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Happy Friday, everyone! For those of you recovering from SXSW or a relaxing spring break, it’s likely this week was a rough one for getting back into the swing of things.
Not to worry, we’ve rounded up the top ecommerce news stories to know before the weekend including Google’s new (and pleasantly aggressive) small business initiative, Amazon’s continual attempts to break into the luxury ecommerce space and Unilever’s data-backed plans to roll out beacon technology to their entire brand portfolio.
Google Launches Initiative to Help Small Business Battle Big Box Retailers in Search Engine Rankings
Early predictions for the future state of SEO made in 2014 noted that mobile-local wasn’t just going to be a trend –– but a reality all online businesses would soon need to address in order to stay relevant for customers.
Sure enough, Google, the leading search engine in the world, made announcements throughout the first quarter of 2015 highlighting the importance of mobile, which also then escalates the importance of local (think mapping and GPS). For instance, on April 21, 2015, Google will release an algorithm change that will rank sites on their mobile-friendliness. It’s likely that sites which are not mobile-friendly to the Google bots will be penalized both on mobile and desktop search.
What’s Google doing to amp up exposure for the latter part of the mobile-local trend? On March 25, the company announced a new program initiative aimed at helping small businesses compete with big box retailers –– and “local” is how Google is giving them a leg up.
“Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” is an aggressive new program to help small businesses get discovered online. Indeed, for many small businesses, ranking well in search results on Google is extremely difficult due to the large presences of bigger box retailers, which have digital teams dedicated to SEO, inbound marketing and other tactics that help increase Google rankings.
To address the time and money spend issue currently holding back many small business from increasing their digital presence, Google has generated customized websites for virtually every town and city in the U.S. to enable local businesses to learn to improve the information that shows up on Google search, Google maps and Google+. The overall goal of the program is to help every business in every city in America to be represented across Google’s services.
“We wanted to make the process of getting online easier for small businesses, and help them find their customers in those moments that matter,” Soo Young Kim, head of marketing for Google’s Get Your Business Online Program told Entrepreneur. “We’re using sophisticated technology on the back end to make it simple for small businesses to get online and create their listing, and Google has created over 30,000 websites to provide every business in every city a fast, free and easy opportunity to help them get found.”
A localized Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map event can help small businesses to:
- Learn how to put more information about their business into Google
- Get their company verified for Google searches
- Add information such as location, hours of operation
- Add photos to enhance the listing
- Get a diagnostic tool to see how they can improve their listing and visibility
- Get a one-year free website and domain name from Google partner StartLogic
- Learn about local training workshops and other resources
“Big businesses and big retailers are centrally managing listings to make sure they’re appearing on Google,” Kim said. “Small businesses need to be there –– right next to them –– when a consumer is searching. We don’t prioritize big retailers before small businesses. Both have the same abilities –– to upload photos, listing, hours of operation, get reviews.”
Amazon Closes Webstore, Looks to Luxury Ecommerce Opportunities
Amazon announced on March 18 that it will be shuttering its Webstore division, an ecommerce site solution for many online retailers. The news shocked many in the tech community. In another interesting development, WWD reported this week that the tech giant may be eyeing to buy Net-a-Porter, a luxury fashion marketplace.
According to the report in WWD, Amazon is in “ongoing talks” to buy Net-a-Porter, which could be valued at as much as €2 billion (about $2.2 billion).
The news comes as no shock to Net-a-Porter fans and followers, whom have heard the widespread rumors since 2013 that the ecommerce marketplace was looking for a buyer. The purchase for Amazon here would make sense. The company already owns Shopbop, a similar online fashion marketplace aimed at the mid to luxury market. Net-a-Porter is exclusively a high-fashion online marketplace.
Amazon has long been looking to move into the luxury retailer space, first with their acquisition of Shopbop in 2006, then with MyHabitat, a flash sale site, in 2011. Amazon even launched its own fashion site, Amazon Fashion, in 2012. Most luxury retailers, however, have historically declined partnership with Amazon, perhaps seeing the company as too downmarket. Keep in mind, many luxury retailers avoid ecommerce altogether, other than marketplaces like that of Net-a-Porter.
Amazon will be sponsoring New York City’s first men’s fashion week this summer, in what appears to be yet another attempt to move Amazon into the luxury ecommerce space.
Learn everything you need to know about selling on Amazon with our complete guide.
Unilever to Expand iBeacon Trial Across Brand Portfolio
After a successful iBeacon* trial in Sweden for Unilever’s Knorr brand, the company is looking to expand iBeacon use throughout its entire brand portfolio.
“Giving intuitive customer journeys is what consumers want from brands. They want brands that understand them and know them as individuals,” said Sarah Mansfield, Unilever’s vice president of global media for Europe and Americas. “iBeacons allow you to target consumers around time and place, which are key lenses that allow you to deliver relevant content to users.”
iBeacons are bluetooth-enabled tracking devices that can be used in-store to give brands visibility into how customers are browsing and interacting with products, the same way online stores can view similar data. iBeacons require consent from the user and are currently considered the most data rights-friendly of all tracking devices. In the past, Wi-Fi triangulation has been the preferred method, and used often without customer knowledge or consent.
iBeacons can also send push notifications to customers when they approach particular sections of a store, allowing brands to send discount codes or personalized messages to customers browsing, for example, the shampoo section of a brick-and-mortar.
“As a brand we talk a lot about bridging the gap between physical and online and iBeacons are a method of doing that,” said Mansfield. “We know that consumers that sample our products are more likely to purchase them, so we gave them a little nudge to remind them.”
In all, Mansfield told The Drum at the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the beta test in Sweden was positive enough to roll out worldwide.
*iBeacons are Apple’s version of beacon technology, though they are certainly not the only ones available on the market.
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