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When consumers actually walk into a store, there are a host of high-level expectations that have shifted over time but remain largely in place. Salespeople will be around to help in case of questions, products will be organized to make browsing relatively simple, etc. Contrast that with the expectations of an online shopping experience. Endless arrays of products and searchability to fully customize a list of products to choose from.

The idea that consumer preferences and behavior would string seamlessly between these online and offline environments is a fallacy, yet it’s an opinion held by a sizable share of marketers within traditionally brick-and-mortar heavy brands.

To be fair, most marketers recognize the difference in behavior for more considered purchases – say buying a TV in-store versus online. However, this dissimilarity in behavior is true even in grocery.

After studying the performance of more than 5,000 similarly priced coffee products on Amazon, what’s crystal clear is that even in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), what drives a customer to buy is more often based upon product-page factors like more imagery, enhanced content and customer reviews – rather than price.

To this point, product page titles are the new packaging. You don’t catch consumers’ eyes with bold colors or prime shelf placement; you capture them with titles that address nuanced needs and wants.

Coffee products on Amazon that are in the top 10 by sales rank have average title lengths that are 28 percent longer than poor-selling (bottom 10 percent) products in the same category. At a qualitative level, many of these top-selling products add in meaningful language to differentiate themselves, while also making it easier for consumers with specific tastes to find them. Some examples: fair-trade, compatible with Keurig k-cup, vegan certified, whole30 approved, etc. This type of language is much rarer amongst poorer-selling products.

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These coffee brands are putting this type of language in their titles and product copy because, alongside major descriptors like flavoring and roast type, it’s how consumers are whittling down the myriad options available to them to get to a more tailored list of products based on their needs and wants.

Brands should be taking this approach regardless of product category. Rather than off-putting keyword stuffing or indecipherable model numbers, marketers should ask themselves “What are the value-laden product features or terms customers are actually searching for?” This could apply to anything from “fingerprint resistant” refrigerators, to “shatterproof” Christmas decorations.

It is worth noting that Amazon generates some product titles themselves, within certain, specific categories, based on existing product content. This makes it all the more important to have customer-oriented keywords in product descriptions and bullets.

Don’t compete on price

By specifically looking only at coffee products that were priced at $50 and under, over 5,000 products in total, what’s amazingly clear is that more robust product content and reviews, rather than price, are what separates products that sell well versus ones that do not.

There was no meaningful difference in average price between top 10 percent selling products and the bottom 10 percent, but there were notable, significant differences in review count, description length, image count and the presence of A+ Content. This jibes with earlier survey data asking customers what has gotten them to pay a premium for a particular product online.

Certainly, at high-level consumers respond to price, but the data makes it clear that in an environment as expansive and customizable as a search page on Amazon, items win sales much more often based on consumers seeing higher review counts more descriptive imagery, and enhanced content. Marketers should see this as a golden opportunity – by focusing on improving the product page itself. You don’t need to further sacrifice margins online to win sales even in markets previously much more price sensitive, like FMCG.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Andrew Waber is the Manager of Data Insights and Media Relations at product experience management (PXM) platform provider Salsify. In his current role, Andrew manages the analysis, editorial direction, and strategy for Salsify’s public facing reporting on the online retail marketplace. Prior to his time at Salsify, Andrew served as the Manager of Market Insights and Media Relations for advertising automation software provider Nanigans, and as the Market Analyst and lead author of reports for Chitika Insights, the research arm of the Chitika online ad network. Andrew’s commentary on online trends has been quoted by the New York Times, Re/Code, and The Guardian, among other outlets.

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