Reach Holiday Shoppers Penny-Wise and Pound-Wiser

“As the wage earner here, it’s your responsibility to show some consumer confidence and start buying things that will get the economy going, and create profits and employment. Here’s a list of some big-ticket items I’d like for Christmas. I hope I can trust you to do what’s right for our country.”

Fortunately, not every consumer is as fanatically logical as Calvin from the famous comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. But at this point in early September, it’s hardly illogical for marketers to be consumed with talk of the 2010 holiday shopping season.

With over one-third of U.S. consumers already shopping for the holidays, it isn’t absurd to say these conversations should have begun months ago. The search channel, combining hyper-motivated consumer intent with vast audience reach, would be a good place to start.

Search Challenges

The Nintendo Wii, for instance, is poised for a big showing during the 2010 holidays. For marketers at Nintendo, to Wii game developers, to retailers selling the console — consumers searching for anything related to Nintendo Wii are easy pickings. These shoppers have clearly articulated what they want, and simply having a presence in search allows these vendors to meet that demand.

This singular focus on meeting demand, however, leaves them vulnerable to a variety of challenges:

  • With likely increased competition for visibility in search, can marketers really expect the same media costs (cost per click)?
  • If competitors begin targeting Nintendo Wii-related keywords to sell Xboxes, what will happen to Wii’s profit potential from the search channel?
  • When demand dies down in January, how will Nintendo bounce back and keep moving product off the shelves?

Just like any well-diversified investment portfolio, a broader and more intuitive digital channel strategy dampens the threat of these external factors. In fact, we can go so far as to make a bold claim:

To do better in search this holiday season, marketers need to spend less on search.

In an online shopping environment, relationship-building tends to precede the transaction of business (remember the role of social media in comparison shopping). It is around this premise that we can wrap holiday shopping demand in a neat package, surrounded by one key question: is the marketing department focused on just meeting holiday demand — or stimulating even more demand?

As December approaches, we can predict that, in most cases, the volume of highly qualified site traffic will expand in size. These visitors typically convert at a higher rate and a lower relative cost. They’re the folks at the bottom of the purchase funnel:

Purchase Funnel

Clicks at the high end of the funnel can be pricey in search. By whittling down there’s now budget left over to address the channels that stimulate demand: word-of-mouth, social media, and display advertising, for example.

These are the marketing investments that condition the marketplace. They make people aware of the product which meets their need, while giving the brand a relationship with consumers at an opportune time in the decision making process: the introduction.

With more educated and motivated consumers collectively raising the bar on search query volumes for branded keywords, higher transaction volumes follow, and in our experience, also higher revenues per transaction. This leads to a better overall competitive position, and certainly a more comfortable posture in early 2011 when the holiday rush is over.

Worried That it’s Too Late to Put This Plan Into Play?

There are many tactics which can be put to use, and many are accessible alongside search campaigns, within Google AdWords:

  • Retargeting. Most people who visit a brand/product website won’t buy on the spot. But they’re more qualified than most other people. Tagging these visitors and serving them display ads with tailored promotions is an efficient driver of more sales.
  • Product extensions. Instead of describing your product with two lines of copy, wouldn’t you rather feature it in a photo?
  • Click-to-call. A no-brainer for retailers. Mobile ads appear with a link to dial the store directly from an iPhone, Android, etc. Capture foot traffic while shoppers’ interest is at its peak!

You can find more tips on the AdWords blog and the Google Retail blog. And remember — this holiday season, to reach the Calvins of the world, think beyond just search.

Save up to $250! Register now for SES Chicago 2010, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place October 18-22! Early Bird rates expire Oct. 1!

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