The Covid-19 pandemic has altered our daily lives dramatically over the past 18 months. We’ve created hacks for stopping our glasses from steaming up when we wear face masks. We’ve learned how to treat our dry, cracked hands from constant sanitising. And we’ve fought the urge of throwing our laptops across the room when our WiFi becomes ‘unstable’ during a Zoom call.
But one of the main shifts in our habits has been how we shop. With non-essential retail closing during multiple lockdowns, options were suddenly limited to where shoppers could spend their money. This sent an increasing amount of people browsing and shopping online. But as shops have re-opened, it seems as though the shift in shopping habits to online is here for the long-term.
So what does this shift in habit mean for local and independent businesses?
Shoppers Had No Choice But To Embrace Online Retail
The pandemic has seen non-essential retail owners shutting down their bricks and mortar stores during multiple local and national lockdowns. It has also seen retail strain under the strict guidelines when they reopened, with fears that the high street might never recover post-pandemic.
Consequently, the closure of non-essential retail stores saw a surge in online shopping. According to the Office of National Statistics, online shopping accounted for 33% of all retail sales in May 2020, compared to pre-pandemic levels of 15-20%. This number only increased to 36% in November 2020 and January 2021 as we moved further to Christmas and experienced a New Year’s lockdown.
Although shoppers had no choice but to purchase online for some goods during the lockdowns, this experience saw a long-term shift in people who are continuing to opt for shopping online than hitting the shops.
The main reason for this is due to the convenience that online shopping offers. Shoppers can purchase items online and have them delivered to their front door, without having to leave their home. It’s a safe and time-saving alternative to shopping in physical stores.
Also, due to shops still enforcing government guidelines (i.e. face masks, social distancing, restricted customer numbers) the experience of browsing and shopping has been negatively impacted. There is a sense of urgency when you enter a store to grab what you need, pay and leave – meaning shops are struggling to create a relaxing and enjoyable environment for their customers, whilst also being covid-secure.
So What Can Local Retail Businesses Do To Adapt To Shopper’s New Habits?
The most crucial step for local retail businesses to take is to build an online presence. This includes having a website with a functional eCommerce platform where customers can have the choice to purchase in-store or online. With more people shopping online than ever before, your site needs to be one that users will remember. Similar to how your customers experience shopping in your store, you need to think of the user’s journey from the moment they land on your site, to checking out.
Although many businesses may already have a current website, it’s highly important that customers have a smooth user experience – otherwise, this can cost your business both in lost sales and an underperforming marketing campaign.
Using A Google Shopping Campaign To Boost Sales and Online Presence
A Google Shopping campaign is a highly effective strategy for retailers who are looking to boost their online presence. This type of campaign allows you to put your products in front of users who are actively searching for the types of products you are offering. Therefore, you can drive high quality traffic to your site – users who are actually interested in your products – for a much lower cost than other traditional forms of advertising.
For instance, if you are a small retailer selling luxury leather bags, your products will be listed as an ad when someone is searching for luxury leather bags on Google.
Unlike a Search Campaign, you don’t need to input specific keywords that you want to target. Instead, a Shopping campaign uses a feed that is linked to your online inventory to generate ads for the relevant searches. It also keeps track of when products are out of stock, so it will never show ads for products that customers can’t purchase.
The sophisticated Google Ads interface also makes it simple to keep track of your costs, revenue and your Return on Ad Spend/Investment. You can compare products that are selling well, analyse audiences that are converting highly and make data-driven decisions for your business.
An effective online presence can also have a positive impact on the footfall through your store. If users have a good experience on your website and like your products, they are more likely to put on some shoes and come visit your store.
How Our PPC Team Can Help
For local retailers, it can seem daunting to dive into the world of Google Ads and online marketing. Our PPC team can help you understand how Google Ads works and build a strategy to boost your online presence and sales.
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