Organic search power remains the most cost-efficient tactic to gain market share, says MediaVision’s Adam Freeman – but, with demand changing so frequently, it’s time furniture retailers started thinking about SEO as a predictive tool rather than a reactive process …
High street businesses faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic, but during the most testing of times, innovation can come to the fore. Many furniture businesses adopted adopting ecommerce in a bid to make it out the other side.
By investing in a digital model, legacy bricks-and-mortar businesses were able to hold onto their core customer base. But it also meant that they could begin competing with native ecommerce players – the ones who were well insulated when lockdown measures were imposed. An opportunity had emerged – legacy furniture stores had new tools to drive their market share and engage with digital competitors on more of a level playing field.
Out-of-the-box thinking from the market has led to some really impressive digital innovations. Dunelm invested £3m in omnichannel and gamification activities when it came to design choices, while ScS merged the online and offline experience within its new concept store. But what really made the difference was the investment in advanced search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.
This makes perfect sense from a strategic angle. Take DFS – for 85% of its customers, sofa buying starts with online research. You need to be on that first page of Google.
With lockdown measures now a thing of the past, shopping habits have recalibrated to a mix between online and offline – so we’re at another point of digital evolution for legacy retailers. How will they continue to compete?
Organic search needs to be central to any business strategy. It remains the most cost-efficient tactic to steal that all-so-important market share away from competitors. But now is the time to use it a bit differently.
To date, organic search has been reactive (onsite optimisation) and proactive (digital PR and onsite content). It has also required retailers to look backwards for the insights that would guide these marketing strategies. However, spend too much time looking backwards, and you’re at risk of missing new trends and behaviours.
So, you need to be thinking about SEO as a predictive tool. That changes everything. It means the SEO is also there to spot those future trends so a business can adapt, prepare and earn higher rankings later.
Sounds like a pipe dream? Thanks to the evolution of technology and data, it doesn’t have to be. There are tools such as digital demand trackers, like ours, that can help businesses anticipate consumer search behaviour, rather than optimising by reacting to past data or presumed trends.
Gaining a competitive edge
Where ‘predictive SEO’ really proves its worth is when it comes to the customer demand cycle. It enables businesses to maximise benefits across the whole process – the early warnings, optimising sales and margins, scaling with demand, building an integrated approach to SEO across an organisation and creating a new growth engine that ensures it is seen as a key investment channel. Effectively, you are making it work harder.
For example, from a buying point of view, annual trends are notoriously tricky. What was successful last year might not be again – a new interiors trend moight emerge from nowhere, leaving you struggling for stock. You therefore need speed-to-insight to gain that edge over competitors, and if you have an understanding of demand and trends at a product level, you’re in a better position to do so.
This is where a digital demand tracker comes into its own. A tracker can help by supplying search trend data that can be modelled to predict actual product demand. Furthermore, passing this data to buying teams allows them to not only understand what products need to be prepared, and details such as which materials or style, but also the volumes in which they need to be purchased.
The power of search demand data doesn’t stop there. It can also be deployed to sculpt links to provide the right visibility of certain products on a retailer’s website, can ensure products are correctly named and in line with what people are searching for, can be used to tailor and optimise PPC ads, and can help with content planning and production. At every business touchpoint, incremental optimisations can be made, helping spread the value of predictive SEO throughout a retailer’s operations, and feeding back to boost organic rankings.
What you need to do is to tie all this together. And that can be a challenge. The best way to start that process is by investing in digital skills, rethinking what SEO really means today, and how digital demand data should sit at the heart of such a proposition. In doing so, legacy retailers will be futureproofed with a more cohesive, and therefore better online function, as well as a physical presence in the real world – a two-sided model that will be the envy of the digital natives, and one that they will be looking to emulate.