SEO is more important now than ever before as search trends and buying behaviors continue to change throughout this era of uncertainty. In a continuation of our BrightEdge Research series, today we’ll look at how COVID-19 has affected search behavior and heightened the importance of SEO.
E-commerce and retail sees shift in buying behaviors
The customer journey has changed. When storefronts closed and social distancing orders were put in place, consumers changed their shopping behavior and priorities, though they continued to make purchases to resolve their pain points. E-commerce and retail saw a shift in behavior as consumers looked towards products or services that would benefit them from home.
In February 2020, “gym near me” saw a slight decline in search volume from its previous months. By April 2020, the same keyword saw an 87% decrease in search volume since January. You can see the drastic change below.
As working out at a gym was no longer an option, search behavior shifted and “dumbbell”, “exercise bands”, and “yoga for beginners” all saw a surge in search volume.
You can see similar results for retail and apparel. Beginning in March 2020, “mens suits” saw a drop in search, presumably because companies have slowed hiring, there is less reason to dress up for work, and weddings are being postponed making suits an unnecessary purchase. On the other hand, March 2020 saw a huge jump in searches for “loungewear set” as more people sought comfort in their homes.
Rebounding - Time to Focus on Winning Categories
Currently, BrightEdge research shows that E-commerce and retail (including apparel, baby and maternity, and beauty) have entered the rebounding stage. While there are certain categories of E-commerce and retail that may continue to see a decline in purchases, there are categories where we’re seeing and expect to continue to see growth.
Additionally, we expect online shopping to continue to see an overall increase in sales as consumers have mixed feelings about leaving their homes.
Communicating to the stay at home consumer
Because of the changes to society, E-commerce sites should consider pivoting communication to target customer’s experiences from home.
For example, a workout equipment retailer could develop a strategy to bring an online workout experience to customers. Offering virtual workouts, whether live or pre-recorded. A beauty supply store selling hair dye could partner with experts to drive traffic by creating video content that offers a salon experience and teaches people to dye their hair at home.
As we learned in our SEO Insights, Opportunities, and Performance in an Era of Uncertainty webinar, mimicking a personalized in-store experience online for consumers is a solution L’Oreal developed for their customers in order to better their online experience. They also use augmented reality in order to personalize the beauty experience online. Customers can choose products that match their wants and needs using AI to assist in their decision. L’Oreal utilized Instant to create an entire virtual strategy for their new buyer’s journey.
Why should E-commerce and retail invest in SEO over PPC?
Aside from the fact that SEO is a growing channel leading with the highest percentage of traffic at 53%, SEO is a smart channel to invest in at this time.
As the search volume for these keywords continue to rise, so will the competition, and the cost-per-click. Optimizing and winning the organic SERPs is a more cost-effective strategy especially as budgets get tighter.
Creating new content that speaks to what consumers are looking for right now will be key to getting and staying ahead of the competition. Also, consider that more consumers are watching video content than before. YouTube usage saw increases by 15.3% over several weeks during this period of social distancing. Invest your time in producing the right kind of videos for your audience.
As E-commerce and retail sites shift communication and marketing strategies, remember to harness the power of SEO. Utilize information on SEO best practices and the BrightEdge platform to drive successful results and consumers to your site.
For more information on SEO in an era of uncertainty, check out our most recent research webinar, SEO Insights, Opportunities, and Performance in an Era of Uncertainty with BrightEdge, L’Oreal, and IBM experts.