by Eric Layland on October 02, 2011
For most retailers it’s about to be crunch time. October marks the start of the fourth quarter - an intense time when many retailers make or break their revenue goal for the year. For retailers with online operations the competition over shoppers' share of wallet is particularly fierce, since - even if it sounds like an overused cliche - the competition really is just a click or two away. Odds are that whether you’re a local boutique or a national big box retailer, you’ve got a pay per click (PPC) program that is contributing to the mix. The question is whether your program is working to its full potential?
In this three part series we’ll cover key areas of PPC program optimization for online retailers. We’ll look beyond the basics to tactics that will help overall management and results. For retailers that have both on- and offline sales channels, management of your program in a holistic manner is crucial for success.
Without further ado, let’s get into our first round of tips...
If you sell online you must integrate your shopping cart with your PPC conversion tracking and web analytics. Just tracking counts of conversions, or worse yet, not tracking anything is really unacceptable. It’s not hard and as long as your shopping cart allows access to its item value variables, there’s no reason not to do so. If your shopping cart doesn’t allow access, change it out. It’s the difference between having rough idea of how your campaigns are doing and knowing your specific Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) or Return on Investment (ROI). Knowing these enable you to bid on the keywords that drive not just sales but margin dollars.
More advanced online retailers will take this further and integrate margin contribution. We’ve worked with a top-50 ecommerce site that managed to margin contribution and it was extremely powerful. Key metrics included Ad Spend/Margin Contribution (A/M) and Ad Spend/Sales (A/S). If you’re restricted by shopping cart data access limitations or technical ability, at minimum determine your average order size and apply the value to your conversion counts.
Useful link: Setting up shopping cart conversions.
We hope reviewing your conversion path and funnel is an activity that’s reviewed regularly. There aren’t many activities that more important to your program to invest resources and insure performance is optimized. Think about it, you’ve already paid for the visit (ppc charges, seo effort, other means) and the visitor has found a product and started the purchase process. Use everything in your testing arsenal to create an efficient check out experience. Even modest improvements can yield significant improvements in sales dollars. Your site analytics can be set-up to report on how visitors migrate through the funnel and what percentage complete each stage. Identifying steps where a disproportionate percentage fall out of the funnel indicates a problem area. Look into it, test fixes then move on to the stage with the next highest abandonment rate. There’s a very good chance you’re using Google Analytics. If that’s the case then setting up goals and funnels will be a great help to you.
Useful link: Setting up Google Analytics goals & funnels.
Separation of keywords into similar Ad Groups is a no brainer. You’ve probably done this already (I hope). Exactly how it’s executed for your specific product type is going to vary. We recommend separation of your brand from all other keyword types at a minimum. If you have physical stores, consider additional ad groups that include keywords with geographic qualifiers.
I prefer separating manufacturer’s terms into manufacturer + product type and manufacturer + model. The reason for this is a shopper’s behavior is different. When a manufacturer + product type keyword is searched a decision has not yet been made. When a specific model is searched on, it’s likely the shopper has decided on the product and is looking for the best price, terms or shipping options.
Useful link: Keyword organization tips.
Over the course of running a pay per click program you’ll learn which are your core keywords. Those are the terms that consistently deliver the best results in terms of sales, low acquisition cost and ROI. Insure you support these terms with a sufficient allocation of budget such that you are maximizing their contribution to the overall program.
For instance you may be a specialty retailer of athletic shoes. You’ll know which brands and styles are most popular. Be sure to allow terms which have historically worked best not be artificially restricted by having them fight for campaign budget with under-performers.
Frequently the core keywords will be brand terms or the names of manufacturer’s best known products if you’re a reseller. It’s not unusual for such terms to not only bring in traffic and sales, but to be trigger products. That is, products that tend to drive the sales of accessories and supplies increasing the average basket size value of the order.
Useful link: Organizing campaigns and ad groups.
At the campaign level specific geographies can be targeted. This can be done at the country, state, metro and all the way to customized longitude & latitude coordinates. The value to geo-targeting is pretty obvious: if you can’t service a region, don’t advertise in it. Looking at it another way, if your stores in Southern California sell merchandise that’s different than what moves in NYC, you’ll want to manage your program taking such factors into account.
Step one: understand how geography impacts retail vs. online sales. How far are people willing to travel to visit the store? Do you offer specials (i.e. free shipping) to areas without retail store support? Geographic store density is also a factor. Do you have stores on every corner or a few regionally located? Set up your ad serving to cover the areas your physical stores serve. Doing so enables tailoring of ad copy to in-store promotions or specials that can’t be delivered online. Brand terms will also perform differently.
In a separate campaign, target the geographies that are not supported by physical stores. Also take note of regional nuances in language. An example of this is; pop or soda? Some folks even use “coke” as a generic for any carbonated sweet beverage in a can. Use this knowledge to speak to your audience with the language they use.
Going international is often exciting for advertisers. There’s a sense of accomplishment to get orders from beyond your typical service area. Beware! Separating International markets from your primary market enables better management of your budget. More than half the world’s population is in the middle of their day before the sun rises in Chicago. That means your budget can be exhausted before your key market wakes up. While bids may be less as a result of fewer competitors, there are many concerns when going international. Some of the major issues include localization, cross barrier shipping, taxes, customer & sales support, serviceability and click fraud. Proceed with caution!
Useful link: AdWords Geo-targeting Options
Check out Part 2 in Eric Layland's three-part Q4 Online Retail Performance Tips series:
Give us a call if your paid search program is not meeting its potential, you need help optimizing your website for search (SEO) or are interested in social media marketing, conversion funnel optimization, landing page design or any other aspect of digital strategy.