I started in advertising on the agency side, as a media buyer on accounts ranging from family entertainment to finance. Every day, my team received requests from our media partners to come in and walk us through a new research study. One study would show moms are spending more time online. Another would prove his site drove more conversions for a “white label retailer” than others.

During these presentations, it was our job to poke holes in the stories and question the research. This was not to be defensive, but to ensure the research we’d be using to mold our clients’ media campaigns was rock solid. Now, on the other side of the desk, I am the media partner calling my clients with “a great new research study to prove…”

What I’ve realized from my experience is that 3rd party research can never be 100% accurate for my business. I hear from the field, “that white label retailer is smaller than me,” or “my target audience is older than the one in the study,” etc. This is not to say 3rd party data isn’t valuable. On the contrary, if we can learn how other advertisers have succeeded by studying their research, we are only the wiser. But instead of using 3rd party data to validate our campaign strategies, it’s time we start conducting more of our own research tests.

With retailers now being forced to “do more with less,” we must prove the value of every single ad dollar. We can no longer afford to take someone else’s word that banners drive search, or that multi-channel shoppers spend more. We need to set up methodical tests, using our own retailer data, to better understand how our advertising is driving sales. Instead of the mantra “do more with less,” we should be asking, “how can we make the most with what we have?”

Every retailer will want different questions answered. And every test will vary based on what we’re trying to prove. But to get the testing ball rolling, here are a few thought starters. So put your hole-poking hat on, and question my testing ideas. Then, set up time with your Google account team to share what you want to prove about your online campaigns this year. Work together to devise the appropriate test using your own data set. And after you test and learn, test again, and then again. And then maybe publish your results in a white label case study. We really do love them.

Test #1- Is my search campaign driving in-store sales during a promotion?

Goal- Drive store sales by informing online shoppers (searching for your products) that you are having a promotion in their purchase category.

Execution- Run search at 100% SOV against all relevant categories in the days leading up to the store sale. Google can provide estimates on impressions and clicks against specific categories.
Measurement- Match known users on your website with in-store credit card behavior by aligning the two customer data bases. This will show you if the consumers who searched on your website later went in-store to buy.

Test example (mock data for illustrative purposes only)

Promotion- Spring Sale
Sale dates- 4/25 – 4/26
Product focus- jeans
Search timing- 4/22 – 4/26
100% SOV Impressions- 3M
CTR- 2%
CPC- $0.70
Clicks- 60K
Search investment- $42K

Test #2- How are my product-based (non-brand) search campaigns impacting my business?

Goal- Correctly assign value for individual product categories by testing the impact of coverage against high-volume category keywords.

Execution- Bid on groups of high-traffic, high funnel keywords to determine the value of the “first click.”

Measurement- Use cookies to track user behavior over 30-day window (purchase cycle varies by product category). Monitor behavior after first click for subsequent search activity, direct load, general site activity, and in-store purchase through customer database matching.

Test example (mock data for illustrative purposes only)

Product category- cookware
Sample keywords- saucepan, grill, frying pan, crock pot
Search timing- May
Search investment- $60K

Posted by, Jen Anderson, Google Retail Team