Simon Swan Digital Marketing & LEJOG Cyclist


The battle for online sales on Christmas Day

According to a recent article from Techcrunch, IBM coremetrics data recorded a 16% increase in online sales completed on Christmas day 2011 compared to Christmas day 2010 in the US. According to econsultancy, online sales on Monday December 5th 2011 were up 30% compared to Monday December 6th 2010 with mobile sales accounting for nearly 20% of total retail traffic on Boxing Day 2011.

Christmas day has become one of the most important retail days for online retailers and is fast forming an integral part of anyone's digital marketing strategy. So just why has Christmas day become an excuse for people to desert their turkey and trimmings and instead, pick up the laptop/mobile/iPad and browse your favourite online retailer? Below are a few factors that have had a big impact this year.

Mobile - The rise in customers transacting via their mobile and smartphone devices. According to Techcrunch sales completed by a mobile device accounted for 14.4% compared to just over 5% during Christmas 2010.

The rise in alternative digital channels to compliment a retailers marketing mix can be attributed to the iPad which this year accounted for 7% of all online Christmas-day sales. Expect the iPad to command an even higher percentage next year as retailers continue to optimise their ecommerce platforms for both mobile and iPads. Christmas 2011 has provided notable contributions from both mobile, smartphone and iPad devices but we can expect Christmas 2012 to provide a significant multi-channel offering through the rise in e-commerce and m-commerce working together.

January Sales come early - Experian Hitwise reported Christmas day 2011 recorded 1 in 8 visits online in the UK went to a retail website. The chart below displays the trend in online searches for the generic term, "sales" since 2004, with each year displaying a peak during the annual January Sale period.

Since 2004, aggressive digital marketing techniques have been implemented by retail brands looking to "own" the January sale space through tactical digital marketing techniques such as:

  • Affiliate activity around January sales
  • Pay-Per click marketing through targeting specific keywords associated with the sales
  • Optimising web content for better search engines visibility
  • Email activity - timely, targeted and segmented email activity

This is turn has seen a change in search behaviour where online users are now changing their search habits and now search for a brand name rather than generic "sale" search terms. Further evidence of this has resulted in only three of the top fifteen sale terms being generic, the rest were branded sale search terms. Below is a graph displaying the annual rise in 3 leading retail brands since 2004.

  • Blue - searches for "Next sale"
  • Orange - searches for "Debenhams sale"
  • Red - searches for "Argos sale"

Drunk Shopping - A recent article in the Telegraph referred to a growing trend in buying under the influence. leading online shopping comparison engine, Kelkoo ran a survey which reported that a fifth of those questioned said that they could not remember what they had bought when they woke up! So if your gran decided to buy you the latest X Factor winners single or a hideous cardigan for Christmas this year, there is a fair chance she may have had a few too many sherries and according to Kelkoo the key time for the rise in drunk shopping is form 11pm and into the early hours.

Econsultancy have released a handy ecommerce action plan with 35 tips to help support conversion rates which signifies the growing importance of Christmas day being a key milestone in the battle for online sales.


Index search and the future of the internet

A fascinating TED talk called "Six Ways To Save The Internet" by Roger McNamee sheds some light on his views on how a future internet will look. One of the six topics discussed is Roger's view of the decline in Index search. I've put together a few points and key facts from the TED talk and would definitely recommend listening to it.

Index search has peaked - Four years ago, index search accounted for 90% of all search volume and with it the lead player in the search market, Google, became so successful as it continued to monopolise the search arena. When Google launched in 1998, the internet was an open source world lacking boundaries and structure. Google identified a need and requirement and stepped in to provide a platform to categorise content and  commoditise all forms of content within its Index.

But with the leap in index based searches so Google has become "littered" with non-authority content as well as SPAM - It has become such a concern for Google that the search engine has introduced their own webspam team, to quote the following search engine article: "They (Google) have a manual team that have right to remove websites that are, or are suspected of spamming. Not only do they protect their network from spam but they also provide insightful training data for the engineers whose sole purpose is to fight the continuous battle against web spam. So to be clear it is a combination of engineers and manual people, (web spam team), who fight to keep the Google network free from web spam so we, the user can try to enjoy the network hassle free from spam".

