In the not-so-distant past, the retail customer journey followed a linear path to purchase that ended in a physical store. Today, the industry has evolved dramatically. Customers are in control of their journey and they're performing more searches, asking more questions and transacting in more places than ever before.
You need to think strategically about your company's approach to this shift. But while it can be difficult to set aside time to pull back from your routine to do so, this is exactly the kind of big picture, forward-looking thinking and brainstorming that can put you ahead of your competition six months later. And what better time to examine your search marketing strategy than the holidays? Yext research, led by Malcolm Higenyi and Max Davish, uncovered that key types of searches related to retail rise dramatically between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with direction requests to clothing retailers spiking 83% above average on Black Friday alone.
Your brand needs to take advantage of this influx by showcasing accurate information about yourself online — so that you can show up in search results for consumers' high-intent navigational and transactional searches that drive critical business.
Hopefully your brand is well positioned to win in search over the 2019 holidays. But it's never too early to start thinking about how you can do even better in 2020. To help you strategise efficiently to get ahead of the pack, here are three key search trends that will have an impact on retail in 2020.
1. Searches related to re-sale and "re-commerce" will increase in volume.
If customers once had a perception of second-hand clothing as less-than, upstart companies like Rent the Runway and Vivrelle have disrupted that mindset and paved the way for a new kind of luxury retail experience. According to research cited by the National Retail Federation (NRF), figures from online store ThredUp and retail analytics firm Global Data show the U.S. second-hand clothing market was worth $24 billion in 2018 and is likely to reach $41 billion by 2022. By 2028, the used-fashion market could climb in value to $64 billion in the United States.
"We now have a consumer that isn't about packing the closet full of stuff, but is trying to understand what is most meaningful to purchase, what is going to last a little bit longer and how to sort of jettison what was already there," explains Susan Reda, editor of NRF's STORES Magazine, in a blog post. "We all have those things that we purchased and, too often, it's hanging in there with a tag on it because you thought you were going to lose weight, or you thought it was going to look better and it just didn't work."
As a result, retailers who play in this space need to make sure they're meeting this growing consumer intent across search experiences. If you're a retailer who offers re-sale, rentals or other types of subscription services, this space is more promising (but also more crowded) than ever before. Your brand needs to make sure that you can deliver answers to the more complex questions customers are now asking about re-sale, recycling and eco-friendly initiatives — everywhere they're searching.
2. Your site search experience will matter more than ever.
With brands reporting an increase in Instagram direct sales and no-click searches continuing to grow, it's tempting to think that your website isn't as important. To the contrary, delivering a seamless and personalised search experience on your website matters more than ever.
In fact, 48% of shoppers have left a brand's website and actively made a purchase from a competitor because of a poorly personalised experience. What's more, customers who search on your website are your most valuable customers: site search is 1.8x more effective at creating conversions.
If a customer searches on your website for "pastel cocktail dress for a spring wedding," for example, can you answer that question and deliver them directly to the page where they can purchase that cocktail dress? Or, instead, do your search results show a series of links to pages containing the word "dress" or "pastel?" In 2020, it will be more important than ever to provide direct answers to your customers' tailored questions and make it easy for them to take action — or you'll lose them to a competitor.
3. Retail experiences and events will proliferate — and customers need to be able to find those, too.
The bricks-and-mortar success of digitally native vertical brands has challenged the narrative that e-commerce alone is the best way to succeed in the age of Amazon. And businesses have taken lessons from some of their tactics.
Chief among these? Creating more experiential events.
Experiential marketing is on the rise, and many businesses are exploring ways to use dynamic in-store or pop-up events to drive foot traffic and win new customers. Pop-up shops alone generate an estimated $80 billion a year.
Giving consumers something they can't get online — namely, a highly unique, hands-on experience with their brand — has become critical. Take, for example, Canada Goose's new "winter experience" that's driving buzz around the brand's Toronto showroom: the space allows shoppers to try on Canada Goose coats in -12 degrees Celsius while they view 4K video walls simulating rugged Canadian landscapes. And while at the end of the experience visitors can shop online with the assistance of an employee, there's no product inventory in the showroom at all.
But the first key to success with experiences like these hinges on making sure that consumers actually find out about them. Every customer journey starts with a search and, while customers may be able to find your permanent store location or your website, it can be more difficult to make sure that short-term installations and local events surface in search results.
To capitalise on this trend, help customers find your experiences by making sure that each event you create has a unique URL and that your event information is up-to-date everywhere customers are searching. Learn more about marketing for experiential events here.
Want more insight into what's ahead for search in 2020?Get marketing predictionsfrom 10 experts at companies including Microsoft, Adobe, Yum! Brands, and more in our latest eBook.