If you’re a small business you’ve probably come across the term ‘omnichannel’ whilst building your business strategy. Even if you haven’t, you’re likely already implementing it.
The UK’s online retail market is enormous. Total spending on internet shopping should top £50 billion in this year alone, according to the Centre for Retail Research, which is why Google’s recently announced plans to include a “buy button” in the results of a Google Shopping search could be a real game changer. And it’s not alone on the field.
Facebook wants to be the internet’s “one-stop-shop”, so it has long had plans to enter the world of ecommerce. But its short-lived venture Facebook Gifts (RIP: September 2012 – August 2014) never found a way of seamlessly integrating into the site, and faced insurmountable obstacles when it came to shipping outside the US. The social media giant’s hopes are now pinned on its own buy button, which is on the verge of going live.
Speaking of being “pinned” (terrible pun intended), Facebook’s buy button is in direct response to Pinterest’s launch of its own buy button on 2 June. Pinterest’s ecommerce potential is much greater than that of many other social media sites because so many of its users create what are, in effect, wish lists of commercially available products – everything from dream interiors, to ideal weddings, to designer jewellery, to gourmet ingredients and beyond.
It’s thought that the model for Google’s button is something like Amazon’s 1-Click shopping method, but the location of Google’s button next to search results gives it the clear advantage of convenience over Facebook’s and Pinterest’s versions.
Mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets) allow consumers to browse retailers’ stock from any location. Google’s strategy with its buy button – which will initially be to mobile users – is clearly to get these “browsers” to become “impulse buyers”.
This sprouting of buy buttons is something e-tailers need to take advantage of, especially as this could be just the start. There are already reported sightings of buy buttons on Twitter, and so many people are trading on Instagram already that it would be surprising if it wasn’t planning to add a buy button.
What does all this mean for e-tailers?
Small and medium-sized online retailers could gain an equal footing against established major players like Amazon, because Google plans to take customers who click the buy button to a product page. This would challenge the supremacy of online marketplaces, but there’s also reason for e-tailers to be wary of this move.
Customers would no longer have to navigate to a website and create an account – they could do all their shopping without ever leaving Google. Google’s product page will allow shoppers to choose options – such as size or colour – before completing their transactions. Google would send the information to the e-tailer.
The benefit of this model to e-tailers is that they don’t even have to manage payment processing – all they do is pay Google a per-click advertising fee.
The downside is that e-tailers may find it much harder to connect (literally) with their customers.
Keep the flame alive: Talk to your customers
The way in which e-tailers advertise and promote their businesses online may need a rethink. Evergreen marketing (e.g. blogs and newsletters) could become an essential survival tool in an environment where building brand loyalty and long-term relationships with customers is more important than ensuring casual online shoppers can find your website.
Having said that, it’s also possible that search engine optimisation (SEO) – already an essential component of online retail success – could become more important than ever before. At the very least, it seems the dynamic between online advertising and SEO is set to change.
And don’t forget – Google is known for its algorithms, not its human touch. Personal service is always going to be one area where no “buy button” will ever be able to excel…