The last quarter of 2019 has seen Infinity Nation's Al Keck host two ecommerce collective events. Providing invaluable tactics and insights, the events are perfectly timed to allow brands to share their challenges and shape up their marketing strategies contributing to increased online revenues for Christmas trading and beyond.
What is the ecommerce collective?
Our ecommerce collective events are designed to attract senior marketers from the UK's top ecommerce brands and encourage healthy debate on the industry's top sales-driving online channels. These invitation-only events allow 8-10 attendees per session and are run on Chatham House rules, so while I can't give you the low down on specifics and brands in the room, this post outlines the key discussion themes from the sessions:
Is Amazon the New Google?
With 54% all product searches taking place on Amazon now, the data suggests that this is the case. And on paper - Amazon is a marketer's dream.
As search specialists we are constantly trying to mine our clients' keyword data to understand the user intent associated with certain phrases. While we can never be certain as to what triggered a search for (e.g.) bobble hat, (was the user searching for an image, or information on the hottest bobble hat trend?) what we can be more certain of, is that if this search was conducted on Amazon, the user is ready to buy.
There are down-sides with the Amazon platforms for retailers of course:
- While you got the sale, you don't own the customer - this is tricky for upsell, and building a relationship with the customer to encourage increased lifetime value
- It is an expensive 1st touch customer acquisition channel - bound by Amazon's trading terms, like any shopping platform or affiliate, you owe a % of the sale value back to Amazon
- Paying for a sale you may have gotten anyway - this is a really difficult one to prove, but if you weren't selling on Amazon, you may have got the sale direct, cutting out those additional costs
The opportunities with this channel are to test strategies such as free next day delivery - if you are losing customers to Amazon due to their ability to ship your products more quickly, then this can provide a business case for implementation of these options directly on your website.
Similarly you can protect your loyal (direct) customer base by offering incentives / upsells and add-ons to encourage repeat purchases directly. If you are offering something in addition to the Amazon product sell (e.g.) early access to sale products, this will encourage your customers to stay loyal.
How to build a Communication Strategy with customers outside of sales
We have all been guilty of it - that text to your mum or dad checking in but realise you have actually got in contact because you want to ask a favour... well only talking to your customers when you have a sale on is exactly the same!
While we all want to maximise sales throughout the year, only talking to your customers about your products and the latest releases and discounts can actually de-value your product and brand. Your customers become cyclical purchasers, waiting for sale, rather than purchasing that item from the new range.
Storytelling is a key part of marketing these days - both off and online. If you have a brand history, or your product has heritage that is worth shouting about, you can bet that your customers will be interested to hear it.
Most brands have conducted some kind of customer profiling - if you haven't do it! This is an invaluable source of insight on your customers. What motivates them to purchase, what doesn't. What their interests are outside of your brand. All of this information can help you pinpoint dates in the calendar that are worth aligning with your content strategy, and giving you a reason to talk to your customer-base, with a loose product tie.
Will the timing of Black Friday 2019 reduce November sales?
The placement of Black Friday this year allows only 3 trading weekends between it and Christmas Day.
Some retailers are trying to maximise the effect of this (e.g.) John Lewis releasing massive tech-offers with gift card incentives to encourage purchase pre-season, and then additional sales as people redeem their gift cards into December. John Lewis have also planned a 2 week Black Friday event - which had some of our ecommerce collective delegates with a sour taste in their mouth.
While partners and resellers are a hugely powerful channel to market (and for all the reasons we discussed above, in relation to Amazon), the control they have over applying discounts and offers (which are sometimes out of line with a brands' strategy) is also huge, so brands are at the mercy of these big reseller brands during peak trading times like Black Friday.
The main concern amongst those in the room was that customer will hold out on starting their Christmas shopping until Black Friday - effectively nullifying November sales - or making retailers wait for that 'last payday' effect until the very last days of November.
The main tip shared was to ensure your own offers and levers for effecting sales volume are built into all of your communication channels; PPC sitelinks and offer extensions, using countdowns if applicable should be utilised to create a sense of urgency to make the sale ahead of the traditional pre-Christmas sale period. These techniques and offers can also be extended across your Paid Social campaigns - using customer matching techniques to build lookalike audiences and engaging those who may purchase your product with offers that you know attract your own loyal customers.
Leveraging PPC sales from your Social Media campaigns
While PPC is an effective channel for harvesting those already in-market for your product or services, it can sometimes use a bit of a helping hand to avoid wasting budget unnecessarily on new targeting techniques.
You may be convinced that generic search, or competitor bidding is the way forward, but previous testing from this tactic may tell a different story. Paid Social offers such tight interest-targeting criteria it is a super-efficient way to build reach to new customers, who look like those already in your customer base. Once these lists have sufficient volume, they can be used to create defined audiences for use in your PPC strategy - resulting in a controlled base to test new initiatives and bidding strategies on.
Some of the brands in the room weren't sold on social channels as a way to reach their audience. However some were surprised to understand that their audiences were in fact active on these platforms. It is just about knowing which ones to use for which purchase. What all attendees could agree on, is that they wanted to increase direct share of sales for Christmas 2019 and build on this into their 2020 strategies. As the social platforms allow brands to test messaging, offers and imagery and target these ads to a data-set build on customer attributes, this channel can be powerful - either directly contributing to direct sales growth, or complementing other channel strategies such as paid search to do so.
Right KPI, right channel - using Data Platforms to deliver Actionable Insight
Lastly, there was lots of conversation around the value of channel-level reporting, and how to derive insight from the numbers.
It was agreed that each brand needs their own measurement framework. This should clearly define the rules of engagement by channel. (E.g.) Paid search is a sales driving channel, so should be measured on a target return on advertising spend (ROAS) or cost per acquisition (CPA), whereas paid social would be measured on both engagement (reach, views, page likes...) and sales. SEO will be a combination of traffic driving, and sales KPIs and so on.
Once this framework has been defined all of these targets and metrics can be pulled into a single reporting view - either through use of 3rd party data platforms, or using technology such as Power BI, or Google Data Studio.
While everyone in the room currently reported in different ways, it was clear that everyone was required to output meaningful reporting, and this was on most marketer's to do lists for the coming 12 months.
Infinity Nation have been developing solutions to go one step further, and enable clients to understand Lifetime Value (LTV) of the various channels, including (where applicable) the role of each channel in relation to hero channels like catalogue, for direct mail brands, using the channel level data and also integrating clients' CRM data.
The final word...
The ecommerce collective provides a platform for marketers to step away from their day to day challenges and look bigger picture. Networking with like-minded individuals and sharing key successes and challenges provides a powerful combination to transfer knowledge and share insight from those who may have been in similar situations, and solved these challenges.
Quite often these sessions provide an open forum to share what not to do, and the pitfalls with certain processes which is equally beneficial for the attendees.
If you would like to talk with any of our consultants on anything in this article, or to put your name on the waitlist for our January session, we would be happy to set up a discussion - pop an email over to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of the team will get back to you!