Is Google’s Latest TV Commercial a Concern for Retailers?

Nike ended its 2-year trial with Amazon last month, citing concerns over the e-commerce giant’s control over the marketplace and the ability of 3rd-party sellers to usurp them from the top of the rankings. This, combined with Nike’s focus on creating “direct, personal relationships” with consumers, led to the withdrawal decision.

I recently saw a new Google TV commercial promoting its Shopping format, using a leaf blower as an example product. The ad uses a home video clip of a father and son playing with their own leaf blower, highlighting the impact it has on those who purchase one. The commercial then goes on to show how Google Shopping can help consumers identify the lowest online price and purchase directly from the platform. 

While Shopping presents a new buying experience for consumers, the commercial made me think about the challenges this will cause for Nike and other brands as they compete against Google’s dominance online. 

The Consumer Mindset

Google is arguably one of the top leaders of using test-and-learn tactics to drive business revenue. Its results pages continually change and ad formats are constantly updated, all to ensure the maximum amount of clicks (ad revenue makes up 84% of Alphabet’s total profits). If Google runs a TV commercial appealing to consumers to use its platform in a similar way to how they use Amazon, it means there is money to be made for the tech company.

With nearly half of all product searches starting on Amazon – compared to Google’s 35% share – it’s clear that consumers want the most convenient way to purchase at the lowest price. It’s a no-brainer that Google would use Shopping to capitalize on this growing mindset. 

Image result for google shopping

Prevalence of Google Shopping Results

This commercial spot is likely to spell an increase in the prevalence of Google Shopping ads on the SERP, reinforcing the idea that ‘price is everything’. If your brand has avoided playing a price war on Amazon, you’re likely facing a new frontier on your biggest marketplace revenue driver. 

With Google rewarding click-through rate in its quality score and Shopping set to become more prevalent, you need to be prepared. If you have a higher price than a competitor or 3rd party, you will receive fewer clicks. Fewer clicks will mean reduced sales, but also lower quality scores. Having a lower quality score means you will sit in worse positions on the SERP, and the clicks you do drive will cost you more. 3rd-party players beating your brand has become an even bigger problem.

Fostering a Relationship with Customers

With this shift towards price, the continual growth of Amazon, and the introduction of platforms like Google Shopping, it becomes more difficult to build a relationship with your customers. When someone asks where I bought something, the two most common answers I give are Amazon or “I can’t remember, but it was the best value I could find.” Convenience and price are often the biggest factors in my purchase decisions, which is likely the same for many others.

If your brand point of differentiation is quality and customer experience, it’s even harder to build a relationship with consumers. Premium brands with higher price points struggle to compete in this ecosystem, but there are ways to counter the tide.

Here’s how to approach some of these challenges with the way you think about your marketing strategies:

Build Brand Awareness

While awareness is often seen as a luxury; offered only to the biggest brands, it’s a great way to start changing the way consumers shop for your brand. By building a relationship with your audience before they are looking to purchase, it gives you the opportunity to get your USPs in front of them.

Once consumers are ready to buy, you can speed them through the funnel and avoid price comparison in the decision-making process. Awareness doesn’t have to be expensive, as you don’t need to target the entire world to build awareness the way Nike does. Identify who your primary audience is, then where they are online, and target them with a message that will speak to them.

Strategic Google Shopping Approach

It’s essential to tailor your approach to Google Shopping to suit your brand. Rather than throwing all your products in and hoping for the best, think about the merits of promoting each item and whether it makes sense.

If you’re a beauty brand and 90% of your lipstick sales are driven by one product, you may only want to promote that bestseller. Furniture companies might gain more value from Google local inventory Shopping ads to identify the closest store to test out $2,000 couches, instead of selling directly through this channel.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Re-Engagement

Once a consumer has purchased from you, wherever that may be, this is your opportunity to avoid any future price wars. First, prioritize a seamless buying experience since convenience and ease are key for today’s consumer. With the first purchase completed, utilize customer details to send regular and, more importantly, relevant messages. Using email is a given, but you shouldn’t underestimate the use of CRM uploads into marketing platforms to reinforce your brand USPs and messages. This is a real opportunity to get your brand values in front of your purchasers and to get them to buy into what you stand for.

In summary, we all know consumers are becoming more price-driven, and the ease of buying online is reducing brand loyalty. However, with Amazon’s continual growth, and now Google promoting Google Shopping as a price comparison marketplace, the time for action is now. You may have been avoiding the elephant in the room in Amazon, but with the way Google is approaching consumers with this TV commercial, price comparison marketplaces are something your business needs to develop a strategy for.

