Managing the complexities of a national paid search strategy in retail? It doesn’t have to be intimidating – and taking control all starts with understanding what you are trying to achieve for your brand or client. Here are the top five lessons we learned while working with Bridgestone Retail Operations this year.
Create a multi-pronged keyword and targeting approach
Building a paid search campaign structure is never a one size fits all model. This doesn’t just apply to brand’s vertical or industry, but runs as deep as the keyword themes or the devices that you are looking to target. It sounds so cliché, but thinking about your customer at every point of the funnel as it relates to your business goals can essentially dictate everything. This will ultimately guide your strategic decisions surrounding both the type of keywords leveraged and the level of targeting used from a geographic standpoint.
Our work with Bridgestone Retail Operations (BSRO) is a perfect example of this. As competition in the industry continued to rise and costs along with it, DAC evolved BSRO’s campaign structure to best align with their business goals, with a balance between nationally and locally focused targeting tactics. In taking this multi-pronged customer-centric approach for paid search, alongside building in the most relevant tactics to allow the customer to easily transact with their closest local store, DAC drove significant YoY improvements in results.
Know your audience
Knowing your audience seems like a simple concept at its core, but it can be frequently confused with the audience you THINK you should be targeting. A really easy way to gather these insights about your audience is adding Google demographics for search to your campaigns. You don’t need to start targeting audiences right off the bat, but rather, use this feature to collect the data surrounding your existing site visitors. What you find may surprise you, and can help inform the decisions made – not only to increase volume, but also to increase efficiencies.
Audience targeting can be extremely powerful – so use every available option to your advantage. This includes but is not limited to: re-marketing, similar audience and customer match. By adding these audience lists to your existing campaigns first, you can gather insights surrounding cross-device behaviors, which can further drive decisions around campaign strategies and how these audiences can grow results against your client’s business goals.
When BSRO tested Similar Audience targeting in Q1 of 2017, the results were extremely surprising and positive.
Know your competitors
When I say know your competitors, I mean KNOW your competitors. They are called competitors for a reason – it’s time to get in the game! It’s not enough to just acknowledge they exist – you must truly understand how they are playing in the space, what they excel in, and what they lack. Consistently keep track of this, as it could truly make or break your performance for any given week.
Google’s Auction Insights is a free tool, and my advice – take advantage of it. Record trending as it relates to your competitors share and you may very well figure out their paid search marketing plan for the year. It will help you prepare for the weeks and months ahead, where you need to push and pull a bit, and maybe even give you the incentive to test out some conquesting on competitor terms.
Conquesting can work to your advantage, especially in retail, as often times, it’s not the “who” or “what” that matters, but the “where.” Consumers want to know where they can make the purchase closest to them more than anything else, sometimes it’s even more important than price. Depending on the industry, convenience could take precedence. This tactic can be extremely efficient and even convert as well as some of your top performing terms. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth a test.
Find balance between automation and human effort
From a management standpoint, this may be the most important one of all for large national retail programs. Automation can be your friend, but it can also be your enemy. We have jobs in digital marketing for a reason – use automation as a tool to gain efficiencies through ease of management and testing, but always keep in mind that the human element of analysis and optimization will be key in producing strategically-driven results.
A few tools that we leveraged for BSRO (and some of them free too!) to consider when managing complex structures are:
- Ad Customizers: These can not only be a huge time saver, but have many benefits from an optimization standpoint. The key phrase in Google Ad Customizers tool’s name is CUSTOMIZE – Customize away! It allows you to produce a feed to change elements of your ad copy (geography, device messaging, audience, promotions) on an ongoing basis with ease, while also keeping ad history intact.
- Ad Copy Testing: Testing ad copy does not have to be a complicated and risky task. Using Google experiments tools and Google Ad variations can easily allow you to test a portion of your traffic with new ad copy variables in bulk, without harming your campaign performance. When, and if, you come to statistically significant results, you can choose to either end the test, or apply the variable to your existing campaigns.
- Bid Policies – There are a ton of bid policy tools out there, and it ultimately depends on your bid management platform (or if you don’t have one, Google offers these options for free as well!).
For Bridgestone Retail Operations (BSRO), DAC leveraged Kenshoo’s KPO (Portfolio Optimizer Tool) to drive further efficiency and conversion in the competitive Tire auction. In testing this on very generic and expensive exact match tire related terms, we were able to drive down costs, and drive our desired CPL goal, while increasing overall conversions.
(Official Kenshoo Case Study: http://kenshoo.com/2017-infinity-award-winner-bridgestone-dac/)
Mobile first and local search where it matters
We’ve all heard the eye-opening stats around mobile and Near Me searches. But, just as a refresher, the percentage of mobile search queries on Google has surpassed desktop around 60%, and Near Me searches have increased 34 times since 2011.
Now more than ever, and especially for retail locations, being present locally and on mobile devices could be the determining factor in getting that sale or not.
DAC implemented a locally focused, mobile-centric strategy for BSRO surrounding geo-related queries and Near Me searches. The results are extremely positive and have proven to increase coverage within these keyword segments and ultimately drive stronger conversion rates.
When you’ve got the strategy down to a science, it comes time to measure results and impact. In digital, and more exclusively, complex retail strategies, it can be difficult to understand the full customer purchase journey. Luckily, the roll out of Google Store Visits allows advertisers and businesses to understand how much in-store foot traffic paid search media efforts are driving and how valuable the channel is from a marketing mix perspective.
The Google Store Visits metric estimates store visit conversions based on the users’ location history, and ties this back to whether a user who clicked on your ad across any device, then went on to visit your store. The value of this data is monumental, as it allows advertisers to optimize against this on the not only the campaign, but down to the ad group level, providing opportunities to hone in on specific ROI or KPI goals.
When Google measured store visits in Q4 of 2016 to understand the impact of DAC’s efforts in restructuring the BSRO paid search program, the results were impressive and ultimately showcased the true value of paid search within BSRO’s holistic marketing efforts.
The size and complexities of a national retail program don’t have to be intimidating. If you do the research, define your goals, create order, build, test, learn and measure against it, success can be right around the corner. Contact us to learn more!