Other initiatives Google introduced to counteract impacts affecting the quality of their search results were the Panda update and the Freshness Update - an update to ensure the most recent up to date content is provided to the user rather than old web pages. For example, a user typing in "Football results" is looking for the latest results and fixtures rather than historic content. You can check out the the Google Web Spam Team Goals for 2011 by viewing this video

The concern for Google is that users will turn their back on the search giant and begin to use alternative search verticals to satisfy specific search requirements. Examples include: LinkedIN for business/professional content; Facebook for social; for Dating, Tripadvisor for travel or Twitter for real time news.

Search is not going away but users are beginning to adapt their search habits - the rise in specific verticals associated with market trends of interest (e.g. TripAdvisor, LinkedIN) but also the device they use to carry out search activity, the rise of the smartphone.

My own view on the future of search is that search verticals will become more prominent and have a bigger part to play as content becomes more fragmented  and tailored for specific sector search (e.g. Weather, Sport, News, Travel).

It also provides a fantastic opportunity for brands to take ownership of their sector by producing more and more authority content to meet the needs and requirements of the search sector they operate in and look to command a monopoly within their vertical.

Within the search sector content is king and with it, there is still the opportunity for brands to step up to the mark and take ownership of the search sector.


Digital Marketing Tactics to support Britain’s High Street

A recent report released by Internet Retailing shed light on the growing concern that Britain's high streets are "on course to take less than 40% of UK retail spending by 2014". This latest statement follows a review by TV personality Mary Portas on the current trading climate of our UK high streets and recommendations on how to improve trading conditions with a 28 point recommendation agenda

The Portas paper focused on initiatives such as introducing a "national market stall day" and taxing out of town shopping centre car parks, initiatives to encourage and incentivise shoppers back to the high street.

But there is an initiative that seems to be overlooked which could help facilitate a much needed solution to Britain's high streets,  digital marketing.  Below I have focused on some key, cost-effective digital marketing tactics that could be adopted by high street retailers to help support their business or service:

-Google Local Search: Google introduced Local search as a means to address the growing trend for "localised" search activity, for example "London restaurants", or "hairdressers in Manchester". It allowed sole traders and small business owners to use the search engine as a means to promote their business or service by updating address and contact details, allowing your customers to review the service provided as well as locating the business/service through Google map facility

A recent post from Techcrunch suggested that 20% of total Google searches were local, with that number increasing to 40% when factoring in Mobile so this provides a massive opportunity to exploit and engage with an online audience and convert this to incremental footfall to the shop premises.

Voucher Codes - The explosion in online voucher codes has assisted many bricks and mortar stores to engage with an online audience and drive interest and encourage footfall to their stores.

This has been a positive approach to support the catering trade allowing restaurant chains to promote and entice diners with various incentives. The chart below provides a graph from September to December 2011 and rising trend in searches for voucher terms.Voucher Code Searches

Of the search terms containing "voucher" during the final 3 months of 2011, there are a number of prominent high street names included within the top 20 voucher based searches including: Zizzi, Debenhams, Ann Summers, Pizza Express, Sports Direct, John Lewis, Pizza Hut and Next. This indicates a convergence in online and offline media and provides retailers a cost effective strategy to drive online users to offline bricks and mortar stores.

The emergence of Groupon has provided a fresh impetus in driving location based voucher incentives for shoppers to find exclusive daily deal promotions found on the high street and is yet another online vehicle that can be used to drive shoppers.

Amazon Lockers - Recently I discussed the emergence of Amazon lockers,  an incentive for their online shoppers to collect orders at a designated drop-off point, located in city centres across the UK. a trial is being operated at London shopping centres (Bromley, Shepherd's Bush and Soho). This is a perfect opportunity for high street retailers to promote products and services through working with Amazon lockers service and engage with the Amazon user to use their own services found on the high street.

Established high street retailers such as Argos and Carphone Warehouse provide their own click and collect initiatives, with Argos also recently announcing a campaign using QR Codes to support their marketing efforts on the high street.

From a previous post, I discussed the opportunities QR Codes provide estate agents converting footfall online.  Argos are using QR codes engaging with high street shoppers to interact with Argos shop displays. The shopper can scan the code of the product via their smartphone and be re-directed to the Argos online payment screen.


Google Longtail Infographic

Just picked up this great Infographic courtesy of SEOBook on how Google killed the long tail for search terms -

Google Longtail Keywords.

Infographic by SEO Book

With the convergence of the Google homepage in now providing real estate to promote Google images, video, local as well as retaining PPC advertising spots, for SEO, it is becoming harder to ensure you're top performing keywords are retaining page 1 rankings.