Winning the Micro-Moments in Ecommerce

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Split-second decisions. Gut reactions. Acting on instinct. The concept of having a lightning-fast response to a given situation is a familiar one. Now, apply that to your ecommerce business. How many times must a consumer take action (every step being a series of individual decisions building upon one another) in order for you to complete a sale?

Those decisions happen in micro-moments. We'll explain just what those are, how to find and leverage them in your own business, and how to make the most of them when those micro-moments have already passed.

What Is a Micro-Moment?

The leading source for understanding the micro-moment is Google itself. This is how they defined micro-moments when the term was coined in April 2015:

Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped. In these moments, consumers' expectations are higher than ever.

Let's focus on each of those four items, which have changed the face of ecommerce:

  1. Learn something. The American Marketing Association notes that 178 million Americans regularly use a second-screen device (i.e., a phone or tablet) while watching TV. And in their research, they noted a detectable search response spike within five minutes of a TV ad insertion.
  2. Do something. One of the best barometers of this is "how-to" content. Searches for this kind of content on YouTube have increased by 70% per year. Brands as diverse as Home Depot, Sephora, and L.L. Bean develop how-to content that serves as entry points on a customer journey – or, at the very least, for positive brand awareness. How-to content is a great way to grab attention and increase brand awareness through a “do something” micro-moment. With a deep understanding of what your target audience wants to know and do, alongside a strong SEO strategy, you can position your brand as a trusted resource.
    Let’s say you own a craft supply store. Picture the shopper who’s just seen a new craft technique and searches the web to bookmark information on supplies needed and steps to take. If your content pops up and effectively answers the searcher’s question, you’ve become a trusted resource for them — which can also put you on their short-list of retailers with the products that they need. 
  3. Discover something. Google also refers to these as "I want to go" micro-moments. It's all about local search, conducted by 82% of smartphone users as of August 2018. Hubspot also notes that over the past two years, there's been tremendous growth in search with variations of "near me " (pizza near me, mechanic near me open now) included in the search phrase.
  4. Buy something. This one is probably the most obvious when it comes to a connection with ecommerce. In May 2018, Google reported that in the two previous years, there was more than 500% growth in "near me" searches that also included some variant of "can I buy" or "to buy" in the search query. And considering that ecommerce now accounts for more than 10% of all US retail sales and is growing at a rate of over 15% per year, it's more important than ever to win that micro-moment.

Identifying the Opportunities for Micro-Moments in Your Business

Where are the micro-moments in your own ecommerce business? One way to find them is by mapping out the customer journey. According to Gartner, 82% of organizations have created a customer journey map but only 47% are using those maps effectively. And companies often go wrong by not looking at it from the customer's perspective. So, developing user personas that help you understand a customer's path from attention to engagement to action becomes another key method to find those opportunities.

As part of their own research, Google identified three consumer behaviors that have arisen from the explosion of micro-moments. The "well-informed" consumer performs a lot of research before making a decision – and not necessarily on large purchases, either. The "right-here" consumer is looking for what's nearby. And the "right-now" consumer is getting things done, getting things bought, and getting the answers they need.

Winning the Micro-Moments in Ecommerce

Getting Nimble With Your Micro-Moments

So, you've identified where the micro-moments – those crucial intention-rich moments – reside in your customer journey. Now, how do you help your customers make the decision you hope they'll make in a given micro-moment? There's a constant ebb and flow here because of two dynamic aspects of your site.

This is officially a mobile-first world and therefore the micro-moment should be considered from the mobile-first perspective as well. Everything from web design and usability, to general search engine optimization, local search optimization (for brick and mortar), lightning-fast page speeds, and other mobile SEO strategies come into play here.

Don’t forget about the power of social proof in your micro-moments. Quick product research or comparisons often involve looking at customer reviews. Shoppers are looking at the number of reviews a product has received to gauge legitimacy — in general, the younger the shopper, the more reviews they expect to see. Reading customer reviews is also the most common way for shoppers to research an unfamiliar digital retailer, as per 93.4% of respondents to a 2019 Trustpilot survey.

Content strategy also factors in heavily. The website AnswerThePublic has a fantastic visual keyword research tool for consumer insights. By showing you the range of autosuggested search terms for a given keyword, you can start to consider topics to address in your content calendar. Video, naturally, should be in the mix, but don't underestimate the power of text. Well-written content related to a specific search term has the opportunity to show up in the Featured Snippets section of Google's search results – position 0, as it's sometimes known, above the rest of the results and in its own separate box. Moz reports that 23% of all search results pages now include a featured snippet, up 165% from 2016.

After the Micro-Moment Has Passed

Micro-moments are fleeting. The decisions are made, the consumer moves on, and the sale has either been won, or lost at any of a number of tributaries along the way. How do you ensure that your company's micro-moment in the spotlight will pay off in the future? Here are three ways to make your micro-moments last.

Remarketing. Sometimes this term is used when people mean to say "retargeting," but the goal is the same: follow up on a micro-moment where the consumer decision did not (yet) result in a sale. There is a specific difference between them, however. Remarketing focuses on email campaigns – for example, sending an email to a customer who, while logged in as a registered user, abandons a shopping cart or adds an item to a wish list.

Retargeting. As opposed to remarketing via email, retargeting focuses on advertising – for example, a display ad on a website or an ad inserted into a social media feed. These ads are placed with the use of cookies set in the customer's browser when they visited your website and took a certain action, which would trigger the ad being served to them later. Ever looked at, say, a vacuum cleaner on Amazon and then seen ads for it on a bunch of websites you surfed to later? That's retargeting for you.

Analytics. There's no substitute for reviewing your website data to find out how your customers did – or didn't – follow the path to a sale or conversion. Analyzing your ecommerce funnels, user segments, acquisition channels, and revenue generation sources can help you identify micro-moments, any gaps in your strategy, and how best to interact with visitors depending on their stage in the life cycle.

2020 will be the fifth anniversary of Google coining the term "micro-moment," and our understanding of the concept continues to grow, even as ecommerce evolves and mobile's role expands. If you're looking for support on your journey to make the most of your micro-moments, Guidance is here to help.

Written by Guidance
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