5 Consumer behaviours Changing Online Marketing and What Retailers
Can Do to React
Lets go back in time—circa 2000—and imagine you needed a new
camera. Using the internet as a research
tool, your search probably started with “camera.” From there you navigated to review sites,
phoned friends and visited stores. Once
you decided on that snappy Canon advertised by a longhaired Andre Agassi, you visited
a comparison shopping site to find the best price. Sound familiar?
Today’s busy consumer, caught in a whirlwind of information,
has little patience for such a convoluted purchase path. Instead, they want
their search to yield exactly the information they need— validation, reviews,
specs and price. To ensure they get the
results they desire, consumers have modified their behaviour in five distinct
ways: using more sophisticated search
queries, relying on product images, reading recommendations, researching the
facts and finding the best price. Based on these behavioural changes, retailers
must in turn adjust the way they think about search marketing and online
1. Consumers shift to More
As the internet and e-commerce have evolved, consumers have
been conditioned to be more specific about what they are searching for
online. This increases the chance of
finding the exact product they desire.
For instance, the search “camera” yields a generic result.
If the search changes from “camera” to a specific model such
as “canon rebel t4i,” the results are more consistent with shopping rather than
Studies consistently show that search queries are becoming
longer. Hitwise reported that queries
that were less than three words were declining and those between four to eight
words were growing year-over-year from 3%-20%. What’s more, the longer the
query the more likely the searcher was to convert.
2. Consumers Embrace A
Whether consumers are shopping for a camera, shoes or a
specific bolt, one way to verify what they are getting is through imagery. Shoppers, bombarded with data, seek the
simplicity of images as short hand. Images
validate and capture interest, hence the rise of sites like Pintrest, Instagram
and others. According to the Search
images ranked higher than product-specific details, descriptions, ratings or
reviews in driving purchase decisions. Yahoo’s
recent billion-dollar acquisition of Tumblr reaffirms that search and content
companies believe this is the way of the future.
3. Consumers Rely on the
Opinion of Others
While images help validate that shoppers have found the
right product, reviews and recommendations validate the quality of the product
that consumers are shopping for. HubSpot
found that 71% of people were more likely to make a purchase based on friends’ social
media suggestions and 70% trusted consumer reviews. Social media and reviews engender consumer
4. Consumers Want the
Armed with the information gleaned from social networks and
reviews, consumers want specific details about products quickly. Moreover, they
want data—not marketing spin.
Customers would rather see “18-mega-pixel” than “crystal
clear images.” This information ensures that the shopper is getting exactly
what they want, not an imitation or variation of the product.
5. Consumers Feel that Price
Queries, images, reviews and specs, guide consumers along
the purchase path. However, price is
critical to that last step—purchase.
Consumers are willing to put some effort into this step as is evident by
the emergence of programs like Red Laser and the recent trend of
showrooming. Whether browsing in store or online, consumers don’t want
How Retailers Should Respond
There are a number of things that retailers can do to combat
this shift in consumer behaviour and meet these new expectations. These days,
retailers should focus on long tail keywords, product images, recommendations,
relevant data and price comparison. That seems doable, but that’s not all. As
consumer behaviour has changed so have the search engines. Online advertising has become more
complicated, and in order to maximise online exposure, retailers must adapt to
the evolving requirements of online channels. So how can a retailer ensure that
they are capturing and converting traffic in such an ever-changing industry?
Embrace Product Data Feeds
As the queries become more specific and consumers become
more visual, Google found that a page full of blue links was far from compelling. Therefore, they introduced Google Shopping to
improve the online shopping experience. Google Shopping and other advertising
programs across search and shopping engines are relying more and more on product
data feeds that offer retailers the ability to create long tail keywords,
display images and generate more gripping ad copy to help perfectly align a
product with the search query.
An optimised data feed is the key to meeting new consumer
expectations and converting a browser into a shopper. Expert feed management
has typically been necessary to make shopping programs successful. Those managing search advertising had
expertise around keywords and knew little about the feed. Now, the lines between those two functions
are blurring, and the data feed includes all the information—long tail keyword,
detailed product information, images and price—that is required to appeal to
the curious shopper. In 2013, successful search marketers need to understand
data feeds and start thinking about how these programs can work together to
improve brand image and online sales.
Blog post by Sheridan Orr, Director of Product Marketing, ChannelAdvisor