The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

Retail

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are just table stakes for retailers to compete in the first-ever $1 trillion holiday shopping season. The real competitive advantage is coming from shipping.

Based on the client work I do, I’ve always known that favorable shipping can help a retailer compete more effectively during the holiday shopping season. Low-cost, rapid shipping caters to the needs of today’s on-demand consumer who want products curated and sent to them and oftentimes at the last minute.

But what’s changed dramatically about the 2018 season is the Amazon effect. Earlier in November, Amazon announced free shipping with no minimum purchase required from November 5 onward. Amazon did not announce a cut-off date, but it will probably be December 22. Now, this change to its shipping policy is huge. Amazon accomplishes two objectives with free shipping during the holidays:

  • Beating Target and Walmart. These two retail giants had announced more liberal shipping and returns policies of their own in October. Walmart had announced it would expand two-day shipping to the entire Walmart marketplace beginning November 1. And Walmart also said that products purchased through its marketplace could be returned Walmart brick-and-mortar stores products purchased through its marketplace. Target had announced free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase or REDcard membership required from November 1-December 22. Amazon trumped both.
  • Luring shoppers to Amazon Prime. Amazon hopes that anyone using free shipping during the holidays will get a taste of what Prime members enjoy all the time – and, presumably, sign up for Prime, where many more benefits await. For example, Prime members get free same-day delivery on millions of items and free two-day shipping on many more. Prime is the center of Amazon’s on-demand world, which encompasses services ranging from entertainment to retail.

Smaller retailers have a harder time competing on those kinds of terms, but try they must. If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, advertising on-demand services such as delivery, shipping, and online ordering/in-store pick-up is key to winning this holiday season. It’s important that you manage your online advertising, including your paid search and display, to show how well you service the on-demand shopper. If you need help, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Walmart

Four Alternatives to Last-Click Attribution

Four Alternatives to Last-Click Attribution

Attribution Modeling

Advertisers have become accustomed to the belief that the final click that leads directly to the conversion is the most important click – hence the affinity for last-click attribution. But it’s important that businesses transition away from last-click attribution. That’s because last-click attribution fails to account for the value of the entire conversion path.

Most marketers would agree that their brand campaigns drive a large number of conversions and have very low costs per action (CPAs). Of course the cost per clicks (CPCs) in brand campaigns tend to be very low, but those campaigns are also benefiting from last-click attribution models.

Let’s think about a customer journey for a moment. With the holiday shopping season upon us, many of us will start our search for the perfect gifts with some online searching. Here’s how one of my searches might look:

Top electronic gifts 2018 -> Fitness Trackers -> Top Rated Fitness Trackers ->Apple Watch

In the example above, the brand campaign housing the keyword “Apple Watch” would get 100-percent of the conversion credit if you use the last-click model. Clearly, I did not start my search on a branded keyword, yet the brand campaign gets full credit. When marketers use last-click attribution, they generally see that non-brand keywords achieve low conversation rates and high CPAs, and brand keywords achieve high conversion rates and low CPAs. But is this approach really a fair way to evaluate our campaign and keyword performance?

Marketers have all seen non-brand keywords fail to work well in a campaign. They may be costly to run, and rarely do we see strong conversions. I have paused my fair share of non-brand keywords as I can’t justify their worth to my clients. Not surprisingly, I see search volume decline; and although my CPA often times improves, my overall number of conversions also begins to decline. What we have been missing is the ability to see the value of the entire conversion path.

Alternative Models

One of the main focuses for Google this year has been transitioning clients from last-click attribution into a model that gives credit to each paid click in the user journey. Currently, there several different attribution models available in Google Ads.

Let’s take a look at some of the choices:

Data-Driven Attribution

The model Google recommends most is data-driven attribution, which uses Google’s machine learning technology to determine how much credit to assign each click in the paid search journey. This attribution model is all based on an advertiser’s own data and continues to “learn” over time.

Data-driven attribution takes both converting and non-converting paths into account, and it’s powered by dynamic algorithms that assign credit to touch points based on fractional credit. Google recommends choosing data-driven attribution when available. Unfortunately, this attribution model is not always an option as it requires 15,000 clicks on Google search and 600 conversions over a 30-day period.  Although smaller advertisers will not have access to this attribution model, there are still some good options available.

