Retail@Google 2017 – Show up, wise up, speed up

The rules of retail have changed. With 64% of all in-store sales influenced by digital activity, today’s consumers are savvier shoppers. More consumers than ever are starting their shopping journey online, particularly on mobile. This is a growing challenge for hardware retailers as they try to get online browsers into their store. After an exciting two days at Google HQ, HAI heard from the experts on how to target the empowered consumer.

With advancing technologies such as augmented reality (AR) artificial intelligence (AI) and developments in online targeting and reporting, there are new opportunities every day for retailers to enhance their online presence and reap the benefits in their sales. The three key topics of the day were how a retailer can ‘show up’ to the realities of retail, ‘wise up’ to the latest trends in the shopping landscape and ‘speed up’ – act fast and get ahead.

Show up to retail’s new realities

The first keynote speaker of the two days was Patrick Collister, Creative Lead at Zoo Digital, who pointed out that retailers need to be smarter with how they interact with customers. Patrick advises retailers to move on from pushing out “advertisements” and focus on pulling customers in with “advertising”; building their brand and their brand story.

Out with the old, in with the new

The new rules of retail can be summed up as the ‘Five I’s’:

  • Integrity – how the company treats both its staff and the public. Be transparent about your business’ values;
  • Insight – understand what it is about your business that is successful, use your data;
  • Integrate – make your business part of your customer’s lives;
  • Involve – turn customers into participants in ‘the phygital world’ through both social media and technological advancements in-store;
  • Innovate – use the latest technologies to change how you interact with customers, online and offline.

Mobile Mobile Mobile

“The smartphone is the driving force of retail.” said Simon Andrews from Addictive Mobile in his presentation during the two-day event. Digital commerce is becoming increasingly about mobile, while retailers are reaping the benefits of apps, he explained. With the likes of Target offering their full product catalogue through its smartphone app and Macy’s implementing barcode scanning, the opportunities for hardware, home and DIY are endless, according to Simon.

How to win at Mobile

  1. Resist ‘desktop thinking’ – start thinking mobile when it comes to targeting online.
  2. Learn what big apps teach users – steal the best ideas and use what’s best for your business.
  3. Simplify – make the experience as user-friendly as possible.
  4. Location – target nearby customers with location bids and extensions in online advertising.
  5. Stop treating people like strangers – use your data to personalise the experience.

Simon summed up his seminar with some sage advice: “It’s time to experiment!” Get your business online, tailor it to the mobile market, tailor it to what suits your sector and adapt as needed.

KEY STATS

• 75% of consumers begin their shopping journey using mobile

• Twice as many shoppers search on mobile as on desktop during holiday periods

• 50% of all searches are expected to be by voice by 2020

• 70% of consumers prefer a personalised experience

Wise up to shopping landscape

We’re living in the age of assistance, meaning customers are constantly looking for ways to make their daily lives that bit easier. Customers want a shopping experience that is personalised, fast and seamless. With the smartphone, consumers are connected 24/7, and the amount of data available is mind-blowing.

This new age is seeing innovations like Lowe’s Visual Positioning Services – an in-store mapping system, built into phones or tablets, to help customers find where a product is in-store, with a map guiding them through the aisles to the product’s location.

Home is new shopping centre

Day One closed with a glimpse into the future of retail with Meabh Quoirin from Foresight Factory. According to Meabh, “the home is the new shopping centre”. Today’s consumers’ priorities when it comes to shopping include being in control of their shopping experience. The experience must be convenient, they need to get good value and there must be some element of personality. All of this is part of adapting to the changing face of B2C engagement.

Immersive technology opens new possibilities for retail, with 29% of smartphone owners expected to be using AR apps by 2025. Apps such as Blippar (which uses a phone’s camera to identify a product and reveal more information about it, the company behind it and purchasing options) continue to add to the opportunities for retailers.

Speed up to get ahead

Slow page load time kills mobile conversions.

Day Two kicked off with a quick beat-boxing ice-breaker and then dived straight into the third topic – the need for Speed. Martin Loss, Mobile Solutions Specialist from Google pointed out just how sensitive consumers are to wait times, especially on mobile. In a simple but dramatic experiment, he had all 360 delegates stand up, projecting his phone on a big screen with a web page prepared to load. As the page loaded, he asked everyone to raise their left hand, to lower it when they started to feel frustrated with the load time, and to sit down when they had given up completely. It took just 3 seconds for the majority (approx. 70%) of the room to lower their left hand, and 10 seconds for most of the room to return to their seats.

Slow page load time kills mobile conversions. So, what is a good load time?

  • 1-2 seconds: Good
  • 3-6 seconds: Average, try to improve
  • 7-10 seconds: Poor, get to work
  • 10+ seconds: Very bad!

Speed is more important than ever now as there is a 47% chance that a customer will engage with a brand by mobile first. Retailers need to think of their website as a front door to their store. Martin advised on the factors that are performance killers for a site, and how to combat them:

  • Non-optimised images – compress images to save more than 250Kb on a 3G network;
  • Non-minified resources – HTML, CSS, and particularly Javascript take up huge amounts of data on mobile sites. Use tools like GZIP to compress file sizes and reduce code; and
  • Too many requests – 91% of mobile sites load more than 50 resources on mobile. One way to combat this is to prioritise above the fold CSS (where the eyes fall first) and load Javascript asynchronously.

As the Irish hardware industry continues to gain confidence, it’s time for business owners to look ahead and see how they can stand out and compete. To reach today’s empowered customers, retailers need to be seen online and on mobile (show up), adapt to today’s retail landscape (wise up) and keep up with today’s impatient consumers’ expectations (speed up). To do this successfully they need to plan, experiment and adapt. As Vanessa Hartley, Retail and Agency Lead at Google, said, when closing the event: “Brilliant strategy is nothing without brilliant execution.”

GOOGLE’S INNOVATIONS

Delegates at the event were treated to a (confidential) snapshot of how Google are developing their portfolio of services. With online advertising options like Google Shopping ads, Local Inventory ads (where retailers can showcase their products and store information to nearby shoppers searching with Google), shoppable images (where a product ad will come up in image searches, linking to a landing page where the user can buy) and Smart Bidding, Google’s portfolio is offering more adaptable options for retailers of any shape and size. Delegates also enjoyed fun demos of Google’s AR and Assistant innovations including Tiltbrush, Google Home and Google Assistant.