Channel: Retail – Marketing Land

Channel: Retail – Marketing Land Marketing News & Management Insights Wed, 23 Dec 2020 14:16:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Technology saving retail businesses from going under Wed, 23 Dec 2020 12:00:09 +0000 Retailers need to up their game to thrive in today’s environment. Here’s how to apply technology to better serve customers’ needs.

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Image Credit: Lightspeed

The pandemic is changing the game for retail, and fast. Not only is the competition fiercer than ever before, but the coronavirus has been the cause of a dramatic decrease in in-store traffic, making it difficult for retailers to stand out from the crowd.

While the situation has forced some companies to shut down, many have realized that if they want to break through and maximize profits, they will need to adapt to more flexible business models with the adoption of new technologies. In order to remain competitive, online and offline experiences must “wow” the consumer. Having a great product is not sufficient to satisfy today’s buyer profile.

In order to master the art of selling in a COVID era, one must first focus on addressing the negative aspects of traditional shopping. Waiting in long queues to settle transactions and being immersed in large crowds are the most obvious customer pain points. Retailers need to understand that shopping experiences need to be quick and painless. Checkout processes must be safe and convenient. Extra effort should be put especially into converting a customer into a loyal one.

To get potential buyers out of the house and into their physical stores, retailers must raise the bar for in-store shopping with exceptional customer service by adding creative touches to engage and resonate with people. E-commerce sites and virtual experiences need to be simple, fast and user-friendly. The secret sauce for these struggling businesses lies in the ability to combine the two platforms and create an omnichannel retail strategy to provide the best possible experience all around, without having to choose one or the other. In today’s modern economy, the inter-connected customer shouldn’t have to choose either.

The virtual store needs to be an extension of the physical one and vice versa, and forward-thinking companies have already begun disrupting the retail market through digital transformation that has built a sustainable business model that even COVID can’t take down.

While essential services such as grocery stores have been capitalizing on the crisis, the reality is most retailers have been struggling financially. Now more than ever, contactless technologies such as Lightspeed’s retail point of sale (POS) system  are delivering personalized experiences by helping shopkeepers manage transactions and enable seamless checkout processes from an intuitive touchscreen. The dramatic increase of agile hardware and software implementations like this has been driven by the need for safety. Long gone are the days when people browsed a shopping mall without the intention to buy. Today, people want their shopping experiences to be quick, safe and productive. But how do you get people to feel safe and pleased at the same time? POS systems are making processes simpler and a lot more efficient by facilitating customer-employee interactions, so that people don’t need to hang around waiting, causing crushing crowds to form. Retailers that understand the significance of adapting to a customer’s expectations and changing needs will ensure their survival amid unprecedented times, and beyond.

The pandemic has driven e-commerce sales to surge to an all-time high. This new reality has forced many retailers to move a portion of their business online to accommodate these customers, and experts believe these lifestyle changes will continue long after the pandemic subsides. Companies like Lightspeed aren’t just helping deliver faster and more personalized experiences for the traditional store, they’re empowering retailers with the tools to build feature-rich websites that drive more online traffic.  

Adapting to the ever-changing retail market

Image Credit: Lightspeed

There is considerable pressure on retailers to deliver greater shopping experiences than ever before. The COVID crisis has completely altered the way we shop and what we buy. Consumer shopping habits have shifted away from voluntary items like vacations, clothes and luxury cars to necessities such as groceries and household essentials. In fact, many popular clothing retailers have been forced into closure or bankruptcy since the pandemic hit earlier this year. Inditex, the company behind fashion retailer Zara, made headlines back in June for closing 1200 traditional stores around the world, with the majority concentrated in Asia and Europe, in an attempt to boost online sales.

Retailers that can adapt to the ever-changing market will not only survive, but profit in the end. Today’s buyers expect a shopping experience tailored to their individual needs. Contrary to the one-size-fits-all approach to service seen in the past, what they are looking for is to connect with brands in memorable and personalized ways.

Media streaming service powerhouse Netflix has seen the number of signups double since the end of 2019. That’s because it uses powerful and insightful data to analyze its subscribers’ viewing habits, allowing it to suggest content based on a particular individual’s preferences or previously watched shows. For Netflix to continue to remain at the forefront of the media streaming industry, it must sustain desirable user experiences by consistently providing better content and easy to navigate interfaces. 

Not everyone can compete with Netflix. But with the right mix of in-store and online technologies, even smaller businesses can increase customer satisfaction. For example, tools that assist in responding to customers as quickly as possible can greatly affect how a business is perceived. People searching for convenience tend to be time-sensitive, and the right in-store technology can help achieve that. Real-time analytics to gain better insight into what a customer’s preference is and what will get them to buy more — in the physical and virtual store — is another way to prepare for this new, lingering normal.

In-store versus online

 Image credit: Pixabay

Today’s internet-savvy consumer has already spent hours online doing research to make sure they’ve compared, selected, and eventually purchased the perfect product for their household. Millions of people are online right now searching for quality products that fit within their budget. So why would anyone get out of their comfortable clothes and rush to the store when they can conveniently have products delivered to their door without having to leave their home in the first place? Because some items are better off bought offline.

The seamless online experience should be one that drives efficiency and convenience. However, there are disadvantages to e-commerce beyond a business’ control. Packages being stolen, not being able to touch or try the product and delays in delivery service, especially during the pandemic, are all strong enough negatives to get people out of their living rooms and back into the shopping malls.

Let’s face it, many people still enjoy the act of browsing their favorite store. Brick-and-mortars are where you can touch that Apple iPhone, compare sizes small and medium before buying, interact with other human beings who can answer questions, and walk away with purchases the same day you make them. Retailers who understand the value of establishing meaningful connections are creating personalized journeys using technology to build solid relationships with their customers to not only satisfy their expectations, but also encourage repeat buyers.

Spurred by this need for superior in-store customer service, retailers are turning to intuitive devices to help them better understand the buyer’s profile. Where many businesses once suffered from general obliviousness about the needs and wants of their clients, they can now obtain real-time data on purchasing habits and more. POS systems are becoming increasingly popular among merchants for their ability to collect insightful customer data, process transactions and inventory on the go, enable contactless payments and empower staff members to make sales from anywhere in the store. This advanced technology is being utilized to improve customer satisfaction by reducing long in-store queues and speeding up checkout times.