Linear Model

The linear model distributes the credit for the conversion equally across all clicks on the conversion path. If it takes four clicks for a searcher to convert, each click receives an equal part of the total conversion credit.

Time Decay Model

The Time Decay Model gives more credit to clicks that happen closer in time to the actual conversion. For example, if the path to conversion takes five clicks, the time decay model would assign an increasing proportion of credit with each subsequent click, with the final click that led to the conversion receiving the most credit.

Position-Based Model

The Position Based Model gives 40 percent of the conversion credit to the first click, 40 percent to the last click in the conversion path, and the remaining 20 percent across the other clicks on the path.

A Recommended Approach

As mentioned above, if the data-driven attribution model is an option for your campaigns, always choose that. But if you don’t have enough data available for that option, how do you go about choosing among the other options? Google offers a few suggestions:

  • Choose a time decay model if your client has a conservative growth strategy, is a market leader, and has little competition. In this scenario, the final clicks in the conversion path will get more credit.
  • If your client is growth oriented, new to the market, and is facing a lot of competition, choose a position-based model where the first and last clicks in the conversion path will get the most credit while the clicks in between will receive a smaller portion.
  • If your client falls somewhere in between, you may opt for a linear model, giving equal credit to all the clicks on the conversion path.

There is no absolute right or wrong choice, and any of the models you choose will give you better insight into the complete conversion path more than the last-click model can. Google also offers an attribution modeling tool in Google Ads that allows you to change attribution models and compare results among the different model types.

Outcomes of Different Models

No matter what attribution model you choose, you should anticipate a decline in brand conversions and an increase in non-brand conversions. The actual number of conversions will remain the same regardless of the model you choose. But you will see fractional conversions reported, indicating each campaign/ad group/keyword that played a role on the conversion path.

So let’s revisit my holiday shopping search from above:

Top electronic gifts 2018 -> Fitness Trackers -> Top Rated Fitness Trackers -> Apple Watch

If I used a position-based attribution model, here would be the new breakdown for conversion credit:

  • 40 percent of the credit would be given to “top electronic gifts 2018.”
  • 10 percent of the credit would be given to “fitness trackers.”
  • 10 percent of the credit would be given to “top rated fitness trackers.”
  • 40 percent of the credit would be given to “Apple Watch.”

Using last-click attribution, I would see keywords “top electronic gifts 2018,” “fitness trackers,” and “top rated fitness trackers” appear to be poor performers, as all of the conversion credit would have gone to “Apple Watch.” Conversely, if I were to use the position-based model, I would see that all of those keywords together played a role in the conversion path — and I would have a better understanding of the value of my non-brand keywords. This insight would allow me to make smarter decisions when optimizing.

Without question, we are able to make smarter decisions when we have a better understanding of the full conversion path. I suggest taking some time to experiment with the various attribution models using the attribution modeling tool in Google Ads. Based on your findings, select the attribution model that best suits your goals. I have found the additional conversion path insight to be valuable.

For more insight into how to improve the performance of your online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Google

School is always in session at True Interactive. We regularly learn about Google products through Google’s Partner Academy, which keeps its advertising partners in the know about key product updates.  At a recent Partner Academy event in Chicago, we got immersed in Google’s recently launched smart shopping campaigns. Smart shopping combines multiple campaigns running on Google ad networks and uses machine learning to maximize their performance. My take: retailers should jump on smart shopping now to maximize your holiday campaigns.

Smart shopping combines shopping and dynamic remarketing campaigns into one product available on all networks where people are conceivably shopping:

  • Search.
  • Display.
  • Remarketing.
  • YouTube.

Smart shopping provides an efficient way for advertisers to roll up multiple campaigns into one. In addition, Google optimizes performance of your campaign across each network. According to Google’s blog,

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

To help you get the best value from each ad, Google also automates ad placement and bidding for maximum conversion value at your given budget.

