How to use search terms to drive growth


How to use search terms to drive growth

Each year, a majority of online product searches fail to successfully utilize entered search terms to match up customers with the products that they are searching for. It’s a billion-dollar problem that is frustrating for customers and retailers alike. 

Fixing this issue can help brands and retailers grow their e-commerce businesses by 15-30%, without additional dollar spend on online advertising. Read on to see how brands and retailers can begin claiming the revenue they’ve been leaving on the table with the help of detailed product attribute data.

Unclaimed attributes equal missed revenue opportunities

Many households in the U.S. were already taking advantage of online grocery shopping before the pandemic. Due to COVID-19  and the need to limit in-person shopping, that habit multiplied tenfold: U.S. online consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales increased $63 billion in 2020 vs. 2019. This trend is here to stay. So far, consumers show no signs of giving up online for in-person shopping.

Despite these trends, today’s online ordering experience hasn’t caught up with the way that consumers actually shop. Shoppers are increasingly searching for products with attributes that align with their values and health and wellness needs. Customers want products that fit within specific diets, exclude allergens, meet standards for environmental stewardship and animal welfare, and more.

However, 84% of brands fail to claim one or more of the three most-searched attributes that their products qualify for, resulting in a disconnect between what consumers are looking for and the results of their online searches. Online product listings that aren’t optimized don’t show up in consumer searches, even if they are a good match. Also, search results might include products that don’t fit what the customer is looking for. For example, when a shopper searches for “peanut-free cookies” on a retailer’s site they might get results like “peanut butter cookies” or “peanut butter coconut cookie.” Misaligned results like these can result in lost sales as consumers turn to other retailers who can meet their specific needs. 

Exactly how costly is this disconnect for CPG brands and retailers? Key findings from the Activating Attributes report from Label Insight, a NielsenIQ company, show that food manufacturers lose 51% to 84% of revenue by not claiming at least one of their three most-searched attributes. For example, popular dietary keywords like vegan, sugar free, and keto went unclaimed in 76%, 78%, and 98% of searches respectively. According to the Activating Attributes report, a top brand missed out on more than $14 million in sales by not claiming its product’s most-searched attribute. For a list of the top-100 missed revenue opportunities by brand, check out the full report.

What CPG brands and retailers can do to adapt

CPG brands and retailers can utilize these four attribute-based actions to claim missed revenue opportunities:

1. Use data to understand your customer. Consumer behavior is constantly changing in response to developing fads, new information, and shifts in language. As a result, the most-ranked search terms change every 1.5 months. Customers may search “keto” one month, but “low-carb” the next. A centralized source of product attribute data can help identify trends that influence demand.

2. Develop an attribute-based keyword strategy. Where you place keywords matters. Products that include attributes in the first 40 characters of their title received 2x more clicks. This includes keywords  like natural, gluten-free, organic, and kosher. In the setup process for each SKU, the retailer should tie each product to the keywords in the retailer taxonomy, which is embedded in the back-end content. Prioritizing these keywords based on relevant data can lead to an increase in sales. 

3. Risk vs. reward of hidden search terms. Sometimes it pays to associate search terms with your product even if they don’t completely fit. While the FDA provides regulations around terms that can be associated with a product based on its ingredients, many gray areas exist. If it’s questionable whether or not your product is compliant with the FDA definition for a particular term, you can use data to determine if the benefits of optimizing for a potential revenue reward outweigh the risks. 

4: Use attributes in imagery on a digital shelf. Images can often convey a product’s story better than words. The e-commerce image carousel is, in essence, a digital store shelf. Making it easy for customers to see relevant attributes they value by adding relevant product attribute information to hero images—such as gluten free or organic—will encourage clicks. Similarly, product descriptions and copy should incentivize sales conversions. Incorporating keywords accordingly will help accomplish this.

For additional details on the types of attributes consumers are searching for, the top-100 missed revenue opportunities by brand, and examples of attributes in action, read the full Activating Attributes report.