Posted by Joan Mulvihill, IIA CEO
Fresh from the standing-room only IIA Ecommerce Breakfast Briefing at Irish Times Training, I’m still reeling from the number of subscribers, the cool and insightful presentation stylings of Graham Merriman and Vinny O’Brien and the smart interrogations from the audience Q&A.
So where do I start? In 1995. I know that’s a while ago but it’s when I started my working life in Woolworths in London and when I discovered that my passion for retail extended to both sides of the counter! It’s a passion that’s stayed with me. Retail, etail, potAtoe, potatoe! I’m three years in the Irish Internet Association and its all still so much about digital marketing and not so much about online sales. Marketers, my apologies! The role of the digital marketing professional is critical but the stalwart 4Ps are as important now as ever. All very retro but as Graham Merriman of Carrickane Consulting asked the WWDDD question (What Would Don Draper Do?), I reckon I have earned some latitude.
Both of the speakers are retailers. Yes, actual retailers. They are people who sell stuff. People who pack stuff, put them in boxes and deliver them to customers. One of this morning’s messages was a clear shout out to lose the jargon, its retail not rocket science. Is it about SEO or is it simply about how to get the most from your website. Is it about UX or is it simply about the customer journey? Maybe that’s just semantics if you’re in the know but there’s a world difference if you are the provider of services to an offline retailer who’s trying to grow their online sales. Vinny O’Brien from Arnotts was clear on this point. Keeping the lights on in your ecommerce business is half the battle as you sink costs at the start to achieve your long term strategy. You’ve got to keep the business leader with you.
So what about the customer? I love a good debate but it’s equally reassuring to see two speakers in synch. Graham recommends knowing them. You need to know them, know why they are coming into your store and equally know why they are coming onto your website. You need to know what they need, want and expect from you and you need to know how to manage their perception of that. Then it’s easy. Just find a way of giving it to them. Profitably. Vinny may have said this more than once but in case you missed it, here it is again. You can’t beat research and statistics! “Retail is detail” is the old adage and whether it’s online or offline, it still holds true.
So keeping it kitsch, let’s talk Eurovision! Graham made the point best with the Jedward case study. Everyone in Europe knew who they were. Big tick in the digital marketing ‘awareness’ box. But did they convert? Alas no. Our Eurovision hopes dashed for another year. Conversion is the name of the game. A great digital marketing campaign will acquire followers and fans but it needs to acquire sales by converting fans to customers. This is retail and retail is about competing for sales not competing for popularity.
And it seems that the key is to become popular AND sell your products. The guys were unanimous in citing pricing and service as the big drivers. When is a price promise not a price promise? When it excludes website pricing! 42% of people going into stores are using their smart phones to compare prices so be careful about making promises that you’re only ‘kind of’ keeping. And just when you’d gotten your head around your pricing strategy across online and offline, Graham dived right into the challenges and opportunities for cross-border selling. Online is the first real ‘common market’. It’s the first time we’ve experienced real price transparency and product fulfilment across borders – even if only 8.5% of European consumers are actually doing it.
Service is the big online -offline differentiator. In the offline world, the service element is more or less over when the customer has taken the product to the counter, paid for it and has gone home, happy. Online, the outbound customer journey becomes a much bigger part of the game. How quickly can you deliver? How cost effectively? How do you deal with returns? They’ve left your online store but they haven’t ‘gotten’ anything yet. The service journey is a long way from over and the onus of the experience is heavily on the retailer.
And speaking of service, the last word goes to Vinny, the aforementioned research and stats advocate, who is just as adamant about embracing customer feedback. “We’re in a constant process of refinement in an environment that’s changing constantly”. Two virtuous circles of iteration in perfect synchronicity? Feedback from customers should not be seen as not an opportunity to test the crisis management capability of your PR agency or the ‘diffusion-in-140- characters-or- less’ capability of your in-house tweeter. It is rather, an opportunity to refine your product and service offering to ensure repeat customer conversion – sales. Did I mention that it’s all about sales!
The presentations from Graham Merriman of Carrickane Consulting and Vinny O’Brien of www.Arnotts.ie are free for download from the IIA website www.iia.ie/resources and of course feel free to join the Irish Internet Association by going too www.iia.ie/join-now to benefit from the IIA member discount for our Diploma in eCommerce Management.
In advance of his training course next week for the IIA, Des Martin of Local Search Marketing has written this blog post to impress upon us how important local search is for all businesses. If you think your business could benefit from learning more register now for Targeting Local Customers Online. This is a morning course taking place on March 30th and is keenly priced at €200 for non-members and €100 for members.
According to the Kelsey Group, ‘74 percent of internet users perform local searches’.
What is a local search? When you enter a location specific keyword you are performing a ‘local search’. For example searching for ‘dublin pizza’ above. Many of you will have noticed that these local searches now trigger a map in search engine results from Google (Map highlighted in red above. Click on the image for a larger version.).
