Post-lockdown digital strategy considerations for Hospitality and Retail Brands

With hope on the horizon for a return to ‘normalcy’, brands operating in industries hit particularly hard by the pandemic are naturally considering how they can adapt their digital strategy to cater to changing consumer behaviours, and help fast track their recovery.

As an agency specialising in digital strategy and support for luxury hospitality and retail brands, we have pulled together advice from our in-house specialists on what such brands may consider as part of their digital activity as restrictions begin to ease.

 

Arm your website with robust analytics and tracking that helps you understand your customers’ behaviour

If there has been one constant throughout the pandemic, it is that nobody can truly predict how quickly circumstances may change. One sure-fire way to make sure you can react well to the resulting behavioural shifts is to equip your website with events tracking that shed light on how customers are interacting with your digital platforms and content.

This can include the set up of events tracking that feeds data into Google Analytics, and the configuration of custom Data Studio reports that show a snapshot of key metrics such as conversion and bounce rates, page dwell times, drop off, etc. It is also important to have full visibility on the performance of your digital marketing channels (Organic search, paid media, social etc) in order to understand what type of content is doing the best job of engaging your audience and adapt your strategy accordingly.

 

Make sure your digital content creates trust with your customers and reassures them that you prioritise their wellbeing

People’s attitudes towards health and wellbeing have been irreversibly changed, and your approach to customer safety is going to be a key factor for customers when deciding whether to engage with your product or services.

Make sure that your digital communications work hard to reassure your customers that you have their best interests at heart, as they begin to be able to interact with your brand and products in a physical sense. This may include a dedicated section on your website outlining the steps you take to ensure your customers’ safety, with supporting messaging throughout your social media and email marketing. Regardless of approach, businesses must understand that attitudes have been permanently changed, and your ability to sensitively communicate how you are catering to this change will be vital for success.

 

Make sure your business and digital platforms are equipped to react quickly to changing circumstances

Agility has been key for brands in the hospitality and retail sector over the last 12 months, and will continue to be just as important moving forward. Demand for products and services is very volatile and dependent on unpredictable factors such as infection curves, government restrictions, etc.

This means that businesses need to be able to navigate both periods of drought and periods of increased traffic and conversion equally well. On one side that could mean the creative reshaping of product offerings, such as signature menu kits to deliver and prepare at home for restaurants, to the effective planning of product stocks to accommodate for increase in purchases. Each case will require adaptation to your tech stack as well as how you communicate with customers.

 

Be prepared for the increase in traffic, and use this as an opportunity to cross-sell

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we can expect to see an increase in search volumes and website traffic, particularly in the case of hospitality brands reopening their doors and inviting table bookings.

In the run up to this, we recommend first making sure that your website’s booking engine is working seamlessly and there are no UX issues that may give your users reason to click away before completing their bookings and check out your competitors. This may be facilitated by insights from historical data combined with some good old-fashioned cross-browser and cross-device QA testing.

This increased traffic is also going to be an opportunity to make your customers aware of your wider brand and product offering, for example any online alternatives you have introduced during the lockdown months and may be your current lifelines. Think about how your new online options can feed in with your in-person experience, and how the two may work in each other’s favour. For example, restaurants may look to offer discounts to their home delivery or meal kits for customers who have dined in person.

 

 

Prepare for things not to go fully ‘back to normal’

Even with lockdown restrictions beginning to lift, it’s important to recognise that attitudes and behaviours have been irreversibly changed, and the dramatic shift towards online shopping is here to stay.

With this in mind, it’s important to continue exploring ways in which you can enhance your digital shopping experience and make sure your brand stands out amongst competitors. This could include the optimisation of your existing support systems to be more intuitive and responsive in asking important questions that would normally be answered in-store, or the introduction of new technology that replicates the in-store experience, such as an AR fitting room.

Regardless of how circumstances change in the second half of this year, expectations have it is important to be conscious of this and have a clear plan in place for the continued optimisation of your digital experiences.

To discuss an upcoming digital project, please get in touch via our contact form.

