E-commerce Series Part 1: Prepare

Between back to school, new fall fashion collections, phone launches and the holiday season at the end of the year, the fourth quarter is usually the highest in terms of search queries related to online shopping.

Google data shows that higher interest is registered across several categories: Fashion, Consumer Electronics, Home, Beauty and Lifestyle.  In fact, Q4 has been growing 20% year on year from 2014 to 2016 and across the board noticing a huge increase in shopping related queries in Q4, according to Google’s internal data. Here, we deep dive into data and produce insights to help retailers leverage the full potential of selling their products and services online.

Consumers - What Are They Looking For?

Internet penetration in the region is high - this is a well known fact - with 90% in the UAE, 70.4% in KSA and 38.6% in Egypt. Recent trends show that not only is Internet penetration equal among all age groups, but that in the UAE, 60% of research is done online before consumers eventually make a purchase (online or offline).

Each search represents a need the consumer has and some type of action they intend to take.
Searches signify that a potential customer is signaling demand and this is a big opportunity that retailers should leverage.

*Source: Percentages based on Google internal data 2016

Mobile Mania

Mobile represented 46% of queries at the start of 2014, however in Q4 2015 it represented 60% and in Q4 2016 it represented 63% with an upward trend. This suggests that mobile’s share of shopping queries is only going to rise and be even larger in the upcoming Q4 of 2017.

And what exactly are people searching for? The biggest growing categories are consumer electronics (new phone launch, did you say?) by 33% and Home with 25% year on year.

For example, users are increasingly aware of upcoming phone launches. Search activity starts earlier each year for expected launches and peaks on the week of launch for each phone. For example, phone search activity for new launches used to pick up 3 weeks prior to launch years ago, however now, activity started picking up 5 weeks prior to launch which shows a higher dependance of users on researching online to make decisions on launch date. Users are increasingly searching for deals on their mobile devices as those represent 60% of all deals related queries.

Spotlight on Q4

Many product launches happen in the last quarter of the year - think major smartphone launches. Fashion weeks also sweep the world at this time, drawing attention to new seasonal collections and selling off inventory from previous ones.


This year specifically, versus all others, is expected to be even bigger. It’s accelerated because of massive increase in supply, such as a wave of omnichannel players going online such as Al Tayer’s Ounass and Landmark. Local players have expanded in terms of geography and categories, such as Namshi, Souq and Wadi. Many of these retailers have an established presence online. At the same time, many international players have fully established here - Asos, Jollychic, SheIn, Net-A-Porter, Amazon. With so many options for consumers, they will buy more.

How To Prepare

So now we know that Q4 is a key online shopping season, mobile is key, and several categories are booming online. The key to success is preparation. We break it down into these three steps:

  1. Sourcing
  2. Site and Creative/Messaging
  3. Online Marketing

Part 1: Sourcing

Step one is to fine tune product assortment, pricing, and any attractive deals or offers for this key season. This is the time to talk to merchandising teams to analyze demand so you are ready with the right product assortment.

In Nov, lot of people search for a good deal. Keywords like offer, discount, savings should be prominent to show up in the right searches. In fact, November is where we see a spike related to deals - November Offer related queries rose by 20% month on month in 2015 and 2016. This helps the retailer in their pricing strategy, bundling.

Queries related to discounts and offers peaked each year in Q4 for both 2015 and 2016, showing users increased interest in looking for deals around the main shopping quarter in the year. They particularly spike in November each year, mainly driven by the multiple discount events that major retailers hold and by the fact that gift buying rises in the November pre-holiday season. November represents 40% of discount related queries in the three months of Oct, Nov, Dec, and users are increasingly searching for deals on their mobile devices as those represent 60% of all deals related queries. As such, keywords like ‘offer,’ ‘discount’, and ‘saving’ should be prominent to show up in searches and ads.

 

Part 2: Adapt Content: Site + External Assets

Once your product assortment is set, it is time to surface that product assortment on the website. I.e. new fashion collection, new brands, deals. Make sure you have multitude of curations, for example, Christmas gifts, Black/White Friday, phone accessories for people who bought a new phone, car accessories.

This is also the time to make sure your site is fully optimized from an experience perspective on mobile to leverage that people search and surf mainly on mobile. Use the time to highlight main USP's that will differentiate you this season versus other players - for example, same day shipping. At a time when deals and promotions are prevalent - what makes you different? Smooth user experience is key now more than ever.  

Your communication must reflect the new merchandise. This includes a streamlined approach to video content, display and text ads, onsite content, and social media. All of your communication should be relevant to specific event that’s happening, based on who you are targeting.

Part 3: Online Marketing

Having extra demand without leveraging online marketing is a waste if you don't capture your audience at the right time. You can leverage the latest Google products in order to meet consumer demand - through search, YouTube, display, universal app campaigns, simple easy-to-use products.  

Leverage all platforms to help you reach consumers at different stages of the purchase journey. If you're at early stage, looking at latest fashion or phone, you're at top of funnel where reaching through YouTube is ideal. This is where consumers go for reviews and inspiration. Next, they begin searching for where the product they want is available. At this point, they compare prices, so search plays a particularly pivotal role as they consider a purchase. For consideration, targeting people who are in market for a certain product through display ads works well. Finally, cross sell and upsell using remarketing as a technology.

For details on these steps, stay tuned for our next e-commerce piece that will explore all these online marketing tips and tricks in detail.

How to win Saudi consumers in the moments that matter