The most obvious advantage to online shopping is convenience. The long wait times and potential crowds associated to the traditional shopping experience can be off-putting for some. People want to compare product prices and quality on their own time, in their own homes. Customers expect personalized shopping experiences online, as they do in physical stores. There are software systems with great usability helping businesses reinvent themselves to deliver excellent customer experiences. Cloud-based POS software is enabling retailers to synchronize their physical inventory with their e-commerce stores to upsell to more customers online and increase profits. For example, Lightspeed’s intuitive POS system packages all of this at the palm of your hand.

What the future of retail looks like

 Image credit: Pixabay

The economic and social impact of the global pandemic has forced shopping habits to change in the blink of an eye. These drastic changes prompt the question — will this shift in consumer behavior ever go back to the way it once was? Unfortunately, no one can predict the future. What we do know today is that the key to any business’ survival is in better understanding, adapting and responding to customers’ needs and wants, and technology is helping them get there. While the future of retail is uncertain, this pandemic has certainly uncovered what the modern shopper wants, and how. Being proactive in the way a retail business is managed through these challenging times, is vital.

It is especially critical for smaller businesses to meet their customers wherever they shop – whether it be online, in person, or both. A retailer’s biggest challenge is building and maintaining a loyal customer base. However survival in today’s ever-changing economy requires the creation of a reliable customer base that will refer new ones to buy. Technology helps empower a business to be more agile, so they can create tailor-made experiences to maintain their loyal customers and attract new ones.

Indeed, some of the changes resulting from COVID have been negative, however it is important to note that there are companies profiting from it due to the right strategies they’ve put in place. Companies that have been able to reimagine the store of the future and make the necessary adaptations to fight through it have come out on top. At the end of the day, retailers are aiming to achieve profitable outcomes that will last beyond the post-COVID era. Just as tech giants like Netflix need to grow their user base, so do SMBs. Whether you choose to invest in in-store strategies or e-commerce intelligence, the path to success is clear. Being proactive and using the online/offline technology framework to deliver better customer experiences will drive the most profit.

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]]> Take a peek into PPC routines during Cyber Five week Tue, 24 Nov 2020 19:14:07 +0000 After all the preparation, here’s what paid search and social marketers will be doing this week to manage their holiday campaigns and promotions.

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The so-called Cyber Five days — Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday — are nearly upon us. In a year unlike any other, we wondered what marketers have planned for their PPC routines this week through Cyber Monday.

What will paid search and paid social marketers be looking for, monitoring, launching, adjusting this week? What have they learned from past years about how to manage their time and successful campaigns? Are they planning to do anything differently this year? Here’s what we heard.

Not everyone will be trying to manage multiple holiday promotions. “I don’t have many clients that are doing significant discounting this year, so my routine will be the opposite of most people,” said paid media consultant Pamela Lund. “I’ll be monitoring conversion rate and CPA daily and reducing spend or pausing campaigns altogether if we see a decline in performance while people are deal-seeking. Other than that, my schedule isn’t changing much this week.”

Lund says her clients do MAP pricing and have resellers that they allow to discount, “so there’s no market reasons that they aren’t discounting.” For other brands, the pandemic has changed their approach to sales this holiday.

Feeling the effects of supply chain disruption

Shipping and warehouse challenges have led many retailers to start holiday promotions earlier than in past years. Many Black Friday sales are now well underway, which means holiday management routines have kicked in, too.

“Most of our retailers have pulled promotions forward to help with constraints on distribution centers, so we pulled all of our holiday monitoring forward to start last week. This includes our hourly campaign capping reports, promo messaging, and competitive monitoring cycles,” said Keri Boerner, associate SEM director at digital agency PMG.

“The biggest difference this year is brands launching promos earlier than last year or in years past. We used to launch on Thursday/Black Friday and now this year some brands we work with launched Sunday or Monday,” said Duane Brown, founder of performance agency Take Some Risk. “We are in the accounts and looking at sales, revenue and performance. How is our targeting going, can we spend more money on X, etc?”

Ongoing supply chain challenges from the pandemic mean there is less inventory to sell this season and more stock-outs are expected. “Some clients are not doing any BFCM sales and we support that move,” said Brown.

For those brands, there may not be daily flash sale campaigns to manage this week, but there are other considerations.

“Due to COVID this year, stock is definitely a piece we will be monitoring more closely,” said Shannon Cross, senior manager of eCommerce at Nestlé Purina North America. “We’re also focusing solely on larger pack sizes to ensure higher returns [on investment] and catering to the stock up behaviours of consumers.”

Cross’ attention will largely be on Purina’s Amazon search campaigns this year. “Our focus this week and going into Cyber 5 will be Amazon search. We are glued to our screens monitoring stock status for both our products as well as competitors, monitoring CPCs for priority keywords, ROAS above 100% and share of search to ensure we are the dominant share of voice in our category. We will be busy making agile adjustments, swapping ASINs in and out throughout the weekend as competition and stock status changes.” 

For the company’s Google search campaigns, said Cross, “I don’t anticipate needing to make too many adjustments to our strategy, however we will be monitoring CPCs, impression share and top performing brand campaigns.” 

Ready for the payoff after weeks of audience build up

“Our strategy was to build reach in the weeks leading up to the sales to maximize the audience that we can address with the sale message directly: broadening audiences in display, social and search, spending more on DABA [Facebook Dynamic Ads for Broad Audiences], discovery and video formats, and allowing for a lower ROAS on search and shopping campaigns,” said Nathalie Bojkow, global team head performance marketing for shoe brand PUMA SE. (Bojkow will be speaking on “Aligning Brand And Performance For Full Funnel Success” at SMX on Dec. 9.) The team also launched “lead gen campaigns for early sale access to provide additional direct reach for direct targeting, as well as similar audiences and lookalikes.”

“Now with the sales going on,” said Bojkow, “we are able to make up for the ROI impact of the previous weeks and for higher CPCs by prioritizing our spend by audiences first, tightening and accelerating our retargeting cycles.
Optimization routines focus on audiences as well, budgets are monitored more closely and we also need to keep an extra eye on stock levels and adjust spend dynamically as options sell out at a very fast rate.”

Ad features, alerts, bidding prep are done

Early preparation for successful Cyber Five search campaigns is detail-oriented. That includes having “everything needed to set up automated rules, Shopping promotions, Promotion extensions, ads with dedicated landing pages set to go live, etc. before this week even gets here,” said Kirk Williams, founder of search agency ZATO Marketing.

