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GUEST COMMENT Selling successfully: How to encourage consumers to buy, not bounce

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Ecommerce is the fastest growing area of retail across Europe. As such, brands must work harder than ever to stand out in a crowded online marketplace, so understanding the consumer path to purchase and increasing product visibility is paramount. Marketing must ultimately steer high-intent consumers towards product pages where conversions can take place – ensuring visitors are encouraged to buy, not bounce.

UK consumers spent an average of almost £2,000 online during 2013, giving the UK the highest ecommerce spend of the major nations (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, the US, China and Japan). With this spend likely to rise, brands need to consider how marketing spend is allocated, to incorporate changing consumer behaviour, and achieve the greatest ROI.

So how can marketers drive shoppers to those all-important product pages and ensure they buy when they get there?

Step one: Get your brand noticed

An increasing number of shoppers – currently two-thirds – use retail sites rather than search engines to start their product searches. The number of searches on retail websites is also on the rise, up by 14% according to the British Retail Consortium.

Consumer behaviour shows that shoppers who use the search tool are more likely to purchase than those who simply use website navigation. And given that the first page of search results accounts for a staggering 91% of all items ever viewed, brands need to ensure their products are placed in prime locations on retailer sites to gain optimum viewability, engagement, and click-through rates.

The use of featured product ads within search results can propel a brand’s status, elevating its position on the page, and increasing engagement rates. However, it is most effective when the ad is contextual within the page and relevant to the consumer, fitting seamlessly with the content of the site and clicking through to the product page, rather than redirecting consumers to a different website – just as HookLogic’s Retail Search Exchange ads do, for example.

Step two: Be consistent with your message

Consumers on average browse 2.7 websites every time they shop, so advertising solutions must enable brands to position their products on multiple sites and include product descriptions that are consistent across different platforms.

Maintaining brand identity and key messaging across various sites is vital in establishing a compelling product story that will stick in consumers’ minds as they switch between different channels and platforms.

Step three: Create robust and engaging product pages

Once a prospective shopper arrives at an online store, there are a number of elements that will impact their decision to buy. The top influencer is often cited as price, but actually value is more important to consumers. Product pages need to communicate that the quality and benefits of the goods are worth the listed price.

Consumers require as much detail about online purchases as possible to counteract the inability to view or try the product, as they would in a physical store. Therefore, it is vital that product details are as comprehensive as possible. Rich media, images, videos, product comparison tables, FAQs, and how-to guides, are all ideal for educating and motivating the consumer. For instance, including rich media on product pages – which uses advanced technology to interact with the user – increases conversions by 36%.

Step four: Embrace consumer reviews

In addition to a detailed product description, ratings and reviews are essential in convincing the consumer to convert and a good range creates an impression of objectivity. User feedback is more important than expert reviews, so brands should encourage consumers to evaluate their purchases by sending out emails requesting customer opinions – possibly offering incentives for leaving their comments. Brands should publish the negative opinions, as well as the positive, to maintain the authenticity and social credibility of the reviews.

Step five: Leverage manufacturer content

The value that consumers place on product details depends on the source of information. Users rely on content on retail sites that has been produced by the product manufacturer for the most trustworthy description. In fact, including the maker’s material on product pages can increase conversion rates by 12-36%. While the value of this information is obvious, managing its syndication can be quite complex. Manufacturers must be able to control and manage messaging, to tell a coherent story across all merchants or retailers. Content publishing solutions are ideal for distributing product details to retailer websites and ensuring it can be regulated and updated directly by the manufacturer.

Online shopping is well established, but to stand out from the crowd retailers need to drive shoppers to relevant product pages, using consistent native product ads across all retailer sites. Once consumers reach product pages, comprehensive, rich media product details, authentic reviews, and manufacturer information will help persuade them they are getting value for money and to make that purchase. As online browsing and search have become key elements in the purchase journey, it is crucial brands leverage these techniques to ensure their online customers buy, not bounce.

Elizabeth Jackson is CMO and EVP of corporate strategy at HookLogic

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