Online shopping and eCommerce are growing at an exponential rate, with buyers around the world turning to online shopping for their needs. As launching an eCommerce site becomes easier than ever with platforms such as Magento and BigCommerce, the next major challenge comes to beat the competition. With limited options for differentiation, it can be tough to make your place in a relatively crowded market. Contextual marketing and personalisation are powerful tools for any eCommerce site that help in drawing customers and converting leads.
According to the International Trade Administration, Australia has the 11th largest eCommerce market in the world. Online shopping accounts for nearly 9% of all retail trade in the Australian market. By 2024, it is expected to reach a value of USD 32.3 billion, growing year-on-year at a rate of 15.5%. There are approximately 17.90 million online shoppers in Australia and 2.14 billion overall worldwide.
As the numbers of eCommerce sites continue to grow, you need smart and powerful tactics to establish your brand and gain loyal customers. Apart from honing your eCommerce site and ensuring you have an easy-to-use and appealing online store; marketing has become a necessity. When your customers are smart, you need to be smarter by utilising latest marketing trends to your advantage. To gain an edge over competitors, consider adding contextual marketing and personalisation to your eCommerce marketing arsenal.
What is Contextual Marketing?
The advent of the internet and its colossal rise to popularity has changed the ways of marketing substantially. From the years ago models of television or printed advertisements, consumers can now instantly go online and search for what they are looking for. As attention spans reduce and consumers have the option to quickly switch to a different seller, the task of marketing needs to become smarter. While every form of marketing typically has some target group of customers, contextual marketing goes a step further to target customers in specific contexts, increasing the chance of success.
Contextual marketing is a relatively recent type of inbound marketing that focuses on targeted and timely advertising. It focuses on personalising your eCommerce business to your target audience based on who they are, what they want, and what they need. Driven by data, the goal is to quickly reach out to customers searching for a particular product and provide them with instant answers. Overall, contextual marketing incorporates online and mobile marketing. It analyses user information such as search terms and recent browsing history, and presents suitable advertisements. Since the customer has already expressed interest in the product, they have a higher likelihood of conversion. Google AdSense advertising is a popular example of contextual marketing.
A primary marketing goal for any eCommerce site is, of course, sales, but there can be many other marketing goals as well. Establishing brand reputation, increasing visibility, encouraging repeat purchases, driving engagement and building a relationship with customers are also important marketing goals. Contextual marketing is an effective tool to increase the number of clicks on each advertisement. It also decreases customer annoyance due to unnecessary ads, and eliminate ads with low or negative return on investment. With contextual marketing, you can increase the successful conversion of leads into sales.
Factors to Consider for Contextual Marketing
When implemented effectively, there is great potential for success with contextual marketing. However, even a few minor miscalculations can result in the entire effort going to waste, causing loss of money and time. Whether you have a new or old eCommerce site, choosing a suitable marketing plan is vital to gain customers and increase brand visibility. While it may be tempting to try any and every marketing tactic you are recommended, understanding its suitability for your business gives a greater chance for success. Here are some factors to consider for successful contextual marketing:
- Customer Pool
Contextual marketing online is only effective if your target group of customers are regularly accessing online modes of browsing and searching. This can be through internet searches, social media, or mobile browsing. The more time your customers spend online, they greater the chance of success of contextual marketing.
The foundation of contextual marketing is data and engagement with customers. If your customers only go online for direct purchases, or do not spend much time online in general, the scope of contextual marketing reduces. Conversely, if you have a customer base that spend a large amount of time online, you can access a plethora of data, encourage engagement, and improve conversions. Customer groups that are tech-friendly and familiar with online browsing and searching are likelier to respond to contextual marketing.
- Customised for your Niche
For optimum success, contextual marketing needs to be tailored to the business niche and industry. It is necessary to understand your target customers, and the situations or contexts in which they would search for products you are selling. Instant sales are more likely with lower priced items while costlier items can take time to convert from ads to sales.
