The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the retail industry more than any event in recent history, and it also accelerated the drive toward online shopping. According to data from Google, retail searches grew at a rate over three times higher in Q4 2020 than the previous year.
To help businesses bounce back in 2021, Google has published a guide for retailers filled with information to help brands take advantage of the digital transition. Here’s a summary of the key points and what you can do to end the year on a high.
Reach customers as they browse
Research from Google and Ipsos finds that “81% of consumers in surveyed countries across the globe say they’ve discovered new brands online during Covid-19”, and sales figures across different categories show that consumer intent is as high as ever, even if priorities have changed.
Connect and inspire action with video
Google says: “YouTube has evolved from a singular entertainment destination to a place where people come to learn, stream and inspire their next purchase.” Travel inspiration, product reviews, unboxing videos and influencer content are among the most popular videos on YouTube, with people actively turning to the platform to inform purchase decisions.
“When watching videos, customers can shift from passive browsing to active shopping when they come across a product that interests them and motivates them to learn more.”
This presents two opportunities for brands to reach new audiences and inspire action: create your own video content, or run YouTube Ads on relevant videos to turn passive viewers into buyers.
Drive demand with ‘window shoppers’ on Google feeds
One of the most interesting stats in Google’s guide is that 91% of Google feed users say they took some kind of shopping or product-related action immediately after discovering new products, services or brands on their feed.
With Discovery campaigns in Google Ads, you can show ads across Google’s feeds, including Discover, YouTube and Gmail, to tap into that 91% of actionable users.
Engage customers as they research
Google says more than half of consumers use Search while they shop in-store, while purchase intent is at its highest. The search engine has also seen a 60% increase in searches for ‘best affordable’ searches over the past year, as consumers seek the perfect balance between quality and affordability.
Google recommends using response search ads to put your products in the spotlight at the key moment while taking advantage of the ad format’s automated flexibility, which personalizes messages to address the immediate needs of individual shoppers.
Convert customers looking to purchase
A key takeaway from Google’s retail guide is that customers expect to be able to shop wherever meets their needs. ‘Near me’ searches continue to grow, with Google seeing a 100% increase in searches containing the phrase ‘available near me’ over the past year.
Google suggests a five-step plan to satisfy the needs of consumers, wherever and whenever they need you:
Engage mobile shoppers: Maximize visibility on mobile with App Campaigns, Shopping campaigns and mobile targeting in Google Ads to reach the 53% of shoppers who expect to be able to buy from any brand using their smartphone.
Run Google Shopping campaigns: Showcase your products in product-listing ads and free product listings in Google Shopping to maximize organic and paid visibility.
Reach new customers and deal-seekers: Run Smart Shopping campaigns to promote your entire inventory, showing the most relevant product for every search without manually creating ads for each product.
Increase foot traffic by promoting in-store products: Use local inventory ads to show shoppers you have the products they’re looking for in stock.
You can also optimize campaigns for seasonal variation using Google’s Performance Planner, which helps you forecast campaign performance and explore outcomes by adjusting settings.
Be ready to drive sales during the holidays
Retail had its biggest holiday season ever in 2020, with the Covid-19 bounceback peaking for the festive period. With global digital sales growing by 50%, rising to $1.1tn (£730bn+), even bigger things are expected this year, with economies around the world looking much stronger than 12 months ago.
Be visible: Show up throughout the purchase journey with clear information about products, availability and offers.
Take a stand: Give shoppers a reason to support you by making your stance on sustainability, local ties or key issues clear – and find authentic ways to follow through.
Start early: Upload your products and holiday deals sooner, as people begin their shopping earlier in the season to stock up or avoid out-of-stock disappointments.
Be flexible: Offer a range of delivery or collection options to make the purchasing experience as convenient as possible.
Embrace change: Prepare for rapid, short-term shifts in demand with automated tools, while adapting to longer-term changes in the consumer landscape by considering your overall digital strategy.
That last tip, in particular, has been so important for retailers throughout the pandemic, with the most flexible and responsive stores navigating this crisis the most effectively – and some even thriving under the most difficult of circumstances.