What better place to kick off the year’s event calendar than eTail West 2017? As always, I returned home from this year’s conference with plenty of new ideas, a few good stories, and very much in need of a nap.
Even for a veteran attendee, it can be a lot to take in. So for anyone back at the office this week wondering if you missed anything, here’s a quick recap of the big themes that dominated the buzz at eTail West 2017.
Conversational Shopping Has Arrived
Google made waves last month when it introduced Google Express shopping capabilities to its voice-powered Google Home speaker. Naturally, this development fueled plenty of chatter at eTail about the future of conversational shopping.
In discussions with marketers from a number of brands, as well as in a few panels, a consensus emerged. It’s not if a critical mass of consumers will adopt conversational shopping, it’s when.
Case in point: We heard from several IR Top 500 retailers that queries starting with “OK, Google” had begun surfacing in their Google Shopping campaigns’ search terms reports. You can try this at home. Check out your search terms report to see whether these spoken queries are driving traffic to your Shopping campaigns.
It’s still very early in the game, and there’s not much you can do with this intel at present, but “OK, Google” queries suggest a growing consumer comfort with spoken searches via Google Assistant.
As conversational shopping grows in popularity and sophistication, retailers will need to adapt with new forms of tracking and optimization.
For instance, how would you value a spoken query relative to a typed query by the likelihood of conversion? I’d wager there is a significant difference in purchase intent between the two. Retailers will one day need to calculate this difference in intent and use it to inform bids.
Google Shopping Took Center Stage
I was lucky to arrive in Palm Springs early and host an interactive roundtable at eTail’s Display, Online Media & Search Pre-Conference Summit. Full disclosure: This was my fourth Search Summit. But I noticed something new and exciting during this year’s keynote panel.
In earlier years, questions about Google Shopping have been raised during the keynote, but usually towards the middle or the end of the address. This year, when hands shot up, the second question asked related to optimizing Google Shopping ads.
The interest in Google Shopping carried throughout the conference and colored dozens of encounters my team and I had there.
Attendees showed up to this year’s eTail West with Google Shopping questions already prepared. As always, we were more than happy to lend a hand and share our unique take on the channel with inquiring minds.
The Amazon-Sized Elephant in the Room at eTail West 2017
We began seeing Amazon.com pop up as a competitor in some of our home goods clients’ Auction Insights reports in Shopping campaigns back in December 2016. It’s nearly three months later, and Amazon is still present as a competitor in those Auction Insights reports.
Marketers have naturally taken note in their campaigns, too. I fielded many questions about the e-commerce behemoth’s foray into Google Shopping ads.
No surprise: With its size, Amazon has the potential to drive up costs for Shopping ads.
But there are a few reasons to be optimistic:
- Though Amazon does have deeper pockets than most retailers using Google Shopping, its search budget is not infinite. And because Amazon’s margins are already thin, it can only invest so much in the channel before needing to revisit its ROI goals. So the fears of Amazon buying up all available Google Shopping inventory and dramatically driving up CPCs probably won’t materialize, at least not for the long term.
- Besides, Amazon is hard at work building up its own internal search platform to sell to e-commerce advertisers. This platform centers primarily around sponsored listings (for now). After years eschewing Shopping ads, Amazon’s limited adoption of them might very well be a data gathering operation. Amazon could be aiming to learn more about product listing ads and apply these learnings to its own products, rather than treat the channel as a meaningful source of new business.
Whatever the outcome, we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this as the year goes on.
It’s Not an Event Without Mobile
At this point, mobile chatter is guaranteed with the price of admission to any e-commerce trade show. What was new to me this year, however, was the consistent feedback I heard from retailers that their shoppers were no longer using smartphones just for product discovery and research.
A number of IR Top 500 retailers reported that mobile traffic now comprised a significant chunk of overall sales, especially when it came to certain types of items. They responded in kind by ramping up investments in paid mobile traffic.
Our research has shown that mobile conversion rates on Google Shopping still haven’t caught up to desktop, but it’s clear that they are improving enough to raise eyebrows
Taken together, the topics covered at eTail West 2017 portrayed an e-commerce marketing landscape that’s growing more and more diverse by the day.
New forms of interaction. New types of ads. New competitors. New shopper habits. They all add up to an exciting — if sometimes chaotic — space in which to work, grow, and innovate. And reflecting on this year’s eTail West, I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.