Today, companies that aren’t maximizing their online business are being left behind. Retailers large and small are investing heavily in site development, marketing and technology, all with the goal of more deeply engaging consumers on the web.
Corporate leaders expect results from this increased investment, but may not fully understand the increasingly crowded digital retail space. With competition on the rise, digital advertising spend alone will not lead to better performance or higher sales. To truly differentiate, a retailer must build and deliver a unified approach that’s in-line with how the consumer thinks and searches across all customer experiences.
When someone seeks out a product or service online, they don’t worry about the individual channels, instead looking for a more holistic solution to their needs. When marketing efforts, including search, mobile ads, affiliates and social touchpoints become disjointed, retailers risk losing the consumer’s interest.
For many retailers, their marketing may be managed across a number of different departments and individuals, and often times there’s little coordination of efforts. To combat this disorganization, retailers must break down internal walls to ensure these key departments are working closely together. Ideally digital, and marketing in general, works best as one “team” with a holistic goal, in which different channels inform one another to operate like a well-oiled machine.
To make this work, brands need clear reporting across all digital channels so executive management has a comprehensive view of what’s going on. The benefits to reporting extend beyond executive buy-in. By tracking cross-channel performance, companies build a culture of collaboration in which unbiased decisions can be made. In addition, the overall marketing mix becomes more effective.
Search marketing is a logical place where combining efforts can pay significant dividends. When organic search engine optimization and paid search engine marketing are planned and executed together, something special happens. The strengths of one overcomes the weaknesses of the other: rapid testing in pay per click informs organic strategy, and organic real estate overtakes the need to bid on expensive keywords, especially branded terms.
Does this mean organizations that don’t break down internal barriers to accommodate internet-savvy consumers are doomed (like Toys”R”Us)? Not necessarily, but they will be at risk from a host of new agile, digital-first competitors. Retailers that are only now embracing digital may actually be at an advantage, without legacy organizational charts keeping them from communicating. Broadly speaking, wholesale reorganizations are all but out of the question. Few retail organizations have the time or, more to the point, ability to comprehensively reorganize.
A better path is seeking to understand the competitive landscape and identify where there are openings. The trick isn’t to saturate every digital channel, but learn what’s working, what could be improved, and which channels you aren’t in currently but could be.
While retailers may not be able to boil the ocean and take on the Amazons of the world, it is possible to create a road map that advances digital maturity. How does the short term transition into the long term?
At a high level, it’s important to have a holistic view of digital performance and take a test-and-learn approach. Each stakeholder should understand their part in the big picture and then determine where they can move the needle. There should be short-term pockets to take advantage of, and from there, a retail brand should set its sights on building a more competitive long-term strategy. At each step along the way, evaluating performance and gathering insights will enable long-term success. Digital marketing is a journey, not a destination.
Daniel Chambers is the director of business development at iQuanti, a company that provides digital marketing services for organic and paid search, analytics, CRO, social media and more.