Eye-level shelf space. Interactive video kiosks at the end of the aisle. A branded banner spanning the store entrance. For decades, product marketers and merchandisers have strived to get their brands into the ideal location where they can dominate the competition and impact buyers at the point of purchase.
But consumer behavior and shopping dynamics have changed drastically with the mass adoption of eCommerce.
• Fact. 80% of today’s product searches begin online.
• Fact. Consumers begin their search on retail sites 25% more than traditional search engines.
• Fact. More than 70% of shoppers click on products in the top ten slots.
• Fact. Users associate premium placement with top brands.
The implications for brand marketers, manufacturers and those tasked with moving products through the retail channel are tremendous. And the real challenge lies in applying best practices from the brick and mortar world, and making them work on the Web. With millions of searches occurring daily, the real challenge is in maintaining maximum visibility whenever and wherever relevant product searches are happening.
While search engines – the first generation of paid search – have done an excellent job helping consumers determine where to go for specific purchases, the cost of paid search has risen exponentially, and brand marketers have paid dearly to rise to the top of those lists where they are most likely to influence consumers. The next generation of search – or searchandising –combines the tactics of cost-per-click bidding with the proven strategies of merchandising, where brands vie for premium position. With search engines only able take your brand so far, and with retail sites quickly eclipsing search engines as a starting point for the purchase process, it’s critical that marketers are thinking beyond traditional search and evaluating solutions to capture consumer attention in the online storefront.
So, how can you ensure your brand gains maximum visibility?
1. Get in front of your best customers.
With the lion’s share of product research starting online, advertising online has become a more important part of the marketing mix. We know that search engines have displaced catalogs and manufacturer Web sites, and retail sites have displaced search engines as the point of initiation for a product purchase. Most consumers are starting online, consulting multiple sources for features, prices and promotions. So, it is more important than ever to maximize visibility, consistently capture mindshare and awareness at the online point of purchase. Successful product marketers need to re-evaluate how to make an impact across the virtual shelves of retail sites, as they’ve done in-store over the years.
2. Maintain Momentum throughout the Buying Cycle.
Marketers spend against online and offline media to build strong brands and generate awareness, all with an end goal of selling more products. In today’s economy, it’s all about justifying the investment which has propelled email marketing and search to the front of the pack with their measurable ROI and pay only for performance model. And all of these vehicles help build the momentum that ideally ends in some sort of local search for where to buy a specific product.
But the process doesn’t stop there. If you’ve helped build momentum to the point where someone gets in the car and heads to the store, you have the option of purchasing interactive displays, end-caps and eye-level shelf space to engage the prospect at point of purchase. Yet, in a world that’s quickly going online, keeping the conversation going with a prospect is a challenge, engaging the consumer amongst the virtual shelves is much harder, and much more densely populated.
Innovative merchandising solutions are emerging that combine the best of paid search, and help manufacturers bid for premium placement across those virtual shelves within the retail sites where product searches and purchases are happening. These solutions help maintain the momentum you’ve worked so hard to build by ensuring your products are positioned in those premium areas where 70 percent of buyers are more inclined to click, and ultimately purchase.
3. Know Your Strengths…and Your Weaknesses
In any given product category, there’s a finite universe of clicks, and it’s increasingly important to understand how you’re faring competitively in capturing those clicks. Traditional online marketing doesn’t always provide this critical piece of data. Web analytics and innovative reporting can uniquely demonstrate the gains made from an increased cost per click, or help measure the impact of going from the fifth to the third search slot. It’s essential to choose a solution with this depth of reporting in order to help cost justify the investment, and illustrate the competitive effects of changing location.
As an example, if you look at the crowded flat panel TV arena, we saw a vendor take their click share from 14 percent to 18 percent across a network of leading retail and comparison shopping sites – a 29 percent increase. At the same time, we know that the advertiser’s biggest competitor saw a drop of 25 percent of the clicks across the same network because they weren’t investing in elevating their position online.
Just as marketers spend billions of dollars each year on in-store promotion, end-cap and eye-level displays at the point of purchase in the brick and mortar world, these practices can be translated to the Web – by retooling traditional search results to integrate cost-per-click bids for preferred placement across product listings and search results. It’s virtual shelf space as a means of capturing buyer attention and mindshare. And in this arena, location is everything.
John Federman is president and CEO of Searchandise Commerce, the first Online Media Network for product manufacturers and their retail channel partners. John can be reached at: