“Search is more important than ever,” said Rik van der Kooi, Microsoft Advertising’s corporate vice president. He noted that in the last downturn of 2008, “search outperformed all other formats. Given stay-at-home and online media consumption, consumers are doing more online research, search and shopping.”
The key for marketers, said van der Kooi during the company’s live-streamed Microsoft Elevate event Tuesday, is knowing how to adapt as consumer behavior continues to shift rapidly.
“Share of voice opportunity”
While global advertising will be tens of billions dollars lower than initial predictions this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, brands should aim to keep their campaigns going “provided they can hit CPA and ROI thresholds,” advised van der Kooi, Microsoft Advertising’s corporate vice president. Self-interested coming from Microsoft? Sure, but there is plenty of historical data and case studies that show firms that keep marketing agency flowing in downturns emerge stronger when the market turns.
“There is a share of voice opportunity in this type of market. There are clients that you have that would otherwise never be able to be in the mainline or in position one at the top,” he said. “But there are opportunities right now at lower CPAs than before, as some advertisers are either dropping out or lowering bids.”
Lasting online behavior shifts
We could also see lasting disruption to the 90/10 ratio of brick-and-mortar versus online retail revenue. “It’s going to shift. We need to think of it as permanent to some level. Think about how to maximize exposure to consumers in this environment,” said van der Kooi.
Re-rise of the desktop
If you’ve noticed desktop impression and/or click share has been increasing over the past month — and a bump in your Microsoft Advertising campaigns — you’re not alone. Microsoft has seen a big shift in PC search share since more employees began working from home. “We’re seeing that that’s the device of choice when people have the choice,” said van der Kooi. That’s also where Bing, built into the more than 1 billion Windows 10 devices, is strongest.
Longer customer journeys
Customer journeys will be different and will be longer during this time. “As you think about attribution modeling, as you think about ‘Where do I want to show up,’ ensuring that your advertising campaigns and remarketing agency opportunities are really maximized as consumers do more research and visit more sites,” said van der Kooi.
He also suggested being more flexible with your ROI and CPA thresholds, in order to “ensure that you can still close the deals” during these longer cycles.
Microsoft also highlighted shifts and insights seen across several key verticals.
Travel: Microsoft Advertising created an audience segment of people who have canceled their travel plans. Using “cancelable” in ad copy is performing well as consumers want assurances they’ll be able to get refunds if their travel plans are upended by travel restrictions. Microsoft Advertising also said emphasizing safety and social responsibility are important for travel advertisers now.
Retail: Not surprising, work from home-related queries for things like hardware, services, tools, technology and furniture are rising. Searches for online and delivery grocery terms are way up as are e-learning queries as parents look for ways to keep their kids’ education on track from home. Other high-interest areas include DIY, fitness and sports equipment.
Financial services: With the markets on a rollercoaster and interest rates low, refinance queries are up and Millennials are searching for brokerages. Credit card searches are rising, but Microsoft says consumers are looking for cash instead of points rewards.
Automotive: “Pushing on sales and 0% APR is not where it’s at,” said van der Kooi. Instead, consumers are responding to messages of unity and reassurance. Think about setting up a landing page with video capabilities and interactive formats available to complete transactions.
The company also published a blog post on Monday with additional vertical insights.