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June 26, 2013

Shopping in the Internet Age

In my work with clients of Ad House Advertising, we're constantly talking about how the internet has changed shopping. So a recent article by Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's Senior VP of Ads and Commerce who oversaw the technology behind Google Shopping, caught my attention.

His points are totally correct. Think about these in relation to your business:

1. Shoppers know as much as salespeople.

When you're in the market for a product or service, there's a world of information at your fingertips. It's estimated today that 56% of business purchases are researched and decided before a salesperson even knows about a potential sale. Where's the opportunity for you? Encourage (i.e. mandate) that your sales staff researches your competition online and knows your company inside and out. The worst thing in the world is for that prospective customer to ask a question and be met with "I don't know. I'll have to get back to you."

2. Retailers can deliver personal, relevant suggestions at scale

Years ago, a store owner got to know their customers so well, they could easily suggest items that would be of interest. That intimacy between store and shopper drove sales because of the relationship. In today's changed marketplace, where can you find opportunity? Two ways come to mind: first, you CAN still develop a relationship with a customer (but only once they're a customer!) We believe an effective online Display pay-per-click campaign offers each company a way to suggest relevant products or services to those who are likely to be in the market. It's a suggestion that opens the door electronically.

3. Mobile devices drive foot traffic to stores.

Before everyone had a smartphone in their hand, they used phone directories to find elusive products or inquire about the price, the size and a host of other question. Now, our fingers no longer "do the walking" through the yellow pages; instead they do the scrolling as we shop in an entirely different manner using our phone. Where's your opportunity? Make it easy for your customer. Here's an example: recently, we were shopping for an in-the-wall dog door at a large home improvement store. They have a large display of these dog doors but they don't carry them in-stock. But there's no sign that says that (you have to track down a salesperson), there's no QR code on the display to connect you to the online section to order, there's no in-store computer to use to place the order. So what happened? We went home, looked online and ordered from another company.

4. Opinions carry more weight than ever.

Word of mouth has always been the best advertising. When it's electronic, and spreads far beyond the immediate customer's circle of friends, it's a whole new ball game. Where's your opportunity? Manage your reputation. Respond to reviews and complaints; engage your online fans. You may not make a sale from social media directly, but you can certainly lose one-- or dozens.

5. Products can jump off the screen.

Before the internet, customers wanted to touch a product, test it out. Today, they've moved beyond. Who would have thought that shoe sales would be so successful online?? Whether you've got an E-commerce site or not, you've got to make your products jump off the screen. So where's your opportunity in that? Video. It's by far the preferred method to investigate a product by today's online shopper. After all, we visually can take in SO much more information visually than we can by reading -- so when it's video (and not a still photo), people just GET IT more. If you're not using video on your website to sell your company AND your products, you are missing the opportunity.

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