- On May 15, 2020
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As a contributor to the prestigious Forbes Agency Council, I am invited to share my expertise with the Forbes global business community. Here I’ve reproduced an article wrote for Forbes on why Retail Search is as important as Google when it comes to consumers researching products to buy online.
What is Retail Search?
Retail Search is the search functionality that online shoppers use to find products or brands on eCommerce platforms like Amazon, Target, Walmart or Zappos.
Brands will use Retail Search in much the way they do Google: by investing in organic or paid search – or a strategic combination of the two – to make their products appear high in eCommerce platforms’ search rankings.
The best-performing brands on a platform like Amazon are those that invest as many resources and time in Retail Search as they do their Google search performance.
One reason is that online shopper behavior has altered so much in recent years. A startling 51% of online shoppers now choose Amazon and its Retail Search function as the first tool they use to research products. By comparison, only 16% choose Google as their preferred option.
How does Retail Search differ from Google search?
Done right, a regularly updated blog is an effective, organic way to bring Google search traffic to your website.
Organic Retail Search activity, on the other hand, might be writing product descriptions on Walmart’s eCommerce platform that closely match keywords that shoppers will use to search for a product like yours.
And just as you might pay for your listing to appear at the top of the first page of a Google search, sponsored items that appear prominently on an eRetailer’s site when shoppers search for product types are a straightforward example of paid Retail Search.
We constantly hear how important Google’s algorithms are, and how much any alterations to them can influence SEO performance.
But eCommerce sites also have their own algorithms, such as Amazon’s A9, which powers the platform’s on-site search bar and is based on a brand’s or seller’s hugely important best seller rank (BSR) and customer search behaviors.
What can Retail Search do for your product?
The more visible you make your product on a site like Amazon or Target, the more likely it is to sell. That alone is reason enough for you to be investing in Retail Search.
Retail Search also drives immediate conversions. It increases a product’s visibility on the online shelf when shoppers are actively searching under a category related to your product.
Did you also know that Retail Search influences a product’s offline sales, as well? Shoppers are increasingly researching products online (especially via their mobile devices) and then buying them in-store.
The Defend-And-Conquer Approach
Amazon is a hugely competitive marketplace. So, how can you get ahead of your competition and gain a crucial advantage over them?
One way is through a powerful Retail Search keyword strategy. And you’ll need a powerful strategy because other brands will be using theirs to try to outmaneuver you.
It’s for this purpose that my team and I have developed what we call a conquer-and-defend strategy. In essence, ‘defend’ keywords are Retail Search terms that shoppers will put into an on-site search bar (like Amazon’s) to try to find a specific brand or product.
Don’t assume that your brand or product will automatically occupy the top spot for a keyword that you think you own. Take, for instance, ‘Gillette shaving gel.’ Other brands will often bid on your strategic keywords so that they can divert traffic away from you and toward their own products. And that’s why you need to defend your Retail Search keywords.
‘Conquer’ keywords are generic terms, such as ‘shaving gel,’ that shoppers will use when searching for a type of product, but not any specific named product or brand.
Conquer keywords are incredibly competitive because they are key to attracting potential new customers. A high ranking for a conquer keyword can have a similar result to a high Google search ranking in that it assures potential customers that your product is worth buying.
Choosing the right eRetail partner based on their Retail Search functionalities
When clients come to us to work out which eRetailers they should be looking to partner with, one of the factors that we take into account as part of our eRetailer Intelligence Framework is the online capabilities that a potential eRetail partner can offer.
In the context of Retail Search, how sophisticated is their Retail Search functionality? As a brand, you may be happy with an eCommerce platform that offers fairly basic Retail Search functionality.
On the other hand, other brands may like to choose an eCommerce platform with more advanced or sophisticated functionality so that they can have a greater influence on search performance – for example, through the defend-and-conquer approach, or some of the other tactics below.
Other factors that influence Retail Search success
- Combine organic and paid Retail Search; they will complement one another
Your Google search strategy is likely to combine organic and paid activities, and it’s important to take a blended approach to your Retail Search too. Pay for sponsored listings, but also invest in creating high-quality Product eContent, such as exact product titles and great product descriptions.
- Perform competitor analysis
Your brand will most likely be benchmarking itself against competitors on website content strategy and Google keyword performance. So, make sure you study their Retail Search activities – what are they doing that you could be doing better?
- Keep your strategy relevant to your brand
Targeting the wrong keywords or placing your products under categories that eCommerce search engines might deem irrelevant could hamper your Retail Search strategy and ruin specific campaigns by generating low-quality traffic and fewer conversions.
In conclusion – invest in Retail Search as much as you do in Google!
Brand leaders might be reading this and asking themselves, “Should we be investing in Retail Search rather than Google?” But the real question should be: “How can we combine Retail Search and Google activities to boost online sales and future success?”
Get that right, and you will be onto a winner.
This article was originally written for Forbes Agency Council, and is reproduced here with their permission.
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