Brand discovery Brand discovery

How customers discover your brand—and what that means for your eCommerce strategy

A few days ago one of my freelancer friends messaged me to ask about a type of WordPress plugin. I pointed her towards one I’ve used in the past, she went off to research it—and, ultimately, she bought it. That’s word-of-mouth marketing in action, and it’s a common and extremely powerful way people find out about your business.

But it’s far from the only way.

In this article, we’ll look at the latest research on how potential customers discover your eCommerce brand, and how to market your company to make every popular discovery channel as powerful as a word-of-mouth recommendation. 

The data we’re using here comes from GlobalWebIndex’s latest brand discovery study, and its findings on the different methods that Internet users ages 16 to 64 use to discover new brands and products.

According to the data, the five most popular brand discovery methods are:

  1. Search engines, 35 percent
  2. TV ads, 34 percent
  3. Word of mouth, 29 percent
  4. Social ads, 27 percent
  5. (Tie) Brand websites and ads on websites, 25 percent

So what do these stats mean in terms of your eCommerce strategy? Here are our six key tips and takeaways.

1. SEO remains hugely important

With more than one in three people discovering brands via search, you can’t afford to relax when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).

You may have worked on optimizing your site in the past, but with effective SEO techniques and practices eternally changing and evolving, this is not a case of “set it and forget it.” You need to make sure your site always delivers what people need when they search: the right information and the right products. 

On the most basic level, make sure you have plenty of good content on your site. Well-written and informative product descriptions, useful and engaging blog posts, and guides and tutorials will all be indexed by search engines and help people discover your store. On a more advanced SEO level, make sure you understand user keyword intent so you can choose the right keywords around which to optimize your content. 

ProFlowers stands out in the crowded online flower delivery space using helpful, relevant, keyword-laden content—and pulls in 42 percent of its organic traffic through its blog posts and guides. They offer tips on all things flower-related on their blog—and even created the “Florapedia” to continue educating customers and potential customers.

ProFlowers created the Florapedia.

On a side note, make sure you use the content marketing portions of your eCommerce site as a way to funnel people to both your products and your email list. The latter is important because people who find your content via search engines might not be ready to buy. By capturing their email address and adding them to your list, you can build a relationship with that person and, over time, turn them from a reader into a customer.

2. TV is still very relevant

We’ve all seen the stats: millennials watch more online video than TV, and live TV’s share of viewership overall is declining. But, if you have the budget for it, it’s clear from the brand discovery study that TV ads are an effective way to build brand recognition for your store—and, as a result, drive traffic and sales. In fact, many of the biggest eCommerce retailers advertise on television, because it’s proven to work.

Casper's TV ad.
One of Casper’s many TV ads.

Television advertising gives you access to a large audience—but you need to make sure it’s your target audience. While average daily TV consumption in the U.S. is just over four hours, the figures vary sharply depending on age.

The generation gap in TV watching.
Via: Statista.

So, if your core customers are over 50, TV is definitely a great way to entice them to visit your store. But even if they’re younger, adults under 34 still put in about two hours of TV time a day—that’s not insignificant by any means. Still, to fully reach those younger audiences, you’ll likely have to mix it up a bit and dive deeper into omnichannel marketing. Google’s research shows that integrating digital video advertising into the mix can help you reach those who aren’t watching TV in a cost-effective way.

3. Trusted recommendations still rule

GlobalWebIndex’s research shows that word-of-mouth recommendations bring 29 percent of customers to your brand. Stats from Marketing Charts back this up, showing that 78 percent of people see recommendations from friends and family as their most trusted source of brand information. 

As an eCommerce store owner, your goal is to make your customers want to spread the word about your brand and products—and to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Some methods to do that include:

  • Encouraging customers to share information, perhaps even with a branded hashtag; 79 percent of people say user generated content has a major effect on purchase decisions.
  • Using the power of ratings, reviews, case studies, and testimonials to provide social proof.
  • Incentivizing customer referrals through rewards.
  • Creating a community around your products, like Instant Pot did to turn its customers into die-hard fans.

Here’s an example of an email that Misty Robotics, a company that sells programmable robots, sent to its customers to incentivize referrals. They lay out the benefits for both the person doing the referral and the person receiving the referral. The make it very clear how to send friends those referrals by giving step-by-step instructions. The call-to-action in this email is clever too. It doesn’t say something like “Start referring!” or “Yes, I want to tell my friends.” Instead, the CTA says “Get Invite Link.” That sends a signal that the customer won’t have to take the time to register for the referral program or figure out any sort of platform to manage their referrals—they’re already registered and it’s easy to get rolling right now. 

