Over the past few years, in our own research and touted at various conferences, we've observed the trend of brand discovery behaviors moving far beyond the traditional search engine box and adoption of new paths to purchase continue to accelerate. In particular, consumers are increasingly moving from general search engines to direct commerce marketplaces -- Amazon, Walmart, Tmall.com, Souq.com, Flipkart, etc. According to Forrester, 31% of people used Amazon to research their most recent purchase (vs. 21% for search engines, U.S., 2017). There were 200 billion searches on Amazon in 2016 (Forrester, Global, 2017). Amazon is expected to take 1% global digital ad revenue share ($2.97 billion in revenue) by 2019 (eMarketer, Global, 2017).
So, how must brands evolve to drive performance in this new landscape?
- Think of Search as a Behavior, Not a Channel. We must stop thinking about search as a channel and start thinking about search as a behavior that spans across all marketing mediums, including marketplaces. Create and convert demand wherever it's expressed by interpreting consumer data, understanding consumer intent and connecting the journey, end-to-end.
- Take a Holistic Approach to Marketplaces. Like traditional search marketing, approach marketplace campaigns holistically. In planning, start with inputs like consumer intent data, platform data (e.g. Amazon metrics) and data from other channels like search, social and display. Then, create and align content across paid, owned and earned commerce opportunities. Paid opportunities include banners and video, marketplace paid search ads and other real-time, biddable ads. Owned opportunities include optimizing product feeds, product descriptions, store brand pages, images and videos. Earned strategies include consumer review acquisition and amplification. Test and learn to not only continually refine keywords and content, but also inform marketplace strategies like new product development, packaging or SKU prioritization.
- Move from Plain Text to Full Senses. Optimization of ads and experiences must move from best practices around plain text to best practices around full senses -- sight and voice. Commerce marketplaces are leading the way in voice search. Amazon is expected to ship 10+ million voice assistance devices in 2017, and Google, Baidu, Alibaba and Facebook are nipping on Amazon's heels. With a voice assistant in every home -- directly connected to a commerce marketplace like Amazon -- brands must structure their product listings and content for voice search visibility. Search keyword and copy strategies, in particular, must reflect the conversational nature of voice search, as opposed to traditional text search.
- Employ Marketplace Intelligence. Many marketplaces, like Amazon, are in the early stages, especially when it comes to reporting. Therefore, brands should consider utilizing outside applications that enable insights (like granular reporting, performance pacing or budget forecasting) beyond what's currently available via the platforms directly.
Brands -- especially in retail and CPG -- must plan and activate a marketplace strategy that aligns with the changing landscape of brand discovery and continue to research and discover for themselves exactly how to connect marketplaces to performance.
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