Earlier this year, Google rolled out more badges and annotations for curbside pickup and in-store availability. “Depending on client availability, we ensured that all relevant badges and call outs were applied to our campaigns,” said Keri Boerner. The team also launched more dynamic search ad (DSA) campaigns ahead of this week “due to the increase in variation of searches and decreased visibility of search queries that could limit our ability to mine keywords,” and more clients are using auction-time bidding solutions this year than last.

Additionally, Boerner said, some client brands “have also focused on diversifying inventory through partnerships such as Narrativ and Yelp to expand search footprints and efficiencies into additional avenues.” That means the teams are managing more channels, making clear processes even more important.

Accounting for last-minute scrambles and problem solving

When all the prep is done, “this week is preserved for the inevitable changes or last-minute troubleshooting, and you really do magically have the time for those things without overworking yourself,” said Williams. “Overall, we have found with earlier preparation, creating space, and focusing on only what actually needs to be done, this week is one filled with excitement and not unnecessary stress.”

It seems no matter how early you try to prep, marketers who are running display and paid social campaigns face the perennial challenge of getting last-minute ad creatives set up and approved.

Monday and Tuesday “are really making sure everything is ready/scheduled as a lot of our clients haven’t launched yet, so it’s hectic briefing and reviewing final creative and copy and building out the campaigns, which is a lot more work than I think clients realize (or they wouldn’t send creative at the last minute!),” said Gil David, founder of Run DMG, an agency specializing in Facebook advertising. “Then as every sale launches it’s like sending your kids off for their first day at school.”

“The key really is that for our accounts running bigger sales, the prep actually started months ago and now is where we reap the benefits of investing in building large warm audiences in Q3 and early Q4. So it’s very satisfying seeing that pay off,” said David.

Be flexible, have back up plans

The build up to this point has often been months in the making, but we know about the best laid plans. One of the key lessons David said he has learned from prior years “is the need to be flexible and adapt quickly to performance, no matter how much you predict and plan things won’t always go that way and you have to roll with it,” he said.

Not every Facebook Ads promotion catches on or performs as you anticipate. “And although most sales start off hot, even if they don’t you shouldn’t panic,” said David. “Try to see why it’s not going as expected, and we always make sure we have backup copy/creative/strategy ready to go. Plus if ads start burning out in retargeting you need to be quicker to act than you would do in ‘regular’ times.”

“If sale campaigns do start hot, we’ll usually let them run for half a day at least before touching them, then if performance holds we will start scaling budgets to really try and max the BFCM opportunity out,” David said. “For us, this means checking in every 3-4 hours and kicking budget up by anywhere from 20-50% multiple times a day (or down a little if performance is dropping off). Automating this to some extent using rules and especially to cut unprofitable ads takes some of the weight off our shoulders and means I can sleep a little easier! This is where it’s really important to have set clear goals with clients for what success looks like and what kind of returns we should either be scaling or bailing at, not forgetting to factor in delayed attribution which is worse this time of year than any other.”

Create breathing room for yourself

This is a busy week for many marketers, but it doesn’t have to be chaotic. “For many of us working in e-commerce or with DTC brands, this is the single biggest week of the year in revenue as well as workload,” said Kirk Williams, founder of paid search agency ZATO Marketing. “However, over the years I have learned that it doesn’t have to be exhausting, even though it is still a lot of work. The key is to (1) create space, (2) invest your time wisely, and (3) for next year, prepare even better in previous weeks.”

Williams said he and his team have been able to create space in their schedules this week “by moving our normal optimization procedures to the weeks before and after. We, of course, will still make any decisions ad hoc as needed, but we’re holding off on most ad testing, large bid adjustments, audience experiments, etc. for these four days (the fifth being a holiday that we do, actually, take off as a team). We also block out this week from non-emergency scheduled meetings, and limit our own internal meetings. It is surprising how much these things take up in a work-week, and what you will find is that removing these suddenly frees you up with hours you weren’t aware you needed. This creates space, for the inevitable last minute Black Friday requests, disapprovals, ad changes, etc. that are sure to occur.”

This allows them to spend time on the critical tasks of the week and be able to spot and react quickly to problems. “When a client promotion has an issue on the website which suddenly causes a Shopping Promotion to become disapproved, we now have the space to focus our time on getting that back up and running instead of now having to choose between this non-urgent meeting and that sale,” said Williams. “Too often in agencies, that looks like the employee having to do both and then making that time up by working later and longer hours over this week.”

A sample daily PPC routine

At PMG, over the next few days, the search and social teams will be “focusing on agility and identifying trends that have shifted from our forecasts. This includes responding to shifts in search volume, reforecasting and reporting updates for clients, and working to capitalize on opportunities as they arise throughout the week,” said Boerner. They’ll be relying heavily on the agency’s internal automated solution called Alli for a streamlined alerting process to help teams prioritize issues as they arise.

The daily routine at PMG this week will look something like this:

  • Team members are logging on in the mornings and updating trackers, checking alerts for any concerning areas and updating team members as needed via Slack.
  • All teams have a morning stand-up to discuss any shifts/priorities for the day and align for any updates that need to be made.
  • QAing creative changes that are scheduled and making any necessary changes for changes in promotion strategy from the clients.
  • Afternoon pacing checks to ensure effective pacing to daily budget flights, making necessary bid changes and checking on competition.
  • The rest of the day is spent monitoring alerts and responding to any client questions that come up outside of daily updates provided in the mornings.

“We are working with clients to increase fluidity of budgets between November and December due to the holiday timing and the strong performance that we are seeing going into this week,” said Boerner. “We anticipate that performance will drop off more dramatically later in December and are working to maximize coverage for early shoppers.”

Looking ahead

Keep notes this week of how processes are working, how communication flows, problems that arise, hours worked and other thoughts that come to mind. This will help you capture the moments when it’s time to reflect and plan for improvements next year. Should you start earlier? Should you consider diversifying to more channels? What else can be automated? Was your reporting efficient and useful? Did you “create space,” as Williams suggests, to be able to respond to changes and issues effectively?

Good luck this week and may you have many happy returns on investment.

This story first appeared on Search Engine Land.

