Online Shopping Reigns Supreme This Holiday Season

By Katherine Pietrangelo

Holiday Shopping Goes Online (1)

Online retailers, rejoice! This upcoming holiday season looks like it’s going to be a good one. According to a recent survey by National Retail Federation (NRF), 44.4% of consumers will do their holiday shopping online this approaching season.

Looking at the year as a whole (not just between November and December, the months that the NRF considers to be the holiday shopping season) sees a total of 56% of shoppers planning to make their purchases online this year. That is an increase of 4.5%, up from the 51.5% of last year’s survey.

If we break down those numbers into how those consumers will be making their online purchases, it’s not surprising that mobile shopping makes up a large chunk.

According to the survey, 55.7% of smartphone users will do some part of their holiday shopping on their phone, up from 53.8% last year. 35.8% of smartphone users will research products and prices on their phones, and 19.1% (an all-time high) of smartphone users will make the actual purchase via their mobile device.

Tablet users will also be making moves this holiday season, with 47.4% of tablet users doing their product research online, and 33% said they will buy something using their tablet.

Why the gaining popularity? 25% of survey takers said that an uncomplicated and convenient mobile site is a huge determining factor of where they will make their online purchases.

If you or your company were looking to branch into ecommerce, now would be the time to do it.

What’s all the Penguin 3.0 Fuss About?

By John Nicholson

For those of you keeping track, before last Friday it had been a little over a year since Google released a Penguin update. Which is somewhat surprising considering the steady stream of updates previously. But it’s here now, so let’s dive right in.

This, the sixth iteration of the Penguin filter — deemed Penguin 3.0 by Search Engine Land — has been developed and upgraded in order to better fight websites that rely on spammy tactics to get ahead in the rankings. This element shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering Google constantly works toward a pristine search field, but the occasion is especially noteworthy when you think about how long Google’s team has been developing this algorithm upgrade.

So Who Will be Affected Most by Penguin 3.0?

The short answer: those in violation of Google’s linking guidelines. As far as SEOs and researchers can tell, the filter has been set up to scrutinize and penalize spammy links into and out of a website.

Penguin is unforgiving. If your site was penalized with 2013’s algorithm change, you’ve had to wait until Penguin 3.0’s release in order to see if your site updates actually worked. That said, there’s no doubt sites and publishers who were hit have been anxiously awaiting their chance to see if the changes they’ve made appease Google. Whether by eliminating spammy links or creating more original on-site content, let’s hope those down-trodden webmasters are rejoicing. Otherwise they’ll have to wait until the next Penguin release.

Penguin 3.0 Nuances

There are a few other things to keep in mind as we move into the Penguin 3.0 world.

  1. If you’ve disavowed links within the past three weeks, don’t expect a change in rankings. It was a valiant effort, but unfortunately it was too late to be considered by Google’s algorithm shift.
  2. As previously mentioned, bad links will not be tolerated by Google bots. This means sites will probably not be penalized for the sub-optimal links, but will most likely see a drop in rankings, as crawlers discount those links’ credit. Visibility will undoubtedly suffer.
  3. Apparently, Google has also mentioned a new system that promotes more frequent refreshes. As the roll out continues over the next couple weeks, we’ll see if that’s true.

Tablet Shoppers use Mobile for Research, Purchase In-Store

By Jessica Herbine

Although tablet sales will see only an 11% increase in year-over-year growth in 2014, retailers can still bank on 229 million tablet devices being sold worldwide this year. And according to a new study from Chadwick Martin Bailey, if those brick and mortar stores offering tablets aren’t yet catering to mobile shoppers, they’d better start. The market research and consulting firm surveyed customers ages 18 and up in their study “The Tablet Path to Purchase: The Mobile, Social and Online Journey“, and found that 66% of tablet shoppers use mobile devices at some point throughout their buying cycle.

