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Retail Marketing

Guest Blog, Katie Thompson: Micro moments in a mammoth industry…

On May 24, 2016, Google hosted its fourth annual Performance Summit – a conference aimed at sharing the latest in its innovations for Google Analytics and Google AdWords customers.

In a continually evolving digital landscape, these events serve to address marketers, retailers and the general public about the latest developments to the search engine giant’s complex algorithms. More importantly, they discuss consumer trends and behaviour, and how we as retailers should react to the ever-changing needs of our customers.

Those who are new to the arena of digital marketing should take heed of the latest innovations from Google – in a world where we have unlimited access to information wherever we go, customers are changing their buying patterns and it has not gone unnoticed. As we recover from the economic crisis, consumers are becoming more aware of how they spend their income, which has given rise to comparison websites and in general, more careful purchasing behaviour.

In a broad sense, this represents a rapid shift for retailers – if your business does not have a digital presence, it will likely fail amongst today’s aggressive competitors. Specifically however, Google addressed the shift towards mobile purchases, which is important for two reasons. Firstly, the aforementioned savvy shopper is using his or her mobile to compare prices – 90 per cent of shoppers, for example, use a mobile while shopping in-store.

Secondly – and this is good news for high street retailers – shoppers are using their mobile to search for the best deal possible, in the closest location. The eggheads at Google call this a ‘micro moment’ as marketing expert Matt Lawson regales us with the tale of your average shopper who searches for a ‘hardware store’ and immediately locates one using his mobile’s GPS. Thanks to innovations with Google’s SERPs, said customer is also informed of the latest in-store offer and can reserve his or her desired item before walking in-store to collect it.

As such, whilst online sales grew by 14.9 per cent in 2016, this does not spell the end of the high-street retailer. It simply means that we have to evolve in line with what today’s customer wants. Today’s customer has little patience; he or she wants results, quickly, and is willing to shop around for the best deal, with tools such as Google Shopping at his or her disposal.

To compete, then, a core digital marketing strategy is key. This equates to a fully mobile optimised site (almost half of consumers with will leave a poorly loading website within three seconds), a thorough SEO strategy, a segmented email campaign, a well-maintained social media profile and, where possible, the use of paid media such as Google AdWords.

This has led to incredible increases in conversion rates – take, for example, land-based retailer Equine Essentials Direct. The tack shop launched a new website with digital marketing assistance from Agency51 in November 2015, which included Google Shopping, regular mailer campaigns to inform customers about online deals and spending with Facebook advertising. Within six months, revenue increased by more than 500 per cent, and site visitors increased by 97 per cent.

The core message to take from this case study, and Google’s latest developments, is customer engagement and understanding. By understanding our customers’ buying habits, we can use digital marketing tactics to increase conversions where traditional marketing techniques would usually fail. A customer who leaves a website without converting can be re-targeted with a personalised email, but how can we chase a customer out of a store?

By achieving a better understanding of our customers we can target them online and offline – making the most of mobile technology to provide them the best local offers, and bidding against our competitors in the aggressive, but effective, world of pay-per-click advertising.

High street retail is not dead – it simply needs to move with the needs of today’s ever more demanding customers. With a little help from mobile technology and a bespoke digital marketing strategy, today’s retailers can work to make every moment a ‘micro moment’ for their consumers.


Katie Thompson is an NCTJ trained journalist and digital account manager for York-based digital marketing agency, Agency51. She has written for a number of local and national publications including Yahoo! and today writes freelance contributions for blogs in her spare time whilst managing a variety of eCommerce digital marketing accounts.

Industry Spotlight: The new frontier of retail marketing…

Reports suggest that in the next three years, the share of marketing budget that is spent on analytics is expected to more than double. Marketing tactics such as targeting ads by demographic are no longer adequate for keeping customers happy (and loyal).

Improving the brand loyalty of existing customers is often more profitable than on-boarding new customers, with a five per cent improvement in customer retention potentially resulting in a 95 per cent profit increase. With so much data out there, there is no reason to continue relying on gender, age-group, or location to predict what a consumer might be interested in. Of course, age and location help when tailoring communications, but they are far from being most indicative of consumer behaviour.

Pushed along by consumers’ increasing expectation for personalised communications and offers, businesses often find themselves making the mistake of falling back on social listening technology. Social listening will enable brands to use social media to gain insights into the interests of your target market and monitoring brand performance across social platforms. However, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that social listening is enough to shape your marketing strategy; while it does deliver holistic insights about your consumer base, such as how often people talk about your brand or what time of day your customers are most active, it doesn’t deliver the much needed insights into each customer at an individual level.

Because of this, social listening platforms only enable you to tailor your marketing and communication based on the behaviour of whole groups of people. This means that, rather than delivering a bespoke and relevant service to each individual, you are delivering something that you think they probably want based on the average behaviour of the group they are placed in.

Retailers and other consumer-focused businesses end up falling in the trap of marketing to huge groups of people based on presumptions about that group. However, a new trend has seen consent-based analytics tools empower consumers to get the communication and offers that they actually want. Instead of constantly seeing ads or receiving emails for something irrelevant just because that’s what people in their age-group tend to buy, what they receive will be constantly relevant – designed specifically for them.

Big data analytics tools can help marketers truly understand consumers on a more personal level. Knowing what consumers desire in a product; what they want in a brand; what services are relevant to them; and even what puts them off, can completely revolutionise the entire marketing strategy of a business.

The amount of data out there is significant but a consumer’s digital footprint is ever growing. What is difficult for marketers is leveraging this data to create usable and actionable insights, particularly considering that a significant proportion of online data consists of qualitative data; how can you know what an individual is talking about when they mention ‘working’? The word could indicate being employed, or it could easily be ‘working hard at the gym’, ‘working hard on my dissertation’, or ‘working on the car’. For this reason, the tool you choose needs to have an element of text analytics, such as psycholinguistics and natural language processing, in order to derive accurate meaning and avoid simple errors like assuming anyone who mentions ‘work’ is employed.

As well as this, it is vital to ensure that the tools you use deliver real-time insights so that what your offering is constantly adapting alongside their changing needs. Targeting a customer based on their wants and needs from six months ago could result in the offering being irrelevant and could cost you their loyalty.

For example: Mark signs up for an online account with a shoe retailer. He likes long distance running and often tracks his runs and posts the results on Facebook as motivation. Additionally, he has recently been talking about his upcoming participation in The London Marathon. The shoe retailer can then use this knowledge to market products for training (such as shoes to break in), products for the actual event (such as blister plasters), and products for after completing the marathon (such as a foam roller for sore muscles or heat packs for injuries). By using the right analytics technique, this retailer can adapt what they offer based on Mark’s changing needs as well as predicting what he may be interested in in the future in order to remain constantly relevant.

Utilising data insights to engage with consumers effectively allows brands to develop and maintain unique one-to-one relationships. Fundamentally, by using these tools, brands can get as close to a real relationship with their customers as possible without physically meeting and talking with them.

The more you learn about your customers, the more you can personalise communications and offers which has the power to turn both retention and acquisition marketing on its head.


With 16 years’ experience in the data and software industry, and a background in credit risk and fraud prevention, having worked at leading companies such as Call Credit, James Blake oversees all operations within Hello Soda, an advanced big data analytics company. He passionately believes that modern businesses are empowered by innovations in data technology, ensuring that Hello Soda develops only the best software solutions.