My two pence worth on the IR Expo 2011

I was fortunate enough to attend the Internet Retailing Conference 2011 last Tuesday. The overriding thought of the day was that retailers must be thinking Multi-Channel. Nearly every talk focussed on the importance of building your brand and creating a seamless user experience across all channels. This is of course sage advice however, in my view there was a notable absence in retailers talking about search as part of this experience, particularly the benefits of optimising your website and social media presence for non-brand searches.

Building your brand with targeted and engaging content across channels is great for existing customers but what about potential new customers who don’t already know your brand? Search is absolutely fundamental to increasing non-brand exposure and starting to engage with those not familiar with your brand.

Many niche brands come to us with the same problems: they are getting zero traffic for non-brand terms and their home page accounts for the vast number of entrances to the site (which is being driven by brand domain authority).

So what do you need to do to increase visibility for non-brand terms? You need to go back to basics to ensure all of the content you create on and off site is optimised in a way that search engines can understand.

Optimise your meta titles, page headers, internal links and include areas of optimised copy on every page. The search engines will then be able to effectively evaluate and rank your pages for more product-focussed, non-brand terms. Link build to those pages and other engaging site content you are creating using those non-brand terms. Natural search visibility has to be a fundamental part of any multi-channel strategy as it is the starting point of the customer user journey for so many new customers.

It is refreshing to see that retailers are taking strides towards multi-channel and talking seriously about the customer experience. Just don’t forget that search is a key part of this.

I’ll finish with some of my key take outs from the conference:

  • Embrace, invest and commit to multi-channel – You need to make sure you evolve your strategy. Customer behavior and trends and changing, driven mainly by technology so in turn search campaigns, payments methods, user-experience and so also need to evolve.
  • Demonstrate ROI across the business (rather than for each channel) – Make sure you have good multi-channel analytics tool in place to understand the journey customers take from research through to sale. In turn, this allows you to optimise marketing channels properly.
  • Be agnostic about where a sale takes place – Customers shop wherever they want, whenever they want. So you need to embrace technology and provide a cohesive user experience across all channels.
  • Understand your customer – Make them feel good.  Listen and engage with them, find out what they want, what they like, what’s important to them and find out where they spend their time (both on and offline). Use this insight to align your strategy.
  • Make your brand accessible across channels – Strive to provide a unique brand experience but ensure the brand experience is consistent across all your channels. Bring your brand to life with hot spotting videos, creative content, dynamic merchandising, contextual product imagery etc.
  • Mobile is (still) the next big thing – If you haven’t got a mobile site, get one! Use your customer insight to find out what your customers do on their mobiles and match your mobile offering to this. Mobiles add locality so don’t forget your local strategy.

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