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Using search data to improve the shopping experience

Angela Harvey, Head of Planning, Traffik Group

With smartphones in hand, consumers now live in a perpetual state of shop.

According to a 2016 study by J.C. Williams Group, 25% of Canadian Gen Xers (those now 37-51) and 41% of Millennials (those now 20-36) are shopping on their smartphones. And when they’re at a store, that smartphone becomes a handy resource to help make real-time purchase decisions. From ratings and reviews to price comparisons, people can research nearly anything – even another retailer offering the same product. Does all this access to information make the shopping any easier? Perhaps. But when we look at a consumer journey filled with all these searches, there are certainly opportunities to make the experience even better.

Now that shopping begins with search, marketers really need to be smart about it. Most of us are familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which uses key words to make sure a brand or product shows up in relevant searches. There’s also Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which uses search data to offer up relevant ads. (Type “best stain remover” into your browser and you will invariably be offered an ad for Tide.) But for many marketers, that’s about it when it comes to search.

The thing is, this only scratches the surface of the ways people are actually using search.

Increasingly, people are turning to search for ideas and inspiration. US Google data shows that shopping-related searches for “ideas” on mobile have grown more than 55% in the past two years. Typical examples include “graduation party ideas” or “gift ideas for someone who likes to cook.”

Can you leverage an idea search for your brand or product, and what kind of idea makes sense? For our client, Walmart Canada, it was toy gift ideas during the holidays. We didn’t just serve up an ad for Walmart when people were searching for “toy gift ideas” but created the Walmart Toy Academy program to help take the guesswork out of buying toys, with personalized help at every step along the consumer journey.

Walmart Toy Academy

Everyone wants to feel like a hero by being able to put the perfect gift under the tree. But what’s going to be the right toy for the right kid, at the right price, this year? We mapped the consumer journey of a parent shopping for toys. From initial research to big ticket items bought on Black Friday to last minute stocking stuffers on the 24th, we identified lots of moments where people need help.

Then we scoured the web for search and social listening data to identify real-world trends. We analyzed what people were searching for and talking about to inform dynamic “Top Toy” lists to suit every interest and budget. Our lists changed as trends and inventory shifted, and as local weather impacted how people were shopping. We promoted the Walmart Toy Academy with a phased digital campaign with two hundred pieces of content that would intersect the consumer throughout their shopping journey. We leveraged search to give them the dynamic real-time information they needed to buy the perfect toys to make them heroes on Christmas morning.

The results? We drove purchase intent by 17% with a corresponding gain in toy revenue in e-commerce channels.

Leveraging search data in new ways is just starting to become a thing throughout the industry. At L’Oreal Paris, search insights inspired the creation of a new product, L’Oreal Paris’ Ombré hair kit. The marketing team had noticed a new look gaining popularity. And when they turned to search data they learned there was a jump in search for Ombré hair. That, coupled with the discovery of dissatisfaction with instructions for DIY, illuminated a gap just waiting for a solution.

Julie Chamberlain, VP of Marketing for L’Oreal Paris haircolour sums it up nicely: “Within L’Oreal what we did with the Ombré launch has really become a success model. It proves you can be nimble and respond to trends even if you’re a consumer packaged goods company. If you use search to stay close to the consumer, listen and really understand what she is looking for, you can react to it quite quickly.”

So make Google trends your next secret weapon to uncover search trends to leverage. From traditional Search Engine Marketing campaigns, to new product development, to exciting new ecommerce innovations, the world of search can illuminate a wealth of opportunities, most of which have yet to be discovered.

The Institute of Communication Agencies’ Report on Marketing is where leading Canadian agencies showcase their insights, cutting-edge research and client successes. The Report on Marketing provides a valuable source of thought leadership for Canadian marketers to draw inspiration from. Find more articles like this at the Report on Marketing.

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