Search Intent Makes Waves in Social Marketing

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With plans to increase digital marketing budgets in 2016, marketers are under the gun to get worthwhile returns on their investments – which explains the increasing popularity of marketing tools like Facebook Custom Audiences and Google Shopping Campaigns.

But when marketers utilize paid search or social in silos, they miss out on the significant benefits — according to Kenshoo, when paired with paid search, Facebook advertising delivers a 30 percent better return on ad spend (ROAS) than the ROAS for paid search alone.

To maximize cross-channel campaign effectiveness, marketers have started leveraging the intent of consumer searches by applying it to social marketing campaigns.

The theory goes: when a consumer searches for a product or service on a search engine, they’re expressing intent to purchase. By taking that expressed intent and serving ads for those products/services on social networks to re-engage consumers, marketers increase the likelihood of consumers completing the transaction. There’s strong evidence that approach works.

Search intent + Facebook Custom Audiences = success

For example, consider Belk, a mainline American department store company with nearly 300 stores in 16 Southern states that teamed up with iCrossing, a marketing engagement agency, to significantly increase conversions among customers who already showed interest in its products through paid search on Facebook.

Belk and iCrossing designed campaigns with the following parameters:

  • Targeted fans of its Facebook page as a baseline to compare to consumers who searched for the Belk brand
  • Utilized IDA to automatically create and update Custom Audiences based on the triggered search keywords
  • Used Facebook’s targeting capabilities to find more high value customers
  • Leveraged Facebook’s entire ad inventory, including mobile, as well as Facebook’s advanced filtering capabilities to further refine targeting on top of consumer search intent data

By all measures, Belk’s results were amazing. In targeting consumers based on their searches, a sale campaign delivered a 545 percent increase in conversion rate for versus targeting fans of its brand. A beauty campaign scored a 240 percent increase in conversion rates for Belk cosmetic searches versus fans of its brand. Meanwhile, Belk’s cost per acquisition (CPA) dropped by 67 percent and its conversion rates when consumers were searching for Belk specifically (as opposed to non-brand terms) skyrocketed by 400 percent.

Jon Pollack, Belk’s evp of marketing, sales promotion and e-commerce, commented on the campaign:

We utilized insight from our search campaign to inform our social strategies, which produced even greater results. This moves beyond remarketing and helps identify top brand loyalists based on their previous actions searching for the Belk brand and the products we sell online.

Learning from Belk

The increasing sophistication of social marketing technology is allowing marketers to improve the performance – and increase the ROAS – of their campaigns. More than ever before, marketers can identify and target customers in terms of the who, what, where and how they search – by leveraging consumer intent, the why enters the mix.

Marketers might want borrow a page from Belk’s playbook. Although there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to duplicate the retailer’s success, they should consider this: Research shows that on average, every $1 spent on Facebook yields $2.19 in return across paid search and paid social channels.

Laura Ruszkowski is manager, demand gen & marketing ops for Kenshoo. Contact her at laura.ruszkowski(at)kenshoo.com.

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