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GUEST COMMENT Making the switch: how retailers can convert shoppers to their offering

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Customers are offered more choice online than ever before, so it’s no surprise that so many shoppers consider several brands before making a purchase.

Research we conducted last year showed that on average, only a third of shoppers are focused solely on one brand. A third of shoppers are brand agnostic, and are motivated by factors such as price and functionality as opposed to brand, while the remaining third are “brand switchers,” who care about brand values but don’t go into the shopper journey with a predetermined brand in mind. Interestingly, brand switchers are even more prevalent on eBay, with 60 per cent of eBay shoppers open to being swayed from one brand to another.

In marketing terms, brand switchers are an extremely valuable audience. Whilst brand loyalists are often hard and expensive to sway, and brand agnostics are driven solely by price, meaning it’s a race to the bottom to convert them, “switchers” are a comparatively low-cost group to convert. With the right message and positioning, these swing voters of shopping can make a real difference to the bottom line.

Here are my three top tips for swaying switchers:

Show your brand’s USP

The average switcher considers three brands before purchase. They’re not bargain hunters, they’re discerning, yet flexible shoppers, so showcase what your brand stands for to catch their eye while they’re in the shopping mindset. Whether it’s quality, performance or heritage, reassure switchers that they’re making the right decision by taking the plunge with your brand. Tapping into observed insight means brands can identify what will resonate with a switcher, so it can be applied to any purchase journey the shopper is on.

Be present

It sounds simple but retailers need to be there when customers are in the shopping mindset. Pinpoint when shoppers are in the purchase cycle and target them wherever they are, with a well-crafted message that can tempt them off their path to your brand or prevent them from straying from your brand offering.

Although the concept of switcher shoppers naturally lends itself to competitor brands, think outside the box and target shoppers that are on a purchase journey that compliments your own brand too. Last year we worked closely with memory solutions provider SanDisk on a trial of our Brand Switch product. We identified that SanDisk could increase sales by targeting shoppers that are looking for products that require memory disks, such as cameras or laptops, rather than focusing only on shoppers in the market for competing memory brands. As a result of a high intensity retargeting campaign promoting the higher quality of SanDisk products, we saw a significant 178 per cent increase in sales across five preferred resellers.

Online retailers need to make sure they are present wherever a customer might be thinking of purchasing a similar or related product.

Map the shopper journey

Our research shows that retailers have a lengthy window of opportunity to influence and guide shoppers. We assessed the scope for two competing technology brands to influence consumers and discovered that nearly half of shoppers began their shopping journey more than ten days before they made their final purchase (each shopping window is a different length depending on the product). What’s more, a third of shoppers began browsing using generic terms, such as ‘laptop’ or ‘mobile phone’. Retailers need to make sure that their marketing division understands consumers’ purchase journeys and that they engage with consumers at the right touchpoints – whether they’re in the initial research stage or in the final comparison stage. Marketers need to stay close to potential customers and pop up with relevant messages that suit where a person is in the purchase journey. This flexibility is vital.

Ultimately, the key is intercepting customers that might be considering a rival, or related brand, and targeting them with your message. Retail brands that can be nimble have the potential to significantly grow their customer base.

Alessandra di Lorenzo is commercial director of eBay Advertising

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