Holiday Paid Search Analytics Reveal Insights Into Today’s Cross-Channel Shopper

When analyzing early holiday paid search data, it’s readily apparent that shopping is truly a cross-channel endeavor. For instance, the majority of this year’s Black Friday shopping occurred in-store, but consumers used search engines in droves before setting foot in a store. Search helped shoppers map out their in-store Black Friday strategies, informing them exactly where and when they could find the best deals on the products they wanted.

When analyzing early holiday paid search data, it’s readily apparent that shopping is truly a cross-channel endeavor. For instance, the majority of this year’s Black Friday shopping occurred in-store, but consumers used search engines in droves before setting foot in a store. Search helped shoppers map out their in-store Black Friday strategies, informing them exactly where and when they could find the best deals on the products they wanted.

Search played a major role in driving in-store traffic this Black Friday. Performics tracked a huge spike in Google paid search clicks for its clients on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Paid search clicks increased 87 percent year-over-year on Thanksgiving and 65 percent year-over-year on Black Friday. Additionally, this year saw the most mobile paid search clicks and impressions ever seen on Black Friday — 400 percent more than 2010.

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For the second consecutive year, Black Friday clicks surpassed Cyber Monday clicks. The adjacent graph shows three primary spikes in 2010 and 2011 fourth quarter paid search clicks. Black Friday represents the biggest spike, with Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday (which were close to each other) following behind.

Cyber Monday has historically been the biggest online sales day of the year, not Black Friday. In terms of online sales, Black Friday historically ranks behind Cyber Monday, Green Monday (the second Monday in December) and Free Shipping Day. Black Friday drives the most clicks, but the fourth most online sales.

This indicates that consumers use search engines heavily on Black Friday to discover the best in-store deals. Post-recession shoppers are researching on their computers and mobile devices more than ever to find the right combination of quality and price. The rise of mobile, highlighted by the 400 percent year-over-year increase in Black Friday mobile clicks, is the biggest indicator of true cross-channel shopping.

Not only are on-the-go consumers searching for your store locations, but they’re also conducting competitive price searches and looking for product information on their phones/tablets while in your store. According to Performics’ 2011 Social Shopping Study, 62 percent of consumers perform competitive price searches on their mobile devices while in a retailer’s store and 41 percent look for product information.

To capitalize on this cross-channel shopping behavior during the holiday season and beyond, marketers should do the following:

  • integrate online and offline promotional planning;
  • create strong mobile websites;
  • use paid search extensions (e.g., addresses, phone numbers, click-to-call) to aid searchers looking for your store;
  • let searchers know that products are in stock in your stores;
  • ensure visibility in mobile search for keywords likely to be used by shoppers searching for your store while on the go or in-store; and
  • create comprehensive local paid and organic search campaigns.

Marketers should invest in analytics to understand exactly how search marketing affects offline sales. Uncovering insights through data will help you best allocate budgets and create marketing strategies to maximize cross-channel performance.

Building and Executing a True Performance Marketing Campaign

Performance marketers are redefining the marketing landscape in real time, continually refining the blend of art and science needed to drive results. Achieving a true performance marketing campaign is complex, and it’s arguably the toughest challenge marketers have ever faced. Nevertheless, those who do build a true performance marketing capability will reap unmatched rewards.

In a recent article he wrote for ClickZ, There is More to Performance Marketing than Measuring Performance, Jonathan Shapiro, CEO of online performance marketing agency MediaWhiz, aptly noted that today’s best performance marketers “are not just measuring results, but actively improving them.” Shapiro describes a true performance marketing campaign as one in which the marketer forecasts return on investment, pays only for performance and continually optimizes while the campaign is live.

Shapiro then asks why more marketers, advertisers and agencies aren’t taking advantage of performance marketing tools and strategies. His answer? “The relative newness of the industry has not provided sufficient time for most marketing organizations to develop the expertise or technology to manage a true performance marketing campaign.” I agree that performance marketing is the future of our industry, and that the development of performance marketing expertise and technology is the key to success. What follows are some strategies to help you build and execute a true performance marketing campaign.

Finding Performance
True performance marketers must be visible wherever and whenever there’s an opportunity for performance. The increasingly splintered web requires brands to “get found” in more places and on more devices. Thus true performance marketers must be committed to being found across all paid, owned and earned media. This requires continually evaluating new channels, products, devices, processes, technologies and distribution partners. It also requires having a team with expertise in everything, from the latest trends in search to the hottest new mobile devices.

Cross-Channel Integration & Attribution
True performance marketers are business strategists who foster integration between search, display, social, mobile, affiliate, CRM, offline advertising, merchandising, inventory and more. Cross-channel insights inform overall marketing strategy, helping performance marketers determine the right channel to spend each and every marketing dollar.

Technology plays a major role in uncovering these insights. Performance marketers are currently perfecting tools to help them make cross-channel buying and optimization decisions in real-time. It’s an understatement to say that efficiently managing and passing data between cross-channel tracking systems is challenging. This combined with custom segmentation, advanced targeting techniques, unprecedented data volume growth and marketplace demand for immediate transparency makes it clear that legacy data processing cycles are inadequate to handle these terabytes of data.

Not to mention, performance marketers need additional headroom to handle peak demand (e.g., holiday). The good news is that access to on-demand cloud computing and data management solutions are now within the reach of every performance marketer.

Attribution is also a cornerstone of a true performance marketing campaign. However, determining how to best leverage and optimize paid/owned/earned media isn’t just about how much money you should spend in various channels. It’s an exercise in understanding people, the communities they form, how they communicate and how to engage them in conversation.

True performance marketers are focused on improving marketing economics by dedicating the ideal budget to each channel while concurrently optimizing the creative to best appeal to each channel’s audience. This is done through real-time message/creative testing, and requires more than just powerful technology. It requires art — i.e., performance marketing people with innovative ideas on how to best engage audiences.

Performance marketers are redefining the marketing landscape in real time, continually refining the blend of art and science needed to drive results. Achieving a true performance marketing campaign is complex, and it’s arguably the toughest challenge marketers have ever faced. Nevertheless, those who do build a true performance marketing capability will reap unmatched rewards.