The main advantage of the product is that Google serves your ads among the four networks where they perform best. In addition, smart shopping offers a more efficient spend, more sensible budgeting (you fund only one campaign and let Google optimize your budget), and a simplified approach to campaign management. The product is a boon for large retailers running complex campaigns, including, of course, holiday campaigns.

There is a downside, though: you cannot break out results by the four types of shopping experiences. Therefore you cannot really optimize toward the best performing format. When I asked Google about this limitation, I was told that providing this breakout is one of Google’s highest priorities for smart shopping campaigns in 2019. So, stay tuned.

In addition, you cannot apply negatives, such as negative keywords and topics, to your campaign. So if you want to, say, exclude news topics to avoid having your ad appear alongside an undesirable topic, you cannot do so.

The format also has limits. Smart shopping supports only two bid types: maximum conversion value and target return on ad spend. You also have to install the dynamic remarketing tag on to your site, which drops a cookie on users’ browsers and draws on the product ID as well as the revenue and other attributes to create audiences. (By contrast, with standard remarketing, you don’t need to fuss with this tag. You can use a generic tag that applies everywhere.)

Since smart shopping campaigns take about 15 days to really take effect, make sure you plan ahead so that you hit peak performance on days that matter most to you, such as Cyber Monday. If you have questions about how to deploy smart shopping campaigns, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Note: this post is the first in a four-part series on recently launched ad products from Google. Watch our blog for more posts.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/working-macbook-computer-keyboard-34577/

Google Broadens Exact Match: What You Need to Know

Google Broadens Exact Match: What You Need to Know

Google

Our clients have been asking us about some recent news regarding how Google defines exact match. Here’s what’s going on and what you need to know:

Broadening “Exact Match”

Exact match is a keyword match type. With exact match keywords, a business can conduct a paid search campaign and reach potential customers searching for a specific keyword that you’re bidding on; or some close variant of it.

Google recently broadening the meaning of an exact match. Google is now looking at user intent when matching a query against a keyword. As Google noted in a blog post, Google will show ads for searches that include implied words, paraphrases, and other terms with the same meaning. Here’s how Google explains the change:

Let’s say you’re marketing for a travel business. If you’re using the exact match keyword [yosemite camping], your ads may show on other terms like “yosemite campground,” “campsites in yosemite,” or “yosemite national park ca camping.”

In each case, the intent of the search still matches the original keyword: to go camping in Yosemite National Park. However, you wouldn’t show on terms like “yosemite hotel” or “best yosemite camping,” because while both refer to staying at the park, the intent is different. Instead, these terms would match to the broad match version of this keyword.

This update represents a major change to Google’s algorithm. Why the change? According to Google, roughly 15 percent of searches conducted every day are new. As a result, potential customers might be looking for products and services using terms and phrases that are not even on your radar screen. But now, with machine learning, Google can cast its net wider without advertisers needing to manage an ever-expanding keyword list.

Benefits

Both advertisers and Google should benefit from this change. Businesses should be able to reach more people using Google’s advertising products. According to Google, advertisers using mostly exact match keywords see 3 percent more exact match clicks and conversions on average, with most coming from queries they aren’t reaching today. Google also benefits by matching user queries to a broader pool of keywords – which means more clicks, traffic, and revenue for Google.

What You Should Do

I advise any advertiser to keep a close eye on your search query reports (SQRs). You may notice unexpected queries matched to your keywords. You may need to add keyword negatives to modify your campaign. All algorithm changes have an impact. So watch your reports closely and be ready to adapt as needed. If you have additional questions about exact match targeting, contact True Interactive. We’re happy to help!

Advertiser Q&A: Bing LinkedIn Profile Targeting

Advertiser Q&A: Bing LinkedIn Profile Targeting

Bing

Bing has been rolling out in beta mode a feature that makes it possible for businesses to target Bing advertisements by relying on LinkedIn data. The feature, known as LinkedIn profile targeting, is an example of how Microsoft is monetizing LinkedIn a few years after Microsoft purchased the popular business-to-business platform. In the following Q&A, we answer questions that our clients are asking about LinkedIn profile targeting. 