For more Google Shopping strategies, check out our Ultimate Shopping Set Up.

 

NMPignite Debates: The Future of SEO

Read time: 4 mins 30 secs

NMPi welcomed guests for our first NMPignite Debates event; a panel discussion all about the future of SEO. We were joined by Jennifer Hoffman (DeepCrawl), Joe Doveton (Binary Bear), Michael Bass (Marks and Spencer), Fred Maude (Incubeta) and Joe Comotto (NMPi) for a hugely insightful morning of discussion and debate.

It’s easier to forget that Google is not just here to serve us as marketers, but is a business of its own with its own goals and targets. As we watch how Google has changed over the last 20 years or so, building out their own properties, we can see how they have been driven by one singular goal: creating a positive user experience that answers search queries in the quickest and most effective way possible. 

Building an Entity

Our panel couldn’t agree on whether we should be considering Google as a competitor or simply as the landscape that we exist within. Regardless, with the changes that we’ve seen in the SERP, savvy marketers would do well to build their businesses and SEO strategies to provide that same positive user experience while circumventing Google.

The key to success lies in building a brand: you want users to remember you, the service you provide, and how you can help them answer their specific queries. We were spoiled by SEO and Google in the early days, but there is perhaps now an overreliance on Google to send us traffic. In building your brand, you’re able to reduce your reliance on generic key terms so that rather than searching for “flights to Miami” and being served things like Google’s travel aggregator, a user would search “Expedia” or go direct to site, trusting the service and experience that they receive from Expedia to be able to help them with their query. 

One way that you can do this is by building an entity, as this is how Google is understanding not only brands but specific ideas, dates, and concepts. While the idea of entities isn’t entirely new, it certainly deserves more recognition. Google not only understands things in terms of entities, but it uses machine learning to make sense of the relationships between them to serve better results in the SERP. For example, the entity “Meryl Streep” connects to “June 22, 1949” by the relationship “has birthday”. In clearly establishing the relationships between entities that you own, you are able to signal to Google what your brand is about, and the types of content that are relevant to your brand. 

Own the SERP

A subtlety that some of our panel have noticed is this shift away from Search Engine Optimization and towards a full Search Experience. This brings both SEO and UX specialists closer together as we consider the user journey all the way from search query to conversion. First here is the rise of things like Featured Snippets and Zero-Click Searches, which provide opportunities for brands to “skip the queue” so to speak, and end up in that coveted position zero. While it isn’t as easy to measure interactions with these positions, they do allow brands to build up their brand awareness. On top of this, Structured Data is also playing a huge role in technical SEO strategies. 

If organic clicks are at a premium, it puts more of an impetus on brands to improve the landing experience in order to reinforce a positive user journey. This means working to reduce friction and increasing engagement, to name a few best practices. There are other examples of how UX or CRO can fit into SEO – such as site speeds, the length of content, and whether or not you are answering a user’s question – that can all be taken into account here.

Technology

To serve users the most relevant answers, Machine Learning and AI are gradually becoming more and more relevant within search; take the rollout of BERT as a key signal to this end. While it only affects about 10% of search results at the moment, the idea behind this particular update is to get consumers used to using natural language when searching, rather than talking in keywords. This certainly nods towards preparations for voice search which, despite being something of a red herring right now, is where we seem to be heading. For now though, BERT will be most relevant for the long-tail of the long-tail search terms; helping to understand the most complicated of searches. 

On the brand-side, automation is a growing trend for SEOs to help them become more efficient. Technology can also help to pull together and unlock the potential of all of your data sources – paid, organic, channel – to find the incrementality of paid search compared to SEO and vice versa. 

Takeaways

We are now in the death-throes of using search as a tactic for driving traffic; SEOs should focus on putting digital at the heart of all of their marketing efforts as we move into 2020. Our panelists ended the session by giving their single biggest takeaway for the year to come:

  • Build a brand, think about your content as an entity and how you communicate this to Google: don’t put all your eggs in one Google basket;
  • Effectively organize your data, as this will help you to make decisions;
  • De-silo your SEO so that it can work more effectively with PPC;
  • CRO is rebranding as experimentation, and this will be the year it goes mainstream;
  • Create positive customer experiences – at the end of the day, this is why they keep coming back.