Why CRO and Paid Search Are Key Channels for Brands This Christmas

With just over two months until Christmas, our dedicated Paid Search and Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) have written an in-depth post on why October is a crucial month for seasonal search and CRO campaigns. Kai Omonijo, Data Visualisation Optimisation Manager, and Daniel Roberts, Paid Search Account Director, answer four key questions around seasonality, trends and why brands need to look beyond Christmas Day and NYE.

1. Why is October a key month for your channel when it comes to Christmas planning 

Kai: From October, the run up to Christmas is traditionally when brands start to see large increases in visitors to their websites. Additionally, events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday contribute towards attracting visitors.This provides a great opportunity to scope and run A/B tests that previously would not have been viablearlier in the year due to low traffic volumes. 

It is also a good time to simply fix things that are not working. Ask yourself questions like

  • does the comparison page occasionally show the incorrect products?
  • do pages take too long to load?
  • does the basket randomly empty?

Fixing these pain points should be prioritised as all channels will be working towards driving as much traffic as possible to the website. If bugs can be fixed before this influx of traffic, you will see better performance across the board as a result of having much happier customers. 

Dan: For Paid Search, it’s all about preparation i.e. the sooner you prepare and the more proactive you are, the less reactive you’ll need to be with any manual changes. You should be using October as a time to start implementing your strategy for Christmas to make data-driven decisions. By starting now, you can gather more data and amend anything you need in time for November and December when searches start to increase.  

One important aspect of Paid Search is the landing pages that you are sending the traffic to. During key events in Q4, there is a lot of resource that goes into building and creating new landing pages. Why not take the time now to prepare some highly relevant and optimised pages for Paid Search? 

We can utilise CRO in PPC to make the landing pages more relevant landing and convert better. The landing page is the last step before a conversion, so if this isn’t relevant or optimised to the Search Query, then this will affect performance. The wealth of data available to capture in Q4 will help you throughout the year. Remember thoughCRO isn’t just for Christmas! It should be a fundamental part of your planning. 

2. How will 2018 be different to last year in terms of search and CRO trends?   

Kai: This year, personalisation was often mentioned as a top priority for marketers. Brands who invested heavily into a personalisation strategy now have the opportunity to increase the velocity of these campaigns. To compete with the likes of Amazon, many brands will be working on tailoring product recommendations based on search, on-site behaviour and purchase history. Some will potentially be looking towards personalised pricing and offers based on the customer profile. 

Successful this Christmas will be from brands that put the customers at the heart of all their marketing efforts. 

More than ever, visitors are shopping on their mobile and with the greater ease, due to flexible delivery times and locations, visitors are willing to leave purchases to the last minute. Looking at your data at a user level rather than visit level will give you a clearer view of this behaviour. 

Dan: Every year is different in Paid Search. Google and Bing are always pushing to make their platforms more useful to its users, which means that advertisers also get new products to try out, whether it’s in Audiences, Google Shopping, or Automation. From a product perspective, Christmas 2018 will be different from last year.  

The trend in Paid Search this year is more about understanding user intent beyond just the search query. How can we use signals to understand the context of the user better? The strategies that will win this Christmas will be the ones that have a plan for Audiences, Device, Location and Automation to better target the right people, at the right time, in the right place with the right messageUnderstanding wider search trend changes YoY will also supercharge your planning. Examples of this: 

  • If we look at the year for retailers, the concentration of search queries happening in November and December continues to grow YoY.  

  • This means that for the rest of the year, the concentration of search queries has started to flatten out. 

  • January Sale search queries has been declining each year too. 

The above indicates that users are getting more confident leaving their Christmas shopping to the last minute. Confidence has grown in purchasing on mobile, and improvements in delivery services have all helped contribute to this narrowing of search demand closer to the 25th December. The sooner you plan for this, the better prepared you are to capitalise on this quality last-minute traffic. 
3. This is the first Christmas since GDPR legislation took effect. Will this change how Christmas campaigns are run and if so, how do you see campaigns being different?   
Dan: Audiences and Customer Match saw the biggest impact from GDPR in May. Some advertisers lost a lot of their offline comms with customers as a result of GDPR, and invested heavily into Digital to try and get those emails back into CRM databases. By Christmas, this means that these Customer Match lists should be back up to pre-GDPR levels and should definitely be utilised to make sure your budget is being spent effectively.
You should group your Customer Match lists into “buckets” so that you better understand intent. For example, you might have a list of people who have previously visited the website, gone through to checkout but then haven’t completed their purchase. If they are searching for the same products again, perhaps you should give them a different message and offer a discount or free delivery code to incentivise them to purchase with you. 
4. Why is it important for brands to still reach customers after Christmas Day and into the NY?  

Kai: Brands that purely optimise for the Christmas sales, and then take their foot off the pedal, are missing out on a massive opportunity to continue to improve the customer experience. Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is an ongoing systematic process, so to be a successful brand, you cannot pick and choose when you do CRO. 

The period after Christmas includes Boxing Day when visitors will once again be returning to the website in search of a good deal. They expect their needs to be catered towards with the same energy as it was in the period prior to Christmas. 

But we also have those customers who are interested in taking advantage of the support options brands have promoted. In order to convert people, many brands would have widely promoted benefits such as ‘Five-year guarantee’ or an ‘easy return policy’. It is in this period that it is key that these services are truly accessible to customers to maintain the positive relationship between both parties. 

Dan: Search doesn’t end at Christmas. Demand picks right back up after Boxing Day and through to January. Sales launch across most verticals as people try to spend their Christmas money. As well as this, you have trends such as 'New Year New You' which affects the Fashion, Health & Beauty, and Lifestyle verticals. 

For Paid Search teams, this means changing Ad Copy, landing pages and updating bids. It’s all vital traffic to capture and the increase in visitors to your website pre-Christmas means that you have more data than ever to make better decisions. Your Audience lists will have increased in size which means that you can understand more about the intent of your customers coming through to site. You can then use this data to exclude anyone who is looking to return unwanted Christmas gifts, and let your organic traffic take the click. 

For even more insight from Kai and Daniel, have a listen to their podcast episode here