Australian Retailers (Mostly) Have Good Search Strategies for Mother’s Day

This year, Australians are expected to spend around $1.4 billion on our mothers this Mother’s Day. Even more surprising (and disturbing, for myself) is the statistic that this figure is three times higher than what us Dads can expect – socks and jocks don’t have to cost very much, I suppose.

The IBISWorld release that contains these figures also highlights the growing trend that online gift certificates and coupons have become a significant facet of gift giving in these occasions – but even this field is coming under pressure in 2013.

“Consumers have rushed online to purchase coupons and gift vouchers from group-buying sites over the past two years,” says IBISWorld General Manager (Australia) Karen Dobie, “but a perceived lack of appealing options will subdue spending this year”, Ms Dobie said. “As a result, the sector’s takings are likely to fall from $138 million in 2012 to $134 million in 2013.”

However, online gift certificates and coupons are expected to remain the third largest spending category for Mother’s Day this year. The online certificates business has been booming for a number of years now, and it has been able to thrive due to the convenience it offers, the efficiencies, the range of products and services – it’s almost the perfect online industry; no need for a warehouse, low delivery costs and savings can be spent on marketing and thereby further increasing revenue.

Curious to see which online businesses are taking advantage of these trends and targeting the online shopper who really doesn’t know what to buy Mum, I performed a search for ‘Mother’s Day Gift Certificates’.

Search engine marketing (SEM) offers businesses the best way to target specific search terms, especially in this day and age (the reporting on these terms is excellent), but it comes at a cost.

I can see that there are several large companies bidding on the terms I’ve searched for; some big names such as Bunnings, Kmart and Village Cinemas. Meanwhile voucher-specific companies such as Red Balloon, and Wish List appear to be relying on their natural search ranking to remain on the first page of Google.

Bunnings Warehouse Mother's Day
Bunnings warehouse surprises with its cohesive digital marketing strategy for Mother’s Day.

Bunnings appears in number one position for paid search, which was somewhat of a shock to be honest. However, I must say it is nice to see some of the gender stereotypes being broken – especially when the only person that wields a hammer at home is my wife.

Two aspects are crucial to success in SEM; first is the relevance of the terms, while the second is the quality and optimisation techniques present on the landing page. Bunnings and Village Cinemas really nail their landing pages – both feature the ability to buy directly from the page I’m directed to – however, Kmart have presented their favorite ‘old faithful’: a traditional catalogue with no ability to buy. A waste of finances from Kmart’s “digital team”.

Kmart's Mother's Day digital strategy
A disappointing place to arrive after finding Kmart’s listing in Google’s paid search results.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) and natural search concerns can make it more difficult to get a landing page precise. There is more involved in getting this just right, where the businesses that include terms like ‘gift’ and ‘certificate’ in their URL and business name gaining a distinct advantage with my specific search.

Given that the natural search results are so vital, online businesses need to ensure their landing page is ready for the time of year it is and offer the correct merchandising and links for the visitor to become a customer. Given the differences in marketing focus; should we see a big difference in outcome?

The top three SEO businesses at the time I searched were Gift, Red Balloon and Wish List.

Gift Vouchers is a pretty good place to start, highlighting a competition to win a $500 supermarket voucher for Mum – who wouldn’t want to give their mother a break on the shopping bill? This promotion will certainly draw in entrants and in turn build data for future use.

Red Balloon Mother's Day
Red Balloon demonstrates how simplicity can improve the user experience.

Red Balloon are very much on top of their offer as well, presenting the ability to refine a search quickly, while providing multiple options of value in clear and easy to understand boxes. The Red Balloon website seems to be reinforcing the ethos that sometimes the simplest interface is the best.

Unfortunately Wish List were the only business in the natural search rankings that failed to satisfy. While a page that indicates how to use one of their gift cards may be useful for those that have received one, it doesn’t make it clear how to get hold of a Wish List gift card and will probably be suffering a higher than average bounce rate as a result.

Wish List's landing page disappoints
What’s this, Wish List? Can I even by the voucher from this page? Either way it’s not very enticing.

SEM and SEO are difficult but vital aspects of digital marketing for any brand to master. In fact, understanding and effectively executing search-related strategies becomes more crucial during events like mothers day – especially events that have such a well known incidence of gift cards and vouchers. By not getting the approach right for marketing the sale of coupons or vouchers during these calendar events, businesses are costing themselves in sales and wasting their marketing budget’s potential.

Considering just this small sample size, 4 out of 6 seem to get it right, but given the knowledge available about consumer habits and preferences, should we accept 66 percent of online retailers and service providers getting it right?

Regardless of how many have provided a refined digital marketing strategy, I was pleasantly surprised by Bunnings, which is not very well known for its digital excellence, but has clearly come a long way in getting its house in order.

Will you be offering special offers, vouchers or gift cards for Mother’s Day? How have you gone about ensuring they appear in search?

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