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Is your website at risk for an ADA accessibility lawsuit? Thu, 12 Nov 2020 13:06:00 +0000 It’s not only the right thing to comply to help users, but the majority of lawsuits over compliance with the Americans with Disability Act are aimed at smaller and medium operation businesses.

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The American’s with Disabilities act has influenced the way businesses need to operate online. Now more than ever, providing the proper website accessibility is becoming undeniably more important, not only because it’s the right thing to do, to give all visitors an opportunity to get to your services or products, but also because costly lawsuits against companies with alleged non-compliance have quickly increased over the past few years. Those suits and settlements can cause a huge financial burden to businesses. Some may end up going bankrupt through attempting to resolve an issue, be it through the court or by out-of-court settlement. 

Truly, no public-facing business is safe from this type of litigation. Small and medium-sized businesses, as well as large corporations, are being sued for similar accessibility problems. There were over 2,200 lawsuits filed in federal courts in both 2018 and 2019. But even scarier, the majority of these lawsuits are aimed at the smaller and medium operation businesses, who will surely feel more of a negative impact than their larger peers. 

It’s never been a better time to ask yourself “is my website ADA compliant?”

All industries need to comply with website accessibility laws but some are more likely to be sued

These lawsuits can happen essentially across any field or industry in any part of the country, but before we jump into that, let’s clarify a big point on the law’s interpretation thus far.

Which type of website must comply? A website that is associated with a business that operates a physical storefront location is certainly under the umbrella. That website is understood generally to be a digital extension of said company and can therefore be subject to ADA regulations. But some have raised questions as to whether or not websites are required to comply if they are tied to companies who don’t have a physical shop. Some federal court decisions conclude yes, so it’s incredibly wise to make your site compliant, physical location or not. 

At the end of the day, you want to do all you can to minimize the risk of having to deal with attorney costs and the time dedication that comes with legal obligations. Again, all types of companies are potential targets for ADA lawsuits, here we highlight a few industries in particular.

The real estate industry 

One example is of Compass Real Estate, sued by a plaintiff who claimed their website had barriers for blind users. They noted that alt text for images were not present. Alt text is used by screen readers to present descriptions of images to those who have vision issues. 

Another instance includes lawsuits brought against real estate websites, Zillow and Move Inc., again citing that the websites’ content was not properly accessible to visitors who had visual impairments. Cases like this have pushed the National Association of Realtors to highlight the issue of ADA compliance to its members. 

The healthcare field 

Healthcare websites should be one of the most important places to maintain up-to-date compliance for accessibility. After all, if someone lives with a disability, the likelihood of them visiting websites for healthcare practices would be presumably high. 

There are many healthcare service providers that have already been the subject of settlements and lawsuits in relation to non-compliance, some of the well-known cases revolving around visually impaired visitors not having the opportunity to properly access information on said websites. Many of these suits, similar to other industries, revolve around screen reader devices being unable to properly portray website content to users. 

Having an organization with a large number of websites means even more ways for supposed non-compliance to be uncovered. For example, HCA Holdings was sued for allegations that 100 or more of its health care facilities’ and hospitals’ websites were inaccessible to people with blindness. 

The automotive field 

Car dealerships or any automotive speciality store for that matter, also need to be vigilant regarding the ADA. Issues involving dealership websites have popped up in California, New York and Florida. One prudent example comes from Florida. 

Jaun Carlos Gil, a Florida resident who is legally blind, brought lawsuits to roughly 50 car dealerships in the state under the context of website non-compliance in 2019. Gil stated that he could not gain access to content on their websites because the sites did not work with his screen reading software. 

In the educational sphere

Dozens and dozens of higher education institutions have seen accessibility complaints, settlements and lawsuits. There was even one case where a blind man sued 50 colleges due to screen reader issues with the websites’ pages. Since the ADA requires public services and facilities to be accessible for those with disabilities, public schools must comply with regulations. 

One case related to the accessibility for the hearing impaired is a great example. In 2015, a plaintiff raised a lawsuit against MIT – Harvard, claiming the school’s online teaching platforms did not provide the right amount of accessibility to those with deafness. Harvard eventually altered it’s platform via an eventual settlement agreement.

Finance industry

Here are some big players in the financial services and banking industries who have been served lawsuits or been given grievances regarding their web applications or websites: 

  • Charles Schwab
  • Bank of America
  • HSBC
  • First Union
  • Washington Mutual
  • H&R Block

A notable instance involves Bank of America who was under legal scrutiny after plaintiffs claimed their website experience was not accessible enough for those who are blind. Per the following settlement, the company worked to enhance the site respectively, while also pledging to implement ATMs which talked to users. 

You can certainly bet that it’s not just the larger financial institutions who have come into the scopes of would-be plaintiffs. Smaller banks and similar businesses are just as vulnerable and may feel the financial sting even worse if litigation ensures. 

The food and restaurants sector

Restaurants and food companies have benefited greatly from the new trend in digital search and decision making. Expanded options for online ordering capabilities and for viewing and reading menus creates new opportunities for the businesses, but also new avenues for issues to occur. 

As we mentioned earlier, it’s not only large companies that get hit for supposed violations. Five Guys burger chain, Domino’s Pizza, and Dunkin’ Donuts aren’t the only ones dealing with ensuing legal costs and battles. In general, it’s usually the smaller mom and pop food joints, or medium sized food companies that are being targeted by plaintiffs. 

Restaurants need to be on guard for non-compliance points and should take every precaution in maintaining a website that adheres to the ADA. You don’t want to get fried by potentially crippling litigation costs.   

Dental practice industry

There have already been various dentists in southern California who were recipients of lawsuits for supposed website accessibility issues. There was also a case where a dentist in the Dallas, Texas area was threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly having accessibility problems on his website. This entanglement has purportedly resulted in him spending thousands of dollars to settle the problem. 

Website accessibility complaints brought against dentists has influenced the American Dental Association to take action by informing all of its members of the threat at hand. The organization sent word to all of the state dental societies, providing info on website compliance for the American’s with Disabilities Act.

E-commerce websites

E-commerce websites have grown in popularity, and so has taking a legal aim at them. In the past few years, the amount of complaints surrounding accessibility for eCommerce websites has climbed. Companies with eCommerce sites like New Balance, Urban Outfitters, Nike and H&M to name a few, have been targets of lawsuits. Even fashion and beauty companies like Glossier, Coach, Versace, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have been hit. Grocery stores like Winn-Dixie have also been under fire for alleged infractions.