Paper London PPC Trial

In this blog post we explore a recent PPC trial we have carried out for one of our clients called Paper London. The sustainable fashion brand was over relying on a single paid channel in order to drive conversions and brand awareness.

 

 

Objectives/Targets

In order to fully realise and fulfil the brand objectives, the digital marketing team and Paper London underwent an initial discovery session where we identified target audiences, objectives and KPIs in order to make the PPC trial as effective as possible. Our approach was to help the brand set up a marketing calendar which outlined product drops and core product focus, and translate this into Paid Search activity.

We identified that the PPC trial activity should focus on the UK and Australian markets first, backed up by cross-channel performance trends. To maximise the available test spend, we narrowed down geo scope to best-performing cities in the two markets. For the two month period we included the product categories swimwear, sleepwear and outerwear. We were therefore able to target both southern hemisphere Summer customers as well as those in the northern hemisphere looking at outerwear. We phased the spend in an agile way based on observed results, which meant we were able to spend efficiently while generating a good return of investment.

We also wanted to support seasonal sales such as “Green Friday”, an initiative where the brand would plant a tree for every purchase of a certain product category, and the “New Year Sale” in January.

Our personal objective was to strive for a return on ad-spend of two. We hypothesised that the proposed PPC activity would help generate brand specific traffic as well as raise awareness to new potential customers. We were conscious that PPC could cannibalise SEO traffic so we stipulated that a combined search effectiveness needs to be incremental for the test to be successful.

 

Set-up/Methodology

In order to set up the Paid Search activity it was essential to lay the foundations of which product categories to focus on in line with any other marketing activity that was going on, such as organic social media activity or press releases. This was done in the form of creating a comprehensive marketing calendar which formed the basis of 2020/2021s marketing strategy. Vessy, our PPC specialist, then went on to select markets, products categories and relevant keywords to create ad copy that would ensure we meet the brands targets.

The set up of our Paid Search activity also entailed the creation of a Google Ads and a Google Merchant Centre account, ensuring that tracking is pulling all the relevant information to create supporting data for the performance of the ads.

 

 

Performance Breakdown

For our 2 month trial with daily observations and spend management we were able to achieve the following:

UK based Paid Search activity:

  • 287,544 Impr
  • 9,230 Clicks
  • 33 Conversions
  • 79% Impression Share

Australia based Paid Search activity:

  • 220,533 Impr
  • 4,915 Clicks
  • 14 Conversions
  • 90% Impression Share

Not only were we able to uplift conversions, but the brand was also able to harness valuable information about their product categories and the demand for these products.

A variety of text ads, shopping ads and display ads all contributed to both customer conversion rates and brand awareness. The data gathered from Google Analytics also gave insight into device usage, demographic breakdown & consumer interests.

Having earlier hypothesized that the brand keyword Paid Search activity may cannibalise organic traffic, we were proven wrong. In fact, the collaboration of the two channels meant we were able to uplift session share between the two channels by 131% compared to the same time period in the previous year, as well as increase transactions by 428% and overall combined revenue increased by 640%.

Based on the trial period we were also able to analyse path length conversion, and therefore gained an understanding of the consumer journey and how many sessions it took for a conversion to happen. This in effect also impacted the frequency of newsletter send outs.

Ultimately, for the duration of the trial period, Paid Search became the 3rd best conversion driver cross-channel and PPC activity achieved a 1.91 return on ad spend, which was very close to the hypothesised outcome and laid the groundwork for a following retainer relationship with Paper London.

The Paid Search trial period also faced a variety of macro trends that meant our agile & market-reactive approach had to be put to practise. Brexit and new Covid-19 restrictions meant our campaigns needed quick adjustment to continue delivering on our projections and brands expectations.

Conclusion

The collaborative approach we took during our Paid Search trial period meant the client is still harnessing strong results since then. The value added not only lies in the effective campaigns we supplied, but also in the strategic growth opportunities we shared as part of the knowledge we gathered through our data led approach.

What you need to know about the 2021 Google Page Experience Algorithm Update

Whilst Google has declared it will not be rolling out any more core updates to its algorithm in 2020, it’s time to prepare for what stands to be a bit of a game-changer to website rankings in 2021, with the introduction of the Page Experience core algorithm update.

