Marketing Trends, Thoughts and Opinions
Jessica Alba: An Unlikely Tactical Marketing Heroine
Posted by: IDG Connect
In the global scheme of marketing strategies and tactics, the US tends to lead and the rest of the world, typically starting with the UK, eventually follows suit, adapting and localising as appropriate. The marketing of Hollywood blockbusters and their stars are no exception – except when it’s the stars themselves who start taking a keen interest in the tactics behind the profits.
Actress Jessica Alba, for example, established her own company, The Honest Company, following her own online shopping frustrations and invested heavily in conversion software for it. Earlier this year, it hit the news for increasing sales by 170% as a result. The US has a strong track record for conversion in e-commerce, thanks at least in part to its native technology giants with specialist conversion arms such as Adobe.
Conversion needs something to convert
Conversion techniques embedded in websites are only as strong as the volume of web traffic hitting that website. Despite its strength in conversion, the US is typically a weaker player in search engine optimisation (SEO), i.e. driving traffic to websites in the first place, especially when it comes to international marketing.
Search and conversion are both crucial to successful online marketing but are rarely considered as one married entity. Sometimes, it can feel like they’re not even speaking the same language.
Part of the US’s reluctance is perhaps the language barriers posed by many countries which can be nervous about translation. Rightly so. Even other predominantly English-speaking countries don’t necessarily use the same search terms for the same things. Of course, there are notable exceptions, such as Google and Amazon, that have successful local variations of their main homepage.
The key to optimising conversion is to balance attention on it, with that afforded to search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO, particularly when expanding to new territories with different languages and dialects, is essential for driving traffic to websites, as those who didn’t get it right at first can testify.
The hard lesson
When diamond specialist De Beers expanded internationally, it assumed its competitors would remain Tiffany & Co, Cartier and Bulgari. While on the high street, that may have been the case, the e-commerce picture was surprisingly different. Search engine results page (SERP) data revealed that the keywords De Beers thought it had monopolised for SEO were actually dominated by H Samuel in the UK and Four-Cs in Japan.
In another case, US-based sports-attire retailer M&M Direct learned a similarly hard lesson when it expanded into Europe. Initially, it assumed its top-selling brands in the US would be the same in every country and, for foreign languages, relied on direct translations of pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns including keywords, search terms and adverts. The consequent negative return on investment across all campaigns and markets came as something of a shock.
The problem was that the assumptions made were just that: assumptions. In reality, Adidas was a top seller in the US but trying to sell the brand to its home nation Germany was akin to selling proverbial snow to inhabitants of the Arctic.
The good news is that these companies turned their expansion fortunes around. M&M cast all assumptions about its popular brands aside and turned its attention instead to local search demand and competition across 100 brands in each individual market. With a clear view of each country’s preferences and actual search terms (not all were direct translations from English), M&M reduced its cost per action (CPA) in Germany from £85 to £25; in France from £120 to just £15.
United search and conversion
The origins of search and conversion, which must now fit together, are very different. SEO was typically the domain of marketers, who were mainly concerned with channels to market and search terms in general use. Conversion, on the other hand, tends to be the preserve of technology teams and website builders due to its origins in technology, analytics and an understanding of how servers work.
The problem currently is that heads of acquisition typically come from one of the two branches – search (marketing) or conversion. The parties responsible for each – marketing for SEO and technology for conversion – still rarely talk to each other. This must change.
It’s time now to think of search & conversion (S&C) as a single entity and encourage marketing and technology departments to work together. It’s not about a scary new acronym; it’s about efficiencies of scale, maximising budgets and making sure websites are working as hard as they can.
Working together, they can start to question and understand why a competitor with the same volume of web traffic generates more or higher-value sales. The next step takes analytics beyond business intelligence (BI), which simply describes what has happened; the integrated disciplines develop insights into the specific changes needed to increase profits. For example, they might show that a particular product has a high purchase rate when its page is visited but it’s not easy to find; it might mean making that product a prominent feature of the homepage or dedicating some paid search budget.
There is quite literally a world of opportunity out there for international e-commerce. The online retailers that will rise to the top are those that keep search and conversion as a single entity and understand it works in each of its target markets. Being a movie star first is just a bonus.
Greig Holbrook is Managing Director of Oban Multilingual