Protect your business and get ahead of issues

There are many ways you can keep your website ADA compliant, including working with your website development team or website company to ensure compliance points are taken care of. You can also choose from a variety of automated solutions, some of which use artificial intelligence to scan and fix issues. 

If you’re wondering whether or not your website is ADA compliant right now, the team at ADA Compliance Monitor will audit your website for free and provide you a report on your site’s violations so you can take the right steps to help you avoid potential legal issues.

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TripAdvisor launches new listings, reputation and data products to help hotels and restaurants gain insights, boost visibility Thu, 29 Oct 2020 19:00:48 +0000 Restaurants and hotels have been hit especially hard during COVID-19.

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COVID-19 has taken a disproportionately large toll on TripAdvisor’s two primary customer audiences, hotels and restaurants, which have seen double-digit revenue declines compared with 2019. The company has been trying to help these groups with a number of new products and services that meet perceived needs and generate new subscription revenue.

Listings and menu syndication. The first offering is a restaurant menu-content syndication program called Menu Connect. It uses SinglePlatform, which TripAdvisor acquired last December from Endurance International Group, and is now available globally to the more than five million restaurants on TripAdvisor.

Restaurants confirm their business listings and upload their menu details. That information is then distributed across a network of more than 100 sites, including Google, Yelp, OpenTable, Foursquare, Facebook, TripAdvisor itself and numerous other sites and restaurant apps. The product features an analytics dashboard that offers data on menu views and customer status (new vs. returning), among other insights.

Predicting room demand. Two new hotel products address reputation management, pricing and demand prediction:

  • Spotlight: a competitive intelligence and demand-prediction tool.
  • Reputation Pro: a reputation management and review solicitation service.

Spotlight relies on pricing and competitive intelligence from hotel industry data platform OTA Insight. It seeks to help hotel owners predict demand, competitively price rooms and monitor pricing across distribution channels. TripAdvisor argues that historical occupancy trends can no longer — or for the moment — be relied up on predict future room demand.

There are two components to the service: Rate Spotlight and Market Spotlight. Rate Spotlight is the pricing intelligence tool that enables hoteliers to understand how their rates compare to competitors’ in their markets. Market Spotlight predicts room demand, based on multiple data inputs (e.g., “local events and travel searches for flights, accommodations”).

Review aggregation and solicitation. Reputation Pro is a review monitoring tool that tracks reviews on TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook (but not Yelp). It notifies hotel marketers of new reviews and allows them to respond directly from the dashboard. Reviews are also qualitatively evaluated, providing sentiment analysis and identifying “specific aspects of the guest experience that are driving positive or negative feedback” (i.e., consistent mentions: staff, pricing, food quality, parking, etc.).

Equally important, the service solicits reviews on behalf of a hotel via email, mobile apps and text messaging. Review collection is a pain point for most businesses, and this by itself may convince hotel marketers to subscribe.

Why we care. TripAdvisor, which began entirely as a consumer-facing hotel review destination, has rolled out a growing number of promotional and analytics tools and services for its hotel and restaurant clients. Part of this is driven by the need to diversify revenue and part of it by a recognition of the unmet needs of its customers.

Despite its position as a top 5 travel search destination, TripAdvisor’s development of these new services (e.g., review aggregation and data syndication) also responds to the growth of Google Travel, which has eaten into the success of many OTAs and travel booking sites.

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Online holiday sales could reach $ 200 billion according to Adobe Wed, 28 Oct 2020 19:39:45 +0000 Smartphones will drive the majority of online retail traffic and 42% of sales.

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Holiday e-commerce spending is poised to exceed $ 189 billion in the U.S., according to Adobe’s most recent forecast. That represents 33% year-over-year growth. However, online revenues could reach or exceed $ 200 billion if physical stores remain largely closed due to COVID and if there’s a second stimulus payment to consumers.

Uncertain spending outlook. Consumer confidence declined in October and there are conflicting data about anticipated holiday spending. Some surveys, like that from Feedvisor, assert the majority of U.S. consumers will spend at least as much as they did last year. However, other surveys (e.g., from Suzy) argue only a small percentage of consumers will spend the same or more than they did in 2019. The firm’s most recent shopping survey found that 53% of consumers were uncertain how much they would spend or will spend less; only 13% were confident they would spend more.

Big gains for Cyberweek. There’s no question, however, that e-commerce will see substantial gains over last year due to new shopping patterns driven largely or entirely by COVID. Adobe expects the traditional Thanksgiving week to see big gains over last year, especially Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But Black Friday will see substantially fewer consumers in stores and less “door busting” because of the pandemic. Most of those specials will move online, fueling more online shopping. Additionally, many malls and retailers, including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and JCPenney, will close for Thanksgiving day this year.

Cyberweek online shopping predictions

BOPIS bump. Buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) and curbside pick up will also see increases, and could be a lifeline for physical retailers. Adobe says BOPIS will be up 40% over 2019 and that shoppers are “9% more likely to buy at retailers offering BOPIS/curbside pickup on big sale days.” A September consumer survey by Adobe found that “30% of online consumers prefer using BOPIS or curbside over home delivery.”

Smartphones are expected to drive the majority of online retail traffic (60% or more) and 42% of actual sales. Smartphone shopping revenues will see 55% year-over-year growth according to the forecast. This has obvious “best practices” implications for retailers and their mobile shopping experiences.

Smaller retailers will see increased sales. Adobe expects smaller retailers, with $ 10 to $ 50 million in revenue, to see higher percentage growth in sales than larger retailers. Its October consumer survey reports that 51% of respondents will shop at local retailers on Small Business Saturday and that 38% of consumers “will make a deliberate effort to shop at smaller retailers throughout the holiday season.” Yet other surveys and data present a less upbeat and more challenging environment for small businesses in the fourth quarter.

Adobe says that average order value will remain flat compared with 2019 but that a large influx of new online shoppers will boost revenues. Adobe reported that during May, online spending from new shoppers outpaced spending by existing, loyal customers two-to-one.

The findings and predictions are based on analysis of retailers using Adobe Analytics and Adobe Commerce Cloud. The company says the data set represents 100 million SKUs, a trillion visits to U.S. retail websites and transaction data from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers. There was also a companion survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted in October.

