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Target Customers, Not Keywords

Omni-channel is no longer an option. It's expected. Consumers are browsing on mobile devices, shopping in the store, sharing product reviews with perfect strangers and researching based on their preference be it price, convenience, style, etc. Terms like ‘showrooming’ and ‘webrooming’ are now part of our vernacular. But this is not a disadvantage! You have new opportunities to engage your customers like never before, build loyalty, and capture them at the moment of decision-making.

Like most retailers, you are increasing your investment in a digital media strategy and working to align these programs to your store. But, is your search program omni-channel? In most instances, we find that marketers continue to optimize their search program around a fairly standard set of criteria that includes last-click-attributed sales, advertising to sales ratio (A/S ratio), return on investment (ROI), cost-per-lead, cost-per-action (or other engagement metrics) or typical brand metrics that include time on a website, pages viewed, bounce rate, etc. These are perfectly fine KPIs to manage a search program, however they don’t provide insight into how your best customers are connecting with your brand.

With the expansion of digital tracking systems and more insight into individuals at the device level, the search industry has evolved to be a viable direct marketing channel, allowing you to address your customers as individuals at scale. You can now control the content of each message that you deliver based on data that can be connected to keywords  - all connected to your customer profile information within your marketing database. By segmenting customer data and using this to target your messages based on traits like time of day, seasonality or social listening, your search program can now be leveraged at the individual level, much like direct mail – but delivered in real time.

Now, apply this to a retailer … imagine that your customer has been researching the latest trendy sandal. She simply searches for “Sandals” on Google.  You know she has been doing her research on your site, talking to friends and based on social listening, it looks like she is about to go on a hot weather vacation. Now, you find your customer in a competitive store – you deliver her real time offers on her mobile phone for the sandals she had her eye on… sounds impossible. Its not! It’s happening today.

We can also expand the use case across multiple segments.  Assume two users are searching for “Wingtip Shoes”.  Today, most brands will not focus on these non-branded keywords.  But what if the searchers were existing shoe buying customers of yours?  Would you be willing to get 100% of impression share in-front of your current customers looking for relevant products?  And what if you knew that one searcher was an affluent executive, and the other one a younger millennial?  Would you change the shoe you would want to show them? Would you want to change the messaging, value prop, the call to action?  How about what you are willing to bid to get a click from either audience?

I’m sure the answer to all of these questions is “YES” but the challenge comes in execution. Here are 3 strategies you can put into place now to drive more value from your search program:

1- Start segmenting your website visitors by the products they buy.  Utilizing your CRM database (or other means on customer insights,) segment these buyers into categories. For example – segments can be executive men, young men, moms, female executives, fashion oriented female, etc.

2- When these audiences start showing relevant behavior digitally, connect with them with relevant custom messaging.  This is the point where you should customize messaging based on the segment: Two users searching for sandals, one is a fashion-oriented female, the other one is an executive male.  Show sandals not just based on gender but also the life style.

3- Push this information across your organization.  Share insights.  Make sure that you have the ability to send a custom email if a previous “wingtip shoe buyer” comes to site to look at sandals but doesn’t buy (online or offline.)  That is the point where the Email team can influence the prior Search behavior by sending custom offers around sandals to the customer.

Akin Tosyali leads Merkle’s Retail Channel Digital Strategy team, delivering omni-channel strategies and campaigns based on CRM databases including both online and offline data points. He specializes in translating corporate marketing goals...

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