How to create a winning Retail Search strategy

June 30, 2022

Retailer websites are becoming increasingly relevant for consumers who are searching for products online. In fact, new analysis reveals that a majority of a shopper’s journey begins on Amazon (regardless of where they end) and marketplaces are now considered a starting point and account for 44 percent of all product searches.

Search is a functionality available on a retailer’s website (and their eRetail media capabilities) that helps shoppers to find products on sites like Amazon or Walmart, similar to what other famous search engines offer (like Google). 

The main difference between Google and online retailers is that the algorithm used by eRetailers is much simpler. Also, different keywords used by shoppers can be considered as a potential difference, due to different stages in the online shoppers’ journey.

Similar to Google, retailers also offer an opportunity to do Paid Search campaigns, allowing advertisers to rank higher on search results and acquire  more space than they would with just organic (or not paid) search results. 

Searches done by shoppers trigger most of the Ads shown to users on retailers Onsite and this is becoming a main touch point of brands with consumers. In this article you will learn more about retail search, the part keywords play on search results and some advice on how to start activating your brand with Paid Search campaigns. 


Keywords in Retail Search

On search it all starts with a “keyword”.  A keyword in the context of eRetail Media, is a  search term that shoppers type into the Retailers tool to find what they are looking for, mainly related to product queries. 

There are two main types of keywords:

  • Branded: these are the keywords used to search for a brand or a manufacturer by name. For example “Ferrero or Nestlè”.
  • Unbranded or generic:  are the search terms that define your product or category. For example “chocolate”. 

When shoppers type any of these 2 types of keywords on a retailer search bar they have in mind different “goals”, they’re not just looking to buy. Brands need to accompany shoppers through their search journey to increase visibility.  


Different uses of Retail Search 

Search is a daily key touch point for brands on eRetailers, therefore, it is a top  priority for eCommerce managers to optimize their products and campaigns according to the different shopper stages.

No matter what stage the shopper is at, it is important for brands to balance both organic & paid search efforts across the entire shopper journey.  

Retail Search: Organic vs Paid

The use of a search bar allows shoppers to type in “search terms” or products on eRetailer websites to look for product information, find inspiration, compare or buy.

Search on retailers websites – depending on their capabilities – tend to use less complex algorithms. However, sites like Amazon, Walmart and Instacart are developing more advanced and complex capabilities all the time to show accurate results to shoppers queries (either paid or organic)

The appearance of your products on organic search results will be influenced by your product content: especially the title and descriptions you use to present your product on a retailers website. 

There are many guidelines to craft your Product Content and help your products appear organically. You’ll want your product’s name and description to be optimized to match shopper-relevant keywords as closely as possible, among other things. 

After mastering your Content efforts to make the most of your organic positioning you’ll want to start investing on Paid Search campaigns to increase your brand share of search and thus your eCommerce sales. 


How to create a winning Retail Search strategy

Assess your strengths and weaknesses

Assess your situation:  where are you well positioned organically? Is your competitor bidding for your branded keywords? Your first task is to understand where you're standing and improve your Organic Retail Search listings through product content. This is usually a golden rule: start with the basics and then invest. 

Be mindful of the consumer journey stage

Are the consumers in the mindset to buy a specific product (convert), or are they just browsing to find more inspiration? What are shoppers looking for? This is one of the main factors to consider as part of your Retail Search strategy.


Research your keywords 

What are the top ranking keywords on each retailer? What is the consumer searching for? Is it “pasta” only or is it “gluten free pasta”? Take a closer look at some opportunities you’re not taking advantage of when targeting your campaigns. 

You want your product’s name and description to be optimized so as to match shopper-relevant keywords as closely as possible.


Align your markets but be mindful of the differences

Change the way you’re thinking about eCommerce, this is no longer just an online experience: digital channels influence offline sales and vice versa.

In some markets, search will be very evolved and the competition to position on key search terms will be fierce but in others this won’t be the case. Leverage the learnings from more advanced markets and apply it to the ones that are still evolving.


Define your strategy (by retailer or even by category)

As we’ve mentioned search is very specific to each retailer; there's no “one size fits all”, even across categories on the same eRetailer. Some of the criteria that might work for the beauty category might not work for food and beverage, for example.

Be mindful of the complexity of the retailer you’re working with and also of the specific market but ask yourself first: what’s your goal within that specific retailer?


Get the data to support your decisions 

Are your efforts working? Sometimes you need to understand by doing and then measure . 

Test and learn. When you don’t have an automated solution you can still check and monitor your clients' and retailers' sites manually but then (as you grow), you’ll need to ask yourself: which automated Digital Shelf tool works best for you?


PRO TIP: How to know if you’re doing well on Retail Search?

A key measurement you can conduct is monitor your Share of Search across retailers sites. Share of search shows the number of search results a brand has received as a proportion of the total number of search results for every other brand on a retailer site. 

Share of search = Number of search results for your brand ÷ Number of search results for all competitors

Benchmark from your offline market share to your share of search: online share of search should actually be higher than in-store market share.


Are you interested in getting more tips on measuring (and improving) your brand’s Retail Search performance? Then schedule a call with one of our eCommerce experts to learn more about our eCommerce visibility and eRetail Media measurement tools. 

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