Why we care. This is a very unpredictable year, with wild card elements such as consumer confidence and the potential return of COVID-19 lockdowns. However, e-commerce growth is a sure thing and multiple surveys have confirmed that holiday shopping is already underway, following Prime Day.

Retailers need to utilize every marketing tool available to gain an advantage this year. That includes Google Shopping/Local Inventory Ads and product feeds, discounts, shipping incentives, BOPIS and curbside pickup. For traditional retailers, Google My Business optimization is critical. Inventory and supply chain management will also be a key to success — making sure that enough product is available to meet demand.

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4 ways to make your e-commerce experience engaging and bright Tue, 27 Oct 2020 11:30:24 +0000 The stakes for retailers are higher than ever this holiday season. Get ahead of competitors by offering a rich visual experience.

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“There’s no place like home for the holidays,” rings truer than ever this year. Due to the pandemic, consumers are avoiding large crowds in-store and instead, opting to shop online to complete their holiday shopping. From the comfort of their own homes, shoppers can safely browse, purchase and deliver gifts for their loved ones.

In fact, Deloitte predicts that holiday e-commerce sales will surge by 25% to 35% this season, amounting to between $ 182 billion and $ 196 billion in sales. Brands with an e-commerce presence have a big opportunity to engage with the rising number of online consumers and take a piece of the pie. To grab market share in an uber-competitive environment, they must invest in the right digital tools to create an engaging online customer experience.

Here are a few simple ways brands can enhance their e-commerce sites to engage with customers this holiday season and beyond.

Rockin’ around the product views

With consumers avoiding stores this holiday season, it’ll become more important than ever for retailers to provide an accurate and detailed account of the products online. Since shoppers aren’t able to touch, feel, taste or smell the products, it’s imperative that what’s displayed on the website gives them an in-person sense of what they can expect when they receive their order. To do this, brands can take advantage of two main product view tools.

Spinning product views

In a physical store, shoppers can pick up an item and look at every angle of a product. Retailers can replicate this experience by adding smooth spinning 360-degree product views, allowing viewers to turn the item with their fingers or mouse. This can be done through static spin set imagery or interactive 360-degree videos. (Here’s how.) Because they’re able to virtually turn over each item on-screen, shoppers can be confident of what they’re purchasing, decreasing return rates and increasing customer satisfaction. 

Zooming capabilities

Another way to replicate the brick-and-mortar experience is by offering detailed zooming capabilities that allow customers to get a close-up look at every part of the product. For example, someone shopping for a luxury handbag can zoom in on the clasps, zipper, material and more. A full-size, high-res version of the product image will be key for this. By having a clear picture of all the minute details, detailed zooming can boost the effectiveness of the website and encourage customers to “add to cart.” 

Shoppable and micro-videos are coming to town

We’ve said it time and time again; video is a powerful and persuasive platform that is easily one of the most effective ways to communicate with consumers. Videos simply capture a message in ways that images can’t achieve, going beyond a still image to a fully captivating story that incorporates features like sound and movement. This holiday season, brands can take video one step further with shoppable videos and micro-videos.

Shoppable videos

Shoppable videos list products alongside the video in an expandable product bar, enabling visitors to interact with the products and find out more details. This tool adds a more captivating user experience by linking visitors to the relevant pages to make a purchase and adding clickable hotspots that highlight the product’s exact location. Instead of only showing the links when the video stops playing, the links appear throughout the entire video, which brings products to life through interactivity, boosting click-through rates and elevating brand awareness.


Consumers have short attention spans, and brands must cut through the noise to get to them. That’s why micro-video content, short five- to 20-second videos, can play a significant role in attracting viewers and swaying an audience. For the video to be responsive, the video should fill the width of the screen while maintaining its original ratio. If done correctly, this short format can create a sweet but mighty opportunity to boost engagement and conversions in just seconds.

‘Tis the season for microbrowsers

Thinking outside of the actual e-commerce website, there’s also an opportunity to unlock the power of “dark social,” or web traffic generated when people share links through private channels. For example, in the spirit of gift-giving, people are sending their wish lists to family and friends, hoping that what they ask for will appear under the tree. Consumers are likely using private communications apps called microbrowsers, such as Facebook Messenger, Slack and WhatsApp, to send these product links to loved ones.

When designing their e-commerce sites, brands must be certain that when a link unfurls into a thumbnail preview, an optimal image or video is displayed. Cloudinary’s 2020 State of Visual Media report found that link previews provide huge engagement opportunities, yet many brands often overlook how their site design might be impacting the generated preview. If brands don’t pay attention to this important prospect, they risk losing valuable peer-to-peer recommendations that convert into sales and reads.

Good tidings for brands who bring visual online experiences

It’s been an unusual year for brands, and it’s hard to predict what comes next. However, one thing we know for sure is that those who create a compelling and immersive e-commerce experience with these tips will certainly win over customers this holiday season.

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What Prime Day signals for 2020 holiday retail Wed, 21 Oct 2020 22:40:03 +0000 Here’s what marketers should expect, plan for and start doing now to maximize sales and revenue this season.

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Consumers’ accelerated shift to online shopping will be one of the lasting trends of 2020. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of U.S. holiday shoppers said they plan to shop online more for the holidays during COVID-19, a Google survey found. It’s unclear whether Amazon’s Prime Day shift from July to October will last post-pandemic, but the timing gives us a window into the holiday shopping season and what marketers can expect, plan for and start doing now to maximize sales and revenue.

Amazon Prime Day sales hit $ 10.4 billion globally, according to an estimate from Digital Commerce 360. That would mark a 45% jump over last year’s event in July. Amazon itself declined to give overall revenue numbers but said third-party sellers sold $ 3.5 billion worth of goods on the marketplace over last week’s two-day Prime Day event.

How Prime Day ad campaigns performed

Advertising spend on Amazon increased by 3.8X compared to the daily average of the 30 days leading up to the event, according to campaign management platform Kenshoo. That’s the same increase the company saw during Prime Day a year ago when the event ran as usual in July.

Kenshoo says advertising-driven conversions were up 2.6X this year and that advertiser sales revenue was up 4.9X compared to the previous 30-day average. However, that’s down from last year when advertisers running campaigns via Kenshoo saw sales revenue increase by 5.8X compared to the days leading up to the event.

