Demystifying the role of PPC

Jérémy Courty
September 19, 2023

A key challenge faced by many ecom brands is the rapid change in consumer behaviour and how they use their digital channels

Historically, PPC has always been measured using ROAS as the prime metric to quantify the success of the channel. Effectively reporting to stakeholders how much revenue you drive for every pound you put into online advertising.

Fair enough, a well built out campaign will put the right product in front of the consumer based on what they’re looking for, so should convert well.

So what has changed?

The one piece that this model doesn’t take into account is the customer journey. Reviewing all of the touchpoints leading up to the point of sale is growing increasingly complex as customer journeys become longer. This is commonly referred to as the messy middle.

Back in the day, it was a bit more straightforward. Someone searches on Google, sees an ad on their laptop, clicks on it and then converts. Online demand wasn’t as high, competition wasn’t as fierce and the way people consumed online advertising was far different from today.

Fast-forward to 2023, consumer behaviour is at the heart of this change. Think about your last 5 online searches and how those have influenced your online and offline behaviour. Consumers now have a wide range of local and global brands to shop from right from the palm of their hand (read, mobile phones).

So the challenge for advertisers right now is to reposition the role of PPC within their marketing mix, and truly understand how consumers interact with their brand.

Our approach

Our approach, regardless of your size or what you have to offer, is to get a clear understanding of who your customer is; and how those people interact with your brand.

From branded keywords to upper funnel activity, there's a lot more to consider than just driving a high return. Your activity might lead to some immediate sales, but what about those customers who need a little more convincing? Those that are still browsing, or those that are browsing online and then going in store?

What about those users who bought a pair of shoes via your paid activity and later came back directly onto your site to buy a dress? Incorporating lifetime value within your paid activity will help understand the long-term role of your paid channel rather than its immediate return.

By focusing purely on ROAS, you might be missing out on valuable customers who just need some extra time to browse and compare. 

Product listing ads (or shopping activity) are the perfect example of an ad engaging with relevant users who just aren’t necessarily ready to convert straight away. They are in-market for a specific product but are still browsing and might be shopping around for a better deal, driven by price, delivery options, or a specific USP. But the main idea here is that they might not have heard of you if it wasn’t for that initial shopping ad.

It’s not just about PPC. Before launching any activity we ask for a view of your broader marketing plan, put it all down into a one-pager, and slot in where we think PPC can help deliver your overall business objectives. 

Now, how do we translate this into a PPC Strategy?

We have done this exercise now with many of our clients and in some cases we’ve dropped branded keywords advertising altogether on search PPC. ROAS might drop when we do this but the aim is to drive new & relevant users to the site during a phase of hyper growth. In these cases, based on auction insights and SEO data we knew that their organic listing was able to convert those ready-to-buy consumers, those searching for their brand terms. By shifting our approach to solely focusing on non-branded types of keywords we were effectively able to grow their revenue without having to request more marketing spend.

In another example, our goal was to drive people in-store and increase footfall. Store conversions were the prime KPI, as opposed to driving a positive online ROAS. Our client understood that consumers were starting their research online and were more inclined to view and test their products in store. The role of PPC was to engage with them at this precise moment.

So, should I no longer measure PPC on a ROAS model?

Well, not quite. Don’t scrap your ROAS targets, it is still a prime KPI to measure the success of your online advertising. We are only asking to re-evaluate how Paid Search is engaging with your audience and think about how you can use the channel, and all the different campaign types, to achieve your overall business goals. Then set your KPIs after having done that exercise.

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