While being accessible is key, it’s not enough simply to be there. In a competitive world, where most retailers sell online, being relevant is a prerequisite to success. “Customers expect that the brand or retailer knows them,” says Ben Rund, senior director, product marketing at data integration and security specialist Informatica. “Consumers don’t think in channels, they just want to have a consistent experience wherever they engage.”
The wider the range a retailer has, the more likely it is to be relevant to an online search and that’s likely the reason that department stores and wide-ranging traders do so well in the Brand Engagement Dimension. Our analysis suggests that retailers with large ranges are more likely to be found through organic searches simply because they have more products listed.
John Lewis: "Online sales increase in catchment where we open a new shop."
Argos, for example, has a range of more than 53,000 different items while Amazon scores highly for a UK range that numbers more than a million products – and thus tends to rank highly in search. Argos said in its last available full-year results, for the year to February 2015, that the breadth of its range is key tokeeping customers satisfied. “The group attempts to meet customer needs for product choice and value by building partnerships with strong brands,” it said.
It also uses its range to project an image of the kind of trader it is. “We made further progress,” it said in its results statement, “in making our offer more universally appealing by extending lines of more fully featured products and aspirational brands.” Shoppers, then, are more likely to come across Argos as a potential retailer when they search for those “aspirational brands” – thus broadening the retailer’s relevancy.
Indeed, says OneHydra’s Chris Dunn, retailers can learn from search results to improve relevancy. “If you knew how people search,” he says, “you would probably present your shop very differently. In the bricks-and-mortar world, supermarkets spend millions making sure prducts are right where you want them. That doesn’t really happen on websites. But the job is to surface the right product at the right time.”
In just that way, email marketers learn from data to ensure that the messages sent out are relevant, arriving at the right time and featuring the right product. Retailers may be at the early stage of matching customers’ social media and email identities, or they may already link data from social, email and other sources in a single view of the customer. “Understanding what words and hashtags are trending can transition into predicting demand for the next product,” says Informatica’s Rund. Retailers can also use data to predict how customers will want to communcate, analysing whether customers clicked on an email campaign, or interacted via Facebook, and respond accordingly.
Being relevant on social media might mean featuring the products that a customer is more likely to be interested in. Fashion and homewares retailer Next, for example, uses social media
to highlight its ranges in different ways, including a dedicated Instagram account for menswear and a blog that brings together problem-solving advice with inspiration inareas ranging from what to wear for an interview to suggested storage solutions.
Bronto Software client services manager Saima Alibhai writes elsewhere in this report about how retailers can combine data from social media and email marketing to great effect, precisely because the use of social ensures email content is more relevant.
Being accessible and relevant are just the first hurdles in successful organic SEO. The final step is to be credible. If two retailers have identical scores for search relevancy, then the one that is deemed most credible will rank higher in results. Think, says OneHydra’s Dunn, of the difference between being recommended an event by someone you don’t know, or by people you do know who plan to go, or reading a positive preview of the event from a respected organisation such as the BBC. For most people, the latter is likely to carry more weight. So it is with building credibility in search. “It’s all about gaining quality, credibility, linkage,” he says.
This is something that social media lends itself to doing. Platforms such as Facebook or Twitter provide a forum where retailers engage publicly with shoppers in a way that they don’t on websites or in private emails.
It’s important, then, to use social media as a means of engaging to solve problems in a way that ultimately reflects, for better or for worse,
“Understanding what words and hashtags are trending can transition into predicting demand
for the next product”
on the retailer’s corporate culture. “Retailers can win respect and trust, and show they are accountable by reacting in an honest and trustworthy way,” says Informatica’s Rund. “It’s about not ignoring. The social media community jumps on mistakes, but people recognise there will be mistakes and it’s important to come up with an answer to that. That is based on the corporate culture and behaviour of the brand or retailer, and how they live that everywhere.”
Technology, then, can be a means to deploy best practice customer service across the business. By making themselves available and responsive to customers, retailers start to compete with the best in their business.