Five Ways To Boost eCommerce Success In The Era Of Mobile-First Paid Search

May 18, 2017

Mobile paid search was once considered a bargain buy. Now that the majority of searches occur on mobile devices, however, CPC bids are catching up to reality. ECommerce merchants must invest their paid search dollars more wisely than ever to execute an effective mobile paid search strategy that drives omnichannel sales.

Smartphones are now the dominant search tool in terms of both clicks and search volume, according to a study from Google and ROI Revolution, with phones surpassing desktop and laptop computers and tablets for the first time in 2016. And 55% of clicks on ads in the popular Google Shopping format are on smartphones, according to Marin Software.

This surge in mobile paid search usage is boosting CPC rates for search ads targeted to mobile devices. Although smartphone ad rates still trail desktop by some 20%, according to Marin Software, that gap has closed by 9 percentage points, or 30%, in the past year. During the peak holiday shopping period, competition is particularly intense, with mobile CPC rates jumping 5% year-over-year in 2016, compared with price declines for desktop computers and tablets, according to the Google/ROI Revolution study.

Given these pricing pressures, small-to-mid-sized merchants must wield their paid search investments more carefully than ever to ensure maximum impact. By matching segments with the appropriate ad types and content, sellers can demonstrate their brand’s relevance and boost omnichannel conversion. Among the best practices:

Check landing page speed. One key to driving mobile search ad conversions has nothing to do with the ads themselves. Mobile site speed is crucial to winning conversions, with pages that load in less than 3 seconds earning peak conversion potential, according to the Google/ROI Revolution study  — so merchants should do everything in their power to ensure that paid search ad landing pages not only clearly convey key product information, but are also swift to load on smartphones.

Don’t forget the “phone” part of smartphones. Merchants should take advantage of click-to-call features within paid search ads, and ensure that the numbers listed actually reach live people. Geo-targeting ad content to feature local store phone numbers puts shoppers in touch with merchants’ local representatives, who can help them address questions with store resources in mind.

Geo-target store-related promotions. With mobile commerce conversion rates still lagging mobile browsing and research, merchants would do well to remind searchers of the services and promotions available at nearby outlets. In addition to experimenting with Google’s Local Inventory feature, merchants can promote buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and other fulfillment services, along with store events.

In addition to geo-targeting, store promotions can also be prioritized for delivery to prior mobile site visitors who left without purchasing — in effect, creating retargeting campaigns letting shoppers know they have alternatives to buying on their phones.

Narrow the field for Google Shopping ads. With competition for popular Shopping ads intensifying, and screen real estate limited on mobile devices, merchants should do their utmost to use these compelling image-and-text ad formats as efficiently as possible. To do so, they should experiment with:

  • Targeting prior buyers. Those already familiar with the brand, who have presumably enjoyed a positive purchase experience, are more likely to act on a Shopping ad alerting them to product availability from a trusted merchant.
  • Showcasing exclusive products. Attempting to compete in the Shopping space for commoditized products is a losing proposition for most merchants, whose paid search budgets are smaller than mass merchants and whose product prices may not compete with big players’ deep discounts. Instead, merchants should shine the Shopping ad spotlight on their unique finds and private-label items. To promote visibility of these items for shoppers not yet familiar with the brand’s niche offerings, merchants should use natural language descriptors in the ad text.
  • Bidding on specific vs. broad search terms. To reach shoppers who are nearing a purchase decision, merchants can throttle their bids to focus on keywords with a higher degree of specificity, such as precise brand or even product names.

Experiment with paid search spend on social platforms. Social networks are overwhelmingly mobile, with close to 80% of time spent on social media occurring on mobile devices, whether through apps or the mobile Web, according to measurement firm comScore. For that reason, merchants should think beyond Google when it comes to making placements, and explore paid search, retargeting, and programmatic ads on platforms such as Facebook and Youtube, where fully 70% of viewership occurs on mobile devices.
How are you optimizing paid search dollars for mobile audiences?