Hanover Direct hones Web marketing efforts

For Hanover Direct, 2003 has been all about keyword searches.

The US$458 million retail company has worked over the last year to bolster its online marketing programs, focusing in particular on keyword search buys. Hanover sells merchandise to consumers through its catalog and Web properties, and offers a range of e-commerce and fulfillment services to businesses.

Keyword purchases ensure that Hanover's Web content shows up prominently when consumers type in specific queries on Web search sites such as Google, Overture Services and Findit-Quick. Keyword purchases can be effective, but they also are traditionally difficult to track, says Jon Kapplow, corporate marketing manager at Hanover. For help, Hanover turned to Web analytics software maker Coremetrics.

Hanover has been using Coremetrics software, including its eLuminate Commerce product, for Web analysis since 2000. With it, Hanover properties can gauge Web site trends and online customer behavior by counting visitors and monitoring which Web pages they view and what products they buy, for example.

Early this year the retailer upgraded to the latest version of Coremetrics' software to take advantage of stronger marketing management features. In particular, new external link-tracking tools allow Hanover to measure the effectiveness of the keyword purchases it makes with various search engine sites.

The new version has made it significantly easier to set up and track keyword search buys with tools that automatically configure and populate campaign reports, Kapplow says. The old way required Hanover to set up a unique tracking code for each link - a very time-consuming task when dealing with 2,000 or 3,000 keywords spread among multiple search companies, he says.

"In the past, trying to set those up was incredibly tedious,” Kapplow says. “Now we don’t have to do that at all."

In addition, the software lets Hanover track so-called follow-on sales -- which occur when a Web visitor views a product one day as a result of a search engine referral, and then returns to the site, independent of the search engine, at a later date and completes a purchase.

It's common for consumers to view Web content more than once before making a purchase, Kapplow says. The Coremetrics software lets Hanover trace a sale back to a customer's initial visit in order to credit the appropriate referral source. That attribution is critical in measuring the effectiveness of marketing, he says. "If we were to leave follow-on sales on the table, we would be vastly understating the value of any of our marketing programs," Kapplow says.

By tracking the effectiveness of keyword buys with the Coremetrics software, Hanover can decide which keywords are worth purchasing again, and which should be dropped. Knowing which keywords are most effective helped Hanover prepare its holiday marketing campaigns, Kapplow says. "If there's ever a time we want to have our ducks in a row, it’s now," he says.

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