Online to Offline: The Next Generation of Search

Content Takeover Mobile & Local SearchMarketers know where sales take place, but with today’s fragmented path to purchase, it’s difficult to understand which parts of an advertising campaign contributed to that end sale. Campaign analysis tools have not kept up with the modern shopper.

Consumers are shopping with smartphones – but their behavior is very different from online shopping. The mobile phone has changed consumer behaviors and changed the consumer’s path to purchase. In fact, mobiles are a primary way for shoppers to connect with physical stores in person or over the phone. And, while Walmart projects m-commerce sales in the U.S. to reach $34.5 billion by 2016, it expects mobile-influenced offline sales in that time frame to reach more than $700 billion. According to a recent study from Google/Ipsos, more than half of consumers call or visit a local business following a local search.

‘Even though the mobile device spans the online and the offline world, search is still very important, because consumers will almost always conduct a search sometime in the buying process,” notes Adarsh Nair, senior director of product and engineering at Marchex. 

Search: The Next Generation

The first generation of search technologies were all built around understanding online actions like lead forms and e-commerce purchases. These evolved to paid search automation platforms where you can bid for search media, and optimize based on online actions. But these platforms have not yet connected the dots when a consumer conducts a mobile search and makes a purchase over the phone or in-store.

Nair explains, “In order to get an accurate picture of the contributions of search, display, social, and other channels to sales and campaign ROI, marketers need to accurately attribute conversions including those that convert over-the-phone and in physical stores.” In the case of search, he says, they need to be able to attribute conversions to specific keywords in order to understand which keywords drove revenue and which didn’t.

Let’s take the example of a national tire retailer. Mobile customers may use their phones to connect with this retailer in several ways:

  • Purchasing tires or booking an appointment online
  • Calling a specific tire store to ask a question or book an appointment
  • Walking into a tire store after finding it via mobile search

This tire retailer is likely running a search campaign with several ad groups and multiple keywords that also includes click-to-call ads. In order to truly understand the return on its search investment and to optimize its campaigns, the retailer needs to be able to measure each of these scenarios at the keyword level.

According to Nair, in order to respond to the new mobile paradigm of shopping, we need a new generation of search technologies that can help marketers track the online–to-offline path to purchase. This next generation of search technology should also be able to connect keywords and online actions to these offline outcomes.

Data Science

The next generation of search technologies will be able to take the increasing volumes of data coming from search and other marketing channels and go beyond measurement to identifying patterns that are useful for optimization.

Nair says, “There is so much new data related to mobile search that we need data science and technology to assist marketers.” According to Nair, new types of data from mobile search include offline customer signals such as IVR presses, click-to-call response, and in-store purchases.

“Manual optimization for these factors is overwhelming, but data science and scalable technologies will bring them under the marketer’s control,” he adds.

The Takeaway

The winners in the next generation of search marketing will be those who are smarter about their approach to data. They’ll use advanced, scalable technologies and data science to gain a deeper understanding of online-to-offline behavior. They’ll manage bidding at the keyword level instead of the campaign level. And they’ll exploit revealed patterns in consumer behavior to optimize and manage campaigns hour-by-hour to reach mobile consumers when they’re ready and eager to shop.

Marchex

Sponsored content in collaboration with Marchex. Views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect Search Engine Watch’s opinions.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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