The peak shopping season is over and online marketers are looking to decompress after the heavy investment and hyperactive management of paid search programs. Before doing that, it is important to look back at performance, pull out insights, and apply them to future paid search strategies.

Kenshoo recently released the 2013 Global Online Retail Seasonal Shopping Report: Final Edition, which breaks down all key SEM metrics during the shopping season and offers up four SEM imperatives for retailers to apply to upcoming paid search programs.

1. Use historical data to anticipate critical days of opportunity and competition

Every year, retailers gain insights into consumer behavior on key dates such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday. As performance changes year-over-year, be sure to apply learnings from the previous year to your search marketing strategy. For example, as seen in the chart below, U.K. retailers drove more online revenue on Black Friday than years’ past (264% YoY increase). U.K. retailers should allocate more budget towards that day next year and be prepared for the influx in traffic and revenue.

2013 U.K. Revenue from Paid Search Peaks on Black Friday

Although being prepared will give you a leg up, make sure to use technology wisely in order best manage your paid search efforts to truly maximize your performance. Advanced bid management platforms can offer valuable tools to help you run your programs more efficiently including budget forecasting, automated marketing calendar integration, scheduled campaign actions, etc. Additionally, sophisticated portfolio optimization using actionable attribution models can increase your Return-on-Investment (ROI) without requiring manual management of keywords, bids, and budgets on key dates during the season.

2. Diversify your paid search ad types – PLAs deliver excellent returns

The paid search landscape has evolved and grown tremendously in the past few years. Newer ad formats such as Product Listing Ads (PLAs) offer engaging and visual ways to connect with consumers. As seen in this year’s shopping season, by boosting PLA spend 138% YoY, retailers drove a 57% YoY increase in impressions, 97% YoY increase in clicks, and 269% YoY increase in revenue from PLAs, proving it to be a highly effective ad type during the 2013 shopping season.

Year-over-Year Increases in 2013 Global Retail Shopping Season Product Listing Ads Key Metrics

Retailers should continue to leverage PLAs beyond the shopping season and fine tune your strategies as this format continues to mature. One of the biggest steps that you can take to ensure you are getting the most out of your PLA programs is to ensure accuracy of your feed so that products which have been discontinued or are currently out of stock do not get promoted.

3. Adjust paid search strategy by device to account for mobile and tablet growth

Consumers are changing their search and purchase habits, and retailers need to understand the shift that is occurring from desktop to mobile paid search traffic and adjust bids and budgets accordingly. More than 1 out of every 3 global paid search clicks originated from mobile devices during the 2013 shopping season (21% phone and 16% tablet).

2013 Global Retail Shopping Clicks by Device

It’s important to not only make sure your campaigns are optimized for mobile devices, but also utilize tools such as mobile bid adjustments to target your consumers on each device. Overall, the best strategy is to approach consumers on your devices in the manner in which they wish to be engaged. Mobile visitors expect you to communicate appropriately based on the device they are using and provide the most relevant information.

4. Tailor keyword selection and messaging strategy to increase efficiency

During the peak shopping season, global retailers are investing heavily in paid search, resulting in a race to break through the noise. Click-rates and conversion rates reach higher levels that during the rest of the year (we saw 2.3% CTR and 4% CVR during the 2013 season). To make this investment worth your while, it’s critical to capture consumer intent on all searches related to your offering. Choosing keywords based on what products you have in stock and adding a layer of targeting, whether it be by time of day or geography, will allow you to reach your desired consumers at the right place and time to improve overall paid search performance — a 6:1 return on ad spend is the benchmark from our retail index.

2013 U.S. Online Retail Holiday Shopping Report Charts-02

One of the more innovative developments in digital marketing is real-time integration of paid search with inventory systems. Through advanced bid management platforms you can customize ads with up-to-the-minute promotions, tie keywords to merchandising systems and pause out-of-stock items, etc. Retailers now have more options than ever to leverage technology to help make keyword and creative optimization more efficient and impactful. During the busy shopping season, every incremental tactic can help you outflank your competition and drive meaningful revenue.

Summary

Take these insights into consideration when approaching the new year and particularly the next peak shopping season in order to take your paid search performance to the next level. Don’t forget to check out the 2013 Global Online Retail Seasonal Shopping Report: Final Edition to view all Global, U.S., and U.K. shopping season trends and findings.