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Comment counts: Winning consumers in the moments that matter – Google’s tips for digital retail

With the smartphone as the remote control to life, retailers need to focus more on personalised, relevant and useful connections, says Eileen Naughton, managing director of Google UK and Ireland.

With the smartphone as the remote control to life, retailers need to focus more on personalised, relevant and useful connections, says Eileen Naughton, managing director of Google UK and Ireland.


Technology has forever changed the way we shop, the way we search and discover, the way we plan, and the way we consume. It’s fair to say: “Digital is the new black.”

One of the most fundamental shifts in retail is the merging of online and offline shopping behaviours. In the UK, 85% of purchases still happen in physical stores, but more and more purchase decisions are being influenced by digital – through search, through better audience targeting, and through convenience, like same-day delivery and ‘click-and-collect’.

Consider Black Friday, a relatively recent import from the US. At first an in-store event, Black Friday quickly jumped the tracks to online. Black Friday online sales in the UK hit a record £1.1bn in 2015 – up 36% – with mobile purchases accounting for £440m.

But this behaviour is not limited to special offers, or to power selling periods. We see the same trends on more considered purchases where online research is in fact even more extensive. It’s true of fashion and true of luxury – a McKinsey study suggests that 75% of luxury purchases are influenced by at least one digital touch point.

This convergence of offline and online shopping behaviours is of course being driven by one thing in particular: the smartphone. This device has seen the fastest adoption of any consumer technology in history, taking just five years to reach one billion users. According to Deloitte, by the end of today (alone) four million more smartphones will have been sold.

I think of my smartphone as my personal assistant. It’s my remote control for life – my music, my clock, my camera, my memory, my real-time link to the people and things I care about. It enables shoppers to have fluid interactions with brands: always-on, across online and offline channels.

Google has studied search behaviours and third-party research, and identified three characteristics of modern, mobile, multi-channel shoppers…

Personalised and relevant

Research by BloomReach suggests that nine in 10 people would be more likely to buy from a company that best predicts their intent and suggests products intuitively.

Advertisers can now provide personalised results to people’s searches, which means taking into account who that individual is – not just the context in which they’re searching, but whether they’re a new customer, a returning customer or a loyal customer, for example.

Fast and useful

People want information they can use – and they want it fast. Half of consumers who conduct a local search using smartphones visit a physical store within a day, and almost a third of all mobile queries we see are related to location.

Searches for things “near me” are on a steep rise, and to win these moments brands need to ensure their marketing is actionable.

People want answers quickly meaning advertisers need to offer frictionless experiences on search by showing photos in Product Listing Ads, for example, which help convert a search to a sale, or by using a Local Inventory Ads format in Search, which shows whether a product is in stock in a nearby store.

Connected experiences

One in four shoppers will avoid a physical store if information is not available online, according to a Google Think Insights study. We also see that 24% of UK consumers research products online before purchasing offline.

This means that advertisers need to understand and measure consumer behaviour across devices and channels to get the best return from their marketing investment.

At Google, we’re working hard to measure these new consumer pathways. We’re constantly innovating in Search, so that marketing can be more personal, more useful, and reach people in the moments that matter.

Eileen Naughton is managing director of Google UK and Ireland. Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via

By The Current Daily

The Current Daily is the leading news site at the intersection of fashion, retail and innovation. Heavily embedded in the worlds of technology and sustainability, it tracks new launches around everything from artificial intelligence and augmented reality, to transparency and smart textiles. It keeps you abreast of the latest disruptions dominating the retail industry, and the startups you need to know about behind them.

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