 

The new google algorithm update 2021, In Google’s own words:

“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
Google

“Make the web more delightful” is what really stands out here and as with previous big core algorithm updates such as BERT, Penguin and E.A.T, again, Google is placing emphasis on understanding the user and delivering them not only what they want, but what they will seemingly ‘delight’ in. 

Google Algorith update - image of Google search in browser

 The page experience update was supposed to be pushed live in mid 2020 however, with the world pushed to the edge of sanity already, and with hundreds of businesses rushing to move their proposition online, they have decided to give us time to make sure we’re set. 

So it seems that after many years of speculation, Google does have a heart when it comes to releasing algorithm updates.

This is what they said:

“A note on timing: We recognize many site owners are rightfully placing their focus on responding to the effects of COVID-19. The ranking changes described in this post will not happen before next year, and we will provide at least six months' notice before they’re rolled out. We're providing the tools now to get you started (and because site owners have consistently requested to know about ranking changes as early as possible), but there is no immediate need to take action.”
Source: Google May 28 2020

Google has given us due notice:

 

“Today we’re announcing that the page experience signals in ranking will roll out in May 2021” (Nov 10 2020)

 

The clock is ticking and with this much lead time you can bet that the negative impact on websites that don’t meet Google’s Page Experience standards will be substantial

So, what is this page experience update all about?

 

In May 2020, Google Chrome announced the new ‘Core Web Vitals’ that many of us picked up on when it was pushed live in Google Search Console. This new set of metrics aims to give site owners insights into the user experience of their website by tracking metrics such as page speed, responsiveness and visual stability.

 

 

Here are the main metrics now highlighted in Google Search Console:

 

Largest Contentful Paint

 

As has long been the case, websites should aim to achieve an LCP (load time) of less than 2.5s

Google Pagespeed Insights tool has been around for a while and is the benchmark for checking your sites load speed. However there are many variables to take into account such as server and location, as well as the platform your website is hosted on.

It is important to bear in mind that different platforms have their limitations when it comes to page load times. For example, many custom sites will often score an average result in page speed insights, and this is fairly well documented and even the biggest brands out there (see Penguin below) who currently dominate search, struggle with poor site speed. There comes a point where a compromise is necessary because those custom sites that really do take into account user experience, often use several plugins and it is these plugins that will affect page load speeds. It will be interesting to see how these sites fare when the new update is rolled out.

 

Screenshot of Page Speed Insights - how to prepare for the Google Algorith Update

EXPERT TIP:

It is absolutely worth getting your site speed as quick as possible now. However, it is widely recognised that some platforms’ websites run slower than others. For example, using several plugins on Shopify can have a negative impact on page load times. But this may be the same for your competitors. It is worth benchmarking your page speed compared to that of your competitors around you in the results for specific keywords, as well as against those who are a few pages beneath you, or above. This will give you an idea of whether you need to do in order to defend your position from a site speed perspective, or you can continue as you are with caution. Once the algorithm rolls out, see how rankings have changed and which sites are ranking top – what is their site speed compared to yours? 

 

Interactivity (First Input Delay FID):

 

This is a metric to measure the load responsiveness of your web pages. It helps evaluate how a user will engage with pages that are unresponsive – a low FID shows that the page is usable. A low FID is considered anything less than 100ms.

 

Stability

 

Everyone has experienced websites that shift when you try and click a button and you end up checking out, or losing your basket, right at the crucial moment. The Cumulative Layout Shift check, assesses how much your content moves during load and as a user scrolls down a page, this is a direct check on the responsiveness of a website. The number to aim for is 0.1 or less.

 

EXPERT TIP:

Interactivity and stability are both areas that need to be looked at by developers. If your website is built using a template on a well-known platform (Squarespace, WordPress, Shopify), most of these areas should be ticked off. However, if you’ve gone down a more custom approach, you may run into some issues and it is worth getting your developers to have a look if any problems are being flagged.

 

Alongside these innocent-sounding tracking metrics (hmm?), Google is also including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS and non-intrusive interstitials as part of the latest ranking factor.

