How to adapt your multi-channel strategy in a world under lockdown | Quill

How to adapt your multi-channel strategy in a world under lockdown

2020 hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts to say the least. The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in an unprecedented series of events, with huge swathes of the global population now under lockdown, and businesses across the world forced to close their physical locations, repurpose or furlough their staff, and completely tear up their strategies.

For retailers in particular these are uniquely challenging times. Those who have invested for the last decade in building up a robust digital presence are slowly reaping the unplanned benefits of the forced shift to online shopping. Those who have resisted the change are now forced to rapidly pivot, squeezing years of development and cultural change into a handful of weeks.

But from great challenge comes the potential for great opportunity. For those retailers starting to adapt their business models for both short-term protection and long-term futureproofing, we have a few tips for thriving online in this strange new reality.

1. Replicate the in-store experience

 The main reason the death of the high street has been long talked about but never seen is that shoppers still immensely value the certainty of physically seeing a product, and the ability to ask for advice. In fact, our own research has shown that 90% of customers are more likely to buy a product if the description gives them details over and above those they can see in the picture alone.

Breathe life into your product copy by telling the customer if a dress is true to size or has a relaxed fit, explaining the luxurious feel of a 60/40 silk wool blend, and highlighting those intricate details that make it special – there’s no such thing as too much detail or too many benefits.

It’s not just the product description either – use insightful buying and how-to guides to highlight seasonal trends, explain the difference between slim and skinny jeans, and show your customers how to measure up for a new sofa. Not only will these capture huge search demand, but you’ll help your browsers to make informed purchasing decisions, and ultimately reduce returns.

2. Make the most of your in-store team’s expert knowledge

This is relevant for all types of retailer, but especially those selling more intricate products; think technology and DIY. More often than not, there’ll be people working in your physical stores or behind the scenes answering customer questions who have an incredible bank of knowledge and experience built up over decades. Now, more than ever, is the perfect opportunity to talk to your staff on the front lines, ask them what customers really think of your products, and find out the real pain points.

One of our DIY clients does this fantastically well – they rely on their in-store experts, who know more about the right type of grout to use on any surface than any other people on Earth, to inform their digital knowledge hub. Not only does this provide a rich source of highly authoritative content (Google’s favourite!), but it’s also a great way to highlight your staff’s expertise and keep their value in the business.

3.Optimise your checkout

 Few things frustrate would-be shoppers more than a 10+ click checkout experience. Invest the time and budget to run a thorough audience analysis; what are their pain points? How do they interact with your product pages? Why do they drop out after adding to basket?

There are a whole bunch of different elements to A/B test on your product pages and checkout journeys, covering everything from the UX and CTAs, through to specific word choices, button locations and even colour palettes. Our clients typically see anything from a 9% to 34% uplift in conversion rates by rectifying UX issues and rolling out improved product copy.

And don’t forget to optimise for new types of shoppers who typically rely on physical stores. A few UI changes can really help older shoppers or those with visual impairments to get the products they need quickly and efficiently, ensuring they get all of the help they need in these difficult times. The RNIB has an excellent selection of resources to help optimise your site for those with sight loss, and we recently published a piece to help retailers adapt their shopping experiences for the elderly.

4. Double down on SEO and content

Despite the natural tendency to slash budgets and preserve cash, those retailers who choose to cut their investments in SEO and content marketing will miss out on an unparalleled increase in search volume as the global workforce adjusts to home working. Already, Microsoft are reporting huge rises in search demand on both traditional desktop and voice-enabled devices, especially for those in the fitness, education and DIY verticals.

What’s more, data coming out of the US indicates that, although customers are generally pessimistic about the economy, online spending is rising by as much as 30% across the board. Obvious winners are pet supplies (+15%), grocery (+20%) and fitness (+40%), but even “non-essential” categories like beauty and clothing are only experiencing spend reductions of around 10%.

Optimising your site through useful, insightful and search optimised content will not only allow you to capture the immediate opportunity but will also set your site up for strong performance as we enter H2 and a (hopefully) normalising economy.

5. Embrace marketplaces

Love them or loathe them, marketplaces are a potential lifesaver when it comes to battling disrupted supply chains and delivery networks. Retailers forced into taking difficult decisions around furloughing warehouse and delivery staff can capitalise on the extensive networks operating globally by the likes of Amazon and Alibaba.

If you’re going to focus on Amazon as a channel in a serious way, providing a standard product feed or a copy paste from your PIMS won’t cut it. It’s critical to optimise your product descriptions and images for Amazon’s internal search engine and invest in strong visual A+ content that gives consumers the confidence to buy. On average this will increase your conversion rates by around 10%.

6. Speak to an international audience

No longer can a retailer rely on their claim to ship to 50+ countries as a way to attract customers living overseas. Expanding out your potential audience to include international markets is increasingly important as retailers search out new revenue streams – and the only way to do that effectively is to localise your site and create specific, local market content.

As a bare minimum, customers expect to be able to browse your site in their own language, free from typos and obvious cultural faux pas. Google Translate may have improved drastically over the years, but our research indicates that it’s still impossible to capture the nuance of language, and the emotive elements that prompt purchases, through automation alone.

When the lockdown lifts and the world returns to normal (it’s important to remember that it will!), retailers who have risen to the challenge of fully optimising their digital operations will be able to look back with pride for riding out the storm, and look ahead with optimism as their ecommerce investment pays dividends.

If you’re looking for any help or advice on how to optimise your site in the current climate, please get in touch!

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