Final 5 Tips for Improving Q4 Performance for Online Retailers

By October 18, 2011PPC

Photo: eCommerce shopper - Confluence Digital blogSo you’re back for more. Excellent! We hope the previous 10 tips for getting better pay per click (PPC) results during the holiday eCommerce rush have sparked ideas for you to try. We wrap up our three part series with five more ideas we hope will get you to ask questions of your current program. For our final 5 we tackle more advanced PPC tactics like remarketing as well as strategic activities such as planning your media and post-holiday focus.  We hope you find them valuable.

1. Remarketing: Stalking Browsers Until They Buy

Remarketing or retargeting is one of the more controversial tactics in digital marketing. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice it works like this; visitors who browse but don’t buy get cookied. When these visitors are surfing the web and visit sites that allow remarketing ads, they’ll see ads for sites they’ve visited in the past on which they got cookied. Often these ads are easy to spot as they can be out of context for the site on which they’ve being served. They can also reel back in and convert past browsers to buyers.

Remarketing needs some thought before executing. First you need to develop a large enough database of visitors cookied for retargeting to have a measurable impact. Next you need to develop an approach to audience segmentation. Note: When using Google Remarketing, there is a minimum number of cookied users required (approximately 500). The power of remarketing comes in the ability to segment the audiences based on their on-site behaviors. An approach for eCommerce sites would be segments for visitors to product pages and those who added items to their shopping cart but did not buy. Target this audience with compelling creative with strong calls to action.

Useful link: Remarketing Ideas from Google

2.  Live By Promotions, Die By Promotions

The gravitational pull of promotions is just too tempting to resist. Whether it’s a holiday tie-in or an inventory clearance, there’s always the temptation to use discounts to stimulate sales. BEWARE: you may be training your customers to expect a discount and they won’t buy unless offered one. I’m not suggesting that e-tailers shouldn’t use discounts, but avoid becoming addicted to them and use them strategically. On the flip side, I know of one large e-tailer who did not have a discount lined up during a pivotal week in the holiday season. With shoppers’ minds full of purchase intent a major opportunity was lost, not to mention a significant amount of revenue. Know your customers and what they react to.

Use promotions to increase average order size, attract first time customers and/or take business from competitors. Think about how you want to use PPC ads to bring attention to your promotions. If the promotions are compelling you’ll see increased click through rates, but if the onsite experience is poor there may be no increases at all. It’s critically important to look at the entire customer experience when using promotions.

3.  Know Your Key Dates: Green Monday?

Black Friday (11/25) and Cyber Monday (11/28) are terms any online retail marketer is aware of, but how about Green Monday (12/12)? There are several key dates for online retailers during Q4 and your PPC campaigns should be dialed in before these dates arrive. That means you’ve got holiday themed creative queued up ready to go. You’ve done landing page testing and addressed any leaky funnel issues. Perhaps most important, sufficient budget is allocated to capture the opportunity presented. What you might not realize is that sales will happen on these dates, but you can help prime the revenue pump by ramping up your media spend 3-5 days in advance. Doing so helps build top of mind awareness so when browsers turn to buyers; your brand is in their consideration set.

Two other days you need to consider are the last date your audience can receive order and review items by Christmas Eve with standard and expedited. Last but not least of the big days is December 26. That’s Boxing Day, the biggest shopping day in Canada. While the economy is
down globally, Canada has weathered the storm better than most and represents an $18.5B eCommerce market growing at double-digits according to an eMarketer study. Bottom line, your PPC program can do wonders but needs sufficient planning and resources to maximize the opportunity.

Useful link: Resources for Ecommerce Marketers

4.  Don’t Forget Post-Holiday Bargain Shoppers

In addition to Boxing Day creative teed up, also have your post-holiday promotions ready to go supported by PPC ad copy. The post-holiday period can be an opportune time to target new customers. Effectively executing a post-holiday sales push can get your new fiscal year off to a strong start. Many will have received cash or gift cards as gifts.  The extra buying power may be just what they needed to get that impulse item. Do you have excess stock of items than encourage the purchase of accessories? Review your website analytics and reallocate your PPC budget taking into consideration data for post-holiday product popularity.

Useful link: Holiday Season 2010 Post-mortem by ComScore

5.  Develop an Attribution Model: It Won’t Be Perfect

The Holy Grail of online retailing is development of an accurate and reliable attribution model. It’s not difficult to determine the touch points but it can be quite challenging to accurately assess the contribution value of each. Keep in mind attribution models get complex very quickly. If you’re a multi-channel retailer with online, store, catalog, call center, there are cross channel influences to be aware of. Then there’s the various media that may be used such as paid search, display, email, organic traffic efforts and traditional which all have an influence. Google has attempted to offer support with their search funnels for PPC campaign attribution. Unless you have a large scale program, the usefulness of the insights is limited. If you’ve not developed an attribution model before, use this year to set a baseline. Start simple adding complexity over time.

Useful link: Digital Media Campaign Attribution

Make sure to also check out Parts 1 and 2 in Eric Layland’s three-part Q4 Online Retail Performance Tips series:

Part 1: 5 Must-Do Tips for Awesome PPC Results in Q4

Part 2: 5 More Tips for Improving Q4 Performance for Online Retailers

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.


Eric Layland

Author Eric Layland

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