When it comes to Google Shopping, hardware and home improvement e-commerce marketers can sometimes find it tricky to hit the nail on the head.
The hardware market is a mix of B2B and B2C buyers, and search volume for tools and appliances can be an unreliable indicator of future sales. So Google Shopping success for hardware retailers requires more vigilance and precision than installing a retaining wall.
But like most other verticals, hardware and home improvement retailers of all sizes can use Google Shopping to ratchet up revenue. Here’s how to get started retooling your hardware PLAs:
1. Seek balance.
Hardware and home improvement shoppers range from do-it-yourselfers to professional contractors to repair shops to larger industrial or manufacturing operations. And of course, these different buyers are all looking for different things.
Like a craftsman using a box beam level, find the right balance between high-volume, low-revenue consumer items (e.g., hammers and wrenches) and low-volume, high-revenue professional items (e.g., generators or table saws). A few sales of the latter could make an entire Google Shopping campaign efficient, so setting the correct bids for these products is critical.
2. Recalibrate during weekends and holidays.
Hardware and home improvement retailers counting on sales of professional items for campaign efficiency may run into issues during weekends and holidays. Think about it: If auto shops are closed for Thanksgiving, sales of mechanic-quality torque wrenches will likely take the day off, too.
On the other hand, these are the times when DIY hobbyists restock their toolboxes — and shoppers who can’t tell a Phillips head from a flathead screwdriver have time to buy gifts for their favorite tool junkie. Make the most of lulls in the professional calendar by shifting your outlook to that of a pure B2C retailer, and bidding more aggressively on high-end consumer tools or gift sets.
3. Pay attention to seasonality across different regions.
For the most part, hardware and home improvement retailers sell goods year-round, except for a slight dip at the beginning of each new calendar year. However, which products sell best during different times of the year can vary markedly by region.
Segment your Google Shopping campaigns by geography and vary bids for items in different regions according to shopper habits. For example, you could increase bids on axes and snow shovels in the autumn months before winter hits in New England, while simultaneously increasing bids for dehumidifiers in the country’s warmer states. Once you’ve perfected this, take it one step further and …
4. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive during a product’s off-season.
There’s not much middle ground in searches for hardware and home improvement products. Some are purely informational, and rarely result in a near-term sale. At the other end of the spectrum are searches borne out of real necessity, which do lead to quick conversions.
BUT this dynamic also means it could pay to promote a product during months when most shoppers are not looking for it. If a shopper is searching for an air conditioner during a traditionally cooler month, like October, then chances are he or she really needs it. So experiment with upping Google Shopping bids for a few products during their slow seasons to reach highly interested shoppers.
5. To compete with the largest retailers, determine your catalog’s differentiator.
There are a few national, big box hardware retailers that have become household names by outfitting consumer shoppers with the tools and know-how to tackle projects at home. They also do brisk business catering to professionals in need of tools and materials to complete that day’s job. For immediacy, it’s tough to compete against these massive players.
However, the big guys don’t typically stock a deep selection of specialty tools for niche professionals or highly specialized DIYers. Do some research to understand where your catalog can fill gaps in big box inventories, and consider raising bids to promote these long-tail items in the Google Shopping channel.
6. For brick-and-mortar locations, use local inventory ads to win on mobile.
In the hardware and home improvement space, mobile Google Shopping ads don’t adhere to the same laws of physics as in other sectors, where small, less-expensive items typically shine. Although a sledgehammer might not cost a whole lot, it’s heavy, and could be expensive to ship.
Besides, most shoppers seeking that tool probably need it to start or finish a project, and want it in their hands ASAP. So if you have brick-and-mortar locations, employ local inventory ads to bring shoppers in your neighborhood to a nearby location.
7. Find ways to stand out in the channel (besides price).
Many hardware retailers are bound by a minimum advertised price (MAP) — set by the manufacturer — for each product in their catalogs. This makes it more difficult to attract attention in Google Shopping, where shoppers are heavily influenced by price.
However, there are a multitude of ways to differentiate your Google Shopping ads from your competitors’. Becoming a Google Trusted Store (and displaying the attendant badge in your PLAs), and including product reviews or seller reviews (or both!) in your PLAs can help you stand out from the rest of the Google Shopping crowd.
Really, Google Shopping success requires a constant mindset of renovation. But like constructing any structure, you must first start with a foundation, and build up from there.
These seven tips should give e-commerce retailers in the hardware and home improvement segment a framework they can use to model their Google Shopping efforts. And for more DIY Google Shopping hacks, check out our Publications page.