How advertisers can score big on the next device launch

On the cusp of the latest iPhone release, columnist Purna Virji from Bing offers insights to help advertisers cash in on new device launches.

We’ve all seen the news headlines. They queue, they camp, they chant. And sometimes, they even stampede. Just to get their hands on a new device.

And while these are the more extreme cases, it’s clear that consumers love technology, ready to cast off last year’s phone for one with a better battery, more pixels, and a blush-gold case.

But of course, the decision journey begins long before launch day, creating a significant opportunity for retail advertisers – as long as you get in on the action at the right time.

What makes this new device season even more interesting is the rise in opportunity for brands outside of Apple.

iPhone users are becoming less loyal to Apple over time, according to research by UBS analysts Steven Milunovich and Benjamin Wilson.

This chart is particularly surprising because it shows that Apple’s customer retention rates are heading toward parity with Android phones, including those made by Samsung (which suffered last quarter due to the recall of its flagship device, the Galaxy Note 7).

How can iPhone retailers win back sales? And how can other brands benefit from this launch season? Here’s your optimization plan based on research compiled by Bing Ads (disclosure: my employer) into the customer journey that surrounds new device launches.

Before the announcement

Bing Ads research shows that 33 percent of users start their device journeys well before the official announcement – around 90 days before the official release date – with phone searches peaking on the announcement day.

What does that mean for you?

Pre-launch announcement, your advertising campaign should focus on providing and linking to helpful, informative content and reviews that detail the features and benefits of the device or device plans.

Research and awareness is the name of the game, and your focus right now should be on building up the all-critical top of mind awareness.

After the announcement

On the day of the announcement, Bing Ads data shows that searching peaks, with about 32 percent of searchers starting their research that very day.

Looking at last year’s data, we saw that the announcements impacted behavior across all demographics, with most searches coming from the 35-49 range and women searching far more online than men.

Microsoft internal data, search volume, in selected categories related to iPhone new device launch – all devices, U.S., September 1, 2016 – October 31, 2016.

1. Be sure to layer on demographic bidding on top of your existing bid modifiers.

2. Your next order of business is to make it easy for shoppers to pre-order, upgrade, trade-in, and find accessories for their new device. Key tips:

  • Bid on non-brand and competitor brand keywords to capture switchers.
  • Update keywords and bids periodically as new phone information is revealed to capture incremental traffic volume.
  • Use Sitelink Extensions that point to different phone and plan options.
  • Best of all, for wireless carriers that subsidize the price of phones with contracts, Bing Shopping Campaigns will now accept $0 price products for mobile and tablet devices that are paid for in installments or as part of a contract.

3. You’ll also want to give searchers the ability to comparison shop. Bing Ads research shows that device shoppers like to compare new-to-new, new-to-old, and old-to-old models as well as brand-to-brand. As a frame of reference, last year’s top 10 iPhone-related comparison queries were:

  • iphone 7 vs iphone 7 plus
  • iphone 7 vs iphone 6
  • iphone 6 vs 6s
  • iphone 6 vs iphone 7
  • iphone 7 vs 7 plus
  • iphone 6s vs iphone 7
  • iphone 7 vs galaxy s7
  • iphone 7 vs iphone 6s
  • iphone 7 vs samsung s7
  • iphone se vs iphone 6s

When the device goes on sale

Devices typically go on sale a week or so after pre-order begins.  Once that happens, shoppers are usually ready to buy, so you’ll want to make it easy for them to purchase online (or in-store).

  1. Test out shorter ads with clear calls to action that take shoppers directly to the item for purchase.
  1. Be sure to run Local Inventory Ads as part of your Shopping Campaigns to make it easier for nearby shoppers to find local store information.
  1. When you’re setting up your campaign, be sure to set bids in anticipation of peaks when the device announcement hits. As a frame of reference, here’s how CPCs and CTRs were impacted during last year’s launch:

  1. To drive foot traffic for in-store purchases, be sure to use location extensions and targeting.

When pre-orders ship

Once the device starts to ship, you’ll want to continue advertising the device, plans, and accessories.

You’ll also want to have budgets ready in anticipation of competing device launches. For example, the research shows that iPhone searches spiked when the Google Pixel was announced.

Continue to test ad copy and image variations. And be sure to go above and beyond to populate your feed with as many recommended attributes as possible for each product offers.

In summary, use the data from last year to help shape your strategy most effectively this season. For more information, the full Bing Ads insights deck includes a handy new device launch checklist and many other valuable tips and insights.

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