Digital Tips for Retailers


Digital Tips for Retailers ...

Digital tips for retailers

We live in enormously exciting times.

  • You can watch a cat video in high definition
  • You can scroll through Facebook and never reach the bottom
  • You can find a recipe for a cake that looks like steak

Having the world’s information at our fingertips is a double-edged sword.

  • 1.your customers have never had so many opportunities to come across you
  • 2.your customers have never had so much information thrown at them

Notorious copywriter Dave Trott (
watch here, 10 minutes 59 seconds through) reckons the advertising industry falls mainly because we put so much effort into persuasion, forgetting to make an impact on the way.

If you want to cut through the noise, you’ll need impact.

Impact gets attention.

We’ve put together
some of the most important things you can do as a retailer to stand out, get killer insights and maximise your efficiency at scale. The article leaves you with 3 key trends to watch and be aware of in 2015 and details on how to get in touch if there’s anything in the article you’d like more information on.

1. Gain a competitive edge through the use of AdWords betas

Achieving stand out in the SERPs is the difference between hitting your targets and falling short. Basic AdWords ad extensions and features such as the use of sitelink extensions, review extensions and callout extensions are now commonplace. Google is constantly evolving the AdWords product with new features and ways of displaying information to users as well as facilitating new strategic angles.

Adwords ad extension features

Historically the keyword was king but increasingly moving forwards an audience / user centric approach is what makes the difference between blending in and standing out.

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) for instance is a way of doing something different based on an audience’s previous interaction with your site. The ability to tailor ad copy and / or select a different mix of keywords delivers a much richer experience to users. Richer experiences translate into higher conversion rates and lower acquisitions costs for advertisers.

demographics for search ads (DFSA) is a current beta in a similar vein. It provides the opportunity to do something different based on the age or gender of the user performing the search. Serving different ad copy to your male or female audience / younger or older audience is a fantastic way to cut through the crowd.

The key is to
adopt these new techniques early and to forever live on the bleeding edge of the platforms’ technology.

To be the first to hear about new AdWords features, we recommend subscribing to the Inside AdWords blog – the official Google AdWords blog.

2. Use social media to build a long-lasting and fruitful relationship with your customers

Social media provides a fantastic opportunity to acquire new customers and generate sales. These are indirect benefits though, and this is something brands should be aware of when defining objectives for social media and writing posts for their social channels.

Customers who like your Facebook or Twitter profile may well be in interested in product updates, but it is important to keep these minimal and interspersed between posts, providing them with unique, valuable content they can’t find elsewhere.
Getting this balance right for your audience will enable you to build a community that is engaged with your brand and shares your content, resulting in a social media following which sustains organic growth over time and creates the opportunity for your brand to influence future purchasing decisions.

Our advice?

Spend time understanding your audience and design a content strategy you can be confident will resonate with them. In addition to insights you will have about your own customers, identify the communities most relevant to your target audience and find out what they talk about, who they listen to and the types of content they share.

Social media monitoring tools can be helpful in this research phase, aggregating conversations taking place across the web and enabling you to identify the main topics being discussed at that time.
Building relationships with influential people your audience follow will also help to build your credibility and create trust in your brand.

listen to the feedback your followers share with you on your social media channels, respond in a timely manner and, where relevant, be prepared to change as a result of feedback. This combination of useful, unique content and taking an always on approach will give your followers a reason to keep coming back.

BuzzSumo tool for understanding your audience

Tools such as BuzzSumo (pictured) are useful for unearthing industry influencers.

3. Get your retargeting strategy right

Retargeting is certainly an effective way to re-connect with your audience, whether you are using it to drive conversions, to cross-sell and up-sell or to communicate a brand message. For it to be a success though you need to get it right! Get it wrong and not only can it damage your brand but it can annoy a lot of prospective customers.

