By Liane Dietrich
Today’s online shopper is spoilt for choice. Every day new retailers are cropping up online and some of the more established players are starting to expand their product ranges by branching out to offer additional goods and services. For example, you can now buy pet insurance at the supermarket or order a taxi home when you make an online restaurant reservation.
The impact on the consumer is twofold: not only are shoppers becoming more commercially savvy, but they can also afford to be more demanding on price and quality. For brands, this means that driving sales online, even with a competitive offering, is proving more challenging than in the past. So, with shoppers having more options open to them and brands eager to capture their attention – what strategies should retailers be taking advantage of to engage with the increasingly empowered online consumer?
New technology and consumer behaviour
Consumer interaction with a range of media types has hit an all time high, whether it is over twitter, Facebook, on tablet devices or text, the combined impact has made the online shopping experience increasingly social.
Research from Ofcom (1) has revealed that consumers now spend almost half (45 per cent) of their waking hours interacting with communications technology. A testament to this trend is that today, mobile phone users send four times as many texts compared to 2004 and almost a quarter of internet time is spent browsing social networking sites. On an average day, consumers are cramming eight hours and 48 minutes of media into a seven-hour period – demonstrating just how complex engagement in the media landscape has become. The evidence is clear: consumers are increasingly multi-tasking and they are becoming more distracted.
However, the emergence of social buying sites, such as Groupon, has fuelled consumer appetites for instant and easy access to deals and promotions, and this trend combined with a rise in media engagement has lead to the emergence of a new type of online shopper. Classified as the ‘impatient consumer,’ this is a person who may have once spent hours searching online for the best bargains, but now expects brands to come to them. Impatient consumers own a variety of internet enabled gadgets, snack on media and have reduced attention spans.
Engaging with the Impatient Consumer
With consumers regularly dipping in and out of a range of different media channels across a variety of platforms, the opportunities to engage and capture the attention of potential customers has both increased and decreased at the same time. To engage with the Impatient Consumer, retailers need to add something extra to enhance the shopper’s experience, whether this is through compelling content or new and innovative approaches. The bottom line lies in ensuring online journeys are more targeted and personalised and one tactic which allows brands to design campaigns that entertain and respond quickly to prevailing trends is affiliate marketing.
The importance of affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is continuing to gain interest from retailers looking to amplify their offering in the digital arena. It allows companies to engage with consumers through a variety of channels at the same time – and because activity can be tracked in non intrusive way- the success of campaigns across a range of channels can be simply and easily compared.
A well-designed and executed affiliate marketing campaign allows both advertisers and publishers to create tracking links with exciting new rich media options to drive traffic to a brand’s website. Through this approach, brands can see which consumers are clicking through and form which websites and there is the opportunity to utilise audiences from a variety of sites across the online spectrum.
Spanning social networks to online forums, blogs and price comparison sites, content can be created to be visually appealing and engaging to encourage consumers to click through and make a purchase. Retailers who target customers by aligning their preferences in a timely manner will see far higher conversion rates than those who provide seemingly random deals and offers.
Ensuring long-term online success
Lucrative online marketing is now about much more than the relationship between retailer and customer. From measuring evolving conversations from consumer to consumer, to monitoring the discussions that are happening online and the impact of communications technology, brands need have all their bases covered if they are to be successful. To keep one step ahead of the competition, retailers need keep a watchful eye on new and emerging online behaviours. This way, they will be well prepared to align their marketing and sales strategies and take advantage of the new and emerging opportunities available to them.
The rapid pace at which technology is advancing is impacting consumers more intensely than ever before and online attitudes are continuing to change in reponse. With strong evidence to suggest that affiliate marketing is one of the most profitable ways of engaging with social shoppers, regardless of the demographic a brand is targeting, this approach should now be high on the agenda for each and every online retailer.
Liane Dietrich is managing director of LinkShare UK