Mobile Friendly

This is an oldie but a goodie – is your website responsive? Check mobile-friendliness here

Increasingly users across all industries are using several sizes of screen a day to interact with content online and Google wants to ensure that websites are delivering their customers the best possible experience when they’re on the move, as well as when they’re at work or at home.

Safe-browsing

Google wants to drive users to websites that aren’t going to attack them, so it checks website to ensure that there are no potentially damaging downloadables or dangerous software. You can check your website to see if there are any suspected files in the Security Issues report.

HTTPS

Another factor that’s been on our minds for some time, but it remains equally important as it did when it was first introduced. Ensure your customers’ data is safe!

Interstitials

Hmm, this one is a topic for debate and whilst Google’s guidelines are clear, this can dramatically affect how people engage in websites. For example, many websites have country and language selector popups once you land on their website – this is within Google’s guidelines. What Google is trying to knuckle down on are those aggressive salesy ads and popups that frustrate users. The guidelines state that the size of the popup or interstitial is a key factor so this is one to watch. Read Google’s guidelines on interstitials for further clarification and we’ll be writing another article on this soon so sign up for update.

Expert Tip:

Don’t be too aggressive in pushing discounts and signups as soon as people land on your website. Give them time to browse and then move in with the more disruptive marketing tactics.

What’s more, as Google has done in the past, it suggests that it may even add icons in the search results that show what the experience of the page is like. As we know from previous trials they’ve run in the results, getting the nod from Google and having these icons displayed next to your listings will increase the click-through rates to your pages.

Covid has held the world in submission for the majority of 2020, and finding positives are few and far between. However, with the enforcement of national lockdowns, the shift to digital has accelerated and many businesses have been busy creating their digital platforms for the first time.

This is brilliant as even digital skeptics are reaping the benefits from their online offering and they will continue to do so once retail returns to normal.

As many are finding, the move to digital presents a steep learning curve and the competition to achieve visibility is often fierce, but people have been able to sustain their livelihoods and start generating incomes online in a year that is largely worth forgetting. Google has recognised this move to digital, and to speculate on Google’s feeling, they understand that many people are feeling slightly downtrodden owing to the current climate. As a result of this, or maybe by coincidence, this ‘grace period’ has given us all an opportunity to improve the way we sell online.

Feel free to get in touch with one of the Diffusion team if you have any questions about any of the above, we’re happy to help.

 

How to integrate Instagram with your Shopify store to boost online sales

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, a huge number of businesses have shifted their focus online to remain competitive during these uncertain times. This, along with the gradual decline of brick and mortar retail, has resulted in an ever-increasing demand to shop online. That said, now more than ever is a crucial time for store merchants to up their eCommerce game in order to maximise revenue. 

Instagram_Shopify_Integration_Logos

Why is Instagram important for online sales?

 

Instagram has grown to become one of the most powerful social platforms for facilitating online sales. The social media platform was quick to recognise this shift in demand and have over time incorporated a range of new shoppable features into the app, with a view to encourage its users to discover brands and boost eCommerce sales.

Having your Instagram linked to your Shopify store is a great way to build trust between you and your customers. According to PixelRocket, 62% of Instagram users are more likely to be interested in a product if they’ve seen it previously on Instagram. Not only is this an effective way to increase conversion, but it also adds high quality content to your shop.

 

How do I integrate Instagram with my Shopify store?

 

As of 29th June 2020, Instagram discontinued it’s API, meaning that Shopify store merchants can no longer directly integrate their real time Instagram feed with their store. But don’t panic, it is still possible to display your latest Instagram posts on your storefront. 

There are a number of third party platforms available on the Shopify app store that will allow you to keep your consumers updated with your latest Instagram posts and maintain synergy across both platforms. 

Instafeed is an example of an app that allows store owners to display their shoppable Instagram feed on their store, with the added ability to customise the layout, controls and filters so that it fits in seamlessly with the look and feel of the store.

You can view the full list of apps available on the Shopify app store here

 

Make your Instagram shoppable

 

You can also use Instagram’s product tagging tool to make your posts shoppable via the app. By doing so, you are providing a direct link to the specific tagged product on your Shopify store, so this is a great way to ensure a seamless shopping experience for your consumers, and will ultimately boost direct traffic and sales to your storefront.