Nowadays, consumers are known to check price comparisons, reviews and product information via mobile while shopping; however, these mobile, social and online factors influence tablet shoppers at different stages in their purchase journey. Only 8% of buyers complete their tablet purchase through mobile, which means an overwhelming majority of buyers are headed in store to fulfill their order.

tablet-shopping

So, how might retailers leverage their customer interactions and online offerings to entice potential customers?

  • Make helpful user reviews and comments readily available. On the whole, consumers give more weight to reviews from their peers than to reviews provided by technology experts. You can bet that those customers doing research on their mobile devices are utilizing your site as well as third-party domains to read about users’ thoughts on the product’s design and performance. Help those shoppers along by making it easy to locate reviews on your website or mobile app so that they won’t feel the need to leave your page. If your online store is lacking in reviews, you might consider how to entice customers to share their opinions publicly after making a purchase.
  • Ensure sales associates can speak knowledgeably and comfortably about a range of products. According to CMB, 25% of all tablet shoppers will seek information or advice from a sales representative throughout their purchase journey. Whether they connect in person, online or over the phone, it’s important that their interaction prove to be courteous and insightful, as this H2H correspondence will heavily weigh into the individual’s overall feelings about the retailer; especially when it comes to value and trustworthiness.
  • Optimize your website for mobile shopping and intuitive navigation. A minimal 13% of consumers use mobile apps in-store while tablet shopping, and only 12% will turn to your social media channels for guidance. Those visitors who use their mobile devices during the purchase journey are using good, old-fashioned web browsing to compare prices, check online reviews and read up on special features and sales. It is of utmost importance that your website be optimized for mobile use and display enough information for customers to shop with confidence, while retaining a clean design that’s easy to navigate and explore.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of in-store experiences. As mentioned earlier, over 90% of all customers will buy their tablets in-store vs. online. While most of their research and evaluations may be done beforehand, that doesn’t mean your visitors shouldn’t be wowed by a sensational in-store experience topped with excellent customer service. VP of Tech Practice at CMB, Chris Neal believes that “Tablet shoppers are indeed quite commonly show-rooming when they are in physical retail stores browsing for tablets, and … this is a behavior that will only increase in the future” – so ensure that every tablet shopper who enters your storefront is provided with the data, intelligence and variety of products he or she needs to make an informed purchase.

 

 

The Next Big Thing In eCommerce Is Customer Experience

By Jason Bauman

Is your company making Customer Experience A Priority?A  common misconception in retail is that customers are only motivated by their sensitivity to the price and perceived value of products.  As a company, it’s easy to assume that all you need to do to beat out your competitors is to offer your products at the best possible value, even if we know that this isn’t the case.

I know that, even though it’s a little pricier than its competitors, I still go to the same coffee shop every morning on my way to work.  It’s not hard for anyone to think of somewhere they shop even when that venue isn’t the “best value.” We choose these favorite spots, not for the prices they offer, but for the experience we have as a customer.

Customer experience can mean several things. Specifically, it can be the service you receive, how stressful the checkout process is, or what type of environment the products are presented in. Laura McLellen at Gartner pulled together 10 different surveys that showed the industry pivoting so that it could focus on customer experience.  The entire list is worth reading, but here are three key takeaways.

Customers Get Mad If You Make It Hard For Them To Purchase

According to Accenture‘s 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey, 85% of customers became frustrated when a company’s website made it hard to purchase from.  More than 58% of respondents said that inconsistencies between channels made them less likely to buy. Furthermore, 84% said that they found it difficult to deal with companies who would promise one thing and then deliver another.

Your eCommerce site can have the best prices anywhere, but if your customer get’s frustrated in the checkout process, you’ll lose out on countless sales.  Make sure your “sales cart” experience is as seamless as possible, even when that means considering alternative payment methods (such as Apple Pay).

A Customer First Strategy

In 2013, IBM‘s Customer-Activated Enterprise study found that 39% of companies that are performing better than their peers have a fully developed an integrated digital-physical customer strategy. And when Gartner asked CMO’s what improvements their companies were investing in, they said that nearly 18% of their total marketing expense was spent on customer service in the last fiscal year and that their company’s innovation teams were focused on customer experience for 2015.

