Posts

The past six months have seen upheavals in just about every area of life, from schooling, to work, to our daily shopping habits. Now, a report from BrightEdge suggests these shifts are going to continue at unprecedented levels through the holiday shopping season. 

The report, based on an evaluation of eCommerce clients across a wide range of industries predicts a historic online holiday shopping season for a massive range of interests – emphasizing the need to start preparing now. 

What Changed

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to do more online shopping this year. In-store shortages, quarantines, and general concern with public gatherings has made online shopping a go-to choice for both essentials and luxuries.

Interestingly, the analysis suggests that though shoppers are doing significantly more online shopping compared to 2019, the revenue per order remains relatively stable. 

The report offers two theories for why this shift is occurring:

“Here are our hypotheses:

1. Shoppers shifted purchasing behaviors online during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic and are more keenly aware of their budgets – refraining from placing big-ticket purchases online, while stocking up on more essential goods or affordable luxuries.

2. Shoppers started buying more frequently online after COVID-19, supplanting offline purchases. This would include the buy-online, pickup-curbside behavior that may include cheaper items that were previously always purchased in-store.”

Black Friday Goes Virtual

Another major factor contributing to the predicted surge in online shopping during the 2020 holiday shopping season is the cancellation of many Black Friday events. 

Not only does this mean consumers will be forced to look elsewhere for big deals, it is expected that many retailers will be pushing huge online sales for Black Friday to make up for lost revenue. It is also expected for Cyber Monday to gain an even higher profile this year. 

What You Can Do

With all these factors in mind, BrightEdge has one recommendation for brands trying to regain their footing this holiday season – invest in search engine optimization. 

As the report says:

“An impressive 60% of consumers have been shopping online more often since COVID-19, and of that group, 73% plan to continue after the pandemic. What digital marketers and SEOs have long known is finally coming to fruition: online shopping is convenient and easy. Now the trick is to make SEO important within your organization.”

Other Takeaways

In the conclusion of the report, BrightEdge offered a few key insights into the current behavior of online shopping and what they expect to see in the future:

  • “The research suggests that shoppers browse more frequently, leading to more purchases and overall revenue, though these purchases are smaller in value.
    This could be because shoppers are becoming more aware of their budgets – refraining from placing big-ticket purchases online while stocking up on more essential goods or affordable luxuries.
  • As we enter Q4 and the holiday shopping season, search is helping reveal radical changes in real-time.
  • The traditional customer journey is being radically altered in many industry sectors of the economy.  As a result, it has never been more important to truly understand how consumer behavior and use this understanding to drive engaging experiences.”

To view the full report, check out BrightEdge’s complete holiday shopping guide here.

Google is making several tweaks to its shopping-related search results to make it easier to find the products you want locally and choose the pickup method you are most comfortable with. 

As the country gradually returns to our normal in-store shopping habits, many are making adjustments to ensure the safest trips to the store. 

For example, Google says that searches for “curbside pickup” and “safe shopping” have increased tenfold over the past few months and remain heightened. 

Making this more difficult, many businesses remain closed after mandatory shutdowns have passed, while others are struggling with inventory due to shipping disruptions around the world. 

With all this in mind, Google has announced three significant updates to shopping search results which make it easier for shoppers to know who’s open, what’s in stock, and how they can most safely make a purchase. 

Filter By What’s Available Locally

When looking for a specific type of product, searchers can now limit their search results to only products available nearby. 

This can be done in two different ways. 

  • Users can tap on the “Nearby” filter when looking at results within the Shopping tab.
  • Users can add “near me” to product searches to automatically find products available nearby.

“Want to see an item in person before purchasing, or can’t wait for shipping and delivery?

Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a new laptop for working from home, a baby jacket for fall or a grill for backyard barbeques, Google makes it easy for you to see what’s available locally.”

Compare Local Hours, Locations, and Inventory

Making a trip to the store only to discover they are out of what you are looking for or the store is closed was already frustrating before the COVID-19, epidemic. 

To help solve this issue, Google is making it easier to compare the stock of local shops and see which businesses are open now. 

These details will be shown when searching “[product] near me” in a carousel of images and pricing details.

Find Convenient and Safe Pickup

Since the onset of the pandemic, Google has been prioritizing retailers who offer safe pickup options including contactless delivery or curbside pickup. 

Now, the company is introducing new ways to find safe purchase options with new labels in shopping searches. 

Along with these details, the listings will include a direct link to Maps directions so you can quickly and easily find the stores nearby. 

At the same time, Google emphasizes that calling to speak with someone is the most accurate way to check the inventory of products in real-time.

Facebook is launching a major overhaul called Shops which will make it easier for brands to sell their products to users without sending them off the social network. 

In theory, the move would allow e-commerce businesses to operate their entire business over Facebook, without an external website or online shop.

With Facebook Shops, businesses can turn their Facebook pages into completely shoppable storefronts. The company also plans to extend the feature to Instagram in the near future.

While the service is free to set up on the social networks, it is powered by third-party services such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo which tend to require a fee or subscription to use. Additionally, the service will charge a fee when customers complete a transaction using the feature. 

Businesses will also be able to include their shops in Stories or buy ads to promote their shops and products across the social networks. However, it is unknown exactly what those ads will look like when they arrive.

In a blog post, Facebook indicated they will be working to integrate loyalty programs into their online shop sometime soon. 

“You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards,” said a company representative. “And we’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage, and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”

While discussing the move in a live stream, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested that brands struggling to recover from the COVID-19 shutdowns could use the feature to connect with new and existing customers.

