May 14, 2010

Search Drives Online Shopping Search is a critical selling tool for retailers. Twenty-seven percent of 102 online merchants, cataloguers and direct-selling manufacturers, in a recent Internet Retailer survey, attribute more than 50 percent of their sales to search engine marketing. Natural search drives more than 25 percent of total traffic for 51 percent of the respondents while paid search accounts 28 percent. And based on the responses these levels are stable with the yield and the click-thru-rates remaining about the same. For two-thirds of merchants, Google accounts for 70 percent or more of their traffic and has the highest conversion rate. Though 4 in 10 expect to shift some paid search spending to Bing in the coming year. As a result a third of merchants spend most of their online marketing budgets on search. Almost half increased their search budgets in the last year with 23.5 percent spending less than a dime per click and 32 percent investing 50 cents or more per click. Tactically 56 percent have keyword inventories of 1000 words or less. Improvements planned include experimenting with more multiple-word phrases, rewriting keyword descriptions on product and home pages, incorporating common search terms onto product and home pages, adding common search terms to image file names, and writing more descriptive ad copy. As Google expands its image searching capabilities and increases the number of images displayed on SERPs and the options to switch to image searching, merchants are following suit. A third of respondents are sending images to search engines and more than half expect the images to improve click-thru-rates by as much as 15 percent. Another 40 percent say they’re working on it. As retail search matures, marketers need to get more sophisticated in how they deploy, measure and iterate campaigns. The number of new searchers is low so the battle shifts toward share and toward achieving high rankings for the terms most commonly used to find your product or service.
4 Insights into Social Shopping & Sharing Retailers have always known that women are the principle buyers of everything. Without fanfare or acknowledgement women drive the economy. Now there’s a growing body of evidence that women in mature economies control more than 70 percent of household spending and will drive $5 trillion in incremental global spending over the next few years according to a new book titled, Women Want More , by the Boston Consulting Group. Add to that Maddy Dychwald’s new book titled, Influence, in which she marshals considerable research to argue that the emergence of women as an economic force is the biggest demographic change of our times which will transform business and be a positive force for social change. But as women exert their economic power, they are doing so in novel ways that combine online and offline channels and media. Anyone whose ever been to a mall on a Saturday knows that shopping is social and that girlfriends, mothers and daughters influence purchase behavior and each other in countless ways. Social sharing seems like a native female behavior so its not hard to imagine extending it from the real world into cyberspace and back again. Now new patterns of influence and interaction are emerging as women use a wide array of tools to get what they want. This has led to the regular invention of sharing tools on e-commerce sites and the emergence of tools that link shopping with social media like ShopSocially now in beta. Sharing sites, tips and bargains probably contributes to the rapid growth of social sharing sites like StumbleUpon, which doubled it membership from 5 to 10 million over the last two years. Scouting, planning, bargain hunting and social shopping are taking new forms each day. Some emerging shopping patterns are predictable by demographics, others not so much. In the Women and the Digital Purchase Path survey of 1581 US women conducted by iVillage and SheSpeaks, shopping emerges as a deliberate and planned activity. Fifty-three percent of respondents spend from half an hour to more than an hour preparing to shop by searching out coupons, talking to friends, reading circulars, clipping coupons or surfing web reviews and recommendations. The survey also documents a number of interesting changes in the way women approach their critical economic task -- shopping. Most women have favorite stores. The majority of survey responders (56%) shop 3-4 stores regularly, though 24% of the others are loyal to 5-7 stores. This translates into more than 50% visiting superstores, food, beverage, health or beauty brand sites and 50-60% signing up for brand and store promotional e-mails. This is an opportunity for hearty social media co-operative promotions between manufacturers, brand marketers and retailers. Women Want Deals. Part learned behavior, part recession-driven coupon shopping is huge online. Seventy-nine percent of responders said they frequently use coupons while 4 in 10 said they’d go to less convenient stores for better prices. More than half said their use of and interest in coupons had increased over the previous year; documenting the impact of the recession and perhaps implanting new shopping behaviors that will endure. Coupons are the number one purchase influencers; though the source and credibility of coupon offers differs by source (newspaper vs online vs e-mail or direct mail) and by age (younger women don’t read or clip newspapers). The number of coupon sites is growing and daily emails from coupon aggregation sites like Retail-Me-Not bring coupons to inboxes daily. Coupon shoppers mix online and offline channels seamlessly. They download coupons and take them to the store. They apply coupon codes from e-mail or postcard packs in online shopping carts. Coupons work like traditional and direct advertising. They reinforce brand preferences and stimulate purchase and they build awareness and insert new brands, products and stores into the consideration set. Reviews and Blogs Trump Twitter and Facebook. Online customer reviews and old-fashion word-of-mouth recommendations from family friends top the list of purchase influencers. A third of responders said that blog reviews, mentions and stories affected their brand, product or store choice. A well written, honest sounding detailed product review on a credible site has persuasive power. The content overcomes skepticism about not really knowing the author. And while 8 in 10 responders had visited Facebook in the last month and more than half of the women surveyed signed up to be Facebook fans of at least one food, health or household brand, only 19 percent cited social media as influential in their purchase decisions. This probably skews by age and represents...

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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