Examining and analysing customer behavioural patterns for the specific niche is vital to understand the type of contextual marketing will be most effective. For example, for larger purchases such as cars, customers will likely spend a lot more time researching and comparing their options, making a carefully calculated decision. In contrast, for lower value or impulse purchases such as clothing, jewellery, or accessories, customers may instantly convert if the advertisement catches their eye.
- Customer Lifecycle
The customer lifecycle refers to the steps that customers go through when they are purchasing a product. There are 5 distinct stages or steps: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy. Contextual marketing reaches out directly to customers that show specific interests, resulting in better engagement, acquisition and conversion.
According to the customer lifecycle and the sales funnel, you can prepare a repertoire of advertisements. For longer interest to sales conversion funnels, you can utilise the blogging feature of your eCommerce site and offer learning resources on the topic. To encourage impulse purchases, you can concentrate on visually appealing and catchy advertisements, and experiment with different promotional deals. By preparing advertisements and promotions in advance, you can be fully prepared to deploy the desired advertisements quickly when the context arises.
Studying the competition is an integral part of any business plan, whether it is to plan your USP, pricings, delivery modules, designs, or anything else. By understanding your competitors, you can find out space to create your own place in the market. Similarly, with contextual marketing, you should check out the competition and study the types of ads they are placing, speed, and other parameters.
When it comes to contextual marketing, it is important to catch the eye of the consumer at the right time. Embrace your creativity and consider how best your USP can be highlighted for consumers. If you have comparatively less competition in your niche, then there is plenty of potential from contextual marketing. Even if there is a hefty amount of competition, you can still succeed by carefully planning and highlighting how you will be able to meet the needs of customers.
Role of Data
At the core of successful contextual marketing is data, and data is what differentiates this type of marketing from traditional marketing. Through data, you gain insights that lead to improved personalisation which increases engagement, resulting in better customer experiences. From customer experiences, more data can be collected, beginning the cycle once again. With adequate data, you can accurately understand customers, set up segmentation, and create customer profiling. It helps in tripwire marketing, where low priced offers are highlighted solely to complete conversions.
For every stage of the customer lifecycle, there is a digital touch point for data collection. In the first stage of customer awareness, digital touch points are email campaigns, online campaigns, and mobile interactions. When customers reach the stage of consideration, digital touch points are blogs, reviews, direct emailers, and social media. At the purchase stage, there are websites and eCommerce sites, followed by community portals and self-service portals at the retention stage. Subsequently, the digital touch points return to social communities and reviews for the advocacy stage.
To make the most out of collected data, focus on digging into the overall data available, and discovering and identifying what is most useful. Leverage that data to drive successful conversions and sales. Follow the rule of SPIRAL:
- Spot marketing aligned consumer information
- Pool data sources into a single storehouse
- Integrate intelligence with marketing and CRM systems
- Real time data or as close as possible should be the goal
- Aggregate and objectivise consumer behaviour
- Learn, test, and drive marketing efforts.
Real time web personalisation combined with relevant and timely contextual marketing result in better intelligence, more engagement and richer data. Once you begin the journey of data collection, personalisation, marketing, and engagement, all you need to do is revise and repeat.
Role of Personalisation
Personalisation has gained massive importance over the years, encouraging customers to move from offline to online modes of shopping. It helps in forming a genuine bond and familiarity with customers, increasing their spend value and frequency of purchasing. Happy customers are also more likely to advocate for a particular eCommerce site, thereby expanding your reach through word-of-mouth marketing.
Generally, personalisation involves the customisation of the user experience on eCommerce sites based on consumer data. Contextual marketing goes a step further to utilise consumer data to proactively offer customers what they are looking for. It uses knowledge of customer behaviour to understand and predict where, why, and when a customer makes a particular purchase. Contextual marketing is a successor of personalised marketing, but also utilises many of the components of personalisation.
Moving beyond ‘who’ the customer is, contextual marketing focuses on the context of the purchase. This includes the purpose behind the purchase, along with questions such as ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘how’. By meeting the customer needs even before they have fully realised what they are looking for, you can beat the competition and secure a long-lasting customer.