Surprisingly, there are still big retail brands out there that haven’t quite nailed retargeting. Now and again
we still come across ads selling us a product we have just purchasedor campaigns which have no frequency caps in place.

To really get retargeting and to do it right, here are a few pointers:

  • a) Understand and segment your audience

Retargeting is most effective if you segment your site visitors. Don’t treat them all the same; place a higher value on those people who have spent longer on your site, consumed more content, visited more pages and progressed down the purchase funnel. These users will be of far more value to you than someone who has visited the homepage for five seconds and then bounced.

  • b ) Utilise dynamic creative to increase conversion

The more tailored the ad, the higher the conversion rate. Dynamic creative is a smart way to communicate with your audience on a one-to-one basis through customising the products they see and the call-to-action.

  • c) Apply recency and frequency caps to your campaign

With retargeting it is about recognising how long someone is in market for your particular product and applying this to your campaign. If someone is in market to purchase a low cost item which has a relatively low risk associated with that purchase decision then you need to strike while the iron is hot as the consideration period for the item could only last a day or even just a few hours. On the other hand, a higher value item can command a lengthier purchase decision so building frequency and an ongoing rapport with your customer base during that period is key. This is why having frequency caps in place is vital in order to control the number of ads a user is exposed to and over what time frame these ads are delivered.

  • d) Work with a centralised re-targeting partner

If your cookie pool (cookie pool being all user devices containing a cookie downloaded from your site for the purpose of retargeting) is small, it is particularly important to work with a single retargeting partner such as DoubleClick. You do not want competing partners on a plan as in the long term this can inflate your cost per impressions. You also need control over the frequency caps so you have clear visibility into how many ads a user is being served so as to avoid overexposure.

4. Invest in technology and time to maximise your search presence

The face of search has changed so much in the past three years and it is vital to keep up and where possible get ahead of the curve. There are many tools and technologies that are now integrated with Google so it is important to ensure that your business is signed up where it needs to be and Google has the right data for you.

Google My Business is the latest platform Google has invested serious time in redeveloping and upgrading to make it easier than ever to use. This is the tool for local business and brands and is way of “connecting you directly with customers whether they are looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+”. Essentially, it is the new way of managing your business’ face on Google.

This comes on the back of major overhauls of Google Product Listing Ads and redefines the importance of ensuring that you get the use of these technologies right. As an online retailer it is vital customers get what they need from you at the first chance or you run the risk of being a distant memory. This could be making sure the shoes they have clicked on in the SERPs are actually in stock on your site, or that the directions you offer them take them to their nearest open store.

Ensure you have taken the time to set up everything relevant to your business across the Google properties and if this needs to be done at scale, ensure the information held is correct. In a Google world where relevance is king technology can and should be utilised to help to get you the best return on investment possible.

WHSmith ROI stonger with PLA and Feedstream

5. Content groupings for improved landing page insights

On large websites it is often difficult to be able to spot the wood from the trees when analysing content performance. For retail sites with thousands of stock keeping units and dozens of category pages consolidating page performance data can often be complex and time consuming.

To get around this issue Google Analytics has developed an advanced feature that lets you view aggregate page views and landing page data for site sections. The beauty of it is that it’s fully customisable so you can set up content groups to compare the performance between say men’s, women’s and children’s clothing. Reports have a functionality making it possible to drill down to individual URLs and there is the option to specify sub groups or categories, allowing you to compare performance between say men’s jeans and women’s jeans.

Content groupings are only available on sites that are using the latest version of the tracking code: Universal Analytics.

There are three main methods for grouping content:

  • Group by tracking code – this will require a modification to your existing Google Analytics tag and some development resource to pragmatically populate the tag with the correct variables.
  • Group by extraction – this requires no development resource. This will require knowledge of regular expressions to automatically create content groups based on the URL or page title. This is useful for large sites with lots of categories that frequently update.
  • Group by rule definitions – again this requires no development resource and requires you to define specific rules to track each content group. This is the easiest way to set them up but it will require an amendment to the set up every time you launch new categories, etc.