1 How does LinkedIn profile targeting work?

With this new feature, businesses running search campaigns in Bing can target people based on information they’ve shared on their LinkedIn profiles – specifically their industries, companies, and job functions.

So, let’s say I want to run an online search campaign targeting marketers in the financial service sector. I can target ads toward people who have identified themselves on LinkedIn with that specific job function in that particular vertical.

2 What’s the advantage to using Linked profile targeting?

According to Bing, LinkedIn profile targeting offers three advantages:

  • Relevance: LinkedIn can help you target the right audience. More-targeted audiences allow you to bid boost more precisely.
  • Ease of use: you can set up LinkedIn profile targeting in minutes.
  • Unique to Bing ads: Bing Ads is the only digital advertising platform (outside of LinkedIn) to offer LinkedIn profile targeting.

3 Who is a good match for LinkedIn profile targeting?

LinkedIn profile targeting is ideal for any business-to-business company. Bing can target:

  • 145 industries including consumer goods, hospitality, and financial services.
  • 80,000 companies such as Adobe, Disney, and Starbucks.
  • Job functions such as marketing, finance, and operations.

Also, this tool could be a more efficient way for smaller B2B companies who want to capitalize on LinkedIn but might find LinkedIn advertising products to be a too costly. LinkedIn profile targeting makes it possible for those businesses to capitalize on LinkedIn’s audience in a more cost-effective way.

4 What are the limitations of LinkedIn targeting?

  • The feature might not be as useful for consumer-facing firms.
  • The feature is based on job function (e.g., marketing), not title (e.g., CMO). So you can’t target people with specific titles.
  • LinkedIn profile targeting is based on information that LinkedIn users share about themselves. It’s only as accurate as the data people report.

5 I don’t use Bing. Why should I consider Bing in the first place?

Advertisers should consider Bing for a number of reasons. For example, the typical consumer on Bing spends more per purchase. My colleague Tim Colucci shared more reasons in an October blog post, “Why Advertisers Need Bing.” Check it out for more insight.

Plus, I believe there is much more value to LinkedIn profile targeting that I hope Bing will make available to advertisers soon. I would like to see Bing expand this new feature to include enhanced demographic/behavioral filtering. For instance, it would be useful if we could target certain interests and specific abilities/knowledge (either based on self-reported data or on post engagement) and maybe even years of experience. This capability would have a number of benefits. For instance, in the higher education space, universities could offer an operations management MBA program to target candidates with more than two years of experience who have field-related abilities like strong communication skills, and who share an interest in inventory forecasting, logistics, and quality control.

6 What should I do next if I am interested?

It’s a closed pilot. Not everyone can just do it. Reach out to your Bing representative or agency partner, such as True Interactive. Contact us. We’d love to help!

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google

Google is working harder to woo advertisers as the company faces stiffer competition from Amazon and Facebook. For example, Google rolled out responsive search ads and responsive display ads to make the advertising platform more flexible for brands. It is important that advertisers understand these features and how to maximize their value.

How Responsive Search and Display Ads Work

According to Google, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

Responsive display ads work the same way, with advertisers submitting up to up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions, and five logos for a display ad. As with responsive search ads, Google uses machine learning to test different combinations and show the ads that work best. According to Google, “On average, advertisers see 10% more conversions at a similar CPA when using multiple headlines, descriptions, and images with responsive display ads (versus a single set of assets).”

What You Need to Know

Based on our experience with clients, I see some near-term ramifications:

  • Your advertising will become more effective. These formats are exciting because they capitalize on machine learning to scale your advertising content. As Google notes, “Great display ads assist consumers using rich images and useful information. However, showing the most relevant and engaging ads across millions of sites and apps isn’t easy.” Responsive ads are a compelling solution.
  • Organic content pays a price. By making ads more effective, Google will push organic listings down in search results.
  • You need to invest more effort. Yes, Google does do the heavy lifting when it comes to executing on your ads. But to get the most out of this format, you’ll need to come up with more variants of your message and images. (That’s the point of responsive search and display: Google takes multiple inputs to give you optimal results.) In addition, you’ll want to monitor which assets are performing best, which takes time and effort (although Google provides tips for doing so on its blog).