Whether you are ready for contextual marketing or plan to engage in it in the future, personalisation is an integral building block that you should incorporate into your eCommerce site. According to a study by Salesforce, 84% of customers say that being treated like a person is important to winning their business. Furthermore, 80% of customers say the experience offered by a company it as important as its products. Also, 95% of customers say they are likelier to be loyal to a company they trust.
Types of Personalisation
Personalisation can be classified into 3 main categories, based on the personalisation maturity. As the personalisation maturity increases, so does the revenue potential of the customer experience. Based on the eCommerce platform you are using, the capabilities and implementation process for personalisation can vary. Here are the 3 main types of personalisation:
- Reactive Personalisation: A type of personalisation with relatively low personalisation maturity, reactive personalisation reacts to actions of consumers. This includes field insertion and segmentation or rules-based personalisation. For example, product recommendations based on what the customer is viewing, and what other customers viewed or purchased after that product. It can also suggest products based on factors such as the location of the customer.
- Responsive Personalisation: The next level of personalisation maturity is responsive personalisation, where behavioural recommendations and suggestions are made. A greater number of details about the customers are analysed, such as purchasing behaviours and preferences. For example, recommendations are based on the specific shopper, and similar content is suggested. Purchasing behavioural data can indicate aspects such as propensity towards a particular budget or response to discounts and promotions.
- Predictive Personalisation: The category with the highest level of personalisation maturity is predictive personalisation where suggestions and recommendations are based on predicted customer behaviour. Predictive personalisation is omnichannel optimised and used in focused merchandising and micro-segment-based product affinity analysis. Typically used in contextual marketing, predictive personalisation aims to reach out to potential customers with personalised recommendations proactively. These recommendations can also include trending, most viewed, and most purchased items of an eCommerce site.
How is Contextual Marketing Implemented?
Implementing contextual marketing effectively requires adequate technological support, creativity, and expertise. It is important to target the right customers at the right time with the right advertisements for maximum results. Generally, there are 3 components in online advertising: preparing the advertisement, deciding when and where it is to be displayed, and what the payment mode is.
In contextual marketing, the manual aspect of when and where the advertisement should be displayed is handed over to technology. Computer software is programmed to identify suitable circumstances and deploy the desired advertisements. The ad placement can be triggered by specific searches or other online activity from customers with certain characteristics. Contextual advertisements can be placed on search engines, social media networks, news websites, mobile devices, and spontaneous networks.
Automated advertisement deployment is not a perfect science, and can often misread search intentions and display advertisements in less than desirable situations. As a result, it is vital to oversee the contextual marketing implementation process, so that you can intervene when possible and required. Specific keywords and contexts can be excluded from the advertisement deployment, but it often takes trial and error to perfect advertisement deployment.
Apart from the keywords entered for online searches, contextual marketing has evolved to consider other criterion when displaying ads. These factors can include the location of the customer, general profile, and site used. For example, the location can help in suggesting fast shipping orders to customers in a particular location. People browsing social media may be more likely to purchase casual items than someone checking serious news on a news portal. As you gain more data and build engagement, contextual marketing learns and grows, increasing its rate of success.
How to Support Successful Contextual Marketing
Successful contextual marketing can be a substantial boon for your eCommerce business, but it can be an expensive endeavour. To get the most out of your investment and for speedy results, you need to be prepared. The final results of contextual marketing may depend upon the customer; however, you can increase your chances of success. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for better results from contextual marketing:
- Outline Your Buyer Persona
At the initial stages of your business, you would have most likely researched and identified your target audience and customer group. For contextual marketing, take it a step further and identify your buyer persona. The buyer persona for your business represents an ideal customer for your eCommerce site. Based on your niche and the size of your business, there can be a few or many buyer personas.
Research in depth your ideal customer and identify their characteristics and habits. This can include everything from location and gender to shopping preferences, budgets, and other demographic criterions. Consider the buyer personas as real people. What is their day like? What kind of sites do they frequent? What are their needs and shopping preferences? What time are they most likely to be shopping online?
