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Why Retailers Should Pay More Attention to the Top of the Marketing Funnel

Last year, we predicted the battle for ad space would only grow more competitive. That’s one forecast certainly coming to fruition. In our analysis of the 2018 Black Friday and Cyber Monday period, we saw average CPCs rise 12.3% year-over-year. That trend figures to continue, and nowhere is it more apparent than at the bottom of the marketing funnel.

Paid search advertisers are doing everything in their power to muscle their way past rivals for coveted bottom-of-funnel search terms. Everyone wants to capture those high-intent shoppers who are ready to make a purchase and complete their customer journey. Of course, PPC costs are only increasing as advertisers raise their bids to make it happen.

Dilemma for SMBs

Unfortunately, this leaves many smaller retailers feeling priced out. For businesses with a limited advertising budget, it may seem impossible to keep pace with larger competitors. The good news is there’s still much to be gained by taking a fresh look at the top of the funnel. Engaging customers in the early stages of their search can prove rewarding down the road. Even if you’re not directly selling your product or service, you can make a strong, positive impression on consumers in the research phase of their journeys.

Put a Creative Spin on Brand Awareness

Big-box stores are traditionally a sore spot for smaller retailers, but in this case, they can also be a source of new ideas. Retail goliaths like Target have been adjusting their own strategies with a heavier emphasis on serving the top of the funnel. In late 2017, the superstore unveiled an augmented reality (AR) app on their mobile site that allows users to “see” how products, like furniture, will physically look inside their homes. With the ability to visualize different pieces fitting into their living rooms, customers feel more empowered to make a confident purchase, even if this step doesn’t happen immediately.

Target’s AR app is a great example of how to capture top-of-funnel customers. (Source: Target)

One could promote this app by bidding on top-of-funnel phrases like “interior design tips” in paid search. When someone in need of design inspiration searches for ideas online, they’ll find a unique expression of your brand that’s as useful as it is memorable. It may not be a purchase, but it’s a meaningful interaction that will keep your business top-of-mind.

Take It to the Top

Of course, a powerhouse like Target has the luxury of being able to address both ends of the funnel at the same time. You, on the other hand, likely need to be a bit more selective in how you manage your ad budget. That’s why we see more retailers investing in top-of-funnel campaigns this year and beyond.

While not everyone has the resources to build an AR app, there are other ways you can cater to searchers at the top of the funnel. Does your business offer a free sample program? What about downloadable guides related to your products or industry? Are you hosting any upcoming events or webinars? Provide customers with unique experiences that introduce them to your brand, then retarget them later when they’ll be better-informed and more prepared to make a purchase.

Turning your gaze to the beginning of the customer journey can plant the seeds for future conversions without paying a premium for those rising bottom-of-funnel CPCs.

Want More Insights?

What else does today’s retailer need to know about tomorrow’s search marketing trends? Catch up on our previous blog posts detailing contextual search, automation, machine-readable entity IDs (MREIDs), the “ideal customer” myth, responsible marketing, and voice-to-screen devices.