“Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Jeremy Geiger, CEO of Retailigence.
Mobile devices have dramatically changed the way shoppers interact with brands and retailers. The growing popularity of mobile shopping apps, combined with brand and product searches, creates a wealth of data on consumer intent to shop and buy. But a few barriers keep brands and retailers from tapping the full potential of this data to grow brand awareness and sales.
First of all, there’s the sheer enormity of the data, which can bring on data overload. Then there’s the fact that even though digital’s role in driving ecommerce continues to dominate headlines, 90% of retail sales still take place in brick-and-mortar stores. Brands have been especially challenged by the local path-to-purchase gap.
The good news is that data science and marketing platforms are helping brands bring disparate data sources together to target consumers and drive them toward in-store purchases. These new technologies are finally beginning to close the local path-to-purchase gap, which has been the promise of mobile all along. Marketers can use these platforms along with integrated data sources to grow their in-store sales.
As with any new technology, determining where to start is critical. Marketers must first harness insights from three main sources of local path-to-purchase data: local search, location data and product information.
Local Search Data
Mobile is playing an increasingly important role in the path-to-purchase. Consumers own more than one billion smartphones across the globe today, according to Forrester Research. Tablets are flying off the shelves, with more than 150 million sold and growth projected to outstrip sales of PCs in 2013. More than one million mobile apps, such as ShopAdvisor, Product Finder and ShopSavvy, are available to help consumers shop, locate and purchase their favorite brands via mobile devices. According to eMarketer, 65% of US consumers start shopping on smartphones during the research phase of their shopping trips.
When shoppers search for a specific product or brand via their phones, it’s a good indicator of their intent to purchase, especially when they focus their searches locally. A recent comScore survey found that 48% of mobile phone users and 32% of tablet users visited a business after a successful local search. Another study by Google and Nielsen found 73% of mobile searches triggered follow-up actions and 28% resulted in conversions. Brand and retail marketers that harness this treasure trove of local mobile search data can unlock trends into what shoppers want to purchase locally, and can use these insights to optimize their marketing campaigns and increase sales.
Hyperlocal targeting is nothing new but has evolved with the widespread adoption of smartphones and the growing popularity of tablets. Marketers have been using geotargeting tactics for nearly a decade, identifying online consumers’ locations by tying IP addresses to specific zip or postal codes. The first wave of geotargeted marketing served consumers with localized content as they searched and browsed on PCs and laptops. Then came smartphones and tablets, which offered brands and retailers another channel to target consumers on the go using GPS and geofencing technology.
With geofencing, marketers can use consumers’ mobile devices – and the GPS technology embedded in those devices – to create a perimeter and then serve relevant ads to consumers who come into range. It might once have sounded like the stuff of science fiction, but forward-looking brands and retailers are already testing and using this type of marketing today. Mobile shoppers receive alerts that a specific product or brand in which they’ve previously shown interest, either through mobile search or shopping apps on their device, is now in stock and available for purchase at stores near them.
Hyperlocal data can also be used to better target ads on electronic signs in transit stations, on billboards and on vehicles such as buses and taxis. Using hyperlocal data, these ads can be used to let consumers know exactly where they can find and buy what they want right now. Research has shown that mentioning a location or city name in a mobile ad can improve click-through rates by 200%. In addition to drastically improving CTRs, including relevant location information directly in ad creative can also increase conversions and strengthen brand awareness.
While search and location data is helpful, providing mobile consumers with real-time product data is what ultimately ties everything together and finally drives consumers to stores at the moment of intent. It’s one thing for a retailer to know which items shoppers seek locally in which locations, but if the retailer’s products aren’t visible to consumers, those products won’t be considered when shoppers make purchase decisions. By making real-time inventory information available to mobile shoppers, retailers can use local search and location data to convert mobile shoppers to customers.
In other words, retailers have a huge opportunity to increase sales and brand awareness by marrying real-time product inventory data with local search and location data for hyperlocal targeting.
Shoppers want immediate information on where they can find and buy their favorite brands, but even after doing some research, many consumers arrive at a store only to find that the exact brand, size or color they want isn’t in stock. The consumer may then move on to shop at another local retailer, decide to buy online at a deep discount and wait for product delivery, or simply put off the purchase. Both brands and retailers lose out when this happens. And consumers end up wasting time and becoming frustrated when they can’t find exactly what they want to buy at a local retailer.
With product inventory data integrated into the marketing mix, brands and retailers can present shoppers on the go with hyperlocal offers that not only include purchase location information but also specific product details and inventory availability. Real-time product availability data is the missing link that can finally close the local path-to-purchase gap.