It is the most visited site in the world: Google Search, a browser of the Californian Google LLC of Mountain View, is clicked by billions of people every day as a starting point for web searches. The amount of data that Google processes becomes a precious ally to improve digital marketing strategies and to map the most advanced consumer trends. Google experts spoke extensively about it at the Netcomm Forum on 12-13 May, according to three perspectives.
Digital marketing best practices
“Digital is not just a way to increase e-commerce, but also traditional retail. – says Nicholas Darveau, Chief Evangelist Google – The journey towards consumer purchase starts ever more online and is then activated either online or in the store. The advice we give to companies is therefore not to separate the strategies but to think about omnichannel marketing”. Digital marketing must thus not only look at the growth of e-commerce, but of all commercial activities. For a more effective action, Darveau’s advice is to “focus on the CLV – Customer Lifetime Value, which measures the average profit that each individual customer generates during the commercial relationship, which allows to understand the customer’s consumption habits and optimise long-term strategies, as a consequence. And, when interacting with the customer, create an extraordinary experience, focusing on speed, ease of use, without friction, on being appealing, taking as an example the giant Alibaba, the most effective player in this sense, which has a conversion rate that reaches 76%”.
Retail in a data driven world
The pandemic has brought about a fundamental change in the way we discover and buy products from brands and companies. The analysis of the data collected by Google made it possible to highlight new consumer behaviours and expectations: “Before the pandemic 48% of consumers said that online discovery was the first reason to buy in store, today the rate has risen to 70% on Youtube. – explains Jacopo Allegrini, Industrial Head Retail Google Italy – If before, 70% preferred to shop in stores where they had the opportunity to touch and feel the product, today 78% say they do not feel safe trying products in the store. Finally, before, 50% did not shop online due to the lack of trust, today 74% shop online”. Data also shows the impact of the pandemic’s economic pressure on the buying behaviour, which was strong during the first lockdown, but not in the long run, and the trend towards the purchase of products that maximise the purchase value, both for the product and for personal values (personalisation, sustainability – whose research has increased exponentially -, ethics, black owned, health).
Retail must consider this “by focusing on three intervention areas: – explains Antonio Milone, Head of Sales Retail, Telco and Media, Google Cloud Italia – capturing the growth of digital and omnichannel income; becoming a customer-centric and data-driven retailer; making more efficient operations”.
For the first point (front office): the product search related to online and offline purchase must be proposed by companies in a seamless way, without friction, offering ease of use and availability. The e-tailer must thus focus on: e-commerce migration, e-commerce modernisation, API – Application Programme Interface management and App Sheets, and propose the discovery of products through: visual search, AI and ML (Machine Learning), campaigns and inventories with the optimisation of advertising.
Second point (core of the activity): improve data analytics to make better marketing, forecasts and insights, to consolidate data and better perceive the consumer. The customer data platform must: remove data silos and modernise data wharehouses; share insights with the organisation; activate insights and personal communication with costing demand; send personalised and creative emails, activate virtual assistants and digital shopalong.
For the last point (back office): companies must create continuity with IT managed solutions and increase collaboration with productivity tools. For example, offering a customer service chatbot (more than quadrupled in 2020), intelligent customer support with business messages, AI contact centres with quick responses, virtual agents. Efficient operations, employee collaboration from the headquarters to the stores.
Buying behaviours that here to stay after the pandemic.
The digital explosion has made Italy achieve a 5-year rise in just 8 months, during which e-commerce has experienced a real boom, with +2 million users. All this represents a point of no return compared to the previous situation and is destined to have a significant impact on consumer habits. Alberto Frasarin, director of Google Customer Solution Italy identifies three trends: “The initial purchase phase, of inspiration/discovery, which was previously tied to physical showcases, is predominantly carried out online today. We are witnessing the importance of e-commerce in all conversion stages. Finally, the physical store acquires a new role”.
The customer journey is more complex and less linear than in the past: between the triggers (targeted messages to engage the consumer) and the moment of purchase there is a very complex exploration phase, through the passage of many touch points. Among the trends that have emerged, there is the shift from searches targeted on the specific brand to those by category and the discovery mood, which previously passed through the shop windows, is now increasingly online (therefore also without time/ spatial limits).
E-commerce is now of central importance compared to the pre-pandemic. For the fashion sector, for example, online sales stood at 29% in the pre-pandemic, at 63% during the crisis, and will settle at 57% in 2021, despite the need to touch & feel, typical of the sector. Also users age groups are changing: 41% were between 18-34 years in the pre-pandemic phase and 69% during the crisis, they will settle at 65% in the next six months; the age group 35-54 went from 31% to 63%, and will settle at 59%; those over 55, went from 19% to 59% and will settle at 49%. Finally, the fear of entering physical stores conditions consumers’ choices: 82% of fashion experience shoppers confirm that they want to stay online. 44% of new online shoppers are willing to continue to buy online. Consumers want to avoid touching products and going into too crowded shops: this trend affects all countries.
The physical store will however continue to play an important role, even if different from the past. In a context of polarisation of consumer experiences and expectations – for research, reviews, comparison skills and to get the product quickly, the online market remains strong, while when observing the role of the physical product, touch & feel, the search for colour and size, the consistency of offline remains high – even if the inspiration is online, the store’s role in the field of flagship, logistic pick-up and product experience remains fundamental.
“We are facing a consumer who is ever more online than offline, both for inspiration and for the journey to purchase. – declares Alberto Frasarin – A consumer who has increasingly precise and punctual expectations in terms of experience, who wants to replicate online experiences that can be done in the store (for example, the virtual try on has increased by + 14% in the 2020), but who then wants to finalise the purchase for certain product categories in the store, both for logistic issues and to touch & feel. Remembering, however, that more than ever a good part of the information on what I will find in the store is collected online: therefore it is essential to provide as much data as possible on the selection of products in the store, on the services, the online catalogue, the inventory to know if a product is available in a certain store …”.
So in closing, to intercept consumers it is necessary to strengthen digital inspiration throughout the customer journey, adapt and customise strategies considering their heterogeneity, leverage the integration of formats to offer a better omnichannel experience.