• 10 Feb 2023

February 2023 Paid Search news and updates: What’s happening this month in PPC?

We’ve seen massive disruption over the past couple of years in ecommerce, with retailers facing everything from a pandemic, a war, and even a shortage of truck drivers to move goods. And now, we have…well, if you know anything at all about Paid Search marketing, I’m sure you know what’s going on! Unless Valentine’s Day is a key revenue driver for your brand, you’ll be facing arguably the toughest month in ecommerce. The third week of February in particular can be one of the bleakest months for consumer spending in the entire calendar, as shoppers’ Christmas debt catches up with them.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom! As far as ecommerce is concerned, February is the real first month of the year. While it might be a quiet period, it also offers businesses and marketers a valuable opportunity to ‘hunt and gather’ for the peak shopping seasons to come. In the spirit of this, we thought we’d share our marketing insights for your bedtime reading, and to help inform your PPC strategy throughout February and beyond. Enjoy!

The challenges

Let’s get the tough stuff out of the way first. What challenges is the industry facing right now?

  • Rising prices (67%) and the Invasion of Ukraine (10%) are the top concerns among UK consumers, with 55% claiming they’re tightening their shopping budgets as a result (The State of UK Ecommerce 2023 Report, Signifyd).
  • SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) regulations are impacting the ease of generating a seamless customer buying journey. 36% of UK customers have abandoned purchases because of SCA complications (Signifyd).
  • 37% of consumers have said they would cease shopping with an online retailer after having 1 or 2 bad experiences (Signifyd).
  • Shoppers are looking for different ways to pay for their online purchases, and often abandon their shopping basket when their payment method of choice isn’t available. Year on year, payment by debit or credit has seen a 22% decline while shoppers are opting for digital wallets and buy now, pay later (BNPL) methods (Signifyd). 

The rise of the return

Since the pandemic, customers have become a lot more tech-savvy online, conducting more thorough research and ‘shopping around’ before completing a purchase. This change in consumer behaviour has brought along with it a big rise in online returns. Whilst it’s understandable that a business would want to discourage returns by charging for them, it has now become part and parcel (if you’ll pardon the pun) of the customer shopping experience, with 59% of consumers claiming they would buy again after a fuss-free returns process (Signifyd). 

During times of low consumer confidence, retailers don’t want to give prospective customers a reason to shop elsewhere. According to the Signifyd report, when researching a purchase, UK customers will prioritise the following customer service USPs in order:

  1. Free returns
  2. Immediate refund
  3. Return label provided
  4. Option to return in-store (if applicable, of course)
  5. Long return window 

Ultimately, this indicates how nowadays convenience wins out over loyalty, hands down.

Top tip: Let your account manager know if there are any changes to your returns process, as they’ll be able to include them in your Merchant Centre account.

The solutions

So, now that the unpleasant stuff is out of the way: what can marketers and retailers do to counter these challenges? And what other opportunities does February have in store?

Creative is key

Continuing a trend that emerged last year, Google’s automation machines will play a major role in PPC management — in particular, the assets and data that we’re feeding them. Paid Search managers will need to consistently test creative, in the form of imagery, videos and ad copy. With all the challenges out there at the moment, retailers and marketers need to ensure they’re keeping track of what resonates with their audience, and testing creative is one of the most effective ways to do this.

Top tip: Keep your account manager up to date with any new imagery or change in your USPs, so they can test, test and test again!

The Cookiepocalypse

Google Ads have confirmed they’ll be sunsetting Similar Audiences in August this year. The equivalent of Facebook’s Lookalike audiences, they incorporate users of similar searching habits and interests to the content of the original audience. Unfortunately, not only are they ceasing to produce them, they will entirely remove them from all accounts. This pushes an even stronger reliance on first-party data.

There are heaps of ways to collect first-party data, but a few ideas include:

  • Newsletter subscribers
  • Surveys
  • Customer reviews
  • Testing out other ad platforms (e.g. Microsoft Ads, TikTok)

Moving to GA4

This next one might be a tad off-topic, but worth a mention nonetheless! There are now only 5 months to go until Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits. Hopefully, you’ve had GA4 set up and ready to take over since last July to incorporate yearly comparison data, but if not, now’s the time to get ready.

Key dates in February

While this month may be slow sales-wise, there are still plenty of ways to stay engaged with your audience to reap the benefits later on! Whether it’s running promotions and discounts to address the lull in consumer confidence, or using social posts to boost brand engagement, we’ve compiled a list of key dates across February to take advantage of.

  • 1st – 28th – LGBTQ History Month
  • 5th – World Nutella Day
  • 9th – National Pizza Day (a personal favourite!)
  • 13th – Galentine’s Day
  • 14th – Valentine’s Day
  • 17th – Random Acts of Kindness Day
  • 20th – Love Your Pet Day
  • 21st – Pancake Day
  • 27th – National Strawberry Day

February can be a challenging month for PPC, but don’t panic just yet: there are still plenty of ways to make it that little bit easier, and it’s a great time to start prepping for peak sales periods later on.

Looking for help with your Paid Search campaign this year? Our Google-certified PPC management services are managed by experienced experts like Jessica, and we have a proven track record of delivering return on investment across B2B and B2C markets. To learn more about what we can do for your brand, and to receive a free audit, simply reach out to our team today.

Jessica Freer

Head of Paid Search

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