Sharpening the Tip of the Spear

During the frenetic activity that precedes the holidays, I find myself looking at the flood of marketing materials that comes to both my real and digital doorsteps and trying to rethink where organic search fits in the marketing ecosystem. Organic search has long been hailed as the “tip of the

During the frenetic activity that precedes the holidays, I find myself looking at the flood of marketing materials that comes to both my real and digital doorsteps and trying to rethink where organic search fits in the marketing ecosystem. Organic search has long been hailed as the “tip of the spear,” a means of introduction to new customers. This means that for some, organic search is pigeonholed as a customer acquisition strategy. This is a bit short-sighted given how shopping behaviors have changed, for it underplays organic search’s role and the leverage that can be gained with it for other on- and off-line marketing efforts. Enhanced, leveraged results can only come by sharpening the tip of the spear. To sharpen the tip, it is necessary to make sure that your search efforts coordinate with your other marketing efforts. Just ride along with me on this notion for a few blocks; the meter is not running.

Follow the Typical Shopper
As more commerce moves to e-commerce, shopper behavior is morphing. Have you finished your holiday shopping? Have you found that perfect gift yet? Today, shoppers don’t travel from store to store looking for the just-right gift. Instead, they go directly to their favorite search engine and look for the type of gift they want or the brand. This behavior is more like sourcing merchandise instead of shopping. If your organic search efforts have focused on developing search visibility for shoppers who source goods, then your efforts will be rewarded. Savvy shoppers do more than just source the goods. They also check reviews on the product and on the merchant. How do they discover this valuable information? Once more, they pop a query into their favorite search engine for “reviews on … ” If your reviews for both products and your services are highly visible on search, you can readily tick off two more boxes that the shopper will check before making a purchase. If your product pages are highly visible, yet your reviews are off the mark, you have some sharpening to do.

Once the customer has finally settled on the right product and source, then the fun begins. If your site’s shipping and returns policies are not visible, then you will bring doubt to the shopper. Is your site designed for mobile shopping and purchasing? If not, then you have more to worry about than just sharpening the tip of the spear. During the holiday season, it is very important to let shoppers know exactly how long it will take for you to rush their choices to them. Just as years ago they carefully watched for the extended hours at their favorite shopping venues, today they know how late they can delay in placing their online orders and still expect them to be delivered. Most experienced e-commerce shoppers know exactly when they must place their online orders before it is too late and they are forced to venture forth into the real world. If you are already an e-commerce purchaser, this is not new news.

As more and more shoppers become accustomed to the new parameters of shopping, I predict that we will see increased sourcing behavior and less live, in-mall shopping. Ask a dozen people if they enjoy holiday shopping and to a person, you will not find anyone who likes the sourcing process. Most like to view the lights and decorations and “get in the spirit” of it all, but are really not eager to wait in lines or carry packages. So as merchants and site owners, we need to make sure that the process is as trouble-free as possible. We need to enhance the experience by making it simpler. Organic search visibility will play a big part in making this happen. Let me gloat for just a moment. My shopping is done. I have not ventured from the comfort of my office to complete it. Now, I just have to click on those tracking numbers to make sure my packages are delivered and enjoy the holidays.