In this week’s masterclass HookLogic’s Ben Cooper explores five ways to master sales on retail sites.

Brands are increasingly focusing their marketing spend on retail websites as shoppers choose to start their product searches here rather than use ‘traditional’ search engines. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable when navigating the wealth of information online and marketers are reaping the benefits of targeting these high-intent shoppers through retail search advertising.

Consumers overwhelmed by the abundance of material available on the internet are choosing to restrict their browsing to a few key retailer websites, where they can access reliable manufacturer information and read customer reviews. In fact, at least two-thirds (issuu) of online shoppers now begin their path-to-purchase on retail websites. But even in this contained environment,  how can marketers ensure they do not get lost in the search results crowd?

1. Target the right users

Consumers who browse and research products on specific retailer’s websites do so with high intent as they are actively looking to make a purchase. Retail site search tools allow these users to create their own virtual store, filtering out products that are not of interest and viewing a list of highly relevant items, accompanied by reliable product information.

As such, brands must incorporate tactics such as search advertising to target a key set of shoppers who are very likely to convert.  Strong retail advertising solutions should ensure the right products are shown to the right consumers at the right time, in order to maximise conversion to sales.

2. Be consistent

Online shoppers are choosing to click between two or three favourite retailers, creating their own personalised shopping experience. With the average consumer visiting 2.7 websites (HookLogic) during every online shopping trip, it is important marketers create a coherent brand story that remains consistent across platforms. Consumers are constantly using images, descriptions, and product specifications to compare and review, so creating a strong, consistent message will help to influence their purchasing decision.

Brands should look for retail search partners that allow them to be everywhere the consumer is, enabling the targeting of shoppers wherever and however they decide to shop.

3. Embrace the multichannel consumer

Not only do consumers switch between favourite retailer websites before making a purchase, they also alternate between devices – perhaps researching on mobiles while on the move before completing a transaction on their desktop computer – or even in store – later in the day. For example, more than two-thirds (69%) [AL1] of shoppers research by webrooming – browsing the product online and buying in-store according to MarketWatch.

Marketers must explore ways to target shoppers across various channels with consistent messaging – consumers now distinguish less between channels than marketers do. It is important that companies understand investments can often have broad reach and consider this when planning multichannel strategies – as online investment can affect offline purchasing, and vice versa.

4. Utilise customer reviews

Whether it is shopping for a holiday, a new television or weekly groceries, customer ratings can have a serious impact on a consumer’s decision to complete a purchase. In fact, as many as 72% of consumers claim to trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (Search Engine Land). Word of mouth continues to be a powerful marketing tactic to drive sales and in that respect online shopping is no different to in-store browsing.

However, it can be detrimental to only showcase positive reviews as consumers can become skeptical and lose trust in the brand. Finding a balance is essential to creating credibility and ensuring online consumers take their virtual shopping basket to the checkout.

5. Adopt marketing analytics

Marketers must be able to justify every penny of their ad spend so highly accurate analysis is critical in identifying return on investment (ROI). Attribution tools can provide a detailed analysis of the consumer path to purchase and help brands understand the impact of their online investment on achieving sales.

As shopping behaviour continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly important for marketers to seek advertising partners that can offer advanced attribution. The measurement of all touchpoints in the sales journey – both online and off – empowers brands to understand which most influence consumer decision making and utilise this information when planning future campaign investment.

Retail search advertising can offer brands the opportunity to position their products in front of active category shoppers – and stand out in a crowded marketplace. Paid-for listings on search results pages can provide a valuable route to targeting these shoppers that have already demonstrated a keen desire to buy.