Frank Grasso

Paid Search - The Retail Superhighway

To increase your market share, your brand must be easy to find and easy to buy. Traditionally, a brand would grow by placing retail stores in highly populated neighborhoods' and buying as much advertising space as one could afford. This strategy is used and understood by many of the most successful marketers and CEO's - but over the last decade the world has been slowly changing. Iconic brands such as; Borders, Angus & Robertson, Waterstone and HMV are closing down or closing stores, books and CD's are still being sold, whilst Google and Yahoo continue to grow and thrive. It's time for marketers and CEO's to stop and rethink the role Paid Search really does play in their growth strategy. Is Search an advertising medium? Is it a distribution channel? Is it neither? Or is it both?

In the offline world, we use every possible blank space to advertise where masses of people will be exposed to our ad. On billboards in busy streets, on the side of buses, the back of taxi's, in glossy catalogues, the daily newspaper, drive time radio and of course primetime TV.

The advertisements job is to inform the audience of our offer and that's where it ends. We know that a percentage of people who viewed one or more of our ads will come into our store to browse. If we arm our floor staff with the right sales training we will probably make a sale.

This is good news, but any seasoned retailer who advertises knows that when advertising your brand, you are also advertising your product category.

It's Monday night and I am watching my favorite TV show with my wife and kids. The ad break comes on telling me about the crazy deal on "42 inch plasma tv's" followed by an ad for "cheap flights to Bali". It feels good to know, that I don't have to wait for late night shopping on Friday, battling the busy car park after a hectic week at work.

In the days before the internet, large franchised retailers used mainstream advertising very effectively, they created the desire to buy with the knowledge they had the real estate in the mega malls to capture leads.

Move forward 20 years, customers can now shop from the comfort of their own living room. When they see and ad for a 42-inch plasma TV they no longer have to wait until late night shopping Friday night, they simply reach out for their IPad from the coffee table and shop for the deal.

Any retailer that is currently not taking full advantage of Paid Search should stop and rethink their strategy.

Customers search when they have a desire to buy. We know this by examining the keywords customers use to search for what they want. Very few people go to a search engine and type "I have a disposable income what can I spend it on?" but thousands of people are searching for televisions, phones, flights, accommodation and a multitude of consumer goods and services, every minute of the day.

People's desire to Search may very well have been triggered by the TV ad they viewed. I will leave this post with the question I asked earlier. Is Search an advertising medium? Is it a distribution channel? Is it neither? Or is it both?


COMMENTS

Posted by A Searcher, 24 February 2011

'Search' is a discovery route.

When people enter a shopping mall to have a browse around the shops they are on a route of discovery. Agreed, when people jump onto Google they too are on a route of discovery.

The high street is still there, however it certainly has and is changing and a lot of the 'high street' is now online. Instead of walking past the shops, you search the virtual high street (Google) and are greeted with not one camping store, or book store, you are greeted with a whole street of camping stores and a whole shopping centre book shops.

real estate online, is like real estate in bricks and morta and you will pay for the water front properties(.)

Search is search. We humans have cravings and desires we have 'wants' as well as needs and if finding them online is more convenient or indeed cheaper then we will go online. Impulse shoppers on their lunch break might buy stuff then; who know's what the majority will be doing in 20 years time, but for now; 'each to their own'.

You make a very good point about the fact that books are still being bought, as are CD's. It is just that the checkout is now in many more places than ever before.

Borders did not adapt, Clive Peters did not adapt; we will keep an eye on Gerry Harvey and see if he can still cut the mustard...

Paid search is part of the jigsaw and you have an agenda to plug it. SEO is also equally important, as are many other new media channels / social networks etc

Media has fragmented and is still fragmenting, companies who can adopt early and move quickly will succeed(.) Appliancesonline is a great example of an Aussie retailer who is doing very well indeed.

Nice post and I look forward to more comments :)

Posted by Frank Grasso, 24 February 2011

Thanks for the comment. I like your analogy of real estate on-line, I also like your statement regarding the retail check-out being in many more places than ever before, so true!

I totally agree with your comment, those who adopt early and move quickly will succeed! I hope that Gerry does adapt, it would be a shame if he doesn’t. Brands like Gerry Harvey have such a strong physical street presence – all they have to do is replicate this online.

Flight Centre does a brilliant job at this (disclaimer – they are my client). They have a strong physical presence and have replicated this strong physical presence within their successful paid Search strategy.

Search is real-estate, top positions get more click-throughs – and more click-throughs, translate to more sales. You have to be competitive, tailoring your offer to your paid ad (i.e. 'free delivery', '20% discount until March 30'), it’s not necessarily about being the cheapest.

Posted by Carl Driesener, 28 February 2011

Well that is an interesting question!

Advertising suggests developing mental structures through exposure to information linked to a brand that at some point has an affect on purchasing. Distribution, in the sense Frank is using, relates to the presence of the brand at the time when a consumer is making a purchase.

It is a little tempting to think of search as just another communications method, to be lumped in with other activities like direct marketing, but I think A Searcher makes a very good point. Search is also about getting the brand into the shopping mall when someone is there to buy what you’re selling. If you are not in the shopping mall, you are not in the game when it comes to actually making the purchase.

Should search replace other forms of communication and distribution? Advertising in other media can reach more people (though maybe not with such good timing), can enhance the reputability of a brand, and gives opportunities to develop more complex memory structures. And people should be able to buy a brand in any space in which they are likely to want to buy the category.

So at the end of the day, search doesn’t fit neatly into a box, (and in fact, whether the searcher is looking to buy today or tomorrow is also relevant), but then what in life does?

Posted by Prof Byron Sharp, 28 February 2011

Search advertising is like a distribution channel, so if a brand isn't there it will suffer the same fate as if it isn't in store.


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Frank Grasso e-channel Search Frank Grasso
Company: e-channel Search
Position: CEO/Managing Director
Frank Grasso, founder of e-channel Search, has worked in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) since the early days of AltaVista and Lycos. Frank started his search career in Melbourne Australia in 1999, consulting to early adopters of SEM Read Frank's full bio

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