Shoppers are increasingly relying on e-commerce tools to make purchase decisions. At the same time, e-commerce platforms are presenting shoppers with an increasing array of product options, people shop multiple sites before buying, and smartphones bring e-commerce search behaviors into physical stores. Thus, it is more important than ever for brands to achieve the visibility required to connect with shoppers in the dominant e-commerce environments. But what options are out there?
In a Spotlight presentation at the iMedia Commerce Summit in Salt Lake City, Steve Elson, VP of search media at HookLogic, gave an overview of e-commerce search platforms including Google's Product Listing Ads, Amazon's Product Ads and Sponsored Products, and HookLogic's own Retail Search Exchange. Corey Carrillo, global search and online marketing manager for Intel Corp., was also on hand to give an overview of his company's experience with HookLogic's unique platform.
Before delving into platform specifics, Elson pointed out that it's important to understand how shoppers actually search for products online. It's not just about keywords. "Search in retail is not limited to the query you're used to in Google," he said. In retail search, consumers follow more varied paths by leveraging product category-based navigation and keywords, sometimes in combination, and then often layer in product attribute filtering.
In retail search, consumers tend to distrust keyword searches alone, Elson said. After all, everyone has had the experience of searching for a specific type of product and then sifting through results that include unrelated products. This experience leads shoppers to question whether the opposite may also be happening: relevant products missing from the results. Shoppers also commonly encounter filters that exclude products incorrectly. As such, consumers prefer to use navigation tools for product discovery and rely more heavily on keyword searches when they want to research or buy a specific product.
On average, consumers browse 2.7 retail sites before making an online purchase. And, Elson noted, they're driven by more than price. When it comes to making purchase decisions, consumers are also heavily influenced by available product content, chiefly ratings, reviews and product descriptions, with imagery of particular importance in apparel and material/ingredient details popping in health/beauty and baby categories. In addition, retail search is an omni-channel behavior, with the majority of smartphone shoppers using their phones to search for product information on search engines and retailer websites to inform in-store purchase decisions. "These [cross-site and in-store searches] are all opportunities for brands to finish winning the purchase decision or get into that consideration set," Elson said.
And throughout all this search activity, rank is just as critical in retail as in general search. Elson shared that the first page of results represents 91 percent of all product listing pages viewed by shoppers.
Elson noted that advertising on retail search platforms differs from traditional search advertising in the following ways:
- Ads promote specific products instead of sites.
- Advertisers select and bid on products instead of keywords.
- Advertisers provide a product data feed instead of ad copy.
Google and Amazon offer their own robust retail search platforms. But more and more companies are seeing the benefits inherent in the unique platform offered by HookLogic. HookLogic's Retail Search Exchange is a PPC advertising program that puts products in front of millions of active shoppers across a network of leading retail sites. That network represents significantly more online product sales than occur on Amazon, Elson noted, and the sales impact potential grows even further when considering the in-store sales of the network's multi-channel retailers. Differentiating features of the Retail Search Exchange include:
- Unique placement within retailers' digital properties -- making this the platform serving product brands (that can't compete with retailers that dominate Google's and Amazon's sponsored product programs)
- Retail channel sales attribution and reporting
- Native ad formats featuring click-in conversion
- Easy start-up and maintenance due to the use of existing product information feeds from retailers, including automatic pricing and availability updates
For a brand like Intel, HookLogic enables the company to grab shopper attention within the e-commerce environment, said Intel's Carrillo. As an "ingredient brand," Intel doesn't sell its own products, and so heavily relies on its ecosystem of partners to promote their products that feature Intel's chips. HookLogic has enabled the company to promote and drive sales of Intel's most strategically important products: tablets, 2-in-1 devices, and all-in-one computers powered by Intel's newest and most advanced chips. Share shift reporting has shown that the products Intel promoted gained share in terms of units sold and even more so in terms of sales revenue, demonstrating success in promoting the premium, higher-priced products.
While Intel has the particular challenge of promoting products made by other manufacturer brands, essentially all product brands share the core challenge of influencing purchase decisions that shoppers make within retailers' e-commerce platforms.
Whether on Walmart, Target, Google, Amazon, or a range of other retail sites, brands have emerging options for gaining relevant placements to drive consideration and sales, noted Elson. Are you staying on top of these opportunities?