ShopLocal has introduced a new way to distribute retailer content: search. Wait, haven’t retailers have been advertising in search for several years? Yes, but ShopLocal’s new “SmartDelivery” capability takes retailer data and offers and turns that content into dynamically generated search ads. Compare a hypothetical current retailer ad on the left with what ShopLocal is now capable of:
Anecdotal and empirical evidence shows that the specificity of the ad on the right (sale data, location, date) will generate much higher response. The ads also click through to specialized landing pages that correspond to the content of the ads, rather than a “generic” retailer home page.
When I first encountered ShopLocal, the company was putting newspaper circulars — as they appeared in print — online. (It still does that but has “diversified” greatly.) ShopLocal became a shopping comparison engine and online shopping destination. More recently the company has integrated more deeply with PointRoll (also owned by Gannett) to feed its retailer data and offers into graphical ad units from PointRoll that appear on third party sites and portals.
ShopLocal is also working with Yahoo! to deliver different versions of retailer content to users based on Yahoo!’s targeting capabilities.
In some ways, this new offering is the most compelling. Search is used very heavily throughout the consumer product research process. Yet there’s a disconnect between consumer and advertiser behavior. Etailers are aggressive search marketers, but consumers primarily buy things offline. And traditional retailers are not well represented in search results. If they’re there it’s generally in some more “generic” form, as the ad on the upper left indicates.
On an example search for, say, “plasma TV” only Sears (second position, right column) is present among traditional retailers:
The Sears ad copy reads: “Save on Plasma Televisions and More Online Now at Sears.com.” In ShopLocal’s SmartDelivery ads offering that ad could show specific deals on flat panel TVs and be geotargeted. The greater effectiveness of this is almost self-evident. This would also likely be true for product-category searches (as above) as well as specific brand/product searches (e.g., 42″ Sony flat panel TV).
Using that specific example, we again see relatively generic ads and only one more traditional retailer (Target), though 80%+ of TVs will be researched online and 98% of TV purchases will be made offline.
The greater specificity of the ShopLocal ads (deals + local) and the fact that they’re more aligned with actual consumer behavior (research online, buy offline) should make those ads much more effective than any/all of the e-commerce vendors that right now dominate product query advertising in search results.