By identifying key characteristics of buyer personas as detailed as possible, you can give contextual marketing a head-start. For example, by analysing most visited sites, you can plan out where to deploy advertisements, while time of browsing can indicate suitable times. Preferred products and trends can help in shortlisting most suitable products for advertising. Having clearly defined buyer personas will help in making sense of large amounts of data, and in designing a more effective contextual marketing programme.
- Revise Your User Interface
Even the best of marketing strategies can fall apart if your core eCommerce website does not offer an optimum user interface. The goal of any marketing is to bring customers to your eCommerce site where they will then purchase, subscribe, add to cart, or perform any other type of desired conversion. A lengthy checkout process, broken links, or slow page loading can detract from the overall shopping experience, resulting in higher abandonment rates.
If customers are reaching your eCommerce site and then leaving without converting, a prime reason can be issues with your user interface. Prevent such losses by ensuring your user interface is friendly, fast, and effective. Check all the navigational components of your site and the page loading times to verify their performance. Test the checkout process to make sure it is simple, easy, and secure.
Is your site performing well on mobile devices? With increasing numbers of customers using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets for online shopping, verifying your mobile interface is also crucial. Contextual marketing is designed to be an omnichannel experience, and so all devices should be able to access, navigate, and operate your eCommerce site. Regularly inspect and review your eCommerce website to ensure that it is functioning at the best possible level of capability.
- Maintain Robust SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an important part of any website, and particularly significant for eCommerce sites. Used to facilitate organic leads, SEO involves optimising your eCommerce website for search engines. With adequate SEO, customers searching for certain keywords should be able to find their way to your eCommerce site. Depending upon the level of competition and demand for products, it can be easy or challenging to rank high on search engine ranking pages (SERPs).
Whatever may be the difficulty level or ranking on your desired keywords, SEO needs to be an on-going process to maintain visibility of your brand. On-page SEO influences the ability of search engines to crawl on your eCommerce site. It also helps you highlight quality products and content. SEO protocols are routinely evolving, and accordingly, your SEO needs to be up-to-date
Marketing may be another way to draw customers to your eCommerce site, however, SEO is also important for adequate brand imaging. Often, customers may view an advertisement and decide to search the brand online before going directly to the advertisement. Other times, customers may recall seeing an advertisement earlier for your brand, and decide to search online. Regardless of the way your overall marketing campaigns and site interact, robust SEO is a necessity that increases brand trust and visibility.
- Categorise Top Performing Content
All the research in the world can’t replace the actual response of customers. If your eCommerce site has been around for a while, then carefully analyse and identify your top performing content. What do your current customers love most about your eCommerce site? If there are certain topics, blog posts, web pages, products, or categories that are performing well, you can expand on those topics. These topics can also be used for contextual marketing.
Earlier, eCommerce sites would focus primarily on product descriptions, but now customers are increasingly seeking other forms of resources. Accordingly, leading eCommerce platforms are now also supporting blogs, guides, and other forms of resources. If your eCommerce site is fairly new, consider offering resources on your primary topics to gauge the interest of consumers.
Direct consumer feedback and engagement can help you find out the top performing content on your eCommerce site. Experiment with different forms of content on popular topics such as blog posts, videos, guides, tutorials, and eBooks. Categorisation of top performing content will help significantly in contextual marketing. By understanding the interests of customers, you can effectively deploy advertisements to meet their preferences. Greater engagement on your eCommerce site improves SEO and helps with organic sales, in addition to marketing campaigns.
- Refine Your Database
The importance of data has led to the collection of massive amounts of details. While data is valuable for business decisions and marketing, it is equally important to audit the data and ensure it is useful. Depending upon the frequency and volume of lead and data collection, monthly or quarterly database audits can help.
If you have been saving every lead generated and customer details recorded over the past few years, it is possible many details are irrelevant or outdated. Emails you may be sending might end up in spam, or customers may get annoyed with recommendations that do not suit their current needs. For new eCommerce sites, if you have procured customer data externally, many leads may not be suitable for your niche.