“If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” said Zuckerberg. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Google has been rapidly releasing new tools to assist shoppers looking for contactless pick-up options, delivery, and keep consumers up-to-date on frequently changing business hours or closings and openings. 

Now, the company has released a way for retailers to easily signal that they provide curbside pickup for products appearing in Local Inventory Ads. 

Delivery Is Overwhelmed, Consumers Shift To Pickup Options

With many stores across the country closed, many shoppers quickly turned to online retailers like Amazon to find their necessities and enjoyment during quarantine. Unfortunately, this led to shipping being massively overwhelmed, creating delays of up to a month for any product deemed “non-essential.”

Google says this situation directly contributed to a 70% global increase of searches for “in-stock” products within just one week from March 28 to April 4 and has continued to be an important search query for shoppers. 

While the company doesn’t provide specific data, it also suggests that searches for “curbside pickup” have been elevated since late March. 

How To Add Curbside Pickup To Local Inventory Ads

To help advertisers alert customers to alternative pickup or delivery options, Google has implemented a new label for products shown in Local Inventory Ads available with curbside delivery. 

The label is a small but significant badge for many shoppers, even as businesses reopen across the country. 

Although technically still in beta, Google announced it was opening the badge to all advertisers running Local Inventory Ads who have completed the process of onboarding for store pickup. 

Because it is still in beta, accessing the feature also requires a few unique steps. Specifically, advertisers must contact a Google Ads rep or fill out this form.

The new tag is available to all eligible advertisers anywhere Local Inventory Ads have been launched, including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the U.S.

If you do not fit the criteria for this feature or are not utilizing Local Inventory Ads, the company notes that you can still use your Google My Business profile to notify shoppers to curbside pickup or delivery options by adding these attributes to your listing. 

The Thanksgiving shopping weekend has officially become the biggest social media event of the year, garnering more discussion on Facebook and Instagram than even the most recent Super Bowl.

According to an email from Facebook to Social Pro Daily, more than 130 million people talked about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday this year.

Facebook alone generated more than 226 million interactions from 90 million people about the Thanksgiving shopping weekend, while 52 million talked about the deals and shopping experience on Instagram.

Surprisingly, Black Friday and Cyber Monday weren’t the biggest days of the weekend on social media. Despite being considered the smaller event of the holiday, mentions of Small Business Saturday actually surpassed mentions of Cyber Monday. The day devoted to local small businesses also created two of the top hashtags on Instagram with “ShopSmall and #ShopLocal.

Other notable stats from the weekend according to Facebook:

  • There were more than 450 million views over the weekend on Facebook of videos related to Black Friday and similar topics.
  • Black Friday conversation on Facebook and Instagram was driven by women between 35 and 54.
  • Men between 18 and 34 were more likely to discuss Cyber Monday.
  • More than one-third of Instagram business profiles posted Instagram Stories during the holiday weekend.
  • The top five shopping-related hashtags on Facebook and Instagram over the weekend were: #BlackFriday, #CyberMonday, #SmallBusinessSaturday, #ShopSmall and #ShopLocal.
  • The three most engaged states on Facebook were Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee.

The holiday shopping season is currently at a fever pitch, where it will likely stay until Dec. 26th, and more and more consumers are using the internet to aid their purchases. Online shopping isn’t new, but the prevalence of smartphones has made it easier than ever to turn to the internet to find what you need and shoppers aren’t shy about consulting the web before any purchase.

But, how does this affect shopping patterns and what are these consumers looking for exactly? If your brand is online, chances are you want to capitalize on the huge amount of online shoppers both at home and those using their smartphones while they shop. Unfortunately, a new survey from Search Engine Land and SurveyMonkey suggests this may be harder for smaller brands to do than anticipated.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that many online shoppers are looking for well known brands, but it might raise your eyebrows to learn it is the most important factor to many shoppers. The survey conducted on November 21-22 of this year shows that 70% of shoppers are focused on finding brands they are already familiar with. The only other factor which received over 50% of the response was free shopping.

The good news is this doesn’t spell the end for local businesses trying to grow their brand during the commerce season. Location and reviews still made a strong showing in the results, as did sales. Many shoppers also focused on retailers who offer images and easily viewable prices for their products.

Smaller brands can also take some solace in knowing the survey was limited to a relatively small sample size of roughly 400 Americans using SurveyMonkey Audience. You can see a chart of the results below.

Online Shopping Survey Graphic

Source: Search Engine Land / SurveyMonkey

Forrester Research Inc. recently researched the purchase paths of 77-thousand online shoppers to come to the conclusion that social media does not lead to direct sales. As Zach Stambor reports for Internet Retailer, “less than 1-percent of transactions for new and repeat customers can be traced back to social links.” 

Despite these findings, another Forrester survey found that, when asked, consumers claim that they do make purchases based on social media posts. Nearly half agreed that they find out about new products or brands through social media and 40-percent said social media posts are “a great way to discover sales.”

Essentially, this means that, despite the lack of direct sales associated with social media, it is still a valuable tool to raise awareness of your brand. Think about your own purchase path for products you’ve bought online. Does one email or social media post lead you to whip out your credit card? More than likely, you do some research and view mulitple marketing channels.

Forrester’s purchase path analysis found just that. One-third of shoppers take this multi-faceted approach for first time customers and it’s almost half of repeat buyers.

Perhaps the most telling statistic to come from the analysis is the role of email for repeat customers. Almost a third of that return business came from email. 13-percent went directly from email to sale and 17-percent read the email and clicked through to other marketing channels.