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What brands can do to improve ecommerce performance

When asked what they saw as the number one opportunity in ecommerce marketing today, 30% of brands said ‘More accurate consumer targeting across retailers.’

Brands also cited three other key opportunities: ‘Improved user experience’ (22%), ‘Voice search advertising’ (14%), and the closer alignment of digital marketing with merchandising teams (8%).

In our recent Era of Ecommerce research report with Catalyst and Search Engine Watch, we found a number of interesting insights on the ecommerce landscape today, what opportunities and challenges exist, and how marketers are — or are not — rising to meet them.

Companies know that understanding and strategizing for online consumer behavior in 2018 is no small feat. Audiences today don’t shop exclusively through Google and Amazon — but many marketers are realizing they don’t have ecommerce strategies beyond those primary platforms.

How can brands improve ecommerce performance?

Optimize Product Display Pages (PDPs) across multiple retailers

On average, research showed that only 4% of brands optimize their PDPs on non-Amazon retailers.

This follows an overall trend from our report, which showed that consumers are significantly more likely to research and purchase on a website than brands are to advertise on that same site.

In other words, consumers are browsing and buying in many places that digital marketers aren’t. In fact, 85% of browsing and purchasing actions occur with non-Amazon retailers.

Brands should make sure that wherever their audience is looking for them, they can be found. 

The extreme lack of optimized PDPs on non-Amazon retailers is likely twofold: 1) advertisers tend to focus on activities that drive results in the purchase stage rather than in initial research and discovery, and 2) the rules for optimization beyond Google and Bing simply aren’t well-known and accessible.

However, PDPs matter to consumers: 38% of consumers state that a lack of content (either text or images) on a product page would make them leave a website without purchasing. 

While they are an important resource for consumers, they have been under-utilized by brands to tell their story.

For example, we found that while 20% of consumers have visited Best Buy to view product descriptions, only 8% of consumer electronics retailers say they have created specific content for their PDPs on the Best Buy website.

Key pieces to consider when optimizing a PDP are SEO based keyword and content strategies, insights from reviews and Q&A, product imagery, product attribute details, and ratings and reviews. When designing these, bear in mind the reasons consumers visit this specific website.

Expand sponsored paid advertising

There’s an opportunity here for paid ads specifically on Amazon — the company has been rapidly evolving their keyword based paid advertising opportunities for promoting products within the shopping experience.

Note here the difference between Sponsored Products ads, which integrate into the organic shopping results, and Sponsored Brands (formerly Headline Search Ads), which are banner ads appearing at the top, left, or bottom of the search result pages. The two types of ads perform differently based on brand awareness.

Similar to traditional paid search advertising on Google or Bing, these ads are keyword based and depend on auction style bidding for placement. Best practices as far as campaign structure, keyword strategies, match types, and bid management are also similar to paid search best practices.  

Within Amazon, PDP organic rankings are determined by an algorithm that incorporates search query relevancy and historical sales among other factors — so when the PDPs are also promoted through Sponsored Product ads, sales of that product increase. This in turn positively affects the factors weighed in the organic algorithm, again further improving the organic rankings.

This “flywheel effect” can improve overall performance and drive a continued increase in sales — just one example of why it’s important to use PDP optimization and sponsored paid ads in tandem.

Take an integrated approach to ecommerce search

Within an organization, managing search can be quite complicated.

98% of brands in our survey reported that they’re actively engaged in both organic search and paid search advertising today — but the opportunities to integrate these channels go largely untapped.

Oftentimes, search gets outsourced to an agency or to a number of niche specialists. Our research found that organic search (SEO) and Amazon Advertising are the two digital marketing channels most likely to be outsourced to a niche specialist.

Search comes in various shapes and sizes, and stretches across Google, Amazon, and a growing list of other retailers. It can be accessed through voice, image, or text. It represents the true voice of the customer and carries innumerable insights around product, brand, and competition.

To meet these challenges, organizations should make sure search is supported and understood by teams from digital marketing to ecommerce, merchandising to supply chain.

Remember that retail websites are query-based platforms

Whether you’re planning for organic or paid search, keyword strategies should be the foundation of your ecommerce marketing strategy.

Beyond this, brands also benefit from creating unique content for each retailer. This content should be based on search trends, behaviors, favored attributes, and consumer requirements specific to that platform.

Consumers today often search in the form of questions, and this can affect imagery, the use of user-generated content, and the format of product descriptions, for example.

Prioritize budgets with consumer journeys

Most brands are aware that the most expensive — and the most profitable — stage of the consumer journey is the purchasing phase.

However, purchasing is just one element of a broader strategy and customer journey.

Search enables marketers to engage with customers earlier in the journey and supply data in order to be able to personalize their experiences — for instance through visual paid search ads. Top brands know that search today is about much more than reaching the “hand raisers.”

Want to learn more?

For a more in-depth look at the 2018 ecommerce landscape, its opportunities and challenges, and how marketers can best strategize to meet them, download the full report here.

For strategies specific to advertising on Amazon, watch this video from Amazon Advertising experts from Bai and LEGO, as seen at our Transformation of Search Summit in October 2018.

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