The increased competition for online shoppers meant lower return on ad spend (ROAS) as spend and the cost of bids rose in some categories. “Despite a 187% increase in impressions, Home and Kitchen, for instance, saw ROAS drop by nearly 50% compared to last year, in part due to a nearly three-fold increase in ad spend. Clothing, Shoes, and Jewelry experienced a similar effect, with ROAS declining by 4% from Prime Day last year,” said product feed solution Feedvisor.

Some brands saw CPCs come in at more than a dollar over forecast, performance agency PMG said.

Beauty and Personal Care and Electronics were standouts, however, said Feedvisor. Beauty and Personal Care saw a 210% increase in sales on 146% increase in ad spend. ROAS for the category was up 26% from last year. Electronics advertisers saw ROAS increase by 58% over Prime Day 2019.

The Prime Day halo effect?

Again this year, other retailers saw some halo effect of Prime Day with traffic. More than half of the top 100 online retailers ran concurrent sales on Tuesday, Digital Commerce 360 found. Sales and conversion rates went up on U.S. retailer sites: Traffic increased 17% and conversion rates rose 16% over Tuesday of the prior week. Compared to day one of Prime Day 2019, traffic to U.S. retailer sites was up 51% and conversion rates increased by 13%, according to Salesforce data.

Advertisers saw solid results from sponsored product ads on retailer sites such as Target and Best Buy. However, only one or two brands saw 10x day-over-day demand increase during the Prime Day sale period from their non-Amazon retailer campaigns, according to performance agency PMG. “This scenario proved that for a majority of brands, it was as if Prime Day was a normal pre-holiday day and not the start of this year’s holiday sales season,” the agency told us.

Amazon garnered the overwhelming majority of online spending during Prime Day, with 91.6% of market share during the first 30 hours of the event, Edison Trends found. Walmart had a 3.4% share while Best Buy had 3.0%.

In-store & local shopping outlook

In-store shopping is down, but not dead. More than one-third (35%) of consumers noted that they had shopped in-store for clothing, footwear, or accessories in the past 30 days, and almost all of them had made a purchase, according to an NPD/CivicScience poll conducted in late August.

Shifting consumer behavior has accelerated online-to-offline buying during this time. Curbside pickup is now table stakes. This trend, too, is likely to stick.

Local businesses have been hit especially hard during the pandemic, but consumers say they are interested in supporting them. Google’s survey found 66% of U.S. holiday shoppers say they will shop more at local small businesses.

NPD also notes there will still be last-minute shoppers in 2020. “Despite the increased digital focus, stores will also play an important role this year, particularly since shipping options will become limited as the holiday approaches. Options like buy online pick-up-in-store and curbside pickup will be key,” says The NPD Group, a data and analytics consultancy. 

Consumer holiday shopping outlook

Despite the economic hardships caused by the pandemic, 72% of consumers said they plan to spend the same or more this year compared to the 2019 holiday season, according to consumer research from Feedvisor. More than one-third (35%) said they plan to do all or almost all of their holiday shopping online compared to 25% who did so last year, the survey found.   

An earlier start. Even without the prompt of Prime Day, many consumers were planning to start shopping earlier. In the U.S., 62% of consumers said they’ll start holiday shopping earlier to avoid crowds, Google found.

Further, 33% of consumers plan to complete their holiday shopping much earlier this year compared to last year, according to a Feedvisor survey.

Gaining early visibility and and sustaining marketing momentum will be key. Marketers should promote fast (and reliable) shipping, buy-online-pick-up in-store/curbside and carefully targeted incentives.

Don’t wait for Thanksgiving week to start dialing up your campaigns this year. That also means keeping a close eye on inventory levels to account for any possible supply chain challenges. Many brands and retailers are likely to see stock-outs.

Merchants sending inventory to Amazon for fulfillment, for example, should plan to ship as early as possible due to the ongoing logistical challenges Amazon faces. Important dates to note: Inventory for Black Friday and Cyber Monday should arrive at Amazon fulfillment centers by November 6. Inventory for Christmas shopping should arrive at Amazon fulfillment centers by December 1.

This story first appeared on Search Engine Land.

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Customizable Amazon Sponsored Display ads go live globally Fri, 09 Oct 2020 21:21:13 +0000 Add brand logo and custom headlines to product targeting ads.

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Amazon has rolled out the ability for eligible advertisers to add their brand logo and customized the headline in Sponsored Display ads.

The customized Sponsored Display units can run on product description pages, customer reviews, shopping results pages and under the Featured Offer. The ads render responsively to fit inventory units on the web, mobile and in-app.

Advertisers can add customization to Sponsored Display ads.

Sponsored Display ads can target by views, product or interest. However, when a logo and headline are used, only product targeting is available.

Product targeting for Sponsored Display launched in April for U.S. seller. It reaches people who are in-market, looking at your and/or similar products and product categories.

Sponsored Display product targeting is available to vendors and sellers enrolled in Brand Registry.

Why we care. The personalizaton features roll out globally just ahead of next week’s Prime Day(s) on October 13 and 14 and the holiday shopping rush to follow. Amazon recommends using Sponsored Display product targeting to boost page views for new or under-exposed products in your catalog.

This helps build awareness and a bigger remarketing audiences for these products (which can then be reached using views targeting), The addition of your logo and tailored headline in these ads is designed to improve awareness, recall and engagement.

This story first appeared on Search Engine Land.

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A Corona Xmas: Why physical stores will power online shopping this holiday season Fri, 04 Sep 2020 13:30:00 +0000 Most shoppers are more likely to make an e-commerce purchase if they can return the item in a local store

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A burning question this holiday season is whether people will return to physical stores or buy substantially everything online? The Mary Meeker formulation is: what percentage of retail spending will move online? But that binary “brick and mortar vs. e-commerce” narrative is crude and fails to appreciate the role stores play in driving online sales.

Indeed, a more interesting question is to what degree traditional retailers will be able to leverage physical stores for competitive advantage in their battle with Amazon and other pure play e-tailers? In the past, retailers with stores and e-commerce have treated them as entirely distinct channels, with different P&Ls and separate operational teams. Only recently have major retailers recognized how stores and e-commerce support one another and started to integrate those efforts (e.g., curbside pickup and seeing physical stores as ready-built distribution centers).

