Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.
According to the 2011 Social Shopping Study recently released by PowerReviews and the e-tailing group, shoppers spend 75 percent of their time online conducting research. The report notes that consumers are gravitating to powerhouses like Amazon, regarded as "the defacto retailer for comparison shopping."
What are some of the "lessons learned" that retailers can implement to foster a streamlined path-to-purchase?
In an interview with Retail TouchPoints, PowerReviews VP of marketing Nadim Hossain pointed out two things that Amazon does well. First, all Amazon's product page content is indexable by search engines.
He added, "This might sound basic, but 60 percent of the Top 20 retailers fail at it. Just look at the cached version of a product page from Office Depot, Best Buy or Dell -- the review content is nowhere to be seen. And this is what Google sees."
With the study showing that 90 percent indicate that reviews have an impact on their purchasing decisions, retailers at a minimum should offer reviews and ratings on their sites. Question and answer capability can also be a very powerful form of consumer insight in driving buyer confidence and increasing conversions.
"But all this pre-supposes that the consumer even comes to your site. Most shopping journeys begin on a search engine, usually Google. So in order to be found while the consumer is researching or shopping, you have to have decent SEO.
"User-generated content -- such as reviews and Q&As -- is keyword-rich, so that's one way to boost this. Ensuring you provide search engines with social signals, i.e., Like, +1 and Tweets, is another."
The second thing Amazon does well, he contends, is social.
"They've built a rich, two-way Facebook Connect integration that pulls in your friends' birthdays and Likes into your Amazon account," says Mr. Hossain. "From this information, Amazon is able to infer which products you could be interested in and make more informed product recommendations."
But Mr. Hossain said social isn't primarily about research in the traditional sense, but about product discovery, or finding out about a product when you had no idea it existed.
"So your goal isn't to have someone search Facebook for your product," said Mr. Hossain. "Rather, it's to have a happy customer share her glowing opinion about your product -- and a link to the product page and an attractive photo -- with her hundreds of friends. Forever21 and Etsy do this well, and they're seeing upwards of 15 percent of their traffic referred from Facebook, exceeding their Google referrals. Even Amazon saw 8 percent of its traffic come from Facebook. The average is probably in the 1-5 percent range, but this number will only grow."
Which of the two web traffic drivers mentioned in the article -- SEO (search engine optimization) or social -- is more critical for traditional brick & mortars to enhance in the near term?