Print and other traditional media spur retail web searches

If you thought pay-per-click (PPC) search engine marketing would make your marketing planning easier, think again.

PPC is simple and brilliant: Show online ads to someone who is searching based on the keywords they choose as a proxy for their buying intentions. It’s a proven way to catch qualified prospects when they’re considering a purchase. Within limits, it’s also quite measurable.

So life got easier, right? Certainly you can now eliminate much of your traditional advertising and pile on the keyword buys. There’s your plan. Now you can go home. 

If that’s what you’re thinking, you may want to think again. 

Specifically, consider what sends prospects to their computers in the first place. A survey by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA) reports that consumers start their web searches based on many off-line stimuli, including much of traditional advertising.

Consumers said that they were most motivated to begin an online search after viewing advertisements in magazines (47.2%), newspapers (42.3%), on TV (42.8%) and from reading articles (43.7%).

Although it wasn’t specifically addressed here, you can gather that in these cases off-line advertising probably triggered a search for a brand (the advertised brand, that is), as opposed to a generic search (one on the category of product). In this way, the off-line stimulus greatly improved the odds of your PPC ads finding prospects who are ready to buy.

Media that were most likely to motivate an online searchPut another way, the stimulus improved the PPC ads’ conversion rates. If you were to read the PPC stats in a vacuum, you’d confer more power to the medium than it deserves.

Imagine two men in a fishing boat, one doing all of the casting of the line and reeling in of the fish, and the other man standing ready with the fishing net. It would be unfair to claim that the guy with the net was actually doing any fishing, just because he brought all of the catches into the boat.

So which of the off-line media reels them close to the boat most effectively?

I show the chart above not to demonstrate the superiority of one medium over another. On the contrary, I’m struck by how close they are in terms of “most motivating” a search. It instead shows what an incredibly mixed bag these media present the beleaguered marketing planner, and how technology, at least in this case, isn’t cutting that person any breaks.

3 thoughts on “Print and other traditional media spur retail web searches”

  1. I think the role of the retailer’s own brand name is critically important here.

    If BigCompany runs a print or TV ad which then generates a web search for “Big Company”, I’d suggest the search engine is acting like a white pages.

    If BigCompany (or CompetitorCompany) run TV or print ads suggesting “Buy Widgets!”, and consumers go to search engine and search for “widgets”, and ads for BigCompany and CompetitorCompany and WidgetStartUp all come up on the search results page, and then the searcher reads the ad copy and clicks on one or two and then goes on to purchases, I see that as quite different — I’d suggest the search engine is acting like a yellow pages.

    A recent post from Search Engine Land on this:

    PC And Your Good Name



  2. Thanks for referencing that study. It’s along the same lines as what I found out while I was at Forrester regarding credit cards. Consumers who applied online were as likely to go to a site because of a piece of direct mail as they were because of an online search.

    The findings from RAMA support this cross-channel influence in other product areas.

    Certainly makes our job figuring which channels to use and how to measure the influence of each channel a whole lot easier (NOT).

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