The dominant working assumption is that almost all holiday shopping will happen online and that stores will play a limited or secondary role. That would flip the script in terms of dollar volume compared with past years. Yet, even if the majority of buying happens online, the presence of local stores will factor significantly into consumer decision-making.

Will Prime Day kill Cyberweek?

Shoppers this holiday season are likely to be budget conscious, more selective and less impulsive than last year – especially if most shopping is done online, where browsing and spontaneous buying are typically less likely.

A Numerator survey of 2,000 adults asking about Labor Day shopping intentions could be predictive of future holiday shopping behavior. The survey found 49% of consumers said they would be spending less than last year; only 6% expected to spend more.

From this we can extrapolate – unless there’s dramatic improvement in the economy – that holiday shoppers will be more selective and value conscious than last year. That will mean pervasive discounting with a side of free shipping to coax shoppers to buy. Yet retailers have been discounting for months to boost online sales, so consumers may need even more incentives.

In the realm of online advertising, we’re likely to see aggressive competition among retail marketers for visibility at both top and bottom of the funnel. And it’s all likely to happen much earlier this year, as retailers seek any advantage to rise above the competitive noise. As this week’s IAB data suggested, Google and Facebook are likely to be the direct beneficiaries of this increased digital ad spending.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and related shopping holidays will potentially see less concentrated purchase volume this year. Amazon Prime Day is reportedly coming in October, which will mean competitors will also be making an early promotional push at the same time. That event may take the wind out of the traditional Cyberweek sales if people spend their money early.

Hunger for normal shopping, but also fear

The Black Friday in-store experience, if it happens, is going to be very muted compared to past years. Roughly half of consumers express a fear of catching COVID while in a store, according to a new multi-country consumer survey from in-store marketing solutions company Mood Media.

Most people say they still won’t go to the mall

Source: Morning Consult consumer survey August 2020, n=2,200 consumers

Pent-up consumer demand for retail normalcy and fear co-exist in the U.S. In countries where the pandemic has subsided, consumers are returning to stores. The Mood Media survey found that 71% of global respondents said they now felt comfortable going back into stores. This was to some degree contingent upon retailer safety precautions.

The survey also found that 67% of global shoppers had already returned to non-essential retail stores; the figure in the U.S. was 60%. This seems to contradict other survey data showing widespread concern. Only 10% said they “would never go back” to their old habits (presumably traditional retail shopping) after the pandemic is over.

As indicated, a large percentage of American consumers still express anxiety about going into retail stores. A late-August Morning Consult survey found that only 36% of consumers were willing to visit a shopping mall in the next 2 – 3 months. And if consumers act in accordance with those attitudes, stores will see considerably less foot traffic than last year.

Discount in-store shopping has recovered

Source: Gravy Analytics foot traffic data

Foot traffic, ‘touch and feel’

Foot traffic data from Gravy Analytics shows, however, that discount stores and outlet malls have recovered better than department stores and traditional malls, as value-conscious consumers return in greater numbers to those in-person venues. As the chart above reflects, foot traffic for these two categories is at or above early February level before the lockdowns. However, department store foot traffic is down 15% and conventional malls are off 12%.

Past research has established why many consumers prefer shopping in physical stores (including Gen Z). According to the Mood Media survey consumers appreciate:

  • The ability to touch, feel and try the product — 47%
  • The convenience of taking the purchase home instantly — 47%
  • The ability to browse and discover new things — 36%

According to a separate study, 62% of shoppers are more likely to make e-commerce purchases if they can return the item in a local store. (And once there they tend to make additional purchases.)

This is the key point and a source of advantage for traditional retailers that sell online. Target and BestBuy, for example, reported triple digital e-commerce growth in the second quarter. But that was fueled in no small measure by the presence of stores.

The agnostic, ‘ROBO-BOPIS’ shopper

Beyond direct e-commerce, many shoppers are likely to use the internet as a tool to find products locally and help minimize time spent in stores. BOPIS and curbside pickup work to provide the immediate (or near-immediate) gratification of in-store shopping with the convenience and efficiency of online shopping. Shoppers can get the product locally today (and potentially return it tomorrow) without having to browse the aisles and locate the product on the self.

Bazaarvoice released a report showing that consumers are now more focused on shopping at local stores (read: SMB), whether online or off. It also reflects that the internet is playing a much larger role in offline shopping than ever. While people have been doing online research before buying locally since the early days of the internet, large majorities are now doing it — research online, buy offline (ROBO).

Beyond looking for directions, business hours or product and service reviews, this online-to-offline activity also shows up in product inventory checks. In 2019, according to a Google sponsored survey, 46% of shoppers confirmed inventory online before going into a store. In the midst of the lockdowns, Google reported that searches using the phrase “in stock” increased more than 70% during April. And while this includes online retailers, it’s aimed especially at local stores.

In this anxious environment, consumers don’t want to waste time or visit stores on the off chance they’ll find what they’re looking for. That’s why inventory data could be a difference-maker, whether in the form of Local Inventory Ads (LIAs) or product-specific landing pages for in-demand items.

Local ads and ‘showrooming’

In addition to LIAs, location-based mobile display ads generate store visits — and e-commerce sales. A 2019 study by Numerator and GroundTruth reported that 66% of those exposed to location-based display ad campaigns ultimately made a purchase in-store or online. Roughly 28% of that group bought from a competitor online or in a store. But among those going into stores, a whopping 94% made a purchase. The campaigns were for major retailers in three verticals: beauty, home improvement and mass merchandise.

Perhaps most interestingly, mobile users shown the campaigns were “25% more likely to make a purchase from that retailer online than those that are not shown an ad.” In other words, the ad promoting a local retail offer, generated online sales.

This illustrates the interdependency and symbiotic relationship of stores and e-commerce. Consumers are increasingly agnostic about whether they buy online or locally. But make no mistake, stores are critical in this equation.

Familiar brands and the presence of physical stores give people confidence to make online purchases, which they can then return locally if necessary. And in a post-COVID retail landscape, merchants may come think of their stores primarily as “showrooms” and fulfillment centers, where consumers can touch and feel or pick up products they ultimately buy online.

This story first appeared on Search Engine Land.

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See how visits to retail, grocery, workplaces are trending by area with Google Mobility Reports Thu, 27 Aug 2020 20:24:10 +0000 How to use Google (and Apple) mobility reports to see how movements have shifted during the pandemic.

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Channel: Retail – Marketing Land