The Rise Of The Chief Customer Officer

Gartner found that in companies with revenue’s in excess of $500 million a year, more than 65% had a chief customer service officer, or an equivalent.  This individual reports equally to the chief market officer and CEO on strategies to improve the experience of customers at all their locations.  In fact, these large companies are so certain of the importance of customer experience that 89% of them plan to to make it their competitive priority by 2016.

When Oracle asked what was the most critical factor tho their company’s success 97% of chief executives answered experience.  While customers are more careful with their money than ever, these large companies understand that competing solely on the value of your product means that your customers could abandon you as soon as someone figures out a way to get the price lower.  By focusing on your company’s experience instead of just revenue, you’ll be increasing the value of your image in the minds of consumers, which will make your revenue far less sensitive to fluctuations in price.

 

Google Ad Conversions Gain Speed on Mobile

By Katherine Pietrangelo

People are doing more typical desktop activities on their phones? How (not) shocking. According to a new study by Marin Software, consumers are no longer just browsing for products on their smartphones, but are now completing the purchase via mobile as well.

While desktop still beats out mobile and tablet conversation rates, they’re slowly but surely lessening that gap. As reported by the 2014 Q3, smartphones and other mobile devices consist of 31% of paid search impressions and 38% of search ad clicks on Google. Mobile also made up 30% of ad conversions contributing to mobile conversion rates increasing almost 11% year-over-year.

And if you look at Facebook, 1 out of every 3 ad conversions occurred on a mobile device; increasing mobile ad conversions by 16% quarter-over-quarter. 52% of ad impressions and 63% of clicks consisted of mobile ads from Facebook.

graph

If you were to look at click through rates though, you would see that desktop—while still taking the gold in conversion rates—actually gets beaten out by smartphones and tablets in all three types of ads: search, social, and display, with social ads being the highest ranked. The study by Marin Software suggests that the possible shift to mobile over desktop in click through rates for search ads could be based on intent.

When a user is searching for a product, they’re much more likely to click on a result that leads them to the businesses site. Ads that pop up during display and social occur when the user is already doing something and their main focus isn’t searching for products.

It’s hard not to wonder if it could be the lack of distracting ads on mobile devices that lead to the increase of conversion and click through rates. On a desktop you are constantly bombarded with tons of different ads, so it’s hard to focus. With the smaller screen of mobile devices, the ads are limited so it could be easier to emphasize one particular ad at a time.

No matter the reason, mobile is on the rise so it wouldn’t come as a surprise to us if it eventually reigns supreme in every category.

 

It Pays to Personalize Push Notifications

By John Nicholson

For some they may be a burden, for others they’re life-blood — but regardless of your stance, it’s hard to argue against the pervasiveness of push notifications. Whether you have an iPhone or another kind of smartphone, chances are you’re all-too familiar with push notifications. From everyday news updates and app upgrades to minute-by-minute social updates and emails, these automatic alerts strive to keep us socially relevant and acutely aware.

This in mind, it’s no surprise that companies and brands started using push notifications as a marketing tool. Sure, you can turn the alerts off, but sometimes it’s easier to just try and ignore them. But, after all, who can deny that little buzz that comes with receiving a new text message, even if it is just a Candy Crush update?

The answer: no one. In fact, when brands personalize their notifications — turning them into a kind of friendly text message — the results are overwhelmingly positive. In a study done by the Aberdeen Group, researchers found that sending personalized push notifications (based on the consumer’s past interactions with the app and his/her location) conversion rates jumped 8.8% year-over-year.

Of the 162 companies surveyed, Aberdeen Group found that 60% have optimized their web site for mobile users. Similarly, they found that there’s been an increase in brands who’ve adopted push notifications in the past year. As mobile marketing grows and brands learn how to hone the mobile user experience, it will be interesting to watch the development of push notification marketing.