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Digital Business Articles for the Outdoors Industry

Christmas Trading Sees Differing Approaches to Google Adwords

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As we’re very nearly in the thick of peak trading, it seemed a good time for some analysis of what the key outdoors equipment retailers are up to and, in particular, how their spends and planning on Google Adwords may differ from each other and from their previous Christmas activities.

Cotswold Outdoor’s scale and Adwords spend always makes them worthy of comment, but they’re also ringing the changes so far this year, with a significant reduction in Adwords activity, as this graph illustrates.

No. of Keywords Cotswold are bidding on (dark green = proportion in position 1 or 2)

No. of Keywords Cotswold are bidding on (dark green = proportion in position 1 or 2)

After a big splurge through the middle of 2018, during which I estimate that spends were exceeding £20k some months (that’s just text ads), Cotswold have really cut back. Whether they’re holding back for Black Friday and the couple of big weeks beyond remains to be seen. They’re certainly active, with at least 5 new Cotswold brand ad treatments going live in the past few days.

One possible reason for their change in attitude is that Cotswold is that rare beast; an ecommerce website that has improved its rankings but, more uncommonly, has started to recover some of its organic traffic levels. Resonant’s data suggests that November might be their best month in the past year for organic traffic.

An outdoors retailer that comes from a very place in the context of ecommerce is Go Outdoors, a company that has tended to focus on its physical stores and use ecommerce as as supplementary browsing and selling channel. Having said that, they’ve experimented with big, relatively short-lived, Adwords campaigns some time ago but, as the graph shows, they’ve been relatively quiet over the past year, until a significant build over the past 2 months with spends exceeding £10k/month and the number of keywords more than trebling.

No. of Keywords Go Outdoors are bidding on (dark green = proportion in position 1 or 2)

No. of Keywords Go Outdoors are bidding on (dark green = proportion in position 1 or 2)

What won’t surprise you is that Go Outdoors maintain their usual customer proposition in their Adwords copy and target keywords… it’s all about big brands and discounts. For example, their Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket ad is, by itself, currently driving 5%+ of their paid traffic and focuses on a short-term 20% discount. Interestingly, Cotswold often advertise on this product with service-focused ads, but not at the moment (probably a good decision, as even their 15% BMC discount won’t cut the mustard with value-based web shoppers).

As differentiation is critical in retail, it’s actually pleasing to see that two behemoths of outdoor gear retailing use this customer acquisition channel in markedly different ways; Cotswold majoring on their brand and service first, then their supplier brands and then the deals, whilst Go Outdoors looks to pick off the transactional consumers with lots of targeted offers.

I’ll be looking at some of the other dynamics at play in the online world as we hit peak, but that’s it for now. If you have any questions, please contact me and thanks for reading.

Andrew Atkins