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What is the ROBO economy and how does it impact your marketing strategy?

Aug 15, 2017
What is the ROBO economy and how does it impact your marketing strategy?

In the Amazon age, anything and everything can be delivered to your doorstep, often within a matter of hours. As a result of this trend, many brands have opted for full digital retail strategies, moving their marketing, communications and product offerings online in a bid to answer the demand for a constantly accessible shopping experience and personalised offers.

Given that customers have, for some time now, been demanding the digitalisation of their retail experience, a recent shift towards offline purchasing may come as a shock to marketers. Coined as ROBO marketing, standing for ‘research online, buy offline,’ this latest twist in the digital marketing saga requires marketers to sit back and assess their strategies once again, to ensure that their approach services the needs of their audience.

This week we’re looking into the ROBO trend and how marketers can respond in their strategy. 

What is ROBO?

ROBO is quickly becoming a hot topic for marketers. Although the name itself may seem self-explanatory, the repercussions of the trend go far deeper for marketers than simply a switch from digital spending back to bricks-and-mortar stores. 

Marketing Week argues that one aspect of this impact is consumer generated content (CGC). It is suggested that while the degree to which CGC influences online sales is well documented, very few insights have been generated about the role this content plays in generating offline sales.

Yet a new study by CGC network Bazaar Voice has sought to address this lack of comprehensive research, suggesting that ‘increasingly, consumers consult CGC to make decisions prior to shopping in-store, with many doing their research directly in the aisle […] due to its easy accessibility on mobile devices.’ 

Going far beyond the online product page, this wealth of information is having a tangible impact on the way that consumers carry out in store purchases, and according to Bazaar Voice’s whitepaper should be seen as an opportunity for marketers.

Key ROBO insights, and what do to with them

While Bazaar Voice’s whitepaper includes a wealth of insights into the phenomenon, several stand out as having a direct impact on marketing strategy and will require a strong response from marketers if they are to keep pace with the trend. 

Insight 1 – ‘Consumers generally turn to the retailer to find information [about a product], however if they don’t find the information they need to make a decision, 32% don’t buy the item and another 10% deflect to other retail sites.’ 

Action – While it may sound like a no-brainer to have the relevant product information on your product’s page, such a simple element of strategy can easily be overlooked in the bid for ever more elaborate marketing techniques and stylish website formats. Not only is the ease of finding this information crucial, but its accessibility, tone, content and of course the availability of reviews and CGC can all impact on the information available to a consumer performing ROBO.

You should also make sure this information is mobile optimised, as a lack of readable information can result in consumers going elsewhere for their research and potentially finding a better deal on alternative sites.

Insight 2 – ‘56% of survey participants said the first thing they do when researching a purchase is to use a search engine.’

Action – Search engines act as the font of all knowledge for many, particularly among the digital native generation who use the verb ‘to google’ without a second thought for its origins or significance. While search engine optimisation (SEO) is a favourite for digital strategists, perhaps less would immediately associate this tool with driving offline sales and in-store footfall.

When it comes to ROBO, being at the top of the search results page has never been more vital, with factors such as the prevalence of mobile search and the speed with which shoppers want to access information meaning there is little time for lagging in 5th or 6th place. While paid-for search could be the answer, in actual fact lower budget options such as ensuring content is regularly updated and kept fresh can contribute significantly to page rankings and therefore ROBO retention. 

While ROBO may not require a complete overhaul of marketing strategies, it does require that marketers respond to yet another layer of nuance in an already complicated picture. With customer journeys already boasting multiple touchpoints, multi-platforming becoming the norm, and CGC meaning huge volumes of content need to be mined and managed, ROBO adds another consideration into the mix. By ensuring that your strategy works for an array of consumer shopping preferences, you can ensure that those all-important sales figures don’t fall through the net.


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