Expand Your Search Strategy to Promote Brand Loyalty

According to a new ICLP study, brand favoritism isn’t necessarily strengthening brand loyalty:  86% of shoppers today say they would consider choosing an alternative brand over their traditional preferred brand. Retail brand loyalty has declined, and marketers are faced with a new set of challenges resulting from this shift in user behavior.

The immediate implications of weakened brand loyalty are twofold. First, consumers are more likely to choose a new brand due to price or convenience rather than stick with a familiar brand. Second, consumer search is fragmented, and user behavior is less predictable than ever before. Shoppers may not directly navigate to their preferred retail site, and will search for generic product terms. These facts, coupled with broader internet behavioral shifts, create a challenging landscape for brand marketers.

Fortunately, astute brands can implement a few simple strategies to address this shift. Brands must know and understand where customers are shopping — and where they are searching. Advertisers must use every available channel and marketing opportunity to stay in front of customers. That’s why advertisers should make sure to implement the following checklist of digital ad strategies as they move forward into 2017.

Understand Fragmented Search to Stay Ahead of Your Customers

It’s important to note that consumers in the ICLP study specified that they would consider choosing a new brand, not that they were actively seeking new choices. Familiarity is an essential part of human decision making. Brand loyalty never fully disappears and many consumers — whether consciously or unconsciously — will choose the known variable when faced with two similar choices. For this reason, brand visibility and brand reach are really important. Companies need to be in front of their customers at the right time. This means placing ads wherever your customers are shopping and wherever they are searching. Often times, this means venturing outside of traditional search engines.

To fully understand the importance of expanding reach, consider what happens when someone searches for a product, or specifically for your brand, and don’t find your ad. This potential customer is far more susceptible to competitor influence.

Avoid Budgeting Pitfalls

The most common budgeting mistake that brands make is the failure to ensure that search spend corresponds to traditional media spend. We often see brands allocate a large portion of their marketing spend towards big TV, print, and digital video without properly adjusting search and social budgets. If you are running an awareness campaign — especially for a promotion or other special event — then all marketing channels need to be prepared for increased volume and engagement. Establishing fluid budgets that can be allocated to top performing tactics and partners that directly drive revenue is essential to overall campaign health.

It’s not enough to moderately increase traditional search spend if search is one of the top performing channels for your retail brand. In fact, even if 90 percent of retail revenue comes from in-store sales for a given brand, the 10% of sales derived directly from e-commerce transactions is important because it is easy to measure and brings new customers by converting users throughout the funnel, and therefore deserves attention.  Online sales accounted for more than a third of total retail sales growth in 2015, as reported by the U.S. Commerce Department. Furthermore, failure to bid on top non-brand keywords or your own brand terms outside of the engines is a tremendous missed opportunity.

Pay Attention to Ad Copy

Complacency kills brands, and static advertising campaigns create an opportunity for your competitors by allowing customers to consider an alternative brand. That’s why it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ad copy, and any effective campaign needs diverse, personalized messaging with a strong call to action. This isn’t exactly new advice, but it’s often overlooked.

Non-targeted advertising will not only fail to retain loyal consumers but could also harm a brand’s reputation by frustrating target audiences with annoying or irrelevant advertising. Brands must work to consistently innovate the tactics and channels through which they reach customers. Highly-targeted advertising with strong calls to action will yield better results, influencing user behavior and growing bottom line revenue.

It’s a busy time in retail and there is a lot of noise and competition in the digital ad landscape that opens opportunities for competitors to attract and acquire portions of your loyal customer base. Brands can absolutely keep this at bay if they prioritize advertising tactics that strategically engage their target customers. From smart budgeting and refined targeting, to following users outside the usual places, it will take multiple tactics and strategies to retain a loyal customer base moving into this year.

Chris Lehman is Vice President of Sales for adMarketplace