Spring '13 Brand

February 3-6, 2013 | Amelia Island, Florida

How to get closer to the shopper


By 2016, 44 percent of total retail sales will be impacted by the web. Here's how to grab the attention of your target audience when they make purchase decisions online.

Over the past 10 years, consumers have migrated from making purchase decisions in the aisle to making decisions on the web. More than 62 percent of consumers now research online before going to a store, and retail websites have emerged as the premier source for product information. In fact, seven out of 10 consumers now shop on merchant sites -- that's 41 percent more often than search engines.

"Even though the sales that occur online are still a small fraction of total sales, marketers are now accepting as truth that web activity is significantly determining what people buy in the store," said Steve Elson, VP of search media for HookLogic, during his Spotlight presentation at the iMedia Brand Summit in Amelia Island, Fla.

Over the next few years, almost half of sales will be impacted by the web. Elson believes that this is the result of all the hard work retailers have done over the past few years to develop robust content. At their inception, retail sites functioned as online catalogues. Now these same sites feature reviews, multiple product images, videos, and other useful content. As a result, consumers are turning to retail sites for information as opposed to doing research on search engines like Google or Bing.

"The real trailblazer in monetizing this behavior is Amazon," Elson said. The turning point came when Amazon began acting as both a retailer and a publisher. "You look at a page on Amazon, and there are probably a dozen links where Amazon is getting paid on the clicks. No transaction has happened, but Amazon is making money off those clicks, and it's doing this safely without harming the experience of the shopper," Elson added.

Amazon's success over the last few years has finally grabbed the attention of other retailers -- including major players such as Target, Walmart, and Best Buy -- that are starting to take advantage of this new opportunity.

However, there are some issues with the way things currently operate. On one hand, retailers are willing to allow brands to pay for valuable real estate in their stores, so long as the customer experience is maintained and the core business of retailing is not put at risk. On the other hand, retailers don't want to give up valuable real estate from their own self-controlled merchandising and incur the costs -- whether internal or from a partner -- of creating and managing a new media program unless the revenue is incremental to other funds already received from brands. This is where HookLogic comes in to play.

Hooklogic's Retail Search Exchange (RSX) empowers brands to engage shoppers with top-of-sort visibility across a network of premium e-commerce retailers. Because brands are making a network buy, and not allocating defined budgets to specific retailers, this model meets the retailer requirement of earning incremental revenue by creating separation from retailer-direct programs. The RSX turns product listings -- the standard unit of product content on retail sites -- into ads. Clicks aren't driven to the brand website; shoppers stay in the retailer's purchase path, which leads to conversions on its site. Advertising that is in fact useful content to the shopper -- relevant product listings -- is a format that meets the retailer requirement to protect the customer experience and support the primary business of selling products.

The advantages for brands and agencies are clear: HookLogic provides paid search models on retail sites and click-in advertising that facilitates shopping behaviors and drives sales. Hooklogic offers brands top-of-sort placement, an always-on real-time CPC auction marketplace with budget controls, and powerful campaign insights. Brands can jump in easily, as the program requires neither any creative assets nor keyword research. Best of all, the Retail Search Exchange offers brands a chance to influence shoppers in a format that transcends advertising: delivering not just ads but relevant content in a format that shoppers welcome and choose to engage with as they shop.