6. 2015 native app strategy

It’s not a surprise to find that brand cost per clicks are on an increasing upward trend, and in a crowded and competitive paid search landscape retailers are looking for innovative ways to reduce costs and to own the customer. One potential solution is creation of native brand apps.

While we’re not advising ditching your mobile website, apps do have the advantage of allowing you to develop a closer relationship with your most profitable and loyal customer segments by offering them exclusive offers and incentives through the app. Most importantly, they offer a new alternative to losing search visitors through brand bidding. This sort of approach is only really suitable for large high-street chains but it is something we’re expecting to see more of in 2015.

Retailers are embracing new technologies in the fight to reach customers and keep them engaged.

We’ve all read the stats about the rising smartphone ownership in the UK,
predicted to be 90% by next year, and know from our own experiences how integral to our daily lives our mobiles have become. It’s therefore no surprise to hear that over half (55%) of UK adults use their phones during shopping trips to physical retail stores, using them for a number of things from comparing prices (54%) to taking photos (41%) of potential purchases.

Retailers are looking for ways they can exploit this trend of the hyper-connected shopper in order to keep shoppers engaged, offer a better shopping experience and, essentially, sell more products! New technology is something we have been discussing more and more at
our digital futures events and is a trend we’ll continue to keep an eye on as it becomes mainstream.

Areas to watch

The reality is, there’s more technology developing than any one person can keep track of. Our
innovations group are currently monitoring:

The improvement in geolocation targeting

What is it? The method of calculating a user’s location and delivering content based on his or her location.

This isn’t a new technology, but advances in this area mean retailers can now be a lot more accurate and specific with their geotextual campaigns as the technology now serves relevant ads to users within a 2.5 mile radius of the product/service. This is a big improvement on the previous industry average of 20-25 mile accuracy.

iBeacon technology

iBeacon is a positioning technology from Apple which enables a mobile device to perform actions when the user is in close proximity to an iBeacon.

Brands in the UK, including
Waitrose, are trialling iBeacon technology in conjunction with their apps to send marketing messages to customers as they shop in store. The main aim of this being that the customer will have a more personalised shopping experience, with offers and recommendations tailored to them.

More information about working with iBeacon can be found on the Apple Developer site.

Over the pond in the US, Facebook is launching a trial of Place Tips in New York which will deliver information derived from the locations’ Facebook pages, above the news feeds on users’ smartphones, tying in the social element. This is currently free during the trial, but something we expect Facebook to being charging businesses for if it gets rolled out.

Indoor mobile marketing

This also relies on iBeacon technology and apps. Interestingly, providers such as
Swirl are extending the beacon offering so that not only can retailers push relevant marketing messages to shoppers when in-store through apps using location, behaviour and time-spent information, but there is now the possibility of advertisers crashing the party.

If the retailer using the Swirl technology allows it, there are marketing message opportunities available to buy through an ad exchange, meaning brands can reach in-store/at-event customers even if it’s not their store or event.

The changing face of the high street is pushing retailers down the route of hyper-personalisation, to match the trend for the hyper-connected shopper and to keep their customers longer and spending more. We’re yet to see many examples of this being used successfully but expect investment from big brands such as Facebook to drive this forward and pave the way for further improvements in technology and usage.

The last word

There’s so much we can do as advertisers, we can often be swamped with ideas and possibilities.

Which idea do we run with

In which order should I look at my digital activities?

Where should I be focusing my efforts?

It’s easy to look at your website for weeks on end.

It all blurs into one.

You can feel like you’re missing the obvious.

The obvious?

A fresh pair of eyes uncovers fresh insights.

To get a fresh pair of eyes on your digital activities right now, pick up the phone and call 01793 715440 and ask for a member of our New Business team. If it’s a weekend (or you’d rather get in touch by email), please email


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