After years of promise, search has officially moved beyond the PC and laptop. In Q2 2012, mobile
devices and tablets comprised 14 percent of total search advertising spend, up more than 330 percent
year-over-year, and clicks grew 325 percent (source: IgnitionOne Global Online Advertising Report, Q2
2012). What’s more, 360i’s own research reveals that brands can see upwards of 30 percent of their
branded searches come from mobile devices and tablets. Though far from the majority of all searches,
this is a formidable and growing number that advertisers cannot afford to ignore.
Search Beyond PC 1
If smartphone and tablet penetration continue to rise, their search share will increase at an accelerated
rate because as the number of users grows, the amount of time spent on phones and tablets grows, as
well. Consumers are also becoming increasingly comfortable making purchases directly on their mobile
devices, rather than using them solely for research, price comparison and locating stores. Per Adobe
research, tablet traffic often converts as well as PC and laptop, but with higher average order values
(AOVs) and engagement metrics like pageviews per visit.
In other words, an increasing number of people have smartphones and tablets, they are using them
more often, and they are using them to buy more frequently.
The intersection of these trends creates a rich environment in which brands can grow, but to fully
leverage this opportunity, marketers must adapt their search strategies–messaging, budget allocation
and measurement–for the always-on and on-the-go searcher.
This report outlines the key issues brands should consider when developing a strategy for search beyond
the PC, including understanding the opportunity, identifying challenges, offering some solutions to
those challenges and laying out next steps for creating sound mobile and tablet programs.
Mobile and Tablet Growth Presents an
Opportunity for Search Marketers
Previously an afterthought for many search marketers, mobile and tablet programs are emerging as a
critical component of a brand’s overall search strategy. Consumers are increasingly seeking out brands
beyond the PC, and marketers must be prepared to meet consumers wherever and whenever they are
Across 360i clients representing primarily media and entertainment, finance, retail, CPG and travel
brands, mobile share of brand-term searches ranges from 5 to 30 percent of total search volume. Even
within verticals, search share can range from 10 to 30 percent, which underscores the importance of
researching your search volume as a preliminary step to creating your strategy.
While e-commerce on mobile and tablet devices is on the rise, this figure is still small in comparison to
PC-based e-commerce. When asked about the barriers to mobile purchase, the percentage of
consumers who say that it is “too complicated” and “doesn’t feel secure” has not changed (Source:
Google, Our Mobile Planet, May 2012). As such, optimizing usability for your mcommerce site and
explicitly reassuring consumers that site is secure should be a primary focus. An ROI-focused mobile
strategy without a strong mcommerce site is doomed to failure, regardless of how smart it is.
Even with an optimized site, some mobile campaigns will struggle to drive ROI-positive, mcommerce
sales beyond their brand terms. However, a close look at user behavior reveals an opportunity that could
be missed if you are focused only on mcommerce sales: a third of smartphone users report that using
their phones as a shopping aid has caused them to change their minds about both online and offline
purchases. Brands that do not have a strong mobile search presence are vulnerable to losing a significant number of sales, even if they are not immediately measurable, and that number is growing.
The immediate prospects for ROI-positive campaigns for tablets are much brighter. In fact, tablets
account for 60 percent of search spend beyond the PC (Source: IgnitionOne Global Online Advertising
Report, Q2 2012). This is likely due to strong conversion rates, higher AOV and better engagement seen
on these devices. Tablet owners tend to have above average household income and use the devices in
their leisure time (especially during the evening) as an accompaniment to watching TV or listening to
The Challenges of Search Beyond the PC
We have moved from an environment where people were online only at work and at home to one where many people have access to the Internet literally every waking second. While this shift represents a tremendous opportunity to brands–more time online and on-the-go means more opportunities to engage with customers–it also comes with tremendous challenges.
Challenge 1: Measurement across Devices Remains Fragmented
If you’re reading this, you likely have a smartphone and/or tablet, a work laptop and possibly a personal laptop or PC. As you move from one device to the next, your path from researching to purchasing something online is broken, which makes it difficult for marketers to understand the value of each step in that path. Since more purchases are made from PC/laptop devices, it is much easier to measure their contribution to purchases, but this is a misleading picture.
Solution: Conduct test campaigns and keep up-to-date with innovations in cross-device tracking.
