How to win in retail media

Jan 5, 2022


Amid slowing economic activity, COVID-19 has and continues to lead a surge in ecommerce and accelerated digital transformation. Businesses and consumers are increasingly “going digital”, both providing and purchasing more goods and services and raising the online share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to 17% in 2020.

Additional findings show consumers in emerging economies are making some of the greatest shifts to online shopping. Thailand saw total shopping app downloads jump +60% in one week during March 2020. The surge in online retail demand opens up opportunities for sellers of all sizes to capture greater ecommerce sales. One way to rise above the competition almost literally is with retail media.

As searching directly on the retailer site becomes the shopper journey entry point, ‘winning keywords’ becomes critical to dominating the digital shelf. Alibaba launched keyword auctions as early as 2014 and Amazon further cemented the bid and buy marketplace model in 2018 by launching Amazon Advertising to help vendors find suitable shoppers.

Many marketplaces like Amazon, Shopee and Lazada offer basic advertising solutions to support sellers in choosing the right keywords but the tools are still feature poor and require a knowledgeable marketer to operate. The sheer volume of product and keyword combinations also makes it difficult for sellers to manage ad budgets and maximise spend, especially if they are operating more than one storefront across multiple marketplaces.

SaaS companies such as Epsilo use technology to create simple solutions to allow sellers to manage onsite marketing efficiently and effectively. By using software to automate and enhance the marketing solution offered by marketplaces, sellers can optimize ad spend for thousands of keywords, aggregate and improve upon campaign performance and extract key insights in order to sell goods at scale and maximize revenue.

Customers using programmatic software like Epsilo to manage onsite advertising experience significant growth in %Ads GMV vs pre-implementation*, from 6% to 23%, driving more value from every dollar spent in marketing. How does a solution such as Epsilo drive this growth in Ads GMV?

Two is better than one

As a store owner, managing products is a critical component of the overall store performance. This ranges from using optimal product thumbnails to having competitive pricing and clear product titles and descriptions. All listings should be created to make the customer think as little as possible about the product's value and increase likelihood of discoverability.  

A sale can only be achieved if it is (1) visible to the customers through search, especially during a platform wide campaign and (2) available for sale and not OOS. The more products activated during a campaign increases the chances of being discovered.

  • TIP: Label your portfolio into types. Which product is a Hero SKU (top seller generating the most GMV without price fluctuations), what is an Opportunity or Long-tail SKU (high conversion, poor page views)? Hero SKUs should always appear at the top of search and have stock because customers will buy whether or not the item is on sale. Software like Epsilo can send alerts if an item or budget is running low.

Opportunity SKUs can gain exposure through a bundling strategy aside from only making price adjustments. By “re-packaging” your popular products, it not only increases awareness for the wider portfolio but can make it more difficult for consumers to compare prices. As always, take a look at the product title, product thumbnail and description to ensure they contain the right keywords and USPs.

The Keyword is King

Once products are properly lined-up in a campaign and in the store, it’s important to select the right keywords to bid on. As we know, keywords represent user intent so by bidding on relevant keywords we attract users with a higher intent to buy leading to higher conversion rates. To understand different types of keywords and how they differ by search volume and intent, examine the following visual:

Keyword Categories

Most brands and merchants over-index on brand keywords to secure high ROI. This approach is good for optimization, but not ideal for scale because you only target the shoppers that are familiar with your product. To scale online sales, there needs to be a balanced keyword strategy between Generic, Category, and Brand keywords. For example, bidding on generic keywords gives stores more visibility in the form of views and clicks during discovery but once customers are familiar with the products, they can be converted by targeting them with brand keywords

While it’s not mandatory, a brand should always try to bid on competitor keywords to understand more about the market and category buying behaviour. Let's say we bid on competitor keywords with a special promotion on the targeted SKUs, if there is no return after a trial period, it is best to try another strategy

In some cases where customers are highly loyal to brands such as infant formula, the return on competitor keyword bidding will likely be low. Keep in mind, some marketplaces do not allow keyword bidding for competitor keywords.

  • TIP: to know which keywords are best to invest in, it’s important to map keywords and sales performance. The same is applicable to keywords that should be turned off to improve return on ad spend. Organizing keywords requires disciplined operational effort, but some martech solutions such as Epsilo offer multi-product keyword selection features that enable sellers to manage thousands of keywords across products. On average, Epsilo customers are managing more than 1,500 keywords.

Winning the digital shelf

To rank at the top of a retailer’s search results is the equivalent of being displayed at eye level in a supermarket aisle. Sellers pay top dollar to increase the chances of shoppers viewing their products in an offline setting with little visibility of the actual ROI except monthly sales volumes.

Now imagine how onsite advertising can show sellers exactly how many people have viewed their product and for which keywords. The data collected can also show whether the product thumbnail can be improved based on click through rates (CTR) and when shoppers are more likely to purchase their products (ex. only during campaigns or at weekly intervals).

The Digital Shelf on Shopee Singapore

With the rise in ecommerce popularity and bid and buy marketplaces attracting the most shoppers among ecommerce sites, sellers can leverage retail marketing to win over even the biggest CPG companies with proper maintenance of keyword bids.

While ecommerce platforms offer suggested bid prices and sellers should follow them at a minimum, significant effort is required to regularly maintain and take action on the insights provided by shopper behavior and as auction dynamics change due to new competition.

  • TIP: Take advantage of available marketing tech software like Epsilo to automate and set rules for certain campaigns or store objectives. Epsilo allows sellers to set rules to reduce operation hassle such as turning off bids for SKUs that sell out. Rules can also be set to ensure Hero SKUs always rank in the top five search results by keeping bids competitive and capping spend. For example, a seller wants to increase the search rank of its best selling coffee capsules to top five from its current 10th position for the keyword ‘coffee’. He/she sets a rule through Epsilo to auto adjust the keyword bid with a max increase of 20% every day until the rank is achieved.

Retail marketing levels the playing field between sellers of all sizes - it only depends on who has the best onsite advertising strategy.

For more information on how software can help your keyword bidding strategy on top marketplaces, contact us.

Epsilo Data Points:

Ads GMV: %Ads GMV Contribution from 6.10% to 23.30%*

*based on one.epsilo 02/06/2020 - 02/06/2021 across 195 shops

Keyword Adoption:

On average each shop managed by Epsilo is managing >1,500 keywords*

191,413 / 108 = 1772 keywords (on Shopee)

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