3 Things We Learnt From 2018


As we say goodbye to 2018, it’s time to look back on the 3 most influential trends that will help to inform our marketing strategies for the year to come.

1. Amazon continues to grow

During 2018, Amazon became the dominating power within the retail market. Now, more product searches occur directly through the Amazon platform than on Google! How is it that Amazon is able to attract so many users and increase their market share, and what can we learn from it?

From my perspective, there are 4 key elements that are contributing towards Amazon’s overall success: convenience, delivery speed, price competitiveness, and brand trust. It’s important that we analyse these 4 factors and look at how we can build them into our own strategies.

And as Amazon continues to grow, should retailers be threatened by their looming shadow? Their continual bidding on branded terms across Google, for example, is undoubtedly inflating brand CPCs. It’s also diverting traffic that may have previously come direct and ultimately impacting the revenue generated by our websites. And given that more users are going directly to Amazon and skipping Google completely, it’s also likely that we’ll start to see a decrease in our brand or product searches on Google. 

Sounds concerning right? It depends how we look at it. Instead, successful marketers should see the growth of Amazon as an opportunity, rather than a threat. Whilst Google brand searches may decrease, you’ll probably find recall for your brand is proportionally rising on Amazon. It is no surprise that Amazon is now the third largest digital ad platform, as advertisers continue to shift more of their marketing budget to this channel.

We therefore need to ensure that Amazon is an integral channel in our marketing strategies for 2019. For those selling products via Amazon, we need to devise a detailed search approach for this platform, just as we would for Google or Bing, taking into consideration both our audience and the types of products they are looking for. We also need to ensure that we have a well-designed and thought out store front – after all, you wouldn’t neglect your own brand home page! And even if you don’t sell via Amazon, there’s still the opportunity to utilise ad space in order to direct the growing user base to your website.

2. We cannot rely on promotional periods

2018 was a tricky one for some retailers, particularly during the final quarter of the year. Following Black Friday, worrying stats were circulated showing that many brands had perhaps not experienced the peaks they had anticipated. ASOS, H&M and Next were amongst a group that saw share prices decrease. This occurred on the back of increasingly aggressive discounts and promotions that failed to resonate with consumers enough to convince them to part with their money.

So what can we learn from this? In 2019 it’s going to be more important than ever to focus on the full year and full price lines, as opposed to becoming over reliant on Q4 and the promotional season to prop up the numbers. Companies must make sure they’re really working on their branding, tone of voice and unique proposition in order to ensure they are standing out amongst the noise, strengthening relationships with consumers and ultimately stimulating brand growth. We should therefore avoid falling into the trap of becoming too ROI and BOFU focused. Instead, there should be a keen appetite to invest in awareness driving channels including Facebook, YouTube, Programmatic, Generic Paid Search and SEO.

3. The weather is unpredictable

Sounds obvious, right? But in 2018, the weather seemed to be more fickle and polar than ever. Looking back to March 2018, the UK was swept by snow and storms that brought much of the country to a standstill. Similarly, we all enjoyed that hot summer that essentially continued into Q4, when temperatures remained relatively high into autumn.

This undoubtedly had an impact on purchasing behaviour in regards to the types of products that customers were looking to buy. After all, as we looked to launch SS18, snow was falling, and then whilst we readied for AW18, it most certainly wasn’t coat weather! Many retailers therefore had to hold off on changing their messaging and site focus. This was at times quite challenging, particularly if we didn’t quite have the correct product offering, or if users were still looking to buy last season’s products that were now heavily discounted and generating low margins.

This taught us the importance of agility and flexibility. We must be prepared to adapt our strategies down to the last minute in order to react to the impact of external push and pull factors. Therefore we cannot work in a vacuum, we must be increasingly outward facing and always have that all important plan b! We are yet to discover how Brexit may impact consumer behaviour and performance in the year to come. We must be alert and monitor the market for change.

Taking these key insights from 2018, we can move into 2019 confident that we can devise more robust marketing strategies and deliver some amazing results.

About the author

Sarah Barker
Sarah Barker

I've worked within digital marketing agencies for 4+ years, across a variety of different verticals. But without a doubt, I'm particularly passionate about retail.

My current role as Head of Biddable Media Strategy not only means that I stay on top of the latest news, but also ensures I'm continually developing new best practice and biddable media plans.

So it seemed incredibly fitting for me to start my own retail marketing blog. Not just to cover industry updates, but to include thoughts from my own experience to help get others thinking and talking about all things retail!

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Sarah Barker By Sarah Barker