It’s also important to note that GlobalWebIndex’s research found 23 percent of people find a brand through recommendations and comments on social media. That means it’s crucial to optimize your online presence beyond your website, by doing things like:

  • Ensuring you have a Google My Business page. Not only does this make your company look more legit, but it’s an easy way for people to leave reviews.
  • Enabling business social media features, to give customers the chance to do things like review your business on Facebook.
  • Using pinned content and CTA buttons on social media profiles (where available) to raise brand awareness and generate leads and sales.
  • Encouraging people to “tag a friend who would like this” in social media posts or use a branded hashtag.

4. Integrate social media ads

74 percent of people say they’re tired of social media ads. But… those ads still clearly work. And, as a result, 27 percent of people discover brands via social ads.

You can’t ignore people’s growing fatigue with social ads, though—and marketers are realizing it. Social ads are getting more dynamic, personalized and relevant to continue capturing people’s attention, so keep that in mind as you craft your social advertising strategy.

There’s another benefit to social advertising as well: In some cases, you can generate sales right in your ads. Though social shopping wasn’t that popular in the last decade, there are signs that’s changing. Instagram has added shopping features, and Facebook and Pinterest already have them. 

5. Make your site your best salesperson

Around a quarter of people discover your brand via your website. Maybe that’s as a result of finding you in search, stumbling onto your site from a random link, or clicking through a product on Google Shopping.

Regardless of how they find you, it’s important that your website welcome them, hook them, and demonstrate to them how you can provide them with something that no one else can.

So make sure your eCommerce site’s homepage:

  • Gives people an immediate snapshot of your business and its unique selling proposition.
  • Showcases your best products and demonstrates how they solve a problem in the customer’s life.
  • Is easy to search and navigate.
  • Uses social proof to lend credibility and to provide a psychological trigger that motivates people to buy.
  • Has a professional appearance to instill trust and make customers feel confident about shopping with you.

Here’s an example from Tru Niagen, a supplement brand, which uses its homepage to stand out from the seemingly infinite number of other similar supplement products on the market. The banner headline presents the benefit to the customer—and backs it up with a prominent celebrity endorsement. The homepage then breaks down exactly why a person would need this supplement—all focused on solving problems in that person’s life. From there, the site uses more social proof to build credibility behind its claims: quotes from prominent publications and links to podcasts. And from there, they get deeper into the science to differentiate their supplement from others on the market. 

Tru Niagen's well-built homepage.

6. Mobile matters, but …

In the coming years, someone will figure out an effective way to use mobile advertising. That hasn’t happened yet—as seen in this study, in-app mobile advertising ranks at the bottom of brand discovery methods. 

But, again, at some point soon, mobile advertising methods are going to (pardon the pun) click. Mobile phone usage increased by 2.4 percent between 2018 and 2019, with roughly 5.19 billion users worldwide. Mobile represents more than half of all the time people spend on the Internet. The eyeballs are there, so advertising will eventually take form. (And yes, that’s good news for you as a marketer; perhaps less good news for you as someone who likes a clean mobile experience.)

So for now, keep an eye on the trends, and watch how mobile marketing evolves. When the time is right and there’s an effective and cost-efficient way to promote your brand on mobile, be ready to jump on it.

Key takeaways

As much as we’ve focused on how different discovery methods ranked in GlobalWebIndex’s study, there’s not that much difference across the board. After all, the most popular way, via search, got votes from 35 percent of people; the least popular way, via in-app mobile ads, got votes from 22 percent. That’s not a gigantic difference.

While the rankings can help you prioritize your marketing efforts for your eCommerce store, the absence of huge gaps between the different methods means you’ll need to focus on more than just one marketing channel. SEO is important; SEO alone most likely isn’t enough. The same can be said for TV ads, word-of-mouth referral programs, social ads, and everything else on the list. So keep all of the tips from this article in mind as you continue to develop and grow your omnichannel marketing strategy.

  • Search. Optimize your website for search, both through your volume and quality of content and your keyword targeting.
  • Television. If you have the budget for them, TV ads are absolutely still a relevant part of brand discovery.
  • Word-of-mouth. Make it easy and desirable for people to recommend your brand and products.
  • Social advertising. Keep your social media advertising innovative, and utilize social shopping to increase your sales.
  • Your store’s website. Your website itself is an important brand discovery tool, so make sure it presents your unique selling proposition in a user-friendly way.
Sharon Hurley Hall
Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. She's written for publications as varied as IBM, OptinMonster, CrazyEgg, Search Engine People, and Unbounce. In her previous life Sharon was also a journalist and university lecturer (teaching journalism, of course!) You can learn more about Sharon at sharonhh.com.

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