The customer journey, from research to purchase, has changed rapidly in recent years. There are more marketing channels, devices and contextual opportunities to engage with and sell products to consumers than ever before. The recent headlines involving Blockbuster, Jessops and HMV, show the precarious situation that retailers and brands can find themselves in if their products aren’t visible and accessible across multiple channels.
A consumer may see a billboard advertising a product, research it on their smartphone, visit a store to examine it and then purchase it online after finding a discount voucher. Traditionally the last click to purchase was given credit for the sale, but in performance marketing the combined effects of both online and offline activity need to be considered. An often-quoted example is people who watch television whilst surfing the net and purchasing products using a tablet.
Performance marketing is evolving, something seen from the IAB’s recent study with PwC. Despite this, companies still struggle to understand their customers, trying to work out why some baskets are abandoned and others transacted. So what are the key reasons that deter consumers from completing transactions?
Despite around 60% of UK adults owning a smartphone, few companies have created seamless and functional integrations across the various channels. Performance marketing in mobile is still an emerging business. Consumers shop in a variety of ways and expect products to be available and presented consistently, especially in terms of pricing and discounts, both on and offline. A transaction begun on a desktop should be automatically available on a mobile site or app, without the consumer having to re-search for their items.
2. Inaccurate Links
In online performance marketing, shoppers are often directed to a different page to complete the journey and purchase the product. Affiliate sites with faulty links or those that direct shoppers to the homepage are frustrating and waste time. Adverts should deep link through to the specific product page of a chosen item, or automatically add an item to the basket for the customer and begin the checkout process, saving time and effort.
3. Irrelevant Content
There are many ways that brands can target customers but these methods need to be audience and channel specific or consumers will lose interest. Products need to be presented consistently, accurately and in the most engaging way possible. If you’re a food critic who is promoting sportswear, it’s unlikely you’ll appeal to your readers. Clients often provide affiliate marketing tools that allow affiliates to direct their advertising to their audience; these can also help with consistency of presentation. Approved brand advertising provides a clear and unambiguous brand message across all channels.
4. Inconsistent Product Promotion
Despite retailers investing in improving their ecommerce processes, many are still struggling to offer a satisfactory shopping experience. Consumers expect online shopping to be quick and simple, so clicking through to a retailer’s site and finding out that an item is actually unavailable will make most people look elsewhere. Regularly refreshed data feeds can help to keep affiliates’ product inventories up-to-date, ensuring that customers aren’t disappointed.
5. Insecure Sites
Consumers have come to expect a good online shopping experience, but security is still an issue. This is especially important with affiliate sites that are not official vendors. Customers want to know that a site is trustworthy and if a site doesn’t look professional, has too many adverts, or the affiliate content doesn’t promote the product, customers will go elsewhere.
How can retailers improve the online consumer journey?
With so many channels where customers can find items, each site must do the best it can to ensure that the consumer continues with the transaction to the checkout. Online shoppers have low patience levels and will abandon baskets and sites that are slow, complicated or appear to be unsafe. This becomes even more so on a mobile site or app as shoppers may be using 3G and if the connection drops they’ll want to know their details are safe and their chosen items saved.
No doubt this year will see the rise of mobile performance marketing, as more sophisticated mobile tracking starts to appear and location-based voucher and discount codes and mobile price comparison sites grow in popularity. However, if these are not targeted towards individual users, they will not be successful. As mobile commerce increases, it’s only too easy for a customer to buy a product with one-click purchase so the fewer obstacles, the better.