May 16, 2012
There is no one single e-commerce strategy; it all comes down to understanding what you are selling, and who is searching for it. The way we market to someone early in the buyer decision process for a car, for example, is completely different to the way we would market to someone who knows they are looking for a V200 vacuum cleaner.
In the first example of someone looking to buy a car, our goals are to capture the user’s details or stay in touch with them as they research other makes and models over the decision process. To do this, we look at retargeting, e-mail capture and even social media.
In the second example, the user knows what they are looking for. It’s a low value item and they are price shopping, looking for something to fulfil a particular need. These users need to be isolated and captured during the time they are online actively looking to purchase. Here, we look to highly targeted search or SEO campaigns.
Consumer search behaviour has changed dramatically and continues to evolve. Searches are becoming more and more complicated; at the same time, users are becoming smarter in terms of how they search the Internet for the items they want. A developing trend in e-commerce is for users who are far along in the purchase cycle to search for specific product codes on Google. This is extremely high ROI marketing and highlights the evolution of the ‘long tail’ search.
‘Fat head’ terms are the terms people most commonly say they want to optimise for - terms such as “electricity”. They are competitive to rank for, require a higher level of investment/management and while they have a high search volume, the conversion rate tends to be quite low.
Long tail terms, on the other hand, target users who are looking for something specific and are generally at the end of the buying cycle. Compare a user searching for “cheap cricket bat” to someone searching for “cheap v100 cricket bat”, for example. While essentially these consumers are homogeneous, the latter search term has that little bit of extra information. It means the user knows what they are looking for, and it will produce a vastly superior conversion rate.
How do we ascertain these search terms?
Broad match SEM is the most effective keyword research. True, it means some money is wasted on research, but don’t think of it as “waste” – think of it as an investment. Because what you get back is pure gold.
Take the example of our client the Modern Group. Their search query reports showed thousands of searches that we had never considered, placing consumers in vastly different purchase phases. For instance, a user searching for “solar panel installation Sydney” is at a very different stage from someone searching “how much does solar save me?”
The vast number of long tail search terms – and the advancements of Google’s search match types – means that over the last year we have been able to save the Modern Group $360,000 on their search campaign, without sacrificing any leads.
A good SEM structure sees these long tail keywords placed in their own ad group, with specific creative relating to each keyword. This generates the best possible quality score, conversion rate and ROI. It’s highly labour intensive, but this is how Google works, delivering the best quality information at the top of the rankings. You will also notice that these ads are often highlighted at the top of the page, as high quality score is the determining factor for that top ranking position.
In turn, this practice flows into your SEO strategy. SEM allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of each of the keywords (including monthly searches). You can then prioritise content creation, link generation and keyword monitoring relative to competition. It also shows immediate return on investment, compared with chasing fat head terms for years on end.
Delivering value via content
It’s no surprise Google is now promoting user engagement as a key metric for SEO. The web is no different to the real world - consumers shop from the stores they like the most. When Virgin music first started up in London, crowds came from far and wide to hang out in the stores, as they provided an unparalleled shopping experience. Digital stores are no different - the better the shopping experience, the more trust and engagement get from your customers.
Those who are really serious about e-commerce know that they can never invest enough time and energy into their content. Videos, buying guides, rating scales, professional reviews - all of these give that extra bit of confidence to purchase.
There is a lot more to succeeding in e-commerce than competition on price. The sites that are clearest and easiest to use will have a much higher conversion rate than those solely concentrating on delivering the lowest price. Some retailers are now realising this and setting up two stores - one very clean and informational that price skims from selective shoppers, the other a sub-store offering very low prices to the comparison search engines only.
There is much more to measuring the effectiveness of your media than simply tracking online sales. Whilst this obviously is extremely important, the capture points can and should range from sales, to phone enquiries, to user engagement, to e-mail sign ups and so on.
For example, retargeting banners may not generate sales immediately, but they do keep the brand top of mind. We see a lot of direct traffic generated and/or higher sales rates overall when banners continue to remind the consumer of their want/need for that product, even after they have given up on purchasing it.
Tracking phone calls is another practice that is often lost in the digital marketing mix. This is essential for an e-commerce store; if you are offering clients a phone number, you need to know how many calls are generated from your ads, as well as what the user was searching for and what prompted them to call. It could be that you show up for an unrelated term, or that your website is confusing; it may just be that the phone number is the most obvious call-to-action on the site. Any way you look at it, you need to know that this ad generated a phone enquiry.