December 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

SPONSORED SUPPLEMENT: Online Marketing

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Text vs. e-mail

Just as retailers are in the early stages of figuring out social media marketing, the same is true for mobile marketing. One lesson from early adopters: Don’t repurpose the content from other marketing channels in messages sent to customers’ mobile phones.

In this case, the biggest pitfall is putting the content of an e-mail message into an SMS text message. (SMS stands for Short Message Service.) SMS is an offspring of e-mail and using it to summarize the content of an e-mail message that has also been sent to the customer is a redundant use of content sent in two different formats through the online channel. Nor do retailers want to use SMS texts to direct a customer to a marketing-based e-mail.

“Like every marketing channel, mobile has its own identity and consumers that use the channel to communicate have certain expectations for SMS texts,” says Harrison of Yesmail. “An SMS text has to deliver a value message beyond what the consumer has seen in another channel.”

One way to effectively tie an SMS text to an e-mail is to use the SMS text as a follow-up to an e-mail promotion the consumer opened earlier. If the e-mail promoted a retailer’s in-store offer, the SMS text could include a link to a web site with directions to the nearest store to reinforce the e-mail’s call to action.

“It’s a deeper, more sophisticated approach to marketing,” Harrison adds. “There has been a lot of experimentation in the past year with mobile marketing and retailers that leverage the knowledge gained from those tests are going to be the ones that develop more sophisticated and successful cross-channel marketing campaigns.”

In addition to providing full-service, self-service, hybrid e-mail marketing and social networking assessment tools, Yesmail offers mobile marketing services to create e-mail campaigns for retailers who are ready to start or build out their multichannel marketing communications, whether that be mobile, social or web-based.

Smarter search marketing

While social networking and mobile may be the newest channels on marketers’ radar, paid and organic search remains a staple of any online marketing strategy because so many online consumers start a shopping trip at a search engine.

The growing number of online marketing channels makes it more important to coordinate paid search ad campaigns with other promotional efforts. Terms a retailer promotes in another channel, such as on television or in e-mail, may start converting better when they appear in paid ads on search results pages. And the reverse is true as well: paid search conversion data can provide cues for the terms that retailers can use in other channels.

“Once retailers understand which keywords consumers are converting on and entering into their search query they can create promotions for other marketing channels that use those keywords,” says iProspect’s Kaminski. “After seeing those keywords in another marketing channel consumers are likely to remember them when performing a search. The goal is to write a paid search ad that is tailored to the search channel, but which builds on the marketing message used in another channel without repeating it verbatim.”

Careful attention to paid search click-through and conversion data can help retailers fine-tune marketing campaigns as they go. For instance, retailers can adjust a search campaign to highlight a variety of product attributes, then invest more heavily in those keywords that stimulate click-throughs and shopping activity.

“If the product is relatively common, the initial keyword terms selected may be too common to stimulate interest,” says Kaminski. “Keyword performance data that identify keyword terms that reflect more of why consumers want the product can improve campaign performance.”

Services offered by iProspect include search engine optimization, paid inclusion management, pay-per-click management and shopping feed management. In addition, iProspect can take the pulse of the market every four hours by measuring traffic patterns generated by a competitor’s keywords, the prices paid for keywords, how many competitors are bidding for a keyword and whether they are going after like keywords.

Getting acquainted

Paid search is not all about making sales; it can also be about retaining customers. That’s particularly true for discount retailers whose brands are not well known. During the economic downturn, it’s become more common for consumers to make impulse purchases from discount retailers they’ve not purchased from before.

Once the consumer makes an impulse “discount-led purchase” from a discount retailer with which they are unfamiliar, it is not uncommon for the shopper to have second thoughts. To minimize post-purchase uneasiness, the consumer is likely to conduct a search on the retailer to find any consumer-generated reviews or ratings about the retailer that would reaffirm her purchase decision.

Because first-time customers often take this action, an opportunity exists for the discount retailer to generate brand affinity by creating a paid search ad that includes customer satisfaction ratings in the ad copy. That can reaffirm the value of the retailer’s brand, and address post-sale concerns the customer may have.

NetElixir has begun testing this post-sale paid search ad concept, which includes listing keyword, ad copy and a landing page, and has seen enough click-throughs and received enough positive client feedback to test the strategy further.

“Search marketing does not have to be just about direct marketing to generate a sale,” says NetElixir’s Bose. “Post-sale PPC advertising is a soft marketing strategy, but a lot of consumers today are buying brand name products from discount retailers they don’t know because of the price and then wonder if they made the right decision. Once they begin to have second thoughts, they are likely to conduct a search to find information that affirms their choice of retailer. A paid ad that includes a satisfaction rating by consumers that also bought the product can make the shopper more comfortable with the decision.”

Reaffirming a retailer’s brand value in this way can drive retention, says Bose. “That’s important because as the economy improves discount retailers are going to have to find ways to keep customers that came to them from non-discount brand name retailers.”

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