Head of Search
It's an exciting time to work in search engine marketing. Updates come in almost on a daily basis, with new and exciting ways to market to end consumers.
What we've seen over the last 3 years is a fragmentation within search – away from one single provider, to multiple new emerging search engines. At the heart of this shift is the underlying rule that the only purpose of a search engine is to quickly solve a consumer’s problem. If someone finds a quicker or easier route, they will migrate search engines. This is exactly what we've seen in the retail space with Amazon in 2018 seeing over half of consumers starting their retail purchase journey on Amazon in the US, Germany, France and the UK.
This presents a great challenge, but also an opportunity for brands seeking to reach consumers during their decision-making process. However, for those brands who already sell through the Amazon Vendor or Seller schemes, there’s the opportunity to run Amazon PPC-style campaigns within the platform, through Amazon Marketing Services (AMS).
iCrossing has worked with its partner brands over the last few years to drive success with Amazon Marketing Services as part of its TOTAL SEARCH programme – aimed at reaching consumers wherever they might be searching for brands. These are the 7 steps that we follow in order to drive success:
AMS is fuelled by keywords, so it’s important that all of the keywords (that are relevant to the brand in question) are fully tested. Utilise all of the tools and techniques available to you, including (but not limited to) existing terminology used to describe your products, keywords used by competitors within their product descriptions, suggestions provided by the Amazon search box and questions that the consumer asks about your products. Then, consider where these keywords sit within the marketing mix.
At iCrossing we commonly tend to split Amazon keyword sets;
Retain: ensuring your brand is protected and those consumers searching for your brand purchase from you
Recruit: inserting the brands products into non-brand keyword journeys to recruit new customers
Conquest: disrupting competition brand searches, highlighting products that could be purchased from our brand instead
Keywords can be used to build out your Amazon marketing strategy and campaigns, optimise your products and inform gaps within the current product portfolio.
The are 3 key formats that can be used on AMS currently:
Amazon advises that, dependent on your objective, a different ratio of these ad formats should be used within your campaigns. For example, when driving sales efficiency, Headline Search and Sponsored Products should take the lion's share of the paid media budget. But if the objective is to launch new products, Product Display should take over from Headline Search within the mix.
At iCrossing we believe in always chasing one objective with each campaign, this in turn indicates the best ad formats to use. Utilising a paid media waterfall hierarchy, we tend to maximise the investment (as per below) for either the main objective of sales or awareness. So in the case of sales, investment in Sponsored Products would be maximised first.
Products and their associated feeds within Amazon contain a number of opportunities to add keywords to their copy. Make sure to use all of the available fields to optimise the products, be that the product name, bullet points or product description. The advantages of optimising the product are 3 fold:
More chance of a AMS click resulting in a conversion
More chance of the product ranking organically (free) within Amazon's results
More chance of the Amazon product page ranking organically within Google's search results as well
It is possible to set campaigns to automatic within Amazon – this allows for quick set-up of campaigns for a set group of products. However to truly succeed on Amazon, you’ll need to take control of all the bidding and placement.
For this, you’ll need a day-to-day process to manage your campaigns. Once you've researched your keywords, used the correct formats to set up your campaigns and optimised your products, it's time to put the campaign live. There are a number of additional steps that can then be taken. Every few days (or weeks) we advise pulling a keyword report, giving insights into the keywords that have triggered ads within your broad match campaigns. Check these keywords for relevancy against your products. If they aren't relevant, ensure they’re added to negative match. If they are, separate them out into exact match campaigns. This allows for more granular bid adjustment controls based on the return against the objective.
Finally, once new keywords have appeared as a result of the keyword report, consider the additional optimisation of products to include these terms.
For large AMS campaigns, it can often be difficult to prioritise where to optimise at any given point in time. To simplify this, we utilise search seasonality data to highlight which product groups are likely to be trending at any given time and focus our energy there. Through use of a search planner and Amazon's Planning Calendar, bids and optimisation can be up-weighted within the highest priority areas.
As with any form of paid media, features and ways of working within AMS need to be thoroughly tested to ensure that campaigns are being maximised. There are a number of tests that iCrossing has successfully run over the years, here are a few to consider:
Test broadening to upper-funnel keywords during peak season (i.e. products you wouldn't usually consider to deliver a return)
Research using ARA (Amazon Retail Analytics) up-stream products that you could utilise within product display ads
Test group price similar products to encourage cross-sell/multi-purchase actions within headline ads
Bid on your own brand terms and products to protect from competitors
Bid on your competitors’ brand terms and products to gain incremental revenue and share
Create a brand store on Amazon to enrich the user journey
Use brand store insights to track the performance of your brand store
In order to justify any form of paid media it's important to get return against the core campaign objective.
Amazon has the advantage of currently being a highly effective driver of sales within retail. Rather than having individual pots of budget for different paid media, iCrossing advises the use of a waterfall hierarchy to maximise investment in channels that deliver the highest return.
Below is an example for one of our partners, note this will be different for every brand (with a different order of paid media channels). In this example Amazon returns the highest ROI and so investment in Amazon is maximised before investment is passed to other channels.
Using this methodology will ensure that investment in Amazon is maximised based on its return for individual brands.
iCrossing successfully runs Amazon marketing strategies and campaigns for many partner brands. If you‘d like to discuss Amazon Marketing Services or how iCrossing could maximise the results from AMS using the 7 Steps, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
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