Q4 is closing in and retailers are bracing for yet another record-breaking onslaught of promotions, traffic, sales and revenue that will make or break the business calendar. With the end of back-to-school comes the inevitable code freezes and holiday lockdowns. So while production teams audit for site stability, scalability and vulnerability, there’s no better time to take a step back and audit your marketing program.
In this post, I’ll present three different ways you can take your marketing program to the next level — conversion rate optimization, intent recognition and product exposure.
High Purchase Intent Leads To Competition
Holiday time is unique and unlike any other time of year. Purchase intent is high and consumers have come to expect heavy discounts, free shipping and flash sales. Retailers play to the increased demand and ramp up advertising efforts to get a piece of the pie. This influx of competition to the advertising landscape has driven up CPCs year over year over year. So, while there’s a lot of revenue up for grabs, it doesn’t come cheap.
In the diagram above, we observe a steady CPC increase of 10-15% year-over-year during the months of November and December. With CPCs constantly rising over time, the best way to keep ad cost down is to increase conversion rate.
A 10% increase in conversion rate offsets a 10% increase in CPC. A/B testing tools like Optimizely, Unbounce, Google Content Experiments and Visual Website Optimizer (among many others) provide the toolset to test and iterate on landing pages and post-click purchase paths.
If at all possible, try to implement a testing tool immediately to begin the process of increasing conversion rates. Conversion rate optimization involves elements of design and analysis, so if you’re not an expert in both, seek out help from colleagues to keep a steady flow of ideas to test coming down the pipe.
Upper Funnel / Lower Funnel
Another behavior pattern to consider leading up to and during the holiday season is research versus purchase intent. With sale season on the horizon, consumers looking for specific, high-average-order-value products will begin researching early and continue until sales begin.
Understanding informational or transactional intent based on signals such as search queries, display placements and site interactions to tailor ad copy toward perceived intent will gain trust in your brand and lead to sales down the road. Not every click will lead to a sale, but every click is an opportunity to build your brand and establish a relationship with a future customer.
By offering reviews and top results listing within the ad, bbqguys.com showcases a clear understanding of the informational nature of my query. On the other hand, Home Depot doesn’t recognize my intent and serves up transactional messaging — they will most likely not be getting my business.
Feeding The Monster
After all the research is done and it comes time to buy, comparison shopping usually plays a critical role in closing the sale. Having a well-maintained Google Merchant Feed is crucial, as it impacts shopping results and Product Listing Ads (PLAs).
PLAs have grown significantly since being introduced in the summer of 2012 and now represent between 20-30% of most retailer paid search budgets. Optimizing merchant feed fields including product titles and the AdWords redirect attribute will generate cleaner results and better post-click experiences. If you have thousands of products and limited resources to optimize the feed, focus on the highest volume products within your target holiday price range.
There are always ways to improve upon the current state of accounts, and there’s no time like the present to begin the process. By optimizing conversion rates, linking ads to user intent, and ensuring exposure on product searches, you’re program will flourish. Don’t push back the pre-holiday audit as November will be upon us before you know it.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.