A leap forward of 10 years compared to the standard flow: the Coronavirus effect has created an unpredictable scenario on the consumption habits of Italian people, for instance, that had to rely almost inevitably on digital commerce for the purchase of any kind of good during the lockdown. The trend has also been similar in the rest of the world, and Google has therefore published some best practices dedicated to eCommerce sites that want to intercept new users and do business in this new reality.

Google’s support

As mentioned, this trend has also been observed on an international level and Kevin Fried, Industry Leader, Specialty Retail at Google, says that the American company has promptly got in touch with about forty of its customers retailers, in order to discover the worries, new habits and challenges they were facing (for example, the closures of their physical shops or restrictions in place), so as to understand how to be of help.

Even consumers are faced with uncertainty, writes the Googler: more than 50% of US buyers have searched on the search engine “what is open or closed” in their vicinity last week.

The pressure is now on eCommerce sites

So the pressure has now moved on the new main stores of the retailers: their eCommerce sites. Online stores are no longer just showcases to sell products and generate revenue, but must become a channel to support, inform and reassure customers along their path.

The 8 strategies for a positive experience with online shopping

A complicated goal, the result of a delicate balance, but not impossible to achieve, and Fried has “worked with my team to identify eight strategies that retailers can apply to offer their customers relevant buying experiences, frictionless and useful at this time”.

  1. Prioritize your business challenges

It’s likely that your team is flooded with requests and new ideas, you can read on Think With Google, but we cannot think of dealing with it all at the same time. The key is to prioritize: “assess whether there are aspects of your site’s messaging system or design that harm your brand or have a negative impact on your customer experience”, and improve these aspects first. Then we can devote ourselves to optimizations “that can improve the experience or enhance the performances”.

Aspects to consider include the performance of the site and the correspondence between communication/ messaging of marketing channels with those of the site. It could also be the case to “examine ways to optimize customer support and promotions, as well as to manage the volatility in website traffic and in the volume of transactions”: in general, the advice is always to focus attention on projects that generate the greatest impact, also trying to assess and measure their success.

  1. Optimize site speed

“With the current closure of stores, more and more people are shopping online”, confirms Fried. These new spikes in online traffic make it essential to properly equip our sales site to handle a greater volume of requests, and there are some interventions that we can put into practice.

  • Check CDN (content distribution network) providers for settings that can enable faster requests.
  • Many site resources do not require updates on subsequent visits: we can adopt simple HTTP caching methods that improve loading times for returning users and reduce server load with minimal code changes.
  • Make the site faster by compressing text and optimizing images without compromising visual quality.
  • Implement font-display:swap so that customers can read the site text even if the main font does not load fast enough.
  • Delete unused tags, clean up the swollen CSS and JS code and remove other obsolete features.
  • Regularly check the site speed using tools such as Test My Site and Pagespeed Insights.
  1. Provide a seamless checkout experience

We were also saying this in a past insight analysis about eCommerce optimization: the checkout is a complex and delicate phase that can make the difference in terms of conversions. According to Google, 76% of smartphone users are more likely to buy from companies whose sites or mobile apps allow them to shop quickly.

So, we need to make sure that our payment processing system is fast and simple, also identifying ways to incorporate customization improvements, such as storing information for shopping or recently explored articles.

In short, the front-end and back-end structure and technology must provide the best possible experience, and it is important to work with technical teams to map the infrastructure and technology stack that support our site, ensuring that they interact perfectly.

  1. Take advantage of technology to ease customer service requests

More than 1 in 4 buyers in the United States says brands could be more useful by training customer service teams on how to best manage their needs at the moment.

This requires us to ask ourselves whether we are offering customers the kind of support they need in today’s environment. Google’s advice is to use teams and chatbots to clarify customer service updates, be transparent about expectations, and report useful resources. You should also enable and check customer messages on your Google My Business profile, so that customers can get answers quickly and easily.

  1. Use the homepage to give updated information

Over 50% of US buyers want to know how brands and companies respond to the crisis, according to a survey reported in the article. According to Fried, then, you should use the home page of your site to share information about how you are actually supporting customers.

The suggestion is “to stay authentic, avoid corporate speeches and make sure that the banners and other site notifications are simple, but distinct, with quiet colors and fonts”, allowing users to easily click on an X to close each banner and continue browsing.

  1. Make deals and offers relevant

The closure of non-essential shops and the continuation of orders restrictions on exits “broke consumers’ routines and changed their priorities”. Google advises us to consider two issues: is what we present on our site relevant to this new normality? And then, are we promoting products that can help our customers more?

Almost 40% of US buyers say that during this period they did not find the products they needed or wanted to buy and that they spent money from brands they would not normally buy from.

Finding out in advance consumer trends, using online tools such as those provided by Google or promptly analyzing changes in search volumes with SEOZoom Covid impact feature can help our eCommerce to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of customers during the Coronavirus.

  1. Adapt the strategies of creative and media campaigns

While routines and schedules change to meet the needs of social isolation and restrictive ordinances (also in Phase 2…), purchasing behaviour evolves, too: we must be able to reflect these changes also in our brand’s communication campaigns and with creative resources, explains Fried. This means, for example:

  • To update contents to direct customers to the site rather than to physical stores that may be closed.
  • To stop campaigns in regions where it is not possible to operate or where the content may seem insensitive, such as areas where the supply chain is blocked or shops are closed.
  • To make any brand message or creative communication relevant and empathetic.
  • To use automated solutions that respond to signals in real time to keep up with customer demand and optimize within the digital budget.
  1. Stay consistent between channels

In this turbulent reality, people find it hard to find information they can trust and go online to find it: the last suggestion is to maintain a correspondence and consistency between all the communications of our brand.

Whether it is a matter of communicating product availability, shipping times or highlighting brand news, it is crucial that these messages reflect what actually is on our site, concludes Google.

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