The world has spent over a year adjusting to the new normal. But now that many countries are opening up again, it’s becoming clear that not all new behaviours will stick. Research by Google and Kantar suggests that even though online shopping has been on the rise, the majority of people still intend to make purchases in-store for reasons including item availability and wanting to touch and feel products in person.
Yet even that is a prediction. No matter how hard we try, we can't be sure of what the 'next normal' will look like. This makes it difficult for retailers to plan for things like the holiday season, which typically requires months of preparation. So how can they make peak season 2021 a success no matter what happens? We asked three Google experts to share their top tips for retailers looking to win peak season in the next normal.
1. Build brand awareness early
Internal Google data tells us that global consumer interest in Black Friday starts around the start of September, roughly 10 weeks before the shopping holiday takes place. In the Nordics and Benelux, 20% of shoppers start looking for Christmas gift ideas three to six months in advance.1 This means that retailers should get off the starting blocks way ahead of peak season.
Ensuring brand presence when people start researching products will significantly help boost sales at the end of the year. Still, many retailers underinvest in awareness campaigns as its direct impact can be tricky to measure. This happened to Twistiti, a Belgian children’s watch brand, as a result of tight cash flow. To help them invest with confidence, Google and digital agency Clicktrust set up measurable leading indicators to help Twistiti predict sales. It worked: by the end of 2020, the retailer’s total revenue had grown 15X compared to the year before.
2. Use video to turn awareness into consideration
Research by McKinsey and Company revealed that brands present in a person’s initial-consideration set can be up to three times more likely to be purchased than brands that aren’t. Meanwhile, 54% of people have made purchases from brands that were new to them since the start of the pandemic, and 73% say they are open to doing so.
This means there has never been more potential for retailers to win new customers — as long as they are present in the discovery and consideration stages of the shopping journey. With 90% of people saying they discover new products on YouTube,2 video advertising is an effective way to achieve this goal.
One way retailers can turn awareness into consideration, is by using YouTube’s bid optimisation service, Maximise Lift. It uses machine learning signals and insights gained from a Brand Lift study to show ads only to people most likely to consider the brand or product. With this method, Finnish mobile reseller Swappie was able to lift 30M users from awareness to consideration at a 17% lower cost per acquisition versus previous campaigns.
3. Align your app strategy with customer needs
The pandemic accelerated already existing trends of mobile shopping. In 2020, the global search for shopping apps went up 210% compared to the previous year.3 Wherever they are in their path to purchase, people increasingly turn to mobile to fulfill their shopping needs — and apps help them do so with more ease and efficiency. As these are the main reasons people opt for shopping apps, retailers must ensure they live up to expectations.
For a strong foundation, retailers must clearly define the purpose of their app and make sure it matches with the needs of their customers. Whether the goal is to acquire new customers, drive in-app conversions, or re-engage inactive users, knowing how an app is adding value to each stage of the consumer journey is key. This can be achieved by setting the right KPIs to measure success, which is critical to understanding what works and where the pain points lie. With a solid measurement setup in place, retailers can clearly identify opportunities to optimise their shopping apps and deliver a seamless customer experience — and these will remain crucial no matter what the future holds.