Consumers today conduct a great deal of research about the products they are buying and brands are being asked to fulfill a multitude of informational needs. Argos, a UK-based consumer goods and ecommerce retailer, is exceptional in that they maintain an active presence operating across a large range of touchpoints, both digitally and via traditional media. This case study takes a close look at how Argos reaches, influences, and engages consumers as they go through their purchase journeys.
Introduction: How brands are making the most of every moment
At times, momentology – the study of consumers and the digital media they use and engage with throughout the purchase funnel – can be beautifully simple. Momentology, at its essence, means embracing change, striving to become more consumer-centric, and delivering better, easier experiences for consumers throughout the entire online purchase journey.
Momentology can also be quite complex. To really perform as a brand, there needs to be an understanding that no one campaign can truly impact results, or covert consumers in individual lightbulb moments (at least at scale).
Instead, campaigns help to influence consumers, nudging them along the purchase funnel in a series of coordinated moments that eventually converge to form a complete customer journey.
Success requires brands to come across persuasive and visible at touchpoints that span the entire user journey, guiding consumers through channels and multiple interactions to form a single interconnected experience. Failing to fulfill an important touchpoint or to service a particular need, can result in a disconnect, and potentially a lost customer.
So to really excel, brands need to practice integrated marketing, and have cross-channel collaboration between teams in place in order to provide the level of consistency that consumers have come to expect. Ultimately, revenues gained will be a consequence of the sum of a brand’s equity across a range of the touchpoints they are able to fulfill.
Argos is a great example of a brand that delivers customer-centric moments throughout the purchase journey. This Argos case study will examine what a typical journey might look like, from the moment a consumer may encounter a brand or product, right through the site design, content, and conversion rate optimizations that brands employ to maximize business revenues.
Brand Profile: Argos
- UK ecommerce and high-street retail.
- Stocks a comprehensive range of consumer goods.
- One of the brand’s main strengths is their enduring presence – it’s estimated that 96 percent of the UK population is within 10 miles of an Argos store, and the brand has continued this commitment with their digital strategy, maintaining strong visibility online.
- Recently invested heavily in digital strategy and rebranding, affirming their place as an unlikely leader in speed and ease of service, with innovations in Click-and-Collect and FastTrack services, as well as their new concept stores meaning they have been setting the pace in digital service delivery experiences.
- Competitors: Amazon, Currys / PCWorld, John Lewis, Tesco, Halfords, Toys R’ Us
Argos’ operations span from offline advertising media such as TV and print, to growing digital marketing initiatives including organic search, paid search, social media, and PR.
The Argos Customer Journey
Where Argos is a British brand, for this case study we’ll look at the most typical of British needs. A product every household likely has and no British person should live without. After all, you can’t make a cup of tea without a kettle.
Traditionally, one of Argos’ strongest value propositions has been in home appliances, and the ability to pick up the product from a high-street store rather than waiting in for a delivery bodes well for the brand.
How well does Argos provide for digital customers in search of a kettle?
The typical consumer journey today starts at the search engine. For many reasons it has become the go-to portal for any product consumers want to research. A consumer might be looking for a new kettle after their current appliance developed a fault, and they might be looking for a model with a reputation for reliability (and at a competitive price too).
Let’s see how Argos checks out in the search engine results.
What a result! Top of the organic results, Argos do exceptionally well for the typical keyphrase “buy kettle”.
There is however, plenty of competition from a selection of other big hitting ecommerce retailers (e.g., Currys/PC World, Tesco and John Lewis), however some of these have had to resort to paid ads to retain strong visibility on Google’s first page.
A quick check of the mobile search results yields similarly great results:
Let’s look a bit closer at the interaction between organic search and paid advertising.
For Argos, a successful keyphrase such as this one demands less of an emphasis on paid advertising:
Argos’ paid listing for the keyword doesn’t show up until more than halfway down the page (and below the fold). It shows that a PPC spend is there, but at a lower priority.
Aggregated Search & Price Comparison
For price conscious consumers who may be looking for the best value, competitive pricing in the Google shopping results ensures they maintain a presence in the price comparison pages.
In the following two examples, Argos doesn’t possess the feature listing, but they have managed to match the price of the featured retailer, which at least ensures they are in the mix as consumers consider which retailer to buy from:
Lower Ranking Keywords
Before we move on, let’s see how Argos tackles a product keyword that performs slightly less well in the organic search results.
For the keywords “children’s bikes”, Argos faces tough organic competition from Halfords (those who live in the UK will know that bicycles are very much Halfords’ niche).
