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GUEST BLOG: Could Google help our High Streets?

By Mediaworks

Time does not seem to be the best healer when it comes to the plight of UK High Streets, with major retail losses making headlines in many national newspapers.

In 2018, Toys R Us and Maplin stores were vacated, and trade ceased. Even the infamous discount stores did not survive unscathed, as Poundworld closed its doors for the last time.  

More than 28 multi store retailers went into liquidation in 2018, and these ill-fated stores have set a precedent. Music retailer HMV seem to have set the tone for 2019, being the first to announce that they were facing financial difficulties earlier this year. 

Elsewhere, digital sales in retail have more than tripled in the last 10 years, with online spending equating to 18% of all sales in the sector. Stock availability and an extensive range of delivery options are partly responsible for the surge in e-shoppers, with supportive user journey’s and simplified checkouts sealing the online splurge for many. 

Some pessimistic experts have predicted that High Streets will be a thing of the past by 2030, so we must act imminently to save our beloved shops. But could retail find an unsuspecting ally in the form of search engine giant, Google? 

Here’s how Google could help to revive our humble high streets:

Omni-Channel Experience for the High Street

Implementing the omni-channel nature of e-commerce into retail stores seems near impossible, but a London start up, Near St, are curating digital displays of stock from shops and making them available online. It will enable shoppers to visit the store online prior to them taking to the street, saving time and avoiding any wasted journeys. 

A Digital Town

Many businesses across the nation are already embracing Google, using their ‘Google My Business’ tool to create a profile for themselves with useful information such as a contact number, opening hours and address. Almost half of all Google searches last year had local intent, showing the necessity for the service. 

Back to the Future

The conventional shopping trip is still a big revenue contributor, with 82% of sales taking place offline. The task at hand for the high street is to optimise customer experience, making it feel as convenient and straight-forward as online shopping. Companies such as Marks & Spencer and EE are already acknowledging the shift in value of the in-store experience, while technologies such as AR and VR are becoming increasingly commonplace, with Google’s own product ‘Google Cardboard’ pioneering the integration of simulated reality in retail. 

The UK High Street is not oblivious to its own losses, as major retailers are constantly evolving their online marketing strategies and adding digital elements to their in-store services.

How will you save your brand?

Mobile Optimisation

Europeans searching & shopping online for UK brands on the up

The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Google Online Retail Monitor shows that overseas mobile searches for UK brands grew by 17% YoY in Q2 2018, up from 13% in Q1.

The North & Yorkshire represented the highest portion of Google searches in Q2, at 26%, higher than Greater London’s 23%.

In terms of retail categories, beauty saw YoY growth of 10% for UK mobile users in Q2 2018, though, this is lower than the 10% seen in Q1.

Home & Garden saw the highest YoY growth for Overseas mobile searches with growth 29% YoY in Q2 2018.

Italy demonstrated the strongest year on year growth in searches for UK brands from the EU, reporting 31% growth in Q2 2018.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: The scorching summer sun has inevitably meant that online searches for home and garden products – like barbeques and garden furniture – were among the top search terms across Europe and beyond. At the same time, end of school term has created a surge in searches for prom dresses and computer games to entertain kids during the long holidays.

“Online retail search activity is maintaining its growth trajectory, being driven by consumers moving online to shop. Given this growth, some retailers will be looking at the opportunities for exporting offers to other countries.

“These trends will continue as retailers continue to invest in the evolution of their online offering for shoppers.”

BRC Smartphones

Retail search growth driven by smartphones

The latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Google points to a significant spike in retail-related online searches in 2Q17, driven by smartphone users.

In the UK, retail search volumes on smartphones increased 26% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

For all devices across the UK, search volumes maintained year-on-year growth of 7% in the second quarter of 2017.

Interestingly, beauty was the most searched for sector by overseas consumers on mobile devices, reporting growth of 42% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Apparel remained a popular sector for overseas consumers on mobile devices, increasing 38% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Estonia continued to demonstrate the strongest appetite for UK retailers, reporting a 77% growth on mobile devices in Q2 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The growth of UK retail searches online in the second quarter of 2017 remains unchanged on the previous year, although smartphones are increasingly becoming the dominant device for online browsing and therefore the main contributor to this growth. The increase in mobile search volumes over this period is consistent with the upward trend in online non-food sales growth.

“Beauty brands in particular continue to attract interest from overseas as well as UK consumers, which put the category firmly at the top of the growth rankings. It would appear that this could have translated to some extent into product sales, as health and beauty products ranked second highest in online sector performance over the three-month period.”

Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit

Google holding court at the eTailing Summit

The eTailing Summit is taking place today at the the Hilton London Canary Wharf, with more than 60 senior eCommerce professionals – boasting a combined budget of over £3 billion – meeting with the sector’s key solution providers.

It’s a unique forum in which to do business and is complemented by an inspiring and educational seminar programme hosted by industry thought leaders.

Today’s speakers include Google’s Developer Advocate Rowan Merewood, Jai Whiting, Head of Digital and E-Commerce at JML and Laurent Dhaeyer, Managing Director at SecureTrading.

The event is free for eCommerce professionals to attend, including all meals and refreshments, while the solution providers in attendance benefit from meeting booths.

But don’t worry if you weren’t able to make it to Canary Wharf today – We’ll be announcing details of the 2017 eTailing Summit very soon.

For more information, contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email c.ross@forumevents.co.uk.

Mobile shopping search ‘is retail’s biggest opportunity for improvement’

Users clicking Google Shopping ads on their mobile phones represents the largest single source of visitors for retailers, according to FoundIt’s latest in depth ‘Shopping Behaviour’ report, accounting for nearly 25% of all sessions across direct, paid and shopping search traffic.

However, the retail software specialist warns that mobile search is the most the fickle channel by far, with as much as 83% of traffic bouncing straight out the door or viewing as little as 2 and half pages before quitting.

FoundIt analysed 66 million shopping sessions between May and June, looking at how different types of traffic on different devices panned out for retailers in an attempt to identify where retailers are suceeding and underperforming.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Shopping search on mobile is retail’s largest single source of traffic by far
  • Shopping search on mobile also has the highest bounce rates as high as 83%­
  • 51% of sales of from paid channels happened on mobile
  • Non-branded search activity on mobile device is retail’s poorest converter
  • The mobile experience sees shoppers who move past the first page drop by nearly 30% compared with desktop

Warren Cowan, CEO & Founder at FoundIt, said: “Given the size of this segment and the sheer volume of lost opportunity within it, there are clearly huge amounts of additional opportunity that can be realised from improving the mobile experience at the product page level, and retailers who prioritise this will likely see some of the quickest and most significant gains in their sales this year.”