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GUEST COMMENT: How brands and retailers can win online this festive season

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In 2020, retailers have had to adapt quickly to the accelerated demand for ecommerce, which will likely intensify as we approach Christmas with parts of the country under very strict restrictions.  

With data from Klarna suggesting that 71% of British consumers are reluctant to shop in stores this Christmas, there is no doubt that many consumers will be looking for their festive gifts online this year. With the internet now the key battleground for customers, there is a huge opportunity for retail brands to get in front of consumers browsing online this winter season, and convert those views into purchases.

The search begins

However, whilst retailers focus on ramping up their ecommerce capabilities to cater for an anticipated high demand for online shopping this festive season, it is important that brands think about the integral role that search intent plays at the beginning of the shopper journey, which most often starts off with a search.

Around this seasonal time of year, searches for many items increase as consumers start looking for the perfect gift or the best deals on a dream item. For example, between October and November last year, we found that searches for toys such as Lego (+45%), Star Wars (+44%) and Hasbro (+39%) increased significantly. There was also a surge in more premium brands, such as Fitbit (+44%), Xbox (+42%) and Dyson (+44%). We also found that Black Friday 2019 saw search volumes increase 31.4% and order count rise 65.9% compared to usual, and this is expected to increase in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 shopping trends.

As searches begin to spike, so does the competition from rival brands and retailers. The path to purchase is no longer linear and when shopping online consumers are spoilt for choice, often using multiple online touchpoints in their research process. Google refers to this researching moment as the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’ and is a crucial stage in helping the consumer decide on a purchase. This means that it is important for retailers and brands to be there at that relevant stage of the user’s online journey in order to reach the consumer in the right moment and win the sale.

Retailers must value live intent

Traditionally, many retail brand marketers would have relied on third party cookies to target ads to consumers. This was based on consumers leaving a ‘trail of crumbs’ of their internet activity – every search or page viewed would store a cookie on their browser that gave advertisers data on that consumer so they could target them with the more relevant advertising at a later stage. However, with concerns over privacy mounting, and shoppers becoming more wary of how their data is used, the days of this type of tracking are numbered.

An alternative way for retailers and brands to reach consumers – that does not compromise on consumer data or privacy – is by targeting them in the ‘live intent’ stage – the exact moment that matters. This is based on analysing ‘live intent signals’ such as keyword searches in that moment that brings a consumer to a page and does not rely on any tracking or storage of data. For example, a consumer reading a review for a skincare product after searching for beauty advent calendars. This is known as contextual targeting and is effective in engaging the consumer, with data from Integral Ad Science showing that 80% of UK consumers like to see ads that match the content they are viewing, with 70% more likely to remember a contextually relevant ad. This way a brand can know when a person may be looking for advice, guidance or inspiration around certain products and interests to target the most effective ads in that moment, all without compromising user privacy.

With increased demand for ecommerce and a swathe of choices for products and brands, retailers and brands are rightly strategising around how to reach consumers online during this festive period. The best way that this can be done effectively – without storing customer data – is through focussing on alternative means to target consumers. When it comes to shopping online, searches are a window into our desires, and by understanding what shoppers are searching for and focussing on their ‘live intent’ in that moment, brands and retailers will be able to win this golden quarter.


Niall Moody, UK trading director at Nano Interactive

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