With a refined and collated database, you get a greater chance of conversions when you launch marketing campaigns. Any data set with incomplete or incorrect details should be followed up with or removed entirely. There are various verification software solutions that you can use to check and refine your database. A strong database, even if the numbers are low, gives better results. As your business and popularity grows, you can always add new data and details. An adequate database helps you accurately measure the results of contextual marketing, without undermining of the results due to poor data.
Advantages of Contextual Marketing
Marketing is immensely diverse with various types of marketing available for modern businesses. If you are already planning or implementing other types of marketing such as digital marketing or social media marketing, you may wonder why you should try contextual marketing. A new form of marketing, there are immense benefits of contextual marketing that make it highly suitable for eCommerce site. Here are the top advantages:
- Targeted: Contextual marketing is a fully targeted mode of promotion that utilises behavioural cues from the customers. Based on your business niche, you can clearly define what type of customers should be shown advertisements and when. With timely deployment of suitable advertisements, you can meet customers right as they are considering a purchase, resulting in higher conversions. A targeted approach uses smart advertising, rather than displaying ads in bulk and hoping for a lead.
- Non-Disruptive for Customers: Interruptions are rarely ever pleasant, even if they are helpful. A drawback of traditional online advertising can be wrong timings, catching the customer at an unsuitable time, rendering the ad ineffective at best, or annoying at worst. Contextual marketing seamlessly places advertisements in front of customers in such a manner that it suits their original browsing. They are non-disruptive for customers and give customers the option to continue with their browsing, click on the ad, or remember your site for later.
- Enhanced Customer Engagement: Any type of customer engagement is always welcome and beneficial for a business, and contextual marketing encourages and facilitates enhanced customer engagement. By targeting customers at a suitable time with relevant ads, they are more likely to respond and engage with your brands. Experiment with the ads to encourage further engagement by offering them ways to interact with your business. The enhanced engagement will help clarify any customer doubts or concerns, establish your brand name, and give you valuable insight into what customers want.
- Better Customer Satisfaction: Happy and returning customers lead to a happy and successful business. With contextual marketing, customers are presented with solutions for problems they are looking for, without the customers having to actively search. Due to the highly personalised nature of contextual marketing and its exact timing, customers are more likely to respond positively and have greater satisfaction. Customers will then tend to associate that problem solving and feeling of satisfaction with your brand, and will return again. They might even advocate and recommend your brand to others.
- Cost Effective: Contextual marketing comes with a tremendous amount of flexibility and can be scaled up or down to suit your budget. Overall, implementing contextual marketing is a cost-effective process, since you are sending targeted ads to specific buyer personas and customers. Accuracy in deployment of advertisements is more important than bulk ads. Therefore, you save on expensive ads and large advertising campaigns, and with a better return on investment, there is higher cost savings overall.
- Greater Sales and Revenue: As a highly targeted form of marketing, you can achieve significant success with contextual marketing. By reaching out to suitable customers at the right time, encouraging engagement and forming a positive association, customers are likelier to purchase. Conversion rates with contextual marketing can be substantial, and the success rate improves with time and data. While the process can take time, contextual marketing overall leads to greater sales and revenue, aiding in long-term success of your brand.
Gaining visibility, conversions, and loyal customers are common goals for any eCommerce site, and as the level of competition continues to rise, it can be challenging. Marketing has become a powerful tool for eCommerce businesses in establishing branding and increasing sales. There are different types of marketing available, and contextual marketing is a trend you should not miss out on. A cost-effective means of marketing, it has been shown to yield effective results.
Contextual marketing is all about precision – reaching out to the right customers at the right time. Incorporating a data-based approach with detailed personalisation, contextual marketing enables you to target customers as they make the decision to purchase. While it may take time for initial results of contextual marketing to become visible, with time you can revise and improve for greater and faster results.
A powerful and functional eCommerce site is the basis for contextual marketing or any other type of eCommerce marketing. Even the most effective marketing strategies can fail if you have a subpar eCommerce site. Our qualified and capable developers at 18th Digitech can design and develop a robust eCommerce solution for your business needs, and also help revitalise an existing eCommerce site. Discuss your eCommerce needs with us today.