Retail Boost Recap: Emerging Platforms Panel

Google, Bing, and Yahoo have not significantly changed the way products are discovered in the last four years. But the e-retail landscape has. To discuss these changes and the new platforms that retailers must account for in their digital strategies, Catalyst and Bing’s inaugural Retail Boost event included an “Emerging Platforms” panel. The panel was moderated by Chris Humber, Head of Search at Catalyst, and included panelists Jamie Tedford, CEO of Brand Networks, and Lisa Yom, Amazon.

In case you missed it, here are the panel’s key takeaways:

The Landscape Is Fragmented and Complex

When it comes to product searches, the space has become fragmented and more complex — meaning sophisticated advertisers will have to learn to play the e-retail game beyond Google. For example, Amazon now plays a key role in the shopping journey. According to a 2015 BloomReach survey, just 11 percent of shoppers start their quest with a search engine, while 44 percent start their product searches on Amazon.

But Amazon doesn’t follow the same rules as traditional engines. For example, Amazon doesn’t accept external signals in its ranking algorithm, so ranking requires different tactics than conventional search. Sales, customer reviews and paid support heavily affect your place in the Amazon rankings.

And although Amazon is the largest retailer online, e-retail extends far beyond it.

Social Advertising Is Also Part of Search

Tedford discussed the nuances of utilizing social for search, saying it’s a missed opportunity to treat all social networks the same. Snapchat, for example, doesn’t even consider itself a social network, and Pinterest is positioning itself around product discovery.

“I always know when my wife is about to make some home décor decisions,” Tedford said, “because I see her pins.”

55 percent of users go to Pinterest to find products, not to talk to brands — vs. 12 percent on both Facebook and Instagram — so it’s vital that search advertisers use and optimize the platform accordingly. Although some brands have failed at Pinterest, Tedford said, the key to success on the platform is to plan ahead — as early as July for holiday campaigns, since users save images and links for later use.

Additionally, partners are evolving to support more sophisticated measurement, such as Facebook’s offline conversion tracking, and more efficient buys through programmatic.

Brands see a 25 percent lift in product based on weather-triggered programmatic sales, Tedford said. Companies can further capitalize on that data by using it to dictate merchandizing/shelving in stores.

Looking Ahead in the e-Retail Space

In the future, expect Big Retail to go to town on things like Amazon strategy and data management. Target and Walmart have already launched Guest Access and WMX respectively, which provide in-store brands insight into shopper data to potentially close the sales gap. It’s part of a larger trend toward breaking down marketing silos, to think more holistically about opportunities to connect with the consumer and ultimately generate more sales. Similarly, marketers must start thinking about vertical search as a real threat to traditional search and determine how to best leverage it for brand health.

As traditional search is interrupted both by chat bots and by voice search, advertisers will have to think about what this means for keyword strategy and how to evolve traditional tactics to meet the growing usage of search on platforms like Siri and Alexa.

Sources: Is Amazon the Search Engine for Online Shopping, BloomReach October 2015

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