How EE’s new approach to search marketing helped boost handset sales

How does a mobile retailer stand out from the crowd in a competitive mobile landscape? EE partnered with Essence to give their search marketing strategy an overhaul. Find out what they learnt and how they increased handset orders from search advertising by 38%.

The business challenge

To increase efficiency across their digital investment, EE partnered with media agency Essence to overhaul their search strategy. Both teams knew that small efficiency improvements could produce big performance gains, so they developed a new approach to digital that covered automation, measurement and cross-channel integration.

The approach

By maximising the use of automation in more than 150 campaigns, with up to 20 audiences per campaign, the team aimed to reduce the time being spent on manual tasks while benefiting from algorithmic optimisation. As well as rolling out Dynamic Search Ads for all long-tail keywords, they adopted automated bidding to optimise spend according to audience and location. For instance, bid adjustments were made to reach people whose online behaviour suggested they were looking for a new mobile provider, device update, or internet service provider. 

As a way of measuring the value of their search investments, EE and Essence worked with econometrics agency Bright Blue to model the impact of search on other channels in the funnel. By incorporating store visits, in-store sales, and telesales, they discovered that brand search had been overvalued, while areas of generic search – that had previously seemed inefficient on an online-only basis – were significantly undervalued and therefore investment in these terms should be increased. 

The results

The results were so positive that learnings from the campaign were applied more widely, from search to display and TV, to ensure smarter marketing decisions across all channels. For instance, they analysed the results for the search campaigns to identify audiences more likely to respond to particular display ads, implemented URL tags in search to facilitate customised re-marketing via social and display, and carefully assessed the crossover between TV campaigns and search to optimise scheduling. 

Their data-driven strategy paid off, delivering widespread impact across EE’s business. Over a 12-month period, EE has seen a 28% net reduction in cost per acquisition across all handset campaigns, despite an increase in market competition and a gradual slowing in the market for mobile device sales. This reduction in cost per acquisition with a static budget year on year meant that the campaigns generated approximately 38% more orders than in the previous period.

”The strategy represents a brand new way of working for EE’s paid search marketing team, moving the channel from being a standalone traffic driver to an integral part of the wider media mix,” says Diana Saranova, Head of Search at Essence. “We’re delighted by the outcome and the positive impact on both paid search and other channel performance, without additional management time.”

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