In my role as manager of customer acquisition at Office Depot I am responsible for the all-important duty of securing fresh sources of business. Much like plenty of companies around the world, we are currently in the process of moving from an offline, catalogue-driven organisation to a more online-focused model, due in part to the success of our e-commerce division. 

Any new customer is welcomed at my end. Yet besides acquiring first-time buyers it is also important to reach out to people that have the highest potential to become loyal to the brand. 

To find the right mix of absolute numbers and potential loyal customers it is necessary to evaluate the performance of each campaign in all channels so we know where our money is best spent. 

Search engine advertising

In terms of volume, search engine advertising is delivering the bulk of our new customers. Through our investments in the channel we have discovered that it is imperative to invest in generic and strategic non-branded keywords which are relevant to the business. This way it is possible to attract customers at the very beginning of their purchase journey and then make our website visible for potential new customers. 

When they visit the website it is good to set up a remarketing campaign using the remarketing list for search ads (RLSA) in Google. By knowing the customer behaviour on your website you can adjust CPC bids and ad text according to specific customer behaviour groups, which kick in when the user performs a new search on Google after they leave your website. The generic and strategic non-branded keywords are the most expensive to acquire and will not have the best performance when you look at last-click sales. In order to justify spend on these campaigns, it is best to also look at assisted conversions in other (long-tail) campaigns.

The best performance in terms of ROI can usually be seen on long-tail campaigns and product listing ads (PLA). The product listing ads are based on the product feed which you send to the Google Merchant Center. Therefore it is important to deliver an optimised product feed which follows Google regulations and contains relevant keywords. For setting up your long-tail campaigns it makes sense to use the product feed in combination with a semi-automated tool to create lots of keyword combinations and ad texts at once. The volume in the long tail and product listing ads is low but the conversions are very good since it is highly relevant traffic. It is because of this that in my opinion the long-tail and PLA campaigns have to be set up perfectly so you can than have an unlimited budget for these avenues.

Price comparison sites

Along with the product listing ads in Google, we use the same feed information for all kinds of price comparison websites. The new customers that are being generated through this channel will not be the most loyal customers in the long run. Furthermore, not all products will deliver positive ROI, so you need to exclude bad performing products, preferably using automated business rules.

You must also be selective on the types of products you want to promote. For us this means that effectively we only have 40% of our total portfolio live at once. These products deliver us the best customers while still boasting positive ROI.

Affiliate marketing

Office Depot focuses mainly on B2B customers, catering for small offices, home offices and the SMB segment. At present we don’t see many B2B-focused publishers who can deliver a substantial amount of traffic and new customers to our website. However, we do feel that affiliate marketing has high potential for the future on the content side of things, especially for business-related products and services. 

At this time most of our affiliate marketing campaigns are run on cashback, loyalty and voucher websites. The first two are focused especially on customer retention and not so much on acquiring new customers. We partner up with cashback and loyalty websites to generate new customers. Although the volume of users is not as high as in some channels, the performance of these new customers tends to be better than the performance of new customers we acquire via search engine advertising. 

For all channels we make a note of measuring the performance of our newly acquired consumers. By looking at things like customer development we can see if a campaign only brought us cherry pickers or whether it actually handed us loyal buyers. As aforementioned, it is all about finding the perfect mixture between acquiring enough new customers and the right new customers in order to reach sustainable business growth. With that in mind, online advertising will be imperative in reaching our future targets.