As we look ahead to 2015, there’s one thing of which we can be sure; price will be the main driver of consumer loyalty, argues Mark Pearson.
Better returns policies
After pricing, the most important factor in building customer loyalty, both on and off-line, is having a returns policy that is flexible and convenient for the customer. A simple returns policy that is easy for any customer to navigate is particularly important with more expensive purchases as it reassures them that, should they change their mind about the item, they can easily return it without great loss.
In 2015, it is likely that we shall see an increase in the use of services such as Collect + and Doddle. These offer retailers and customers alike an innovative and secure way to handle returns.
Death of the high street?
The popularly sited ‘fact’ that the wave of new e-commerce apps and business models will the nail the coffin shut for the high street is not yet supported by evidence. Indeed, the Office for National Statistics reports that at the moment online sales account for just 12 per cent of the retail sales market.
It appears that the recent development of new technologies, such as mobile payment service and iBeacons, compliment high street shopping making it faster, cheaper and more convenient than its online counterpart.
However this is not to say the high street is safe. Almost half of shoppers admit to showrooming: experiencing a product in store, but using a mobile to compare prices and buy online. Retailers are having to find ways to address this, which includes adopting a universal pricing strategy across all platforms. Yaap is a Spanish app that aids smaller retailers, independent shops and pop-ups attract customers despite their smaller online presence. These businesses can also use micro-location technology, for instance the beacon tools from PayPal and Apple to help them compete online.
The ‘Airbnb Effect’
New, customer-focused digital and mobile platforms are slowly replacing the incumbent models. Innovative companies are now offering new and more accessible services and customers will flock to them in droves, as seen with Airbnb changing the hotel industry.
Airbnb cleverly positioned itself as a conduit between online and real worlds, providing a simple, easy-to-use platform with useful and tech-savvy solutions and apps. Customers want simplicity and intuitive functionality, and these principles must be applied to e-commerce.
Targeting efforts according to users’ interests, demographic and even time of day preferences is a key marketing strategy and marketers will continue to push boundaries in order to more accurately identify these factors and act accordingly to serve up the most relevant ads and customised deals. Technology will make this possible in many ways, improving loyalty for the smartest of vendors.
In 2015, more companies than ever will use AdWords to target online shoppers who bounce before or during check out, with the aim of re-engaging and converting them. Particularly significant is that more and more organisations will be learning exactly when and where is the right time and place to present to them the personalised advertisement for the maximum chance of success.
For example, consumers will visit blogs and review websites such as TrustPilot after searching for offers on a voucher code website, or viewing a product online. This is the perfect place to offer them a deal for that specific product. Expect marketers to recognise user habits, and potential pre-purchase destinations, and gain a clearer understanding of their customers.
Content is key
Expect to see websites re-think how they present their content in the coming year. 2015 will be about playing the long game with content, both in form and keyword targeting. The understanding of language by Google and emerging search engine platforms has expanded so that they can now pick up on linguistic subtleties that would have previously been overlooked. This means that it will become harder to rank for specific phrases or keywords so companies will be forced into shelling out more for pay-per-click campaigns. Paid search will continue to become more competitive and unsustainable.
The stuffy, keyword-laden ‘About Us’ pages we’re used to seeing on websites will start to evolve, or disappear completely. Instead we will see an increased use of writing for people rather than search engines, using content that is informative, novel, creative and highly relevant. I predict a wave of articles on top-tens, alternative uses for products and everyday life hacks. These will provide real value to customers often linking to other services outside the websites own products.
Social media should be expected to play a large part in repurposing and distributing content to provide brand exposure and SEO links. To accommodate these structural changes, it is likely that we will see many more joined up marketing channels, for example SEM, social, content creation teams all working together rather than remaining separate. 2015 will also be the year that more traditional brands finally realise social media is not a fad that will soon die out. Rather, intelligently run social media campaigns will effectively captivate the right audience at a low cost.
Mark Pearson is founder of MyVoucherCodes.co.uk.