In parts one and two of this series of three, I discussed the threats to growth from a changing economic and digital landscape, and the consequences of failing to understand the massive role social media is likely to be playing in your customers’ purchasing decisions. In the final part in the series, I discuss how you should be responding in an environment of change and uncertainty.
Obsess about customer journeys
A changing environment impacts your customers’ behaviour, and the pace of change is accelerating. How they behaved last year, or even six months ago, isn’t necessarily how they’re going to behave today, tomorrow or in six months’ time. If you don’t understand how customer behaviour is changing, you’re going to fail to engage them and waste a large amount of marketing budget. Reassess the journey regularly and be agile enough to act on change quickly.
Spot shifting demand early on
Don’t just look at what demand looks like today, but where it is headed. Search volume data is a very useful indicator of current demand for products and services, and longtail keyword data gives us a good insight into your customers’ current pain points and needs. But external influences will change the future behaviour and their purchase journey in ways which you need to understand. Perform trends analysis to see how needs are changing, to identify new audiences, and to uncover new opportunities to engage your audience before your competitors do.
Act on changes in your channel mix
As discussed in part one, without a change of approach to organic search you are likely to see a lower percentage of traffic coming through this channel. How will you change your approach? Is it the most efficient use of your marketing budget to invest time in trying to increase positioning, or are there other ways around this problem? Take time to investigate emergent traffic sources that your audience are engaging with. Channel dependency is dangerous in a fragmenting landscape.
Identify changes in purchasing behaviour
Depending on the price points of the products and services that you sell, any change or uncertainty in economic circumstances can introduce more consideration into your customers’ purchasing journey. Analyse your data to see if time lag or the number of visits to purchase (or both) are lengthening. Consider:
- Activity designed to shorten the purchase journey
- How you can use appropriate remarketing techniques through social, to stop conversion leakage
- The timeframe within which you are most likely to be able to re-engage them
Take control of your conversion rate
In a landscape where your growth can be stunted by events that are completely out of your hands, such as algorithm changes or economic shocks, it makes a lot of sense to take charge of one of the most important things that you control: your conversion rate. Conversion rate optimisation can help you to increase revenues even in times of falling demand, reduce your cost per acquisition from paid media channels, and cushion you from channel-specific traffic issues. It’s much easier, and cheaper, to double your conversion rate than to double your traffic. The right blend of traffic-driving and conversion rate activity is the shortest route to hitting your growth targets.
I’ve covered a lot of ground during this three-part blog series, so here are some of the key takeaways:
- With consumers tightening their belts due to higher prices caused by the falling value of the pound, we expect to see declining search volumes for certain goods and services. This will prompt more brands to enter the paid search space, leading to higher click costs.
- Algorithmic changes mean we are now seeing no organic search results above the fold for some terms. This has caused organic click-through rates to fall, again prompting more brands to move into paid search.
- Brands that are actively and visibly engaging with their customers are the ones that will outperform their competitors.
- When a need is triggered for a product, particularly lifestyle and luxury products, many people – particularly younger audiences – instinctively head for social platforms before searching on Google.
- Don’t expect huge volumes of “free” traffic from social – it’s very much a pay-to-play environment. However, the paid targeting options on these channels are excellent, and it’s typically far cheaper to advertise to people who aren’t necessarily at the point of need.
- Perform regular trends analysis to identify new audiences and understand how the needs of your customers are changing.