A young man seeks a workout regimen. When he searches on Google, he finds routines alongside videos on proper form, equipment, supplement recommendations, reviews, user feedback, studies on exercise efficacy, and local gyms where he can put this information into action. Through search, he’s now built a thorough understanding of his routine before he lifts a single weight.
As shoppers, we trust relationships and peer/expert information to guide us in our purchasing decisions. In this modern ecosystem, search is how we express that. The growth of customers solving problems by searching through video and voice has platforms and businesses working to keep pace. Local businesses have the ability to distinguish themselves to their audience and potentially build a worldwide presence.
This conversation starts at the top. When shifts in offerings happen with companies like Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon, it’s usually for one of (or a combination of) three reasons: recognizing the future of user behavior, identifying an opportunity to increase market share, or seeing a profitable avenue. It’s in their best interest to stay ahead of the curve or keep users going in a direction they create. As marketers and retailers, it’s in our best interest to identify the opportunities to maximize their value.
Taking Cues from YouTube
YouTube is still used as a medium to increase brand awareness, but shoppers have also identified the platform as a companion for informing themselves across every step of the purchase funnel. As people interact with YouTube videos from specific brands, those brands have an opportunity to build and layer campaigns that address any questions a shopper has. With a robust targeting strategy through videos and ads, brands can build trust with their target shopper, offering them reliable value and expertise.
The impact of YouTube as a solution provider cannot be overstated. A Google survey revealed that more than 50% of shoppers actually use online video when shopping in a physical store. People want confirmation from topical experts, whether by looking at its reviews, influencers, or browsing competing products and drawing their own conclusions. People are looking to supplement their browsing tendencies with information, whether it’s reassuring their purchase is a sound one or revealing there may be better options.
You’re Hearing (More) Voices
According to Google, 70% of requests to the Google Assistant are expressed in natural language. As voice searches increase and become contextualized, it’s fair to assume a rise in long-tail and query-based searches. This means there’s opportunity for brands to cover a range of information related to their products. Although most users still see voice search as better for inquiring and learning, technology is empowering a shift towards purchasing. These developments signal that the major platforms see an opportunity to learn more about consumers and leverage this in advertising, identifying an emerging trend in how users will grow with voice to adopt this new tech.
As a result, the need to visit a web page in the future will further decrease as voice assistants improve functionality and deliver the information or product users are seeking. This may reduce traffic in the sense we think of it now, but will instead drive a different shopping interaction for the user. How businesses shape that interaction will be a huge factor in their ability to grow over time.
According to data from OC&C Strategy Consultants, 55% of households are expected to own smart speaker devices by 2022, a 42% jump from today’s household numbers. With such rapid growth in such a short period, there’s an opportunity for brands to optimize and cement themselves as the first result for all relevant queries. As long as the content provides value every step of the way, brands can build trust. Positive reviews play a vital role as assistants sometimes point out that an item is poorly rated.
New and Old Frontiers
The intersection of these could be the smart display. The Amazon Echo Show, Facebook Portal, and Google Home Hub may serve a key role in a new purchasing process. These devices provide users with the information they’re seeking as they go through the purchase funnel for a greater ease of use. The added visual component will be advantageous when people want a visual component to inform their decision making (like beauty or apparel)
When shoppers want to actually visit a store, local businesses have the upper hand. Offering a satisfying in-store experience is a fantastic way to keep up with changing search behavior. Today’s shopper walks in with more specific and personalized intent; they want to curate their experience before they visit. That’s not to say every store needs to be some Instagram friendly pop-up or the Museum of Ice Cream, but smart marketers and retailers need to extend their brand’s unique personality across its digital presence and touch points. Value-adds are a perfect way to engender the business as reliable and understanding of the life their shoppers lead.
How a local business extends its digital reach is key to reliably bringing in customers. Fundamental work like optimizing Google Business listings, building out useful website content, structured data, and intelligent search targeting can help ensure a business connects with users seeking them out. From there, asking for customer reviews and getting products in the hands of micro-influencers can go a long way towards solidifying a business’ reputation among shoppers. The idea is to show customers your product serves a user’s purpose and that they have multiple ways to verify that.
As that young man steps into the gym, knowledge-ready, how does that gym accommodate and cultivate loyalty? Do they offer free classes and make a schedule readily available? Do they offer amenities like a smoothie bar, steam room, and stretching area? Do they sell equipment at a better-than-average price? Do they offer nutritional tips or appointments with nutritionists and trainers? All of these features and more help surround the standard gym service with a positive experience, giving our new exercise devotee the tools he wants to reach his goals.
These ideas are applicable to modern retailers fighting to carve out a niche in their increasingly competitive landscapes. Buyer behavior and the offerings of the biggest digital platforms are continuing to evolve. Businesses of all sizes will succeed with a sound plan that stays flexible in shape but steadfast in offering value. Not all customers will become devout brand ambassadors, but all customers will require an understanding of what they’re planning to purchase and how it suits their exact needs. On the digital and local levels, catering to this desire for knowledge makes all the difference.