Mobile shopping experience

Key messaging for online retailers to consider     

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The way online retailers are expected to present their products to customers is ever changing. Thanks to advances in digital marketing which are backed by behavioural science and AI algorithms, online businesses now navigate a very complex and often crowded world in which retailers must fight for their customers attention and indeed, their hard earned cash.

Things are even more complex when you start to consider brand loyalty – something which multi-brand retailers may struggle to build with their customers. New research carried out by Google highlights that brand loyalty is more prominent than retailer loyalty when it comes to online customers. In the study, which used a sample of 1,000 participants simulating 120,000 online shopping scenarios, 47% of participants indicated they would be willing to switch from their usual retailer to a new one if it meant they could get a better deal on a brand or a particular product.

Shockingly, only 25% of participants would do the opposite and would decide to stick with their preferred retailer and purchase an alternative brand or product, showing loyalty to the seller rather than the producer. It is widely assumed therefore that for customers, feelings towards a particular brand or product are stronger than the feelings a customer will have towards a retailer – this is a working example of the ‘shop around for a good price’ mentality which dominates the e-commerce sector.

In simple terms, customers care less about where they buy a product from, and more about the product itself. This is why it’s so important for multi-brand retailers to master their marketing messaging in order to retain customers and make the most of the products they sell and stand out ahead of the competition, by offering prospects more for their money.

Black Friday tips

In the past, retailers used to focus on a number of ‘mega sale’ events throughout the calendar year which would coincide with customer demand during seasonal events. Black Friday is a great example of this – it’s an annual event which started in the United States as a part of their annual Thanksgiving tradition but has more recently been adopted in the UK as a mass online and in-person shopping event. Black Friday sees retailers put huge discounts on a huge range of products ahead of the festive season, whilst this allows customers to get a head start on their Christmas shopping it also gives customers a reason not to buy in the months leading up to Black Friday and as a result, the ‘mega sale’ is quickly becoming a bit of a double edged sword.

Moreover, if all retailers are running a Black Friday sale, the messaging very quickly becomes diluted and therefore the sale message alone isn’t enough for a retailer to stand out ahead of its competition.

Overall, sales and discounts can be very effective but only for a short period of time. Consider that customers are savvy to the timings of sales and as a result might not want to make a purchase until the sale period begins, this means retailers are potentially losing out on income for a period of time prior to the sale starting. Retailers should also consider that sales and discounts could ultimately reduce the relative value of their products, making them appear as cheap or of a lesser quality by association, compared to similar products sold by other retailers who don’t solely rely on sale messaging to attract customers.

Retailers should also consider that sale prices ultimately mean profit margins are reduced, sometimes significantly and that in many instances, multi-brand retailers are bound by contracts which limit how much discount they are able to offer on some products in order to ensure a fair market.

As a result of all of this, online retailers need to deploy a whole range of messages in order to attract, engage and retain customers who are shopping for a particular brand or product, and it involves much more than just running ‘mega sales’ and big discounts a few times per year.

The research by Google considers the key areas of focus for online retailers who are looking to do more to increase their own brand awareness and customer retention. Remember – in the recent Google study 45% of participants said they would move to a different retailer to purchase a brand or product they have an affinity with. Only 25% of participants would consider changing to a different brand to stick with a trusted retailer, therefore online retailers are operating in this space at a significant disadvantage and can’t rely on customer loyalty alone to remain on top.

Reviews are essential in ensuring legitimacy and trust online. Also known as ‘social proof’ this feeling of trust is vital when it comes to attracting and retaining customers for online retailers. By utilising online review tools such as Trustpilot, Feefo or Google Reviews, online retailers can make their store look more trustworthy than other stores and give new prospects an insight into the type of service they will receive when they shop with the retailer in question. It goes without saying though that bad service reviews can be very damaging, so if retailers decide to start collecting reviews they need to ensure they have the capacity to handle complaints effectively or could risk damaging their brand integrity.

Authority bias should also be considered here – industry awards and affiliations could help attract and retain customers as association with trusted experts or industry specialists can help boost the presence and trustworthiness of an online retailer. Therefore, retailers that have such affiliations in place should be shouting it from the roof tops. The same goes for influencer marketing too; celebrity endorsement is a very powerful tool when used effectively.

One reason Amazon has become so successful over the years is thanks to the frictionless Amazon Prime delivery service. Having easy to use and cost-effective delivery options will make a retailer stand out above the competition. Highlighting a call-to-action like ‘Free Delivery’ or ‘Free Returns’ in marketing messages is a powerful way to attract and retain customers. Retailers do of course need to back the messaging up with a reliable delivery service, therefore working with a hardworking, trusted courier is a great way to ensure this happens. Think about ‘free shipping’, ‘next day delivery’ and ‘free returns’ options to apply a smoother delivery offering.

Whilst a sale message gives the customer a cash saving, sometimes it may be more effective for a retailer to offer a ‘free gift’ in exchange for another more valuable purchase instead. This can often mean retailers don’t need to eat into their own profit margins and can also provide a more attractive proposition to new and existing customers alike. Here’s one example of this messaging style in practice:

‘Get a free T-Shirt worth £20 when you spend £50’, here the customer is able to access £70 worth of product for just £50 and has more freedom to choose which products they buy. This method is less restrictive than running a flat 30% sale for example, and gives the customer more autonomy and more power in the buying process, whilst helping to protect the retailers profits.

Multi-brand retailers need to rely on other producers to provide them with quality products to sell. Therefore, retailers need to learn their products inside-out in order to find out exactly why customers love them. Retailers should be using these features in their messaging to prove to customers they know what they are talking about. For example, if a retailer is selling a computer that has a particularly powerful processer, they should ensure any marketing messages related to that computer include all the relevant information about why it is a great product. This shows the customer that the retailer knows what they are talking about and also that the product itself is legitimate and meets the needs of the customer at the time of purchase. 
By utilising the above messaging concepts, retailers can create powerful marketing campaigns that will help them get ahead of the competition. Running the occasional ‘mega sale’ is still a great way to attract prospects but when it comes to that all important customer retention, offering more to customers through intelligent messaging is the only way for retailers to ensure they are doing everything they can to encourage customers to buy from them. In a world where brand loyalty is key, giving customers more reason to shop at their store is crucial for online retailers and is the only way to ensure business continuity.
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