Search Marketing Influencer Series – Toby Evers (Part 1)

Toby Evers 2

Toby Evers is the founder and CEO of acKnowledge Digital Marketing, a New York-based firm helping traditional brands and businesses in need of digital marketing expertise, but lacking the resources to manage effective marketing campaigns on their own.

So the holidays came a bit early for you and your search marketing team this year?
Truth be told, the holiday season began 30 days earlier than usual for us this year. Back in October, we observed many retailers and brands initiating holiday promotions far earlier than we’ve seen in previous years. We suspect this need to get a jumpstart on advertising has a lot to do with an earlier than expected spike in deal searching, which has contributed to significant CPC inflation across the board. In some cases, CPC’s doubled on certain brands.

You work with a number of luxury clients. Did this earlier start to the season significantly alter your overall holiday plans?
Not really. We just revved up a bit sooner than expected. However, we spent a bit more time reverse-engineering our competitor’s strategies, tracking when promotions launched, and focusing on things like pricing, placement, ROI expectations, etc.

Do luxury brands typically have a different search game plan?
One thing that sets our luxury clients apart from the is a tendency to use search as a brand protection tool in addition to typical acquisition efforts. Here are a couple examples: one in travel and the other in general retail.

Similar to mid-range and budget travel brands, search efforts within luxury travel are largely impacted by OEMs, such as Orbitz and Kayak. This can create challenges for individual luxury brands to participate in the category.

In an effort to stay competitive, luxury hotel and airline brands are getting more strategic, focusing on user experience as their true key differentiator. A luxury airline may target potential customers who are searching for flights, but not necessarily in an “active booking” mode. For example, if a customer searches for  “best restaurants at San Francisco International Airport,” airlines might provide consumers with local lifestyle content related to the search while simultaneously informing the customer of promotions and special offers.

In a similar fashion, a luxury hotel client actively curates and promotes events around its location, focusing on happenings in and around the hotel in question. Travelers tend to research activities of interest in the city before deciding on a hotel location. That’s why it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to better understand and better optimize for the full end-to-end hotel booking customer journey. There’s an opportunity to catch consumers higher up in the funnel when they are still weighing their options. By taking this approach, brands will see more successful outcomes.

What about luxury retail, when location and in-store experiences are of critical importance?
Luxury brands aim for 100% share of voice, with top position placements in both paid and organic results. The goal is to get potential consumers to the brand website first versus a direct trip to the retailer. This also applies to local search as SOV helps attract customers to physical brand locations versus partner retailers who likely carry similar products. While selling through partner retailers can be great for the brand and overall revenue, it’s all about margins.

Speaking of margins, do comparison shopping and price sensitivities play a part in KPIs for luxury brands?
The big shift we are seeing here is the product listing ads. Price is now front and center. One internal research study we’ve seen recently is observing consumers clicking on every product listing ad while pressing the ‘control’ key on their keyboards. In effect, we watched users keep the search results page open while simultaneously breezing through individual pricing options pages.

Some retailers pay $5 or more for potential customers to click on their search ads – so in one instance of comparison shopping, retailers could have spent several times that getting a single consumer to click through its ads during the purchase experience. Consider the search budget implications of this if prospective luxury brand customers are doing comparison shopping down to this level.​

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