In order to remain visible for this niche, Argos put greater investment into Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and PPC advertising, ensuring they give their competition a run for their money.
The product listing ads especially gives the brand’s visibility a valuable boost, and help make up for the fact that they face considerable opposition from Halfords in the number one position organic search result, as does the above fold PPC position.
The Google Shopping price information provides consumers with a quick indication of competitiveness, and (in a single moment) we’re into the second stage of the consumer journey.
Verdict: Overall, with the exceptional organic result for key product lines considered, the brand exhibits great presence at this early consideration touchpoint, balancing budgets to remain competitive across a range of products and categories.
Back to kettles. With Argos’ visibility putting them well in the mix, let’s take a look at how the brand looks to persuade consumers as they are evaluating their purchase options.
Site Design & Experience
The search results show that Argos have dedicated category/landing pages set up for particular products (a quick look shows that the strategy is scaled across the site for many key product categories).
The Argos site has a large selection of available products, and the top of the page includes product recommendations that seem to be based on the strength of positive user-generated reviews.
Product pages themselves have a good selection of high quality images and video to support written informational content:
Videos are produced exclusively for Argos, and cover product features and informational content. Many consumers swear by video reviews, and with the majority product listings on ecommerce sites featuring images only, going the extra mile fulfills an additional touchpoint that could end up making the difference.
For users who made their way onto the site via a mobile device, the browser experience is speedy and exceptionally optimized:
Note the “mobile-friendly” top nav – meaning the site almost looks like a dedicated app.
All the information and content available on the desktop site is also available on the mobile site.
Navigation through and around pages is intuitive and lag free. Double-tap enlarges images and swiping around moves the enlarged image around.
On both the mobile and desktop sites, the availability of user reviews is given a prominent position, right next to the price, which is an indication of just how important reviews have become for consumers evaluating their purchases.
As you would expect, the recommended product is extremely well reviewed.
However, sometimes consumers want to see more than the reviews that are present on brand sites.
After all, it only takes a few seconds to search Google for reviews. Consumers trust organic search results to be an unbiased source of information. This represents a huge challenge for brands because it’s a lot harder for brands to manage persuasiveness outside of their own domain.
How does Argos check-out for a particular product review in organic search results when customers return to search to evaluate?
We’ve come to a crucial moment in the consumer journey – and one of the reasons momentology is so important. The moment consumers return to search.
Using the example of Argos’ recommended product, we can see that when consumers search for this particular product, they will be met by favorable reviews.
On popular review site revoo.com Argos have a clever trick up their sleeve. The product appears at the top of revoo.com’s inbuilt price comparison to reassure consumers on pricing, but more importantly acts as a crucial off-domain touchpoint that reminds and reconnects consumers to the Argos purchase journey.
Across different domains, having an understanding of the way consumers are using many facets and portals within search to evaluate products is key.
Even if you win consumers back at this stage, their appetite for information still won’t necessarily be satisfied. For products that feature a wide variety in range and specification between different models, consumers will seek additional content so they can read up on the information they need to inform their buying decisions.
While kettles don’t quite need this level of content to support, it’s worth nothing that Argos has a large number of buying guides for key consumer products.
DSLR’s for example, have a link to the Argos buying guide present on the category page, alongside other additional information covering delivery and current discounts next to the product specification for consumers who are looking to delve a little deeper.
For consumers who reach this stage of the journey, Argos really come into their own. The brand’s position as a high-street and leading ecommerce retailer enables them to offer a wealth of options to consumers as they are looking to transact.
For example, consumers can check stock levels online, and not just those in the warehouse but whether their product(s) are available in a particular store.
Argos provision for service delivery is simply excellent, and in many ways is leading the field. With FastTrack, consumers can even reserve their goods for an immediate in-store collection.
In total, consumers have three options to have their goods delivered:
- FastTrack: Pay online, collect in-store. (Having used this service recently, I can report that I was in and out of the store in just 10 minutes. Fast indeed.)
- Collect In Store: Reserve online, pay in-store.
- Home Delivery: This is available for £3.95 for any items able to be delivered by 1 person (deliveries requiring 2 people costs £8.95). Consumers can pick a specific date for delivery and Saturday deliveries are available for no additional cost.
All of the convenient service delivery options are still available on mobile:
In fact, the experience is enhanced to a degree by GPS functionality, allowing users to find their nearest store and check stock levels.
