Is your business located in a digital backstreet?
No one in brick and mortar retail assumes that they can just put their store anywhere and that people will come. Yet in ecommerce, we see this behaviour all the time. People assume that the most important thing is their advertising, but this misses the point entirely.
A few years ago, I was working with a major retailer on deciding where to place their superstores. Using the latest deep learning as well as statistical models we completely validated the well-known aphorism of “Location, Location, Location” with regards to the success or failure of a given store.
In fact, building a neural net model (in an era when this was highly radical) we managed to predict revenue per square meter for a given location with a very high degree of accuracy. Unsurprisingly, we discovered that the variance between the best and worst locations was very large, in many cases the difference was extreme.
Today, we are looking at a similar situation in the digital sphere – the exact position your store sits in the digital ecosystem, and in particular the search engines, is critical. Whereas in the past I might have taken a walk down Jermyn Street in London to find tailors, Kurfürstendamm in Berlin for luxury fashion, and 47th Street in New York for diamonds, now my retail journey from browsing to comparing to buying is a digital journey signalled by the keywords that I use.
So, what we used to call SEO is really more akin to the old mantra of location… it’s our Digital Location … and hence why it really helps to be one of the first stores on the street.
Of course, this isn’t new to anyone versed in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) but it’s frequently not understood in these terms and that’s the point.
Measuring what Really Matters
If we look back to the early days of digital advertising at those first 468×60 banners that started appearing on websites, all that was readily measurable was if the ad had been sent. We hadn’t yet got to the point of measuring much else. Very quickly though, clicks and click rate became THE measure of success for any given digital campaign. In retrospect, we made important what we could measure rather than what was actually important.
As any digital marketing professional knows, clicks are fine for a direct response campaign where you are seeking to drive purchase behaviour, but largely irrelevant as a measure of a campaign to build brand awareness and consideration.
There is a fundamental bias in digital advertising towards direct response campaigns which drive instant purchase behaviour. This is akin to a row of breakfast bars in a holiday resort offering variations of breakfast at defined prices – the customer picks one, eats it, and goes. Yet, if we now come back to our street analogy, what if I’m not yet ready to buy? What if I’m walking down the street, browsing, finding what I like, building an impression as to the trustworthiness of the various retailers?
In the digital sphere, this is the area where our Digital Locale, our position on the digital street, really matters. And that street is defined by keywords, key images, voice searches and paths from other sites. So, don’t think SEO, think Digital Locale.
Digital Locale is the place your ecommerce store sits in the landscape. Get that right and your results will be several orders of magnitude better.
Content as a Digital Version of Shop Window Merchandising
If SEO is akin to placing yourself in the right location, then online content is the digital version of merchandising.
Online content is your shop window that encourages the passing shopper to come in and engage with you – to browse, to build a positive impression of you as a retailer before purchasing; perhaps immediately, quite likely later when they’ve also browsed other stores.
Advertising designed to encourage a user to buy immediately is unlikely to build a long-term relationship or awareness and consideration. You need engagement.
So, what am I saying? The fundamentals all brick and mortar retailers know – location and merchandising – are also similarly important for ‘e-tailers’ but with different wording… SEO, Search, Content, Deep Linking, Site Performance.
I’m only asking you to think about this: are you metaphorically placing your store on a back street, with two mannequins and expecting results? Think about it…
Want to improve your ‘digital backstreet’?
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