Note: Search queries with ‘local intent’ also appear. i.e. restaurant, pizza, butcher – by themselves can trigger the map results to appear.
This map and results are generally placed at the top of the search results. More recently Google have begun to blend the local map listings with what were traditionally the organic results (free listings). This can be seen in searches like ‘accountant dublin’ below. The local ranking factors are playing a big part in these blended results (we have highlighted the map and local listing in red).
Google return local and mobile search results based on a different set of criteria to the traditional search results (SERPs). Effectively they use a different algorithm. Small and Local businesses can now compete for prime positions at the top of the search results without spending the large sums of money that were previously required. The key is to focus your efforts in the right areas by building up your company profile across the web. Local Search has been growing in importance for the last few years. It’s time to sit up and take notice.
Why have local searches become so important?
There are several reasons. One of the main reasons is the rise of the smart phone. There are now an estimated 1 million iPhone and Android devices in the Irish market. These people are no longer confined to their PC to perform internet searches. These people actively search for products and services daily while on the move. What’s more these people may be very close to your physical location.
When someone searches for a ‘cork restaurant’ on their smart phone, there is a very good chance that this person is close to the centre of Cork and is likely to have lunch/ dinner in the next hour or two. If your restaurant is in position on the search results, you have a decent chance of converting that searcher to a customer; if not you are ignoring a major segment of the Irish market.
What’s more, mobile searches last considerably less than their PC equivalent. So that person will make up their mind in a short space of time and may find many existing websites awkward to navigate on a mobile phone.
This is where the local listing (Google Places) comes into its own. See mobile screen shot:
Example of a local search conducted on an iphone above.
The mobile searcher is presented with Google Places page information. With the Place page you get information relevant for decision making, this being: map location, directions, click to call phone number. All of this is available in Google without ever having to enter the business website. This is hugely beneficial for mobile searchers. With one further click they can see reviews, street view images of the location and often additional images supplied by the business owner as demonstrated in the screenshots below:
Any Irish business in the retail/ hospitality trade needs to feature prominently for local searches that relate to their products and services. If you don’t feature, you are losing customers.
People searching for local business online are further along in the purchase cycle, the cost of converting each consumer is lower and the return on investment is higher. Targeting these searchers produces real results for local and multi-store retailers.
This is where Local Search becomes an essential part of your online strategy
- Google Places listings are the tip of the Local Search Iceberg. They demonstrate what you can achieve by targeting local search results with Google Places. One million smart phone searchers in Ireland alone.
- Local Optimisation. Local Search can also be applied to onpage optimisation for websites, including designing website alternatives for mobile searchers. Google presents different results for mobile searchers. They rank these results partially based on how well the page will render on the type of phone that submitted the query. For more detail on mobile SEO, here is a great article by Cindy Krum < . This means having a mobile version of your website increasingly important.
- Local pay per click. Targeting local keywords reduces the level of competition and the bid price paid for local keywords in PPC programs like Adwords. Local keywords are more targeted and result in a higher click through rate which will in turn help with your Adwords quality score.
- Local Social Media. Lots going on in this space at present. Facebook recently launched their check in service Facebook Places in Ireland. Facebook Deals is due to follow hot on the heels of Places. This will allow business owners to target local consumers with ‘deal’ based offerings. This promises to be a great promotional tool for local business.
In addition business owners can reward and attract local consumers using existing social media like ‘FourSquare’ and local focused blogging.
- Group Buying websites like citydeal.ie (Groupon) have exploded in the past few months. Increasingly local consumers are finding out about ‘local deals’ through these websites. Local Business owners need to adopt a group buying strategy to maximize their return when running group deal promotions. Pay attention to building a relationship with the consumer and gain repeat business rather than be left one time consumer and ultimately a loss.
Begin your local search campaign today:
A local search campaign uses an integrated strategy involving
- Google places listings,
- pay per click advertising,
- search engine optimisation
- and social media
to convert local leads into new customers. An additional area that is fast becoming important for local business is Group Buying websites. These can be a great promotional tool, but you need to factor in the total cost and how to maximize the return on investment.
About the Author:
Des Martin is the director of Local Search Marketing who specialise in local search strategy. Their client list includes sole traders, SMEs, franchises and multi location retailers. Des will be presenting a series of training courses run by the IIA in the coming months.
Last week the IIA organised the second in a series of events for online retailers “8 More Ways to Sell Even More Stuff“. I plonked my digital audio recorder on the podium to capture the presentations to share them with you. You can also download the presentations from the Resources section of the IIA website (membership required).
