Retailers have been thrown for a loop with the pandemic. Panic buying, product shortages, and ever-changing buying behaviors have left many retailers guessing at what’s to come. And for retail marketing teams, knowing what products and programs to focus on has become a real challenge.
But for one retailer, hand sanitizer was a light bulb of inspiration.
In March 2020, as health and hygiene became priorities to combat the spread of Coronavirus, the retailer (like everyone else) saw internal search traffic on their web site for hand sanitizer go through the roof.
While this wasn’t an unexpected trend, given the CDC, physicians, and others’ recommendation, the company had deployed an automated business analysis platform that flagged the behavior as soon as the search volume elevated above normal, expected levels for search queries.
This sparked an idea for the retailer. What if the search terms shoppers entered on the web site could be used to better target paid advertising keywords for PPC or digital ad campaigns? The marketing team could then bid on those specific keywords, drive more traffic to the web site and increase sales of the exact products their customers were looking for during the pandemic.
Using internal search queries to inform bids on ads such as PPC isn’t a new idea, but using an AI-driven analytics platform to understand search behavior daily gave this retailer a leg up on the competition. They saw the trend before the competition, which means they were the first to act on this new opportunity.
Most marketers use Google Analytics to identify visitors’ words or phrases when searching within their own organization’s web site. And Google Analytics provides a basic recommendation based on site traffic and advertising campaigns. But this information is limited. It primarily tells marketers where to spend more advertising dollars because it is restricted to Google Analytics’ information. It can’t tell you how to optimize those dollars better outside or more or less spend.
Using the Outlier automated business analysis platform, the retail marketing team proactively received daily reports that showed exactly what words or phrases visitors were using against expected usage volumes. Keywords that exceeded or fell below expected ranges could then be easily used to tweak marketing programs right away. The platform automatically alerted the team to changes in search data, it provided the data analysis and offered an automatic root cause analysis suggestion.
As the pandemic continued, it became apparent that families sheltering-in-place were missing comfort food they could not get because of restrictions on dining out. Customer search terms shifted to items like waffle makers and air fryers. With this information, they bid on the keywords “waffle maker” and “air fryer” to mirror customer interests, driving more traffic to their site and promoted those products more prominently on their home page and category pages.
On the opposite side, data also revealed that dresses were no longer a great fit for the retailer’s home page since consumers started staying in and working from home during the pandemic. By understanding these declining trends, the retailer was able to determine what products were best suited for home and category pages displays.
In a similar situation, an online retailer learned that shoes and activewear were greatly increasing in search volume during the pandemic, up between 612% and 9,911%. Their automated business analysis platform alerted on this unexpected change and the marketing team immediately saw an opportunity to promote these product categories further.
They discovered that long-tail search results were scoring higher in customer searches. Empowered with this insight, the team could better navigate user search terms, make shifts in the product mix and more efficiently meet sheltered-in-place customers’ needs. By simply adjusting the marketing approach and moving these products to a prominent space on the home page, the retailer saw purchase volumes of activewear and shoes increase by 15%.
The Coronavirus pandemic presented unparalleled hurdles for all retailers, but for both of these brands, using automated business analysis presented an opportunity to optimize marketing based on real-time customer behaviors, create better performing websites and digital ad strategy and increase revenue. With customer buying behavior anticipated to continue to evolve and change through 2021, having the tools to identify opportunities to shift marketing tactics on a daily basis can shield retail brands from large swings in performance and conversions while building brand equity with shoppers by consistently meeting their changing needs.