Today’s consumer journey is almost always kicked off with an online search. And it doesn’t end there — consumers use search to find reviews, compare prices and locate a business near them. This reliance on search gives marketers a unique opportunity to connect with consumers in a meaningful way throughout the decision process.
Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring a series of interviews with search experts to explore the opportunities and challenges for brands in the ever-evolving world of search marketing.
Our first interview is with Rob Griffin. Rob spent the past decade building search marketing teams and product solutions for Havas Media clients worldwide. He possesses a unique global perspective on the next wave of advancements and challenges we should expect for search in the years ahead.
Rob recently brought his transformative expertise back to North America, joining Havas Media’s U.S. management team as EVP of Futures & Innovation.
He spoke with T.S. Kelly and Henry Hall of The Media Strategist about his perspectives on local search and the future of SEM.
While keeping close watch on the dramatic changes happening within local, data, programmatic, etc., what are some of the trends you’re witnessing in the search arena?
To be clear, innovation in SEM is a vital part of my new role. Despite the many ways consumer search is evolving via local, mobile, etc., in the 10 years since I launched the first search department at Havas, the three fundamental reasons why people use search remain unchanged – discovery, immersion and navigation.
1. Discovery — I want to discover something new
2. Immersion — I want to immerse myself in that topic
3. Navigation — Using search as a primary navigation tool
What has changed is how consumers search. Google and a few others still largely own the navigation piece. Much of the discovery and immersion activity, however, has fragmented, splintering off into niche, app-based environments. Our internal numbers show it; depending on the platform or category, over 40% of search activity takes place outside the major search engines.
What does search fragmentation look like from the consumer’s point of view?
Let’s consider John Doe, passionate wine enthusiast, who constantly seeks out new varietals and labels. John starts the discovery process in his favorite wine app, shifting to Facebook for wines friends are discussing and then Twitter to hear from the experts. He revisits his wine app, heads over to Amazon for pricing options, and later utilizes YP for local shopping options. John may even access Expedia for travel ideas to visit the vineyard itself.
All this time, John is continuously shifting focus, ‘zigzagging’ back and forth between immersion and navigation. Google or another general search engine may be somewhere in the zigzag, but typically just playing the navigational role.
That’s a quite a bit of jumping around. How does all this ‘zigzagging’ consumer behavior impact the local search marketer’s planning process?
‘Zigzagging’ creates fragmentation, disjointed and frequently disconnected user experiences, an anathema to attribution and related ad tech in our space. It comes down to two critical SEM challenges, with regard to local – attribution and integrated planning tools.
Attribution. In a ‘zigzag’ consumer scenario, general search engines such as Google lose some ‘connective tissue’ to specialized apps such as local search, maps, etc., living outside of search domains. When consumers go back to Google (for navigation), relevant mid-funnel search activity will be absent. It’s hard to rely on existing attribution models if they’re missing key touchpoints of the consumer zigzag.
Integrated Planning Tools. Simply, we need more holistic management for all forms of search. Search marketers have lots of tools – Kenshoo, Marin, etc., are OK with Google, Facebook, etc. However, none offer clearance into search activity inside specialized app environments. Even useful location-specific services like YP — I’d love them further integrated in relation to all other SEM activity.
What would it mean to marketers if the industry could better address these issues?
I could offer dozens of possible applications if attribution could incorporate more apps activity and related tools could better integrate the planning and results. However, bottom line is the bottom line; my SEM teams would not only spend time and investment across more apps and more specialized tools, we would likely have a more holistic view on how to better utilize local for our brands, YP included.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Rob — coming next week.