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.

Optimizing Paid Search Campaigns for the ‘Third Device’

It’s time to think of tablets as a distinct “third device” and devise performance marketing strategies to engage tablet users. Advertisers must take advantage of the ability now offered in AdWords to target smartphones and tablets separately.

Tablets are the fastest-selling consumer technology device in history. According to eMarketer, 24 million U.S. consumers will own a tablet by the end of this year. By the end of 2012, 12.8 percent of people in the U.S. will own a tablet.

As of June 1, Google AdWords began separating “tablets with full browsers” as a distinct device within AdWords reporting. Previously, tablets were grouped with all “mobile devices with full browsers” (i.e., smartphones). Thus, June gave us our first look into tablet paid search impression and click volume. Impressions and clicks were immediately high in June, showing that tablets have likely been materially contributing to Google mobile paid search share for a number of months.

For Performics’ aggregate client base, 12.1 percent of all June desktop and mobile paid search impressions came from mobile devices. Of this 12.1 percent, 14.3 percent came from tablets. Based on these numbers, tablets now compose 1.7 percent of all paid search impressions. Additionally, tablets contributed to 13.3 percent of all mobile paid search clicks. Tablet cost per clicks track at about 50 percent of PC cost per clicks. The bottom line is that consumers are now on tablets searching for your brand, and it’s not expensive to engage them.

It’s time to think of tablets as a distinct “third device” and devise performance marketing strategies to engage tablet users. Advertisers must take advantage of the ability now offered in AdWords to target smartphones and tablets separately. At Performics, we’ve seen that tablet usage patterns resemble mobile patterns — people do most of their tablet searching in the evening. However, people use tablets differently than smartphones, which reveals opportunities to optimize your paid search campaign for the third device.

Unlike smartphones, tablets feature advanced scrolling functionality. Since tablet users can scroll with a gesture, they’re more likely to peruse search results and landing pages. This makes tablet users more likely than smartphone users to click on search results that are further down the page. Thus, bid strategies should differ when targeting tablets versus smartphones.

Tablets have bigger screens than smartphones. Tablet traffic should therefore be driven to desktop — not mobile — landing pages, where users have more room to browse.

A different device means different copy optimization opportunities. Once tablets are separated into distinct search campaigns, copy and links can be geared specifically to tablet users — e.g., “purchase now from your tablet” or “buy an accessory for your tablet.”

As the device landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, performance marketers must capitalize on every little opportunity to optimize advertising by device. Brands that tailor advertising to support tablets will achieve a first-mover advantage as tablets increase in popularity. This advantage comes in the form of data — e.g., nuances in how your customers use different devices — which reveal opportunities to engage consumers in more effective and efficient ways.

Have you noticed ways that your customers interact with tablets differently than smartphones or PCs? If so, please leave a comment below.