Australian consumers are increasingly turning to search instead of family and friends because of the convenience. However, a report by Salmat has found that marketers are not tapping into this opportunity and putting their money into social media instead.
Shane McClelland, the head of marketing and corporate communications at Salmat, notes that in 2018, 72% of consumers went to family and friends for recommendations, but in 2019 only 46% of consumers turn to their loved ones when deciding what to buy.
“Our research shows the most influential channel that consumers turned to before making a purchase was now search engines (48%),” he explains to The Drum when breaking down the 2019 Salmat Marketing Report.
“This is another example of how consumers are increasingly relying on the internet to make decisions in every part of their lives. The upside of this is it’s a fantastic opportunity for marketers to reach consumers through search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)?”
However, McClelland points out that consumers are not shunning peer feedback altogether as they are still seeking advice from online reviews. Salmat’s research found that close to a third of consumers (30%) turned to online reviews before buying products themselves.
“As marketers, we should be aware of the different channels consumers are using before making purchases and adjust plans accordingly,” he adds.
Despite search being the most influential channel for consumers, the report found only a quarter of marketers investing in SEO and SEM (28% and 25% respectively) to reach their audience. It found that marketers are instead putting their money into social media, with over half (54%) of marketers investing in this channel in the last year.
This is despite only one in four consumers (25%) saying they use social media as an information source for making purchase decisions.
For marketers who are putting their money into social media and are keen to invest more in SEO and SEM, McClelland says it is important that marketers understand the influential points along the customer buying journey, so they can invest in the channel most likely to reach and influence their target audience.
“Social media is still an important channel to market within as it builds brand awareness, however, it should not be prioritized at the detriment of other more effective opportunities such as SEO or SEM,” he explains. “Marketers should look at investing in search which is holding the highest attention of consumers (48%). Our research shows how important audience management and insights are for marketers.”
McClelland also notes too many marketers are making assumptions about how and where consumers are making purchase decisions. He says marketers know marketing budgets need to be spent on what will deliver the best ROI, and SEO and SEM represent channels where they can reach consumers at a crucial time in their buying journey.
Australian consumers are largely driven by price and money is often the deciding factor for consumers when it comes down to their final purchase decision, with close to 70% consumers saying that price counts for of their purchase decisions. However, when asked about their top concerns when buying products, value for money came out on top (85%).
The report found that marketers are acutely aware of the role price plays in consumers’ purchase decisions and are discounting their products regularly, with 26% of marketers discounting weekly, and 28% discounting monthly. As consumers focus more on value for money when buying products, marketers have a chance to stand out from the crowd by highlighting the value for money of their products.
In addition, McClelland says brands should consider letterbox marketing as a different way to achieve cut through when trying to remain competitive. The report found 1 in 4 (28%) consumers are reading letterbox catalogues before making their purchase decisions. He adds that letterbox catalogues are five times more influential than celebrity ambassadors or influencers (5%).
“Make sure you stay in touch with customers and have a retention strategy in place. Whether this is in the form of EDMs or tailored personalized offers, make sure you continue to reach out to customers to ensure they come back,” he explains.
“This includes providing the best quality experience on your brand website. Our research shows customers are using your website to research (30%) you and what you offer ahead of buying. You should, therefore, ensure your website provides the best first impression on a possible future customer.”
McClelland says it is also important for marketers to look at what consumers want out of their shopping experience, especially when shopping online. The report found that consumers frequently search for retailers that will provide the services they want as two thirds of consumers search for retailers that offer free delivery (62%) and close to half of the consumers (45%) search for retailers that offer different payment options like PayPal, AfterPay, Bitcoin, WePay and AliPay.
“Understand what your customer wants from you so you can give it to them!” he adds.
Is investing in in-store tech necessary?
As technology becomes more influential in the customer’s buying journey, marketers are investing in tablets, iPads and virtual reality experiences in-store to create an omnichannel retail experience for customers.
Brands like Alibaba have invested heavily in changing how consumers buy their groceries with its tech-focused FreshHippo, setting off a race with other brands like Honestbee and Deliveroo following suit.
However, not all technology is equally influential. The report found that when shopping in-store, consumers are more inclined to use their own phone to go online to compare prices, find the best deal or access specific retailer apps (57%), or research product information (56%), rather than use the tech that retailers offer in-store (31%).
Therefore, in place of investing heavily in tablets, iPads and virtual reality experiences in-store, McClelland advises marketers to look at investing in areas that are holding the attention of consumers like SEO/SEM, online catalogues, online reviews and owned online assets such as a brand’s website.
“Consumers continue to do research on their own devices! Mainly on their mobile whilst they are still in store,” he explains. “This makes a lot of the in-store technology redundant and rarely used by consumers. If the mobile platform is invading the in-store experience, it simply makes sense to optimize your online experience to secure in-store sales.”
He also points out consumers are checking the brand website (30%) ahead of buying as they are looking for reassurance, they are getting the best deal and by approaching them with a multi-platform strategy (SEO, SEM and an optimized brand website), marketers will be able to more reliably secure purchase.
“Marketers should also look at creating in-store environments to harness consumer behavior – charging points, relaxation areas, experiences to keep consumers in store for longer, and ultimately then converting them to a sale,” says McClelland.
You can read the rest of the report here.