With the continued growth of the e-commerce consumer ecosystem, brands are facing new challenges in their efforts to grow awareness and market share. Low barriers to marketplace entry have led to a surge of new entrants. In 2020, more than 30,000 new brands—across private label, emerging and import—were added to the U.S. e-commerce marketplace. This rise and the resultant advent of the “endless shelf” has increased competition and posed a major threat to brands’ share of the consumer-economy pie.
For brands playing in the e-commerce space right now, search—specifically branded search—can offer critical insights to guide the navigation through this real-time evolution.
The power of search
To succeed in today’s crowded environment, brands must understand what drives consumer purchasing behavior. Analyzing search behavior provides brands an uncompromised window into the online shopping behavior of the consumer economy. The result of this analysis provides an understanding of the biggest players, the largest threats and the emerging trends surrounding the e-commerce landscape at any given time. The actions that come from understanding those takeaways are critical for brands to find new ways to build awareness, to grow loyalty and to improve their overall brand health.
With 64% of online retail sales starting with a branded search in 2020, brands must work to bolster their presence in the collective consciousness of online shoppers. Otherwise, the private label, direct to consumer (DTC) and imported brands that are emerging on the scene will continue to erode the market share of current leaders. Understanding search and growing branded search volume are critical defenses against the onslaught of the new market entrants.
Evaluating brand health
Brand health can be simply defined as how “present” a brand is in the consciousness of consumers. Search analysis offers an unfiltered view into what consumers are actually looking to buy online. By comparing total search volume, keywords and top products of one brand versus its competitors, marketers can unlock a door to understanding consumer behavior. Insight into how consumers understand and seek out a brand allows companies to meaningfully adjust their positioning and marketing efforts. Further, keeping a pulse on search metrics overtime facilitates an evaluation of how impactful marketing efforts have been in improving brand health.
To understand how search functions as an indicator of brand health just double click into the footwear brand Crocs and its associated shoe charms Jibbitz. Crocs re-emergence as a popular consumer brand has been led by celebrity partnerships with singer Justin Bieber and rapper Post Malone, as well as brand partnerships with the likes of Benefit Cosmetics and Disney.
Crocs is the 10th most popular consumer brand so far in 2021, with branded search traffic up more than 50% year on year. Its Jibbitz-specific searches have exploded to more than 19 million searches year-to-date, a staggering 257% increase over the same time last year.
Understanding marketing efficacy
The return on investment for upper-funnel marketing initiatives is notoriously difficult for brands to measure. TV commercials, billboards, newspaper ads and celebrity partnerships are high-cost activations that have few quantifiable ways to understand their success. Effective marketing programs connect with their target audiences and increase brand awareness and, consequently, brand health.
By evaluating movement in branded search volumes brands can see the reach and downstream impact of large, expensive marketing campaigns. E-commerce search is a litmus test for how successful brands are in improving their brand awareness and health.
In recent weeks, the audio brand Beats has doubled down on its sports-focused partnerships and ad content. The company’s all-star lineup includes basketball player LeBron James, swimmer Michael Phelps, sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, soccer star Neymar and more. Beats has sustained growth in total search volume this year with an accelerated increase over a recent three week period. During that time, Beats commercials were prominently featured during this year’s NBA finals. Analyzing search volumes shows the correlation between that activation and the increased online awareness.
Identifying consumer trends
Beyond brand health, e-commerce search acts as a transparent indicator for the brands and topics that are trending right now. With the outsized impact that media has on consumer behavior, one can draw direct relationships between the content that is being consumed digitally and the products that people are considering purchasing.
TikTok videos, social media influencers, news stories and other real-world circumstances drive meaningful popularity for certain brands and items. Crayola Globbles squish toys, gua sha massage tools, TikTok leggings and hair products from Olaplex are all on the receiving end of these viral moments. With the lifecycle of a trend getting shorter, keeping a pulse on what is emerging and what is declining keeps brands informed in an accurate and timely manner.
Search as the key
The pandemic undeniably fast-tracked e-commerce adoption, which in turn accelerated the rate at which retail movements take hold and new brand leaders emerge. And yet, having visibility into consumer appetite at the e-commerce search level has been minimal at best.
It’s essential for brands to tackle this problem head-on to obtain a comprehensive view of the topics driving purchase intent. Having this view will give them a clearer idea of how and why e-commerce is evolving so rapidly, the directions it’s going and how they can benefit from a rapidly shifting landscape.