Alan Osetek, president of Resolution Media, also contributed to this piece.
ADOTAS – There was an artsy little Robert DeNiro film that made a quick showing a couple years ago called What Just Happened. DeNiro plays a Hollywood independent film producer who’s trying to get a film made with an aging box office action hero (Bruce Willis). As the title suggests, reality is open to doubt and interpretation.
Think back to the holiday shopping season. The reality is that e-commerce sales stretched beyond Black Friday, beyond Cyber Monday and well into an entire Cyber Week. Cyber Monday itself spiked anywhere from 22 to 33 percent over 2010, depending on the estimate you subscribe to. Now, as retailers shift focus to the year ahead, it’s a very good time to ask, “What just happened?” What led up to this sales spike online, what was the nature of those sales, and what can we do to hold on to those new customers throughout the new year? With so many media channels available and a constant shift in consumer behaviors, e-commerce companies must find a consistent targeting strategy that enables them to reach, keep and grow valuable customer bases.
Traditionally, e-commerce companies have always put a large emphasis on understanding “what just happened” within the consumer purchasing cycle. Technology is available to help them understand that, which is great. But e-commerce has also evolved to know what is happening now and what will happen, so retailers can adjust accordingly to capture the in-market customer. This means moving brand messages to where the consumers are, based on behaviors. What just happened is that a lot of customers purchased goods. Even more of them entered the purchase funnel but didn’t buy, and instead they raised a hand, signaling intent.
Search, which represents the highest level of intent data, helps e-commerce marketers truly identify in-market customers based on behavior. When you combine the power of search data with display advertising, you’re able to deliver highly relevant content to in-market customers that have already raised their hands within the search engine. This, put simply, is search retargeting. With search retargeting, brands can find the user again, beyond the search engine, with graphical ads. Similarly, with site retargeting, advertisers can retarget consumers that have previously visited their site. These retargeting strategies help brands keep consumers engaged throughout the consumer funnel, and ultimately push them to convert.
Retailers that have been able to successfully leverage search behavior for their campaigns have done so by following a few key points. Instead of only analyzing their SEM campaigns, these successful retailer clients have extended their search campaigns into display advertising — i.e. content sites, where users are cited to spend roughly 96 percent of their time. Some retail clients have seen their return on ad spend at nearly 300 percent above goal, click-through rates for search retargeting nearly 3.2 times higher than run of network and ROI roughly 700 percent higher than their initial investment.
According to comScore, in 2010 retargeted ads increased trademark search behavior by 1,046 percent. And between May and December 2010, the number of U.S. marketers using site retargeting rose from 17 percent to 22 percent. It stands to reason that when the dust clears on 2011, these numbers will spike.
For online retailers, there is no more compelling time to put a display or text ad in front of a customer than after they’ve searched for a specific product. Search retargeting is placing your brand in front of the customer at the right point in the purchase decision cycle. With industry data showing that display advertising is on pace to triple by 2016, it is critical to find the intersection of display and search, which is how smart retailers are taking advantage of search retargeting. Other research points out the benefits of search for the consumer, citing that the average search engine user drives between 30-65 percent more value from search than any other media channel.
Every day, whether it’s Black Friday or Super Tuesday, a customer will search for a product that relates to your offering, providing a viable way to find that in-market shopper. Either you can observe that customer, learn from their behavior and let them go — or you can leverage the online behavior witnessed on the search engine or on an advertiser’s site, and use that knowledge to reach out immediately and convert them.