The traditional way to approach the measurement problem is to run mobile in test markets and measure lift in stores and online, then apply that lift across the program. There are also new, router-based solutions available that make tracking across devices possible through passive tracking, especially when the intention is to measure drive-to-store initiatives. This technique is in large part in a proof-of-concept stage, but we are confident that eventually brands will be able to use it, or a similar method, to integrate the contributions of mobile and tablet traffic into their attribution model.
Challenge 2: Investment Must Come Ahead of Provable ROI
Marketers recognize that people are using mobile devices and tablets to inform purchasing decisions, but as seen in the first challenge, it’s difficult to measure the effect of this practice. (Not everyone is ready to do passive tracking through router-based data passes.) Currently, we can infer that not investing in mobile and tablet search will result in a loss of sales, but coming up with a reliable figure is complicated, leaving marketers in the position of having to invest in a program before being able to show provable ROI.
Solution: Turn to an alternate KPI to track the success of your mobile program.
The simple remedy to this problem is to find another KPI to measure the success of your mobile program, such as traffic to the mobile site, use of store finders, click-to-call actions and other engagement metrics. When investing in mobile it can be harder to make the case that you are spending your next search dollar in the best possible way, as the value of ecommerce clicks is easier to measure by comparison. Given that mobile has been shown to significantly alter purchasing behavior offline, it may make sense to fund it (partially or fully) from drive-to-store budgets rather than from your ecommerce spend.
Challenge 3: Managing Multiple Platforms Requires More Resources
Mobile and tablet search campaigns have historically been treated as mere extensions of PC/laptop accounts, but it is not enough to simply mirror your PC/laptop campaigns and target them to mobile and tablets. Search marketers know that to properly optimize an account, it is necessary to have as much control over variables that affect performance as possible. To make the most of search beyond the PC, marketers should establish comprehensive, individual strategies for each device. The challenge? This can create three times the work.
Solution: Do your homework on the front end to manage the burden of increased accounts.
Managing more accounts requires more work. There is no way around that, but there are ways to lessen the amount of work these added accounts require. Most search marketers have ways to automate repetitive processes and make it a practice to focus on the top-volume areas, but the best route to efficiency in time management and performance is doing more work on the front end. Research your opportunities thoroughly, set up your account according to strict best practices (no shortcuts), and design tests that result in account-wide findings. These steps will make tracking, reporting, managing bids and general account management more efficient. Plus, the research will show you the potential value of the program, which will allow you to allocate resources accordingly.
Whether your brand has developed a sophisticated post-PC strategy or is in the planning phase, the following steps should serve as a helpful guide for ensuring the soundness of your approach.
Make sure your mobile site is optimized to achieve your objectives for the campaign. One of the advantages of search is that brands have access to a virtual focus group that demonstrates what people actually do rather than what they say they do. Once you have developed your mobile site, let your customers help you improve it. This doesn’t require a large investment in paid search because in addition to your natural-search traffic, your brand terms should provide low-cost clicks that convert reasonably well. Once your site is live, you should test frequently to improve user experience and, ultimately, profitability. While you do not necessarily have to have a customized tablet experience, running tests on tablet traffic can yield useful insights into differences in on-site behavior and may uncover opportunities (e.g., an app for a specialized set of products, services or information).
Develop a strategy for the on-the-go searcher. As outlined above, today’s paid-search program must account for the differences in behavior across multiple platforms. This means three sets of everything–creative, landing pages, keywords, geotargeting and bid strategy–that need to be managed with equal care. Mobile bidding, in particular, requires strategic thinking because there are limited long-tail opportunities (mobile searches prefer shorter queries) and limited real estate on the search-results page. The result is that brands have less space to compete for fewer keywords, which can drive up costs.
Think beyond Google. Currently Google dominates the mobile-search market, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities across other platforms. As an example, Yahoo!’s mobile-Internet reach among its shoppers is nearly on par with Google, and its new browser app, Axis, is being seen by some as a “game changer.” Finally, improvements in voice search could add a new wrinkle to search, as could the emergence of app searches.
Until recently, the amount of effort it takes to manage mobile and tablet campaigns might not have been worth it. That is no longer the case, as a large and growing percentage of people have turned to phones and tablets to shop, research, and engage with brands. Before you leap into the market, however, make sure that you define your objective, optimize your site to meet that objective, and have a clear strategy to drive targeted visitors to that site, wherever they may be searching.
– Published July 2012
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