What’s the ideal marketing mix for ecommerce?
Should you focus on SEO, PPC, image search or social?
And if social…should you focus on Pinterest? Facebook? Twitter?
The answer is: you want a bit of each to match different customer’s shopping style.
You need to look at the mindset of the shoppers using each of those channels to optimise for each of them and improve traffic, conversions and ROI.
BloomReach analysed last-click conversion data across a number of popular ecommerce sites including Neiman Marcus, Guess? and Modcloth. We identified four behaviour styles of online shoppers – Hunters, Window Shoppers, Gardeners, and Gatherers.
Window Shoppers: Pinterest is the window shopping mega-mall of the web. You don’t go there with a destination or product in mind. On Pinterest, it’s all about the journey – a visually stunning look at cultivated products, beautiful places and gorgeous people. And in the Pinterest mall, you picked out the “stores” based on who you follow. Like fashion? They’ve got you covered. Remodeling your kitchen? There’s plenty of Pinterest boards for that. Pinterest users are visually shopping – browsing the Pinboards.
Without a clear intent to purchase, you’d assume the conversion rates from Pinterest would be pretty poor and in most cases…you’d be right. Not only is Pinterest growing its user base, but the conversion rate of Pinterest clicks is growing at the fastest rate – improving 102% over the last three months (but still a low conversion rate). Some brands, such as Modcloth, turn those window shoppers into happy customers. It starts with great content – either posted by Modcloth or by their customers from the Modcloth.com site. Their unique clothing resonates with the Pinterest user mindset, which is always looking something unexpectedly delightful. And given that their Pinterest conversion rates have more than doubled in the 1st half of this year, Modcloth has done an impressive job converting those visits to purchases.
Pinterest visitors have a different intent than Google Image Search users. Pinterest visitors are browsing while Image Search users are hunting for a specific image. Google Image Search links don’t make it easy to click through to a product to buy – something active Pinners do. This makes Pinterest users extremely important consumers.
Hunters: As a man, I decide something very specific like “I need a blue button down shirt”. From there, it’s a matter of finding that shirt for a reasonably good price and paying for it as quickly as possible. I like to think this is efficient. My wife says I shop “Caveman-style”. That’s fair, but I know what I need and I know it when I see it. I personally could never get to that decision making point without the image since the written description of a shirt’s cut and features is a foreign language to me. So it’s no surprise that I’m more likely to go from search to click to buy via a visual path. For shoppers like me, my intent to buy is clear but my patience is limited so search is my go-to shopping tool. Hunters use search. And conversion from search visitors dwarfs all other channels because these consumers have the intent to buy. Sites that do a good job with SEO and PPC will get hunters’ business. Google Image Search links don’t make it easy to click through to a product to buy – something active Pinners do. Hunters look for convenience – so the visual search helps, but needs the quick click to the purchase to convert.
Neiman Marcus does a great job of leveraging search (organic and paid) to help prospective customers, who know what they’re looking for, find the product and convert. In our sample, they led the way in both organic and PPC conversion rates. This is a testament to gorgeous, well-optimised visual pages that were relevant to the incoming searcher and differentiated products leading towards exceptional conversion rates on those pages.
Gardeners: These shoppers cultivate their tastes and the brands they favour with ongoing engagement. Brands that nurture their customer relationships with interesting content – like behind the scenes photos, fashion questions and the opportunity to help choose upcoming products – can leverage that into conversions and sales. Again Modcloth is a terrific example. Their nearly 600k Facebook fans have referral traffic that rivals PPC and conversion rates that exceed Pinterest. Facebook is highly effective at engaging loyal existing customers and ensuring that your brand stays top of mind. These customers drive real revenue AND undoubtedly help spread the word about the brand.
Gatherers: Some shoppers are all about the deals. Some rely heavily on their friends’ recommendations. For these Gatherers, there’s often no place like Twitter. Many companies have found great success with special offers for Twitter followers. And as the Wall Street Journal reported, Twitter’s mobile ads are off to a great start, particularly for promoting time sensitive deals. And undoubtedly, thousands of Tweets ask and answer questions about specific products or categories every day. But let’s be realistic about general Twitter conversion rates, which is extremely low compared to other channels. Unless your brand is offering compelling special offers, you won’t “sell” directly in a very trackable way on Twitter. The mindset of a Gatherer is to pounce on a great deal or get information, not to browse or search for products. So unless you are in the flash deal business, Twitter is irrelevant.
One last thing to keep in mind…these shopping types can change as a customer progresses through the buying cycle. For instance, a Gatherer could do research on Twitter and then become a Hunter when his mind is made up about what he wants to buy. Many consumers move between Gatherer to Hunter depending on their interests and needs but few ecommerce companies would mind calling all four of the shopping types one thing…happy customers.
Just like there’s no one-size-fits all for my blue button down shirt, there’s no single channel or type of shopper that will give an ecommmerce site the conversions they seek. Companies like Guess?, ModCloth and Neiman Marcus fully understand this fact. They work hard on each type of channel – search and social – to keep a steady, diverse flow of inbound traffic converting on their merchandise.
The optimal mix focuses on attracting hunters first and foremost with effective search strategies. Building a great relationship with your customers is impactful through Facebook. Twitter is irrelevant for all but flash deals. And Pinterest is the window-shopping mall of the Internet – make sure you look good and its easy to buy on an impulse.
Raj De Datta is CEO and cofounder of BloomReach.