Planning for the Holiday Season with an Unexpected Change in Consumer Behavior

This holiday season is expected to be more competitive in the e-commerce space than last year. It might even prove to be the year of the savviest shopper. Consumers are now armed with more knowledge of retailers’ deals and strategies during Q4 than ever before. Research also suggests that the purchasing process will take ten days longer than last

year, indicating that people are shopping smarter and comparing goods among competitors. With the asymmetric information gap closing between consumer and retailer and the development of the more patient, knowledge-seeking consumer, retailers need a way to finesse this nouveau consumer behavior into their Q4 Search Engine Marketing strategy.

The key factors to help leverage the new consumer behavior in Q4 2012 are:

1. Understanding your assist data
2. Identifying changes in product trends
3. Using on-site data to gauge category interest

Understanding your assist data will help you leverage your budget during the holiday season. This is particularly important as the consumer will be extending her purchase latency. It is plausible to have keywords in your account that drive a lot of traffic, but do not convert, especially earlier in the season. However, since your ad appeared early in the purchase cycle, the consumer is likely to return to your site from a different media or search engine marketing keyword. By attributing credit to keywords and media that occur early in the path to conversion, you can justify staying competitive on terms that may not be the last click before the conversion.

Identify changes in product trends by using Google trends. Whether you are introducing new products for Q4 or trying to gain a fresh perspective on the products that you already have, it is important to understand how the consumer is searching for, viewing and shopping for your product. This differs from the standard search query report, as you are able to see the full picture of how people are searching rather than looking only at terms that triggered your ads. If you type in an exact match term that matches one of your products, Google Trends will show the growth over time, allowing you to anticipate what the demand will look like during December. It will be important to leverage the top and rising terms by placing them into your account. What this will do is put you right in front of the consumer demand you are looking to capture and help to assess any competitors that may be outperforming you.

Using on-site data to gauge category interest is the most important aspect of planning for Q4. Category interest groups can be tracked by IgnitionOne after a consumer clicks on your ad and navigates your site. The interest groups indicate which category or product the user looks at during the session, in order to understand the consumer’s intent and the interplay among the products you offer.

For example, a consumer queries “youth jeans” with the initial intent to shop for their teenage daughter, however, they see there is a category which interests them to shop for themselves. It is this type of on-site activity that is important to gauge in order to finesse consumer conversions rather than forcing a behavior through arbitrary sales. Identifying trends in related category interests and putting together meaningful sales and/or messaging towards consumers will aid in achieving this outcome. This tactic is similar to the in-store Black Friday sales, where you put a particular item at a deep discount in order to attract sales in other sections of the store. This works better online because we have data to confirm that the people who are converting on clothes for their children are also buying a new coat for themselves. Strategies such as serving the consumer a message that reads “Buy any full-priced junior item and get 50% off of one women’s apparel item,” will encourage consumers to act and allow retailers to gain conversions on highly competitive items by bundling them with something else of interest to the consumer.

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