Searching for the perfect strategy: the three channels retailers cannot ignore
12/08/2021 | Article
By Letícia Bernardino, SEO Manager.
In the modern world, everything starts with a search. Equipped with a touch-screen gateway to the sum of human knowledge in their pockets, consumers across demographics and markets now quickly turn to search engines as soon as a query or idea springs to mind.
Search is the connective tissue between an idea and an action – and it changed the way we shop. These digital instincts have been further cemented through the pandemic. Research from Wunderman and Thompson found that 80% of global shoppers say they want to move from product inspiration to purchase as quickly as possible.
From lockdown to logged on: the impact of new digital habits
Brands and retailers need to position themselves to take advantage of these digital habits.
Search behaviour varies depending on the market. Whilst most global searches begin on Google, in the UK Amazon has taken over Google as the starting point for product search, with studies showing that it holds 56% of UK market share.
Google’s advantage is that it provides retailers and brands with opportunities across every touchpoint of the customer journey, from discovery right through to the product sale.
Whilst Google is bound to provide its users with relevancy, the captive demand for products on Amazon means it can be less restrictive with which retailers it displays on its search results.
The e-commerce opportunity
There are a lot of e-commerce sales to be made. The pandemic has supercharged online sales in the UK – and these habits are set to stick even as shops open and normality slowly returns.
Research from eMarketer identified a huge 46.5% year-over-year (YoY) growth in ecommerce sales last year – and predict this will be followed by strong growth of 20.5% in 2021. This will push ecommerce sales to £185.22 billion. In 2019, the split between ecommerce and physical retail was 21.8% and 78.2%, respectively. This year the gap will shrink with 37.5% for ecommerce and 62.5% for brick and mortar.
Holiday sales like Black Friday are playing a fundamental role in driving this growth – capturing more commerce and consumer attention each year. But such events require bespoke strategies of their own. To learn more about how to make the most of Black Friday, read our guide here.
The three pillars of modern search
To effectively leverage these lucrative search habits, retailers need to have a clear strategy for the three main channels: Amazon, Google and your own website.
1) How to make the most of SEO on Amazon
Amazon is the leading source of inspiration for online shoppers in the UK, with a 52% share*. If your brand isn’t actively engaged in organic and paid search activity on this marketplace, then you could potentially be missing out on more than half of possible e-commerce sales.
As it has its own search algorithm, it is crucial for brands and retailers to devise a bespoke strategy for Amazon. But the basic rules are the same: the higher you rank, the more visibility you have, the more sales you complete.
Improving your ranking on Amazon requires you to understand both the relevance and performance of your products.
To optimise for relevance, you will need a keyword study to investigate the terms users search for your products with. Use them in content such as the product’s title — a key element, which should have the brand name, product line, and other essential elements.
Relevant keywords and their variations can also be applied to product descriptions and their key bullet points. Don’t feel the need to include every single one of these elements; you can add more of them in the backend search terms place – this is where users won’t see them, but they help the search mechanism understand the comprehension of your products.
The performance factors are harder to control, but they need to be on your radar. They are related to what matters the most: sales. So here, you have to take into consideration the product’s price and the conversion rate.
But don’t overlook the importance of imagery and reviews. Images are a relevant asset that can impact your conversion rate. Reviews also play an important role in rankings. They are relevant social proof, and Amazon knows that. Instigate and incentivise your customers to give you positive feedback.
2) Getting results on Google
To improve how your brand lives on Google, you need to understand and control a myriad of factors.
The first point is technology. Technology is the base of everything – and this means creating a website which Google can swiftly crawl, understand and render its content properly and index the main pages. This stage of the SEO process also involves security and page speed analysis, the latter being tightly related to the website’s user experience.
Then we have content. Content can exist in many different formats: text, images, video, audio etc. The main question you need to answer is: how does this content address the user search intent? You need to create content that understands why it is relevant to searches for your brand or a product. Investigate your competition, assess which pages are already satisfying the searcher, and improve your content to do better.
With reputation, we aim to increase the website’s authority. Backlinks are crucial signals for Google – they are seen as votes of confidence by the search mechanism. You need to work with an SEO consultancy that can create outreach plans and strategies to spread your website’s content. The internal linking structure of your website also plays an important role in your strategy. You can plan the connections among pages in terms of link equity — stronger pages can strengthen other relevant ones that are not performing as efficiently.
And finally, experience. This is a discipline that surrounds all others. Once you offer relevant content that solves the user’s need, in a website that loads fast, for example, you are providing a good experience.
In a world where users are most likely searching via a smartphone, delivering an outstanding experience must involve building a mobile-friendly website that is adapted to their device, is easy to navigate, read and delivers a pleasing visual experience.
3) Offer an outstanding discovery experience on your website
In the UK, 34% of shoppers go directly to the retailer’s website to search for products. You need to make sure that the user quickly finds what they want – and has a positive experience en route. From the homepage, to the product listings, and finally to the product detail pages, you need to facilitate the customer’s on-site search and discovery and assist their decision making.
The search bar of your website is one of the most crucial discoverability assets. It is how people have learned to use websites. Research shows that between 30% to 60% of users do an on-site search. More importantly, those who use it are between two to four times more likely to purchase than those who don’t.
And so retailers should do everything to help users find what they are searching for. The autocomplete or autosuggest – predictive search – is a powerful feature that can supercharge conversion rates. Equally results should be delivered fast – loading speed directly affects the overall user experience and chances of conversion.
You can help the user with predictive search. From the first characters typed, you can show possible results. These query suggestions can be grouped into product categories (like Berlin Packaging) or highlighted with product images (Ikea and Gucci’s examples). You can also point out popular or trending searches.
Use the website’s internal search data in your favour. This data can paint you a picture of what works and what should be prioritised. Keep track of products that are more frequently searched for by users and highlight them in strategic places, like the navigation menu or the homepage.
Intuitive navigation is table stakes. A prospect must arrive at the website and easily understand its category architecture, it should feel like they know their way around your site, even if it is a first visit.
Understand how your users expect to navigate your site. The menu should clearly help the user find the most important pages, allowing them to browse with speed and clarity.
Finally, when it comes to product findability, you need to pay attention to the filtering strategy in the website – a feature leveraged by users to refine the product search.
Speed, search and the power of experience
E-commerce has never been so important to brands and consumers alike. But to make the most of this dramatic shift to digital sales, retailers need to understand the human behaviours driving the change, and how these behaviours reveal themselves online through search.
People are searching more than ever: through Amazon, Google – and on your site. Retailers need to be prepared to capture this growing search traffic and deliver the products users are looking for with speed and relevance. If you can do this, and deliver a positive on the way, then you stand to capture a lucrative chunk of a market already worth over £185bn.