Retailers are experiencing an unprecedented time right now. Stores in many states have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Others are open but it is anything other than “business as usual” inside. We’ve written advice for retailers and manufacturers who want to weather the crisis. And the big theme is your online showroom. Both retailers and manufacturers can (and should) use their website to represent the store or the brand. Completed websites with full product catalogs and pricing with advanced visualization and quote cart functionality (if not full-blown eCommerce). But what’s your plan for marketing during crisis?
We’ve been monitoring the trends and see very interesting results happening around the internet. Traffic is increasing on retail websites. MicroD implemented Argo Smart Routing to manage the speed of websites getting such a boost in online traffic. Even the types of searches have a good impact on the retail industry. Customers are at home and shopping online because they’re as tired of this quarantine as the rest of us. But how can you save resources and make the most of your marketing side of the business? If everyone is going online, how will you take advantage of that traffic and bring it to your website instead of losing that shopper to a competitor with better digital advertising? We’re going to talk about the reality of marketing during this crisis and a few tips that can help you get started.
The Reality of the Retail Store
Furniture retailers are in a new reality today. Store traffic is down. And if you’ve been tracking your store conversions before this crisis, you’ve probably noticed a gradual decline leading to a very rapid decrease. That’s not just for some retailers but all retailers across the country. We reviewed this information in our client base across the United States and saw traffic declines in the stores match the increase of risk in COVID-19 pandemic.
Pro tip: we use Google Analytics to partner with our marketing clients and track trends to improve results. How are you tracking store traffic in your time to create a marketing plan during crisis times?
As states continue to declare Stay at Home protocol and more customers practice “social distancing” this low volume of store traffic will certainly be the norm over the next few months. But on the flip side, our current internet usage is up by nearly 50%. Your customer is still out there, they just might be looking in different places.
Marketing Your Website Store
Before you can effectively market your website, you need to know where to start. Mobile traffic is down, according to our research in the industry. And up until this point, I’m sure you’ve either read blogs from us or webinars or have talked with us and we’ve been pretty steadfast and talking about the importance of mobile. And the importance of mobile is there and it will never go away. but the reality is that more shoppers are looking at websites on their desktops because they’re at home. So that was an increase that we saw in March of almost 30% which is a pretty crazy number. When people are staying home not traveling or visiting social gatherings we’ve seen this trend be steady and even today it has not decreased.
Build a Desktop Conversion Strategy
With an increase in desktop usage, it is important to make sure your site has proper UX for online shoppers. This includes your landing pages for marketing ads. You’re working with more on-screen real estate to get your message across. Make positive use and review your analytics to see how your pages perform on desktop.
Speaking of more screen real estate, make sure your product images on the website are up to par. If your website is full of showroom-shot product photography, it might be time to invest in a digital product catalog. Manufacturers, your furniture vendors, are providing high-quality product data including beautiful product photography, through providers like MicroD.
That’s because your website is now an online version of your showroom. And the visualization component is critical. Find the best marketing images you can for your products as well as your special content areas like a slideshow. Use these graphics and images to change up your homepage slideshow images to promote certain campaigns. Make sure they are clean, crisp and easy to understand what is going on.
Banners and Call to Action
Use banners and clear call outs for the actions you want an online shopper to take. If you’re already implementing these, review their effectiveness early in the online marketing plan during crisis. If you don’t invest in the call to actions or conversion rate optimization, look for a vendor who can assist you in refreshing your look online. Make sure your banners and call to actions are designed to get conversions.
Pro Tip: We also recommend using icons around your website to break up dense content. Customers are used to a mobile experience and want to have the same ease of use on your website as they would on their mobile devices.
If you’re using some type of chat service on your website right now, great! You’re a step ahead of the competition. For those retailers who aren’t using a system like LiveChat, who has partnered with MicroD to offer the tool free for 60 days while using the MicroD platform, you need to reconsider. LiveChat can:
- Increase sales
- Improve the speed to respond to questions or problems
- Help with relationship building
- Save you time and money on lost sales while giving your sales team activity
- Offer a virtual shopping and design experience
We’ve seen retailers using tools like this chat tool to keep their staff employed and busy taking orders and questions while interacting on chat. It’s an option to help you stand out from the competition and covert website leads into sales.
Local SEO and Google My Business
Now we’re getting to the meat of marketing in this crisis. Here’s what we know. People are turning to Google to see the status of their local businesses. They’re still doing this even though we know in many states “non-essential” businesses are closed, there is still a lot of activity going into searches for local business hours of operation. They’re bored at home and after staring at their furniture for weeks, they get ideas and want to know if there’s a place to shop that’s open. So if you’re not on Google My Business, you won’t have the chance to update your store’s hours. And during a crisis like this, that information is more important than ever. The lesson here: if you’re not on Google My Business, start now with your marketing plan during crisis.
