Small Business 2018 Search Advertising Retail Strategy for the 2018 Holiday Shopping Season

As we all know, the holiday season is a crucial time for retail but with the big-box retailers flooding media channels with holiday ads, how can small business retail outlets reach customers looking for their products. The solution is search advertising.

Search advertising has grown substantially over the past two decades and has become a crucial touch point in the consumer decision-making process. Consumers prefer to search on their devices for the perfect gift than to travel from store to store, uncertain if they will find the perfect gift. Technology has provided the consumer with the power to define their shopping experience, and It is up to the retail store to match, no, scratch that, exceed their expectations.

“This is the age of assistance” – As leaders of the industry, you can take a major step forward in delivering a truly assistive experience to your consumer not only in the point of purchase but also as they research and understand more about the products and the needs they are looking for. There are more opportunities than ever for you to connect with your consumer to tell the stories that they want to hear. To help them find the information that they need and to truly deliver them a much more assistive service.”
-Joanna Aston, Google Partners Connect, June 20th, 2018

So how can search advertising prepare your retail store for the holiday season? To start, consumers have to be able to find your business at all times during their holiday shopping process. You may think most holiday shoppers wait till the last minutes, but actually, almost half of consumers begin researching holiday gift ideas in October. With this being said, it crucial to plan early by starting now.

The first step is to add your entire inventory to the Google Merchant Center and the Bing Merchant Center. A merchant center is your online store for the search engine. By placing your product SKUs into the merchant center, your products will appear when a consumer inputs a relevant query. For example, if your business sells luggage and an online shopper searches for “travel bags,” your products may appear as a Product Listing Ad (PLA).

Using the Merchant center is not a hands-off strategy, make sure that someone is checking the merchant center on a weekly basis to ensure that all products in your feed are approved to show. If this step is foregone, you may miss out on potential sales.

Now, that we have your product feed set-up for the engines let’s now talk about messaging. If you remember our last blog article, “Creating Content For Your Local Market…” we learned that average person is not created equal therefore mass messaging does not work. It is the same in search. Consumers are looking for shopping options that are differentiated and personalized. To create this experience in search engines you must set your campaigns to meet your holiday performance objectives.

It is recommended to create campaigns separate from your Business As Usual (BAU) campaigns to allow full control and to keep your performance data from the holidays uncluttered. I recommend having two to three-holiday campaigns. One campaign to house your featured products and any promotions you may have during the season. This campaign should be set to high priority. The second campaign for your top performing products. This should be set to medium priority. The third is for all other products. This should be set to low priority. Constructing your campaigns in this method will allow you to create custom ad copy catered to the customer you are attempting to reach.

Let’s talk copy. While the character count on search ads are low, the descriptions and titles still have to be descriptive. Having weak copy will lower your quality score and will prevent your products from showing on relevant queries. To ensure success focus on titles, descriptions and product categorization adding in relevant keyword when applicable.

All of this work would be all for not if the consumer does not a stress-free purchasing experience in-store or online. For in-store purchases, make sure your employees are well knowledgeable about current promotions and the products your business sales. For online sales, it is about the mobile experience. Test the load time for your online store if it takes more than five seconds on a desktop or more than three seconds on mobile, potential customers will leave your page. The Google site tester will show the load time for your website and how the site can be improved for an optimal experience. One last thing. This may be a no-brainer but, make sure your online inventory is kept up-to-date on the merchant store especially if you allow in-store pick up.

“That was a lot, but I’m done. Allow me to wrap this up.”

Now that summer is officially here, and it may seem crazy to talk about the holidays when it is 80 degrees outside. But trust me, early planning for the holiday shopping season is crucial to reach your profit goals. Remember, this when planning your holiday shopping campaigns, our focus in this omnichannel world is to provide an assistive service to help customers find that perfect gift with every click they take.

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