You’ve heard it time and again. The holiday shopping season can be make or break for retailers. With each passing year, the number of companies that depend on the holidays to achieve sales goals grows. Consumer electronics. Sporting goods. Luxury goods. Even major appliances and automobiles. All are fighting over the same consumer wallet.
Further complicating the lives of marketers are the changing wants, needs, preferences, and desires of consumers. Images of retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day to massive crowds fighting over reduced price goods made headlines just a couple of years ago. Now, some retailers promote that they are closed on Thanksgiving so employees can spend time with family and friends.
In the meantime, Cyber Monday continues to grow. Online shopping in general is also expected to increase again this Holiday season, with estimates reaching nearly $124 billion. The other trend that continues is that 60 percent of in-store shoppers use smartphones to look up and compare information on specific products.
There are two constants for marketers to consider this holiday season. First, consumers during this time period are high-intent shoppers. They have a budget, a list, and are ready to swipe their credit card. The second is that a growing number of high-intent shoppers have low brand consideration.
Of course, there will be shoppers with must-have products from specific brands, like the new iPhone. But killer products from specific brands are fewer and farther between with each passing Holiday season.
LG or Samsung flat screen TV. Nike or Under Armour. Dell or Lenovo. Lexus or Audi. GE or Whirlpool. Increasingly many customers have no brand preference. They want to get the best deal, and brand consideration takes a back seat.
How do today’s consumers decide? With the explosive growth of online shopping combined with the use of smartphones to look up products while in a store, consumers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. They search on Google or Amazon. Price may be important but many times it doesn’t play much of a role in the decision-making process. Increasingly, consumers want to know how one product compares to another. Consumers want the ability to put one product next to another, and another. They want to compare specific features and read reviews from users and other third-parties -they want to make an informed decision
If reviews are positive and features comparable, consumers are increasingly open to purchasing from brands that are new to them.
What does this mean for marketers?
Marketers need to better understand the needs of high-intent shoppers. These three tips are essential to doing so:
- Address Your Audience’s Changing Online Behavior
Technology has radically altered how Millennial and Gen X consumers want to shop for and purchase products and services. In 2017, online sales rose 18 percent to hit a record of $7.9 billion. Online research, including reviews and comparison sites, has become a critical step for these high-intent consumers.
Don’t be afraid to be compared to your competitors, it’s happening whether you like it or not. Reviews also give you a great opportunity to engage with your users.
- Create a Comprehensive Paid Search Strategy
Non-branded keywords can be the among the most expensive in cost-per-click search engine advertising costs. For example, “best running shoes” is a non-branded term as opposed to the branded “Nike running shoes”. According to Google, over the past two years mobile searches for “best” have grown by over 80%, with people typing keywords such as “best toothbrush”. According to our research in the mortgage industry, search volume for non-branded terms has risen by more than 200 percent, while search volume of branded terms decreased by more than 60 percent. Find the balance that works for you, but you can’t afford to overlook non-branded terms. To be visible in non-branded keyword searches you may need to consider new or different marketing platforms or channels and embrace the fact consumers might not want to start their buying journey on your branded website.
- Recognize the Need of High-Intent Customers
Online shoppers are looking for value and a seamless online experience. With 80 percent of U.S. consumers willing to pay more for a better online experience, there is a tremendous opportunity for brands to capitalize on the fast-growing high-intent borrower market if they can meet consumer needs.
Recommendations for top products and services are meaningful to shoppers. Our research indicates that on comparison websites the top listing converts 27 percent higher than the second, and the second-place listing performs 61 percent higher than lower ranked products. That’s not to say lower ranked brands are losers, the real losers are those brands that aren’t being seen where consumers are looking with the right information.
Think about your product category. Go now to your favorite search engine and type in “best [your product category]” or “top [your product category]? Is your brand featured in the first few results? If not, you have to apply a marketing strategy to tap into those high-intent users.
The major takeaway is that companies that want to generate more traffic and convert more users must be willing to share more information with third-party websites, create a seamless online experience, and do their best to be ranked and reviewed on trustworthy lists.
Aviv Canaani is director of marketing at Natural Intelligence, a leader in intent marketing that operates comparison websites that drive high-value customer acquisition for leading brands.