Australian consumers today are savvy – increasingly they’re going online to research a product they’re interested in purchasing, especially to read customer reviews and compare competitors. In fact, our latest Salmat Marketing Report showed that search engine results (search) was second only to recommendations from trusted family and friends when it came to the way consumers source information about a product or brand.
Consumer purchase trends are changing. While Australia has for many years lagged behind overseas markets in the eCommerce space, brands and consumers are closing the gap – particularly in light of Amazon’s arrival to Australia. We are more comfortable searching for, and increasingly transacting online.
This highlights the need for retailers to ensure their online game is strong. Here are three ways marketers can help their brand stand out online:
Invest appropriate resources in search
Brands that use search successfully often find it to be the highest performing marketing channel driving interest in products and sales. However, many marketers continue to undervalue Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This points to a disconnect around their understanding of it, and how they’re using it.
In terms of time invested in SEO, marketers often default to a ‘set and forget’ approach. Typically it will be something they look at as part of a website build, rebuild, or update – and expect it to continue performing well as months go by.
For success over the medium to long-term, marketers should dedicate a sufficient portion of their annual marketing budget to search – how much will depend on the industry and competition. They also need to set themselves up from a resourcing point of view. They need a considered strategy, as well as people who are; able to create quality content to which ads are driven, and manage the website.
Encourage online reviews
Salmat’s research showed that 62 per cent of marketers do not believe that online reviews influence consumer purchase decisions. However, two in five (40 per cent) consumers said an online review would influence their decision to purchase. Further, 37 per cent said they often go online while in-store to assess customer reviews before purchasing a product. The good news is that, despite the assumption that customers are more likely to leave a negative review, consumers are almost three times more likely to write a positive review than a negative one.
This presents an opportunity for marketers to encourage online reviews. Marketers can either display reviews on the brand’s website using a plugin like TrustPilot, or elsewhere online on Google, social media or other third party platforms. Once this is integrated, marketers can start encouraging reviews by emailing a customer post purchase and prompting them to write a review.
And don’t shy away from publishing the negative reviews either – being authentic and transparent is important for building trust among potential buyers. No one believes it when all they can see is positive reviews. Negative reviews also provide a chance for an experienced marketer to engage with the dissatisfied customer to manage and address the issue, and ultimately turn sentiment around.
Having a social listening tool in place is important to ensure marketers are aware of what’s being said about their brand, and where the discussion is happening – it may not be through the channels you expect. Social listening can be time intensive and medium to large companies may find it favourable to outsource these requirements to an external specialist. On the flipside, smaller companies may find it most cost effective to manage and implement social listening internally, with advice and guidance from an external partner.
Connect your online and offline assets
Despite the increasing number of people who are shopping online, our research found that in general, most Aussies (49%) still love to walk into a store so they can see and touch a product (58%) and so that they can walk away with it immediately (59%).
Many Australian brands are very active online, but online sales count only towards a small part of overall revenue. People are using online search and eCommerce channels in the discovery stage – particularly on mobile - but revert to bricks and mortar when it comes to the pointy end of the purchase. Given this, it’s crucial marketers connect their online and offline assets to help customers with their journey to purchase. Brands doing this successfully have a mobile responsive website, and the correct contact, location and opening hours on Google and their website.
Finally, utilising measurement tools to track purchase behaviour is critical. Once upon a time, stores saw online as a ‘competitor’ rather than a facilitator and complementary channel. However, having measurement tools in place will enable marketers to demonstrate how online activity is influencing offline sales.
By Andrew Lane - Head of Sales & Client Engagement, Salmat. This article originally appeared on Salmat.com.au