How Do Most Consumers Discover Products? Still Search!

ATG (a large commerce platform) just put out some interesting studies. 53% (of 1,002 total people) cited search engines as their key source for discovering new products.

Is this news? Not really. But I was interested to see how competitive email still is. I was also interested to see where social media (as a channel) resides. Social is under In-store displays and offline signs. Wow. Even though it’s fertile, this is a reminder that social still has a long road until full maturity.

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ATG - online shopping study

Check out Search Engine Land for more stats.

SEO Might Be Doing More Than You Think

You know the Old Spice social media campaign that exploded in the end of July?  Lots of online views, and low ROI (well, according to the preliminary reports from outside of the Old Spice camp).  I’ve read enough articles calling this a failure for the low impact to revenue.  Whether true or not***, all I know is that Old Spice, which I always considered (for whatever reason) a low quality, old fashioned product, is now on my radar.  This is momentum, and this is a rare gem today.  A lot of marketing fails to gain any attention at all.  When you succeed, and cut through some noise, consider that a success.  Now, in 2010, you need to ‘level up’ on that success, or you might as well have not even tried.  Some success isn’t enough success.

SEO is marketing and branding, too.  Getting routine rankings for similar queries helps the searcher buy into your brand.  Your customers spend a lot of time in Google.  Typically more unique visitors come to your site from a Google search than any other medium.  Maybe you’re not getting the sales you’re hoping for from natural search, but you may be building your mindshare just by appearing frequently in the search engine result pages.  A lot of searchers trust Google.  If Google constantly shows your webpage to the same searcher, the perception may be that Google knows something you don’t know.  A lot of people actually think that Google ranks based on traffic and popularity.  Whatever the reason, that semi-conscious thought goes a long way in online marketing.  It could even influence offline foot traffic or sales through your other online marketing channels.  With good rankings comes good brand visibility.

My goal isn’t to convince you to ignore ROI in SEO (or any online marketing), but I do want to help you think about it differently if you’re one of the people who say, “my campaign failed because it didn’t turn a profit.”  I want you to remember that marketing is more than just immediate sales.  Sales is an important piece dependent on the components of your strategy.  Brands that concentrate on branding do so because they know the value.  Just because we’re online with amazing abilities to cookie and track, doesn’t mean we should forget the original definition of marketing and branding.

As a postscript, and as far as Old Spice goes, I was walking through the grocery store last week.  I did stop and pause at the deodorant.  I didn’t need any.  But I was semi-consciously influenced, and I this time I caught it.  If Old Spice keeps up their momentum, I might stop next and buy when I am in the market for deodorant.  If they don’t keep it up, that stop may have been it for me.

*** Update – Per the beginning of this article, it looks like the reports I was reading of low ROI for the Old Spice campaign have been, well, wrong.  Hard stats are in.  According to BrandWeek, Old Spice’s sales increased 107% over last month and 55% over the course of the past 3 months.  Nice.

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