Retail's Online Traffic Problem

In the past few weeks alone, we've absorbed new, alarming data about how people spend time and money.

First, when on mobile, we're basically living inside apps.

Second, as consumers, our search parameters for finding what we need to buy have both narrowed and broadened. We're less likely to begin a product search on Google, but we're also not going directly to individual brand/retail sites: Amazon is our starting point 55% of the time we're shopping online. What does this mean?

  1. We want what we want when we want it.
    • We're going to the place most likely to have it that will get it to us fastest
    • We don't want to sift through Google results that may be relevant but will take us to less predictable sellers
  2. We don't care enough about retailer/brand to spend time going to many individual sites  -- when it's time to buy, it's just a transaction
  3. Not only are non-Amazon retailers losing sales on what customers otherwise would've bought from them, but they're losing a chance to show customers other items they also might buy

The shift in shopping traffic from Google and individual retail sites to Amazon obviously is a concerning one for retailers and brands of all sizes. With more than half of consumers going to Amazon as soon as they're ready to buy, other retailers can't afford to wait for consumers to know what they need and start looking for it.

The answer is to reach consumers earlier in their path to purchase, before they're consciously on that path. I've always been an advocate of awareness ("brand") marketing to balance out direct response ("performance") efforts. But top-of-the-funnel marketing is expensive and has an ROI that can be tough to measure. So retailers need a new way to reach app-immersed consumers when a specific purchase is likely, but not yet underway. This is called contextual commerce and Button is doing it. I'll write about Button next.