The consumer decision journey in the increasingly complex search retail marketplace

As e-commerce continues to grow, retail marketers will need to invest in digital marketing. Columnist Christi Olson makes the case that search can strengthen your online retail strategy at every stage of the buyer journey.

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In the retail space today, it’s no longer business as usual. Retail is in a constant state of flux as more and more brands announce store closings; we’ve experienced a staggering 97 percent increase in store closures year over year, according to the National Real Estate Investor.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. E-commerce sales are growing — in fact, according to Business Insider, “Though the US retail average growth rate in the first half of 2016 was just 2 percent for total retail, it was 16 percent for e-commerce.” Digital transformation is taking over the retail space as retailers scramble to adapt, survive and thrive.

One of the unique challenges in this new landscape is how to market brands whose products are sold across multiple distribution channels and online marketplaces. Retailers need to decide if they should sell their product(s) through their own website or across other third-party distribution sites, such as Amazon, Target, Nordstrom, Alibaba or countless others.

Retailers also face challenges in determining how to distribute their budget across marketing initiatives, including co-op advertising, traditional and digital channels. They must also figure out the best ways to create frictionless online-to-offline journeys, especially when consumers can purchase products quickly and easily in either environment.

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Today’s leading brands don’t just distribute their products online — they leverage the power of search to connect with consumers throughout each stage of the consumer decision journey. In order to establish meaningful customer relationships, today’s brands need to be present throughout each step of this journey. In this increasingly complex online marketplace, one thing remains clear: search is the glue driving both online and offline conversions.

Now trending: Multiple purchase points

Unlike earlier, simplified journeys that drove consumers to singular purchase points in isolated sessions, today’s consumer journeys are longer, more complex, and often include multiple distributors or purchase points. In order to be kept top of mind and to be considered for purchases, leading brands are leveraging search to connect with customers throughout each of the five stages of the consumer decision journey: Initiation, Research, Comparison, Transaction and Experience.


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