Whichever method consumers choose to check out with, Argos look to build post-purchase loyalty by rewarding customers who completed a purchase, offering a gift voucher to all consumers spending over a certain threshold to provide them with an incentive to return and buy again:
The campaign was likely effective in the holiday season among consumers who made multiple holiday gift purchases.
Create Awareness & Build Loyalty
Creating awareness is often about brand identity, and promoting an understanding of that to consumers. How do consumers perceive or feel about a brand? Do they believe they will get a first-class service? Do they need your services in their lives? Do they trust you?
Before consumers engaged in their purchase journeys, many would have had an awareness of Argos brand. It’s brand equity which engenders a certain level of trust among consumers, and with digital media it’s become an area which brands can look to develop and improve.
Successful management of brand equity creates awareness and builds loyalty among consumers – in many ways the two are interlinked, and for that reason, while fundamentally the practices are necessary for every other stage of the journey, it represents the beginning and the end of a brand’s virtuous circle.
Affirming trust amongst consumers increases the power of a brands consumers journey, which is why earlier this year, Argos looked to answer some of these questions with a rebranding initiative that looked to communicate the identity and heart of the brand.
Earlier this year, Argos rolled out a high profile rebranding and TV advertising campaign:
The campaign shows how Argos is building a sense of identity via digital media, not being afraid to go left when everyone else is going right.
Stephen Vowles, Argos’ marketing director said of the rebranding campaign:
“We want people to think and feel differently about the Argos brand. The distinctive space we want to own is more heartbeats, rather than heartstrings. Lots of retailers do ads that make you go ‘aaaaa’. We do need an emotional connection but that is probably not Argos’ territory, our territory is about the excitement, the speed of getting the products you want.”
Social media has been evolving into a channel that works very well for generating awareness. Some of the activity Argos embark in on social media includes:
We’re celebrating our new #Bose online shop with a great competition! Enter here: http://t.co/Adjd3O32vy pic.twitter.com/bTwBWQQ3tP
— Argos (@Argos_Online) November 17, 2014
Discounts to encourage followers and engagement:
Get set for free vouchers! Get a free £5/£10 voucher when you spend £50/£100 or more: http://t.co/SwSiJjA1Uj pic.twitter.com/88JB5qfftS — Argos (@Argos_Online) November 17, 2014
Celebrity endorsements, charity, and corporate ethics, responsibility:
Last chance to donate to the #argostoyexchange! Drop off your once-loved toys @barnados @Argos_Online
— Tess Daly (@TessDaly) November 14, 2014
Additionally, this seasonal advertising video feeds / integrated with social media campaign: #giftforsanta Engaging consumers:
I liked a @YouTube video http://t.co/JROiuH6MiD @Sarah181D Mobile Phone #GiftForSanta Alien Dad Response — Sarah :) (@SarahWin94) February 4, 2014
The activity makes for good numbers, with the brand winning a strong following as a result of consistent posts on the channel:
Organic Search (Revisited):
As a final note, Argos also create awareness via organic search, which is a testament to how versatile the channel really in reaching consumers.
The brand achieved traction on seasonal organic keywords such as “black friday deals”:
A dedicated landing page was created for the event:
It’s no surprise that Argos was one of the better performing brands over the Black Friday weekend.
- Multi-platform social media activity, integrated with offline brand building and identity.
- Exceptional organic performance on traditional category strongholds.
- PLA and PPC investment for competitive product and product categories.
- Dedicated landing pages and good range of products.
- Popular, well-reviewed (on the site), and recommended products also check out well in organic search.
- Banner advertising and sponsored ads on review sites to refer consumers back to the site.
- Incentive to return: £10 off second purchase.
- Strong point: Class leading service and product delivery. Fast-track, click and collect, choosing delivery date, creates an exceptional customer experience that will build loyalty and inspire users to purchase again.
The consumer journey is complex, and at times consumers may stray toward a competitor, or disappear entirely. Consumers shopping online don’t move down the funnel in a straight line, but via a complex, intertwining journey, and brands should look to meet consumers at a variety of touchpoints, or moments, where and when consumers are seeking their guidance and input.
However, on the whole, the above examples show that Argos maintains an exceptional presence across a complete range of touchpoints along the consumer journey, sometimes balancing budgets and resources to remain competitive, and scaling their efforts for their large catalogue of products.
Doing this enables Argos to maintain the so-called “flywheel” that has become indicative of powerful ecommerce performance, enabling them to offer competitive pricing, experiences, and an attractive value proposition for consumers.
What brands do you think cater for an exceptional user experience across the whole purchase journey?