New resources to improve customer journey to purchase

Earlier this week ‘Westpac Ready for Business Report’, found that over half (53%) of Australian small businesses do not have a website, equating to potentially more than one million businesses who are not online. Westpac and MYOB are combining to create a digital toolkit for these businesses, not dissimilar to the MYOB-Google Get your Business Online initiative in 2011.

For Aussies businesses taking the first steps into the digital space, two timely oustanding resources were released this week which shed light on the path to online purchase.

BigCommerce is a leading e-commerce platform that helps businesses set up professional quality stores online. Their new infographic What Influences A Purchase Decision answers questions about which store features affect buying and the role of smartphones and social media.

Googles Think Insights website is another treasure trove of research, insights and analysis where you can also find inspiring case studies from other advertisers in your market or industry. This weeks tool The Customer Journey to Online Purchase enables us to look at customer journeys / transactional data collected from 36K Google Analytics accounts/profiles across 7 countries. The sample chart from the website, shows the role various channels play in different parts of the purchase journey looking at data in the US for automotive clients.

Customer Journey to Online Purchase

You can use this data to plan your own marketing programs for your ecommerce store. Australia isn’t amongst the 7 countries, but the ability to see data by industry for advanced markets is still valuable.


Group-buying space braces for Google Offers entry

Google is planning to launch Google Offers, a deal-a-day competitor to group-buying site Groupon after failing in its $6bn bid to acquire the latter last year. Social media website Mashable broke the news overnight providing exclusive documents to verify the news.

In the US, group-buying is mega business with Groupons 12 month revenue to Sep 2010 at 465 million and plans for an IPO later this year. The No.2 LivingSocial has entered into a partnership deal with Amazon and yesterday broke the industry record, selling 1.3mn deal vouchers by offering $20 Amazon gift cards for $10.

As competition grows, each website will vie to source the most attractive deals from merchants and keep growing their database of subscribers. With its strong brand recognition and vast in-house advertising and engineering resources Google should be able to give the existing players a good fight. Google has existing connections with local businesses (through Google Places, Adwords) and consumers (through Google Search, Google Maps) that can be used to promote and acquire scale for the new service. It could also integrate a Google Offers widget on the millions of Android smartphones shipped daily worldwide.

In Australia, the group buying landscape has seen hot competition with the top 5 of Australian Group-buying websites Spreets, Cudo, LivingSocial, Jumponit and Scoopon and numerous smaller players. Around these there are also sites that aggregate the best daily deals like Alldeals. Dell Australia also has its own group-buying site at Dell Swarm. This weeks acquisition of the AU and NZ operations of Spreets by Yahoo7! for an unconfirmed sum of $40 million further underscores the potential big players foresee in the market.

Groupon is yet to launch completely in Australia due to a domain squatting dispute with one of its clones Scoopon which owns the domain. Groupon has created an Australian website Stardeals which is currently soliciting members and offers $10 credit for every additional member recommended. That Groupon is not yet a household name in Australia is an advantage for the existing players and new entrants like Google. Time will tell whether we will see a shakeout once Google and Groupon establish themselves locally. In the meantime watch this space for more updates.

Implications of Google search changes

Google’s search result page, once as famous for its simplicity as its notoriously secret ranking algorithm has undergone a slew of changes in the last 2 months. Google does not actively promote these changes to end users, allowing them to find out about new features through discovery during regular use. The recent changes are focused on giving the company a stronger position in the ‘local’ space and making the search experience more ‘instant’.

Here is an illustrative screenshot and run down of the 7 changes:

1. Google Instant – Results below the search box now ‘instantly’ change as the user types.

Implication: Users get predictive results even before they complete their query thereby saving time (Google estimates it will save 2-5 seconds per search).  For advertisers it means impression counts will go up and they will need to bid on expensive head terms more as users may not get to the end of long tail search queries.

2 & 8. Instant Previews – A magnifying glass now appears alongside natural results which when clicked offers a preview (see number 8 on screenshot) of the destination page / website without having to navigate to it. A user can now base his judgement on whether to click by just taking a look at the preview from within the search results.

Implications: Users save time but website owners have to pay more attention to making their webpage design appealing and distinct for the preview facility.

3 & 4. Places Search – Local information is now clustered in a map that appears above the right column of sponsored ads. These results appear when Google thinks you are looking for local information. If you do a generic search but want to view local results, a new ‘Places’ link in the left hand menu will bring you these results.

Implications : Users now get a larger cluster of links on average. Google says it saves people an average of 2 seconds on local information searches. The links appear as red pins on the map and provide more comprehensive information about the plotted results than before, like reviews, ratings and addresses for a business. For business owners claiming their Google Places listing , optimising and ensuring its completeness is now even more important.

5. Ads – The heading at the top of the right hand column of Adwords paid ads are now referred to as just ‘Ads’ from the previous ‘sponsored ads’.

Implication: Marginal to none.

6. Change to 7-Pack – Earlier businesses could appear in the set of 7 local business ads that appeared along side the local business map as well as have its website listing appear below separately. Now it can have only one appearance within the 7-pack thereby limiting its visibility.

Implications: Local businesses must now have a well optimised website for local searches or risk disappearing from front page results altogether.

7. Adwords Ads – The right hand column ads positions 4 onwards have now been pushed lower down to accommodate the local Places Search map.

Implication: This means some positions are now below the fold making competition more intense leading to Cost per Click inflation. Some advertisers that have effectively employed a position #5 or #6 strategy due to lower budgets or because this is where they get their best ROI are now at a disadvantage.