Also, take advantage of this time to start building on your local SEO. It’s one of the most value-added marketing tools in your toolbox. But also one of the most underutilized. With the state of budgets across the country, a positive ROI can help you in the long run. Plus another great benefit of investing in Local SEO is it can decrease the amount of money you have to spend on Google Ads. And it’s perfect for working with your marketing team internally or as a third party. You can build projects full of content and other Local SEO activities that will help you in local search results ranking.
Advertising Changes to Consider
We’re going to talk about a few different things you can adjust or start on your online marketing to help with this shift in shopping patterns.
Maintain Brand Exposure
Brand exposure is going to be challenging online today when creating a marketing plan during crisis. Why? Because more brands are relying on their online presence to reach consumers. The competition is tough. That’s why keeping your brand exposure active and engaged is critical. And if you’re not doing it already, we have a few ways to do this. We’ve seen an increase in success for retailers who utilize Google Ads and Facebook Ads to create a brand presence online or keep it active. The first is easy enough to understand. It’s advertising through Google ads. Google ads are an opportunity for you to only pay when interested customers click on your ads. You can reach your ideal audiences across Google Maps, display ads, Gmail, and YouTube.
With over 70% of the United States’ online population using Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook messenger, Facebook ads are the most substantial opportunity to get your audience on social media. Facebook advertisers can widen and diversify your audience at low costs.
Advertise Across Networks
Advertising across multiple platforms or networks will help mitigate the volatility of just relying on Google search alone. If you’re not doing it now, it’s time. In order, these are the best sequences we’ve seen for successful retailers to help lift the brand:
- Google Search + Facebook Ads
- Google Search + Display Ads
- Google Search + Bing Ads
Update Bid Adjustments
Shoppers are looking at websites on their desktops because they’re at home. So that was an increase that we saw in March of almost 30% which is a pretty crazy number. When people are staying home not traveling or visiting social gatherings we’ve seen this trend be steady and even today it has not decreased.
So what are some things we can do about that? So if you are in Google ads, update your bit adjustments. You may have set mobile bid adjustments in the past using relevant data at the time. But given the quick shifts in the search landscape, it may be worth revisiting your current device bid adjustments in the marketing plan during crisis.
Include Google Search Partners
Google search partners include many smaller search engines that are powered by Google, like Ask.com and countless smaller local search engines. While many prefer the Google brand of search, the truth is that not every search occurs on Google. Data tells us these partner search engines make up about 10% of Google’s search reach. So to expand your own reach, consider including those partners to make up some of the lost traffic due to the crisis.
Use Display Ads and YouTube Ads
Your audience is spending more time online. So now it’s easier than ever to find shoppers while they’re browsing the web. Your display ads will appear for shoppers as they’re around the internet, scroll their social feeds, and watch videos online. Consider display advertising to increase brand exposure. Because it’s not as expensive as search ads. So you’re not paying as much for the CPC as you do in those search ads. Also, take advantage of the videos you have in your library. Commercials, local promotions, videos of the showroom can all be assets you put into your YouTube with advertising.
Restart Remarketing Ads
Now is the time to engage customers who have visited your website by implementing remarketing. Consider starting by remarketing to your past customers and website visitors to bring them back to your site and keep your brand in their mind. When they return to your site, they’re often much more likely to convert. You can make this return experience even more powerful by leveraging their online window shopping experience. According to recent data, 75% of shoppers will abandon your site. With increased browsing online, now is a great time to re-engage customers and get them back to your website.
Most users bounce because the overall experience is not personalized. The best way to accomplish this is with behavior tools like MicroD’s iNGAGE product. This can also be achieved with a standard pop-up but the message needs to be smart and based on the data you can uncover.
Whether you offer promotional discounts or incentives to your customers normally, you need to identify specials you can run through the website. Your customers are experiencing the highest rates of job loss and uncertainty. So their budgets won’t be as readily available. But if you can identify value, give away free shipping, offer discounts when purchases are made through your phone or virtual shopping tools, you will build loyalty with that customer and close at a better rate.
Power Online Shopping with Online Marketing
We hope these marketing tips have been helpful for your store. But we want to make sure you are getting the most opportunity out of your website as you create a marketing plan during crisis. We’re going to talk about eCommerce and how you can start this journey during a crisis. The marketing will help you bring more shoppers back to your website. But what can you do once they’re online? Make sure to follow MicroD for more information or contact us.