 

How to get customers to fall in love with your eCommerce store this Valentine’s Day

By Gabby Coughlan

The most romantic day of the year has hit once again.

For some, it’s an opportunity to declare their love for their other halves. For others, it’s an occasion for watching The Notebook whilst consuming a life-time’s worth of chocolate.

Yet for online store merchants, it’s a time for winning the hearts of their customers by luring them in with Valentine’s Day deals that they can’t say no to.

But how do store owners make themselves attractive enough to rule out the competition?

Continue reading for some Valentine’s Day tips to make your users fall in love with your store and boost your e-Commerce sales.

 

Check out how we can help you with your e-commerce store!

 

1. Spoil Your Customers with Offers and Freebies

 

Identify your most popular products and increase sales by promoting special Valentine’s Day discounts, free shipping and special offers for your loyal customers. This year, Pandora are incentivising their consumers to purchase with a free gift when they spend £99 or more.

 

 

What’s more, combining certain products to create gift sets is a great way to attract those looking to spoil their loved ones. You could even go a step further by offering complementary gift-wrapping to add a final Valentine’s touch.

 

2. Spice Up Your Landing Page

 

What better way to promote your Valentine’s Day offers and discounts than by creating a themed landing page? Incorporate the cliché pink and red colour scheme, insert some heart icons and add some cringe-worthy messaging to get your users excited about the most romantic day of the year.

 

 

This year, Boohoo.com has dedicated a Valentine’s landing page promoting their date night outfits, keeping very much in line with the Love Island lingo.

 

3. Write Blogs… Not Love Letters

 

As special as it is writing love letters to your other half, don’t forget to write enough blog content around Valentine’s Day. Creating content with optimised keywords will help boost traffic to your eCommerce store, which will ultimately lead to higher conversion.

Think about what most users will type in when searching for Valentine’s treats, for example, flowers, romantic, boyfriend, in order to ensure you’re using the most suitable keywords to rank higher in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

 

4. Give Some Love to Mobile

 

With more than half of online shopping done on mobile, it’s vital that your eCommerce store is responsive for mobile shoppers – and it’s only going to get more crucial as mobile commerce is forecast to overtake internet shopping on desktop by 2021.

Optimise your mobile store by ensuring a seamless user journey and easy checkout to encourage users to purchase their gifts on-the-go

 

5. Give Your Customers Attention

 

We know you love receiving messages on Valentine’s Day, so why not fill your customers’ inboxes with Valentine’s treats? Be sure to start marketing your sales and offers a few weeks before to start building awareness around how they can benefit from your store.

This year, Michael Kors have been effective in their email marketing, by offering advice on what to wear on Valentine’s Day, whether you’re going for a candlelit dinner with your other half, hanging out with your mates or heading to the movies.

 

 

So there you go, those were just a few tips and tricks to help you fulfil your Valentine’s Day wishes. Want to know more? Get in touch with us through the link below to find out how you can optimise your eCommerce store for any day of the year.

 

 

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

 

Blog Preview Image Credit: Total Shape

How to Migrate your Website Correctly

By Jojo Taylor

 

Are you are considering re-designing your website? Do you want to move your site to a new CMS platform? Or do you just want to change your domain name?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you are considering a ‘site migration’.

Unfortunately, site migrations are not always as simple as they may seem and can hurt your digital presence if not done well.

But don’t worry! This article will help you understand the risks of site migration, how to mitigate them and how to recover your traffic when a website migration goes wrong.

 

What Happens When you get it Wrong?

 

Loss of Website Traffic:

Perhaps the biggest risk when it comes to migrating your website is the potential for a loss of website traffic. While this may often be temporary, in the worst cases a site may never recover.

Decline in Search Rankings:

Loss of traffic is often paired with a decline in Google’s search rankings. An initial decline in Google’s search rankings is all but inevitable when migrating your website. However, a bad migration can mean a site may never reach its original search position and it may even be dropped from Google’s index completely!

