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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

The next frontier for search marketing in retail

Thursday November 11 2010

Ed Stevenson, paid search management specialist, analyses the increasing influence of search marketing and the best way for those in the retail sector to take advantage of its benefits

Ed Stevenson, paid search management specialist, analyses the increasing influence of search marketing and the best way for those in the retail sector to take advantage of its benefits


Now that the worst of the recession is (supposedly) behind us, confidence is returning to both consumer markets and the retail industry, according to Ed Stevenson, European managing director of Marin Software. In order to capture this new wave of expenditure, he said retail organisations are naturally ramping up their investments in advertising and marketing budgets.


“Research published by Reform Digital [State of Search Marketing], has revealed that search is going to be the most important marketing channel for brands moving forward, with 66% of client-side decision makers believing this to be the case. The same number also confirmed that search spend will grow over the next 12 months,” he said.


“Search is clearly a priority. The problem that retailers have, particularly multiple category retailers, is that their search campaigns are already highly complex. These retailers have to compete with a number of factors in their campaigns including complexities in seasonality trends across categories, differences in messaging and huge variations in price points. The key challenge in this situation is targeting your message; serving the right advert to the right person at the right time.


“However, this isn’t the only challenge facing modern search marketers in the retail industry. Our online world is fragmenting, and quickly. Last Christmas all you had to worry about was your search marketing campaigns on Google. This upcoming Christmas you not only have to think about your campaign on Google, but also how you can incorporate Cost Per Click (CPC) Facebook Advertising into your campaigns. Then next year the impact of the Bing and Yahoo search alliance will be impacting your campaign, as well as the impending launch of CPC advertising on Twitter.”


Stevenson continued: “So, how do you deal with your search marketing campaigns in such a fragmenting marketplace? Well, here are my thoughts:


Integrate and automate


“As retailers expand their advertising programmes to include more online channels, they require a platform to ensure their marketing investments are spent effectively. The good news is that there are a great deal of similarities in the management of paid search campaigns and Facebook campaigns, so retailers can take advantage of solutions to integrate the management of the two channels, as well as boost performance and efficiency.


“There comes a time in the evolution of every industry when the next generation of enabling technology is required in order to sustain growth. Despite increased advertising budgets, nerves still abound and the demand for immediate ROI increases. Running a campaign inefficiently is never good, but the “fat times” covered up a multitude of sins. As we recover, running efficiently and improving performance through technology goes from being a “nice to have” to a ‘must have’.”


Understand that budgets are incremental


“What you need to understand about your budgets for performance marketing channels such as search and Facebook, as well as other upcoming channels like Twitter, is that budgets are incremental,” he added. “Budget for new performance channels, such as Facebook, should not be taken from other performance channels, like search, if those budgets are already sweating for you. If something isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Budgets for new performance channels should come in as additional budget, either as “fat” from other channels or through online budget increases. Otherwise you could find the performance of your existing campaigns is impacted negatively.”


Facebook buys an audience, not keywords


Stevenson also stressed: “One of the fundamental differences between advertising on Facebook and search is what you are actually buying As Facebook is an interruptive, as opposed to an engagement platform, it’s imperative to realise you are buying an audience of humans, not a plethora of keywords. This is a similar adaptation when adding content network to campaigns.


“As such, marketers need to target their audience in terms of their likes, interests, gender or location, not in terms of what keywords they think they would use if they were looking to buy a product or service. For example, say you were tasked with selling DVDs of “Pulp Fiction,” it probably wouldn’t be best to target people who admit they like “Pulp Fiction,” as it’s highly likely they have already seen it. It would be more savvy to target those people who note they like things like “Quentin Tarantino,” “John Travolta,” “Bruce Willis,” or “gangster movies” instead.


“As 2011 approaches, and all the seasonal challenges that will come with it, the retailers who ensure their search strategy is both manageable and efficient are going to be the ones that will give themselves a real competitive advantage over their rivals and emerge from the recession strongest,” he concluded.