to make a Marketing Managers head literally explode.
So how do we capitalize here? Well, we need to be able to understand what people are saying, right? Is there positive sentiment being passed along? Are your customers happy with what you’re providing? Are you getting recommendations from your current customers? A lot of that will obviously be discussed off-line, but you can use tools like Nuvi to measure online sentiment and educate yourself on how people generally feel about your business. This has obvious implications that extend well outside the world of digital i.e. driving overall business decisions.
Something else we can think about from a direct-response approach with all the chatter is audience segmentation. A little trick I recently discovered is tagging the chat boxes on a website to create remarketing audiences off of. From a paid advertising perspective, that allows you to serve a quality ad to a very low portion of the funnel and cultivate that conversation if they had not converted yet. We can also now buy email lists from exchanges like Oracle to import hyper-relevant audiences into Facebook and Adwords.
The User Path To An Online Purchase Is UBER-Convoluted
With all of that engagement happening on-line, it’s important to understand just how many steps take place, on average, between brand introduction and on-line purchase. Did that most recent customer see an ad on Facebook then open a new tab to conduct a Google search? Did they then click on a paid search ad, decide not to buy only to return on a mobile device a week later to complete the transaction?
We live in a direct-response focused world (this is performance marketing after all), but we need to start shifting the lens to incorporate all the touches that occur between the introductory impression and the final click-to-purchase. Now that’s obviously easier said than done, but there a few reports in Google Analytics that everyone should have access to that can help.
If you haven’t visited the “conversions” part of your analytics account, it’s time you pay that area a visit. It’s there you’ll find some incredible helpful reporting tools.
The first is the ‘Top Conversion Paths’ report where you’ll be able to see the top converting paths by channel. This will give you some idea of how significant channels are feeding each other. This should also help you conclude, on a broad sense, which channels you may want to invest more in.
The second is the ‘Assisted Conversions’ report – here you’ll see what channels are “assisting” in the end-all conversion (impression based). One thing I would HIGHLY recommend doing here is also segmenting by device so you can see a more true representation of purchases coming from mobile devices. It’s easy to not see direct response from mobile devices in Adwords/Facebook and decide to cut that traffic without knowing how that traffic is truly supporting your bottom-line.
Amazon Is No Longer A Sanctuary For Brands
Amazon has now surpassed YouTube as the 2nd most searched entity on the internet, and is now only behind Google in this category. Think about that for a second. Has it sunk in yet? If you’re selling your products on Amazon this can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.
The pro’s are that you’re probably getting more brand exposure, your cost per purchases are most likely low, and you’re providing another avenue for the consumer to purchase.
Now let’s take a look at the con’s. Amazon is less and less becoming a “cheap” source of sales volume. The landscape is starting to get highly competitive. We’re experiencing a little bit of a ‘bubble scenario’ where brands (and indeed individuals) specialize in selling products in the Amazon marketplace. There is now an incredibly high demand from companies big and small to have their products sold on Amazon; as a result, the average cost per acquisition has, and will continue to increase.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. One thing a company should also consider is brand equity. If you’re relying heavily on sales from Amazon, that means less actual site traffic (you don’t own your data and there is less opportunity for re-engagement with your customers), more fees paid to Amazon (which increases the overhead), and less control of your brand messaging (which is becoming more and more important, especially with millennials).
As a short-term play, there can be a lot of value in selling on Amazon. At the end of the day however, it’s EXTREMELY important for brand to protect their brand equity, and Amazon is only going to dilute that.
I think the net-net of this entire rant is that the purchase cycle in today’s day and age is much, much different from what it was, even 3 years ago. There’s so much noise, so much engagement, and so much competition. That being said, there’s that much more room for opportunity. As long as you can measure your results appropriately, own your brand, and market effectively, you leave yourself plenty of room to dominate online sales velocity in the 2017 Holiday Season.