This case study is presented by Darren Grant of OrganicSupermarket.ie who kicks off telling us that he opened The Organic Supermarket in Blackrock the day that the recession officially started. Their business plan was as he says, “A Celtic Tiger business plan” and so he had to think of another way to grow his company that didn’t require credit from the bank that wasn’t forthcoming. He looked to the internet to grow his catchment from 4.5k in the South Dublin area to potentially 4.5m across Ireland.
|This event was sponsored by:|
The latest issue of State of the Net is now available online. This is produced in conjunction with Amas and if you are in business in Ireland you should read it. Hard copies are available: just contact the IIA HQ!
This issue covers how Irish Marketers Use Digital, Children Online, Broadband Growth, Businesses Online, Trust Online, and Online Banking.
I’m all about online business at the moment (when am I not?!) but most especially online retail. If you’ve had your head stuck in the sand in the last few weeks you may not be aware that we are holding a conference for online retailers on Thursday, “8 More Ways to Sell Even More Stuff“.
So the reminder of the Information Society Statistics, Enterprise Statistics 2010 from the Central Statistics Office that only 23% of Irish Businesses surveyed are selling online made me gasp for two reasons:
- It’s shocking low.
- That’s a helluvan opportunity
If so few businesses are selling online that means there is space for many more especially in niche markets. Our two case studies at our event on Thursday for example, Garrendenny Lane and OrganicSupermarket.ie are cases in point. Both are niche in their own way and revel in it! I’m looking forward to hearing all about their online business (and how they mix it up with their offline businesses) on Thursday. I hope you can make it along too!
This is a guest post by Derek Traynor of AllMoto.ie, an IIA Member Company, republished with his permission from his blog. In it he writes about a subject dear to our hearts in the IIA: online retail and the knock-on effects of reputable online business for the economy. If you would like to ramp up your own online retail business, don’t miss our upcoming conference, 8 More Ways to Sell Even More Stuff, designed especially for retailers, whatever stage of the online game you are at.
OK firstly let me explain – this isn’t a story about my personal ‘Bedroom Efforts’ (I’ve another blog for that ), it’s my opinion, as an etailer (online retailer), on the damage that small, online, bedroom based efforts cause to industry in general.
What I mean by ‘Bedroom Efforts’ is someone sitting at home, on a laptop, listing products on ebay, Amazon and similar, and ordering in stock as it sells. However, let me clarify, my issue isn’t with the sleepy entrepreneurs but rather with the suppliers who decide to sell product through them.
I’ve been harping on about this pet-hate for years now and I’m “happy” to report that in just the last month I’ve had three suppliers contact me with concerns over it – way to get with the times guys – but at least they recognize the problem. These suppliers are eventually requesting minimun retail prices on their products. I’ve no idea where they stand legally if challenged about anti-competition legalities but…. well who cares about that for the moment.
I’m sure a few people are now thinking, “but sure you’re a online shop – who are you to talk?”, but this is where most people are missing the difference: I’m a reputable online retailer, adding value to a customers experience. I do this by providing:
- product knowledge. We’re experts on what we sell and use this knowledge to only sell product that is good.
- product support. If our customers have difficulty with a product we’re there to help by phone, email and often in person at events.
- product backup. Did a purchase break or fall short of what a customer expected? We always repair and/or replacement based on the circumstances.
- stock off the shelf. When a customer buys something it gets shipped within 24 hours (over 85% of the time in my shop).
- a unique user experience. The customer always subconsciously relate to their experience of the product.
- a physical store where people can drop into in person if they want to.
Bedroom Efforts generally damage a product having little or no technical knowledge, no repairs, no returns policy, no parts backup and NO stock. The customer ends up waiting longer, buying ill advised and losing all if an issue arises. What is not seen here is the damage to the brand that was sold. Note to suppliers – one way to lose repeat business is to allow a terrible customer experience in the initial purchase.
The hidden damage goes further though. These bedroom efforts often make almost no margin and that’s fine as they’ve almost no costs. But the damage arises in the lost sale the ‘real’ retailer has lost. Don’t be misled, reputable online etailers have almost as many costs as your local shop (Google ads, website development, online presence maintenance, customer support, STOCK, rent, taxes, to name a few).
What also makes me laugh is that these same suppliers then complain about having trouble getting paid by their retailer network. Maybe it hasn’t crossed their minds yet, but, support your network of retailers. Note to suppliers – IT’S EASY TO GET PAID FROM PEOPLE THAT ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF MAKING A PROFIT.
Imagine this outside Victorias Secrets: “knickers, knickers, two for a tenner”
Chanel and Gucci don’t supply someone so they can set up a market stall outside Brown Thomas (Ireland’s exclusive department store) on a busy Sunday afternoon. Why do suppliers continue to sell to people who just list on Ebay, Amazon, etc, and provide no backup on a Monday morning?
Chanel and Gucci understand the principals of brand image and most importantly – making profit.
Thanks to Derek for that heartfelt post! If you are a member of the IIA and would like to share a guest post about doing business online (any aspect: it doesn’t just have to be retail!) please read our guidelines and get in touch.