What You Should Do

  • Review your messaging strategy. Having more variants of your content presents an opportunity to review your messaging and differentiators. You obviously don’t want to create content willy-nilly. All your content should support your brand in some way.
  • Learn. The Google blog links I’ve shared above contain a number of tips for maximizing the value of these ads. For instance, with responsive search ads, Google advises that you include at least one of your keywords in your headlines, and create headlines that are relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. Furthermore, provide as many distinct headlines as you can. Per Google, “More headlines gives Google Ads more options for assembling your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.”

At True Interactive, we’re working with clients to plan and execute advertising with these and many other tools. We’ll report our learnings on our blog. Watch for our posts, and contact us if you need help with your online advertising.

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Display Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Display Ads

Amazon

All eyes are on Amazon this holiday season, with eight out of 10 shoppers planning to search Amazon for holiday deals. In September, Amazon organized all its advertising tools under one offering, Amazon Advertising, to help businesses capitalize on the gushing river of shoppers flooding the site. Our clients have been asking about the tools available under Amazon Advertising. Perhaps you are wondering, too. Recently I blogged one of those products, Amazon sponsored ads. Now let’s take a look at Amazon’s display advertising solutions.

1 What is Amazon’s Display Advertising Solution?

Amazon has two very different display advertising options. The first, which was discussed in the last post in this series, consists of product display ads. This ad type is part of Amazon’s pay-per-click (PPC) offerings, has limited reach and ad options, but is available to everyone who wants to advertise on Amazon.

The second option, and the main focus of this post, consists of Amazon display ads. These ads use specific audiences with custom creatives to target people on Amazon and Amazon-owned and third-party sites, apps, and devices. An advertiser can manage the ads themselves through the Amazon demand-side platform (DSP), or they can work with a team of experts.

2 Why Would an Advertiser Use Display Ads?

Just like any programmatic display strategy, an advertiser would use display ads on Amazon to show relevant ads to people who are in their target audience. The seemingly endless list of ad sizes, formats, and placements means that there is just as many options for creative customization, reaching consumers on all devices, both on and off Amazon. Couple that with the advanced audience options available, and almost anything becomes possible. An advertiser can reach current and new audiences at any stage in the search funnel:

  • Build awareness of a brand or product by using look-alike audiences based off of current customer information.
  • Get people when they are in the research phase through product or interest-based targeting.
  • Reengage with customers during their purchase decision using audience lists based on buy behaviors and what pages they’ve visited on and off Amazon.
  • Send customized messages to people who’ve already made a purchase encouraging them to become repeat customers.

3 Are There Any Limitations to Display Ads?

The main limitation with Amazon display ads is the price. Amazon requires a $35,000 budget for a campaign before they will let you have access to any of these features. The product display ads that are part of the sponsored ad solutions do not require any minimum spend amounts and may be a better fit for smaller advertisers or advertisers looking for a smaller test on Amazon.

4 How Can Advertisers Maximize the Value of Display Ads?

Think about your brand and what’s already on the plan for the year. Is there a big product launch or holiday push coming up? Are you noticing declining new customer sales? Is it time to reengage previous purchasers? Taking the time to identify what you really want to achieve with the display ads is the first step in maximizing the value of this ad format. Identify what the goal is, what the important metrics are, and how success will be measured.

Next, don’t rush the creative process. Have unique ads for each audience and goal, if there’s more than one. Understand that someone seeing an ad while they’re relaxing at home during the evening might respond differently than someone actively searching Amazon on their lunch break.

Finally, consider using display ads as a part of a larger tactic strategy. Display ads may not result in immediate direct sales, but do have an impact in other areas. Product searches and subsequent purchases typically go up once a display campaign has been launched. Visits to the brand website can also be expected to go up.

If you’re interested in Amazon display ads, but don’t know where to start or need assistance strategizing and managing them, please reach out to us at True Interactive.

Watch our blog for the final post in the series on Amazon video ads.

Image source: https://www.udemy.com/amazon-pay-per-click-advertising-ppc/