 

Things to Consider when Migrating a Site:

 

Sound a bit scary? Don’t worry, there are steps you can take!

While there are indeed a number of SEO risks that come with migrating your site, a successful site migration can improve your digital presence in the long-term.

This site migration checklist highlights the common mistakes that people make, how to avoid them, and what actions you should take to migrate your website successfully.

To make it easier for you, we have split the stages of migration into four: Plan, Test, Launch and Monitor.

Plan:

You need to consider any potential issues that you could run into before they happen. Here are some actions that you can take to plan for your website migration:

  1. Consider your timing – Even with a well thought out migration strategy, you are still likely to lose website traffic during the first couple of weeks after you launch your new website. Choose to migrate when business is quieter, and your temporary loss of traffic won’t be such a blow.
  2. Engage with your audience – Engaging with your audience by informing them of the website migration will help them find your website much easier when you first launch.
  3. Audit your current website – To conduct a website audit, you need to examine thoroughly how well your website works. How fast are the pages on my website? Which pages are generating the most traffic or conversions? Which pages rank highest on Google? Are there any broken links on my website? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself as you go through your site. By answering these questions, you will be able to find out which parts of your current site you should carry over to your new one, and which parts need to be changed so that you can optimise the new site after you migrate.
  4. Create a redirect spreadsheet – Make a spreadsheet that shows how all the URLs on your current site will correspond to the URLs on your new site. This will come in handy later when you need your old URLs to point to new pages on your site!
  5. Make an XML sitemap for both your current site and your new site

Test: 

A surprising number of people underestimate the importance of testing their site first. The testing stage of the process helps you to identify any problems with your new site before it goes live. This allows you to fix them before they affect your search ranking.

The most important thing to remember when testing your site is to make sure that your testing site is not being indexed by Google. This will stop your current site (and your new site) from being penalised by google for duplicate content, and stop users being able to see your site prematurely.

You can do this using a few methods, but we recommend using a ‘noindex’ meta tag in the site’s code to tell Google not to index it. You can also protect your test site with a password to be extra safe.

 

Launch:

Having prepared for your site migration and tested your new site, the day has finally come to migrate your site! Once you have migrated the site successfully, there are some steps that you need to take immediately to retain web traffic and search rankings:

  1. Remember that redirect spreadsheet that you made with your old website’s URLs? Now is the time to use it! You will need to add a 301 redirect to every URL from your old site so that it directs your customer to the appropriate page on your new site. This will prevent returning customers from getting lost on their way to your site.
  2. Add your Google Search Console and Google Analytics tracking codes to your new site and check that they work – you will need these working to keep track of how your new site is performing.
  3. Remove any meta tags or passwords that might prevent your site from being indexed by Google.
  4. Submit your XML sitemap. This will make a big difference when it comes to SEO. Submitting sitemaps allow Google to understand the structure of your site and to identify important pages quicker.

 

Monitor: 

If you think that the hard work is over, you’re wrong. It’s important to keep a close eye on your site after a migration as issues are most likely to appear in the first few weeks.

You will need to check daily that all of your internal links are working correctly. If there are any broken links that lead to 404 error pages, it is best to identify them as soon as they happen to avoid any collateral damage for your website traffic. You will also need to keep an eye on GoogleAnalytics. If you notice a drop in traffic, you will need to figure out the reason for this as soon as possible.

 

How to Recover from a Bad Site Migration:

You may be wondering if you can recover from a bad site migration. The answer is yes, you can. However, the journey to regaining traffic and search ranking is long and perilous.

To recover from a bad site migration, you will need to start by identifying your problem areas, and this can be a very time-consuming task.

To do this, you will need to conduct a full audit of your site and address all the errors that you find. These will often include problems with redirects, your sitemap, meta tags, canonical tags, links and badly optimised content. Sadly, fixing any number of these can be difficult, and it will be much harder to recover your site once the damage has been done.

 

Fortunately, there is always expert help available! Diffusion Digital is an eCommerce agency who specialise in WordPress and Shopify as well as digital marketing, so if you’re thinking about migrating your website, we’ll be able to help you through all stages of the process.