“Best of all, we’ve been able to invest more heavily in Bing as a direct result of this success.” — Ben Latham, Director of Digital Strategy at Summit
Summit is known as being a changemaker in the online retailing industry. Since its inception in 1995, it has grown from being a specialist in natural search and affiliate marketing to an award-winning, full-service, digital-retailing business, employing 150 people at three offices across Europe.
“We started off in natural search,” explains Ben Latham, Director of Digital Strategy, Summit. “We also offered paid search and some affiliate marketing, which grew quite quickly across all of our digital marketing activities. Then we started producing eCommerce websites. Today, understanding insights and marketing technology is a key part of our business.”
With a client roster including some of the biggest retail brands in Europe, the Summit, which includes multi-channel performance marketing platform Forecaster, is able to provide greater clarity on key behavioural trends and seasonal variability to ensure clients are investing in efforts which will deliver the best possible return. Ultimately, the Summit's proprietary technology aims to increase the likelihood of people buying from its clients over their competitors. Forecaster, developed in partnership with Professor David Wooff at Durham University, brought a sophisticated statistical capability into the business, when it launched five years ago.
Prior to establishing the business in 2000, co-founder and CEO, Hedley Aylott, trained as a composer in Manchester, before going on to record and release a top 40 single called “The Summit” with a group of prisoners from HM Prison Manchester. It led the qualified pilot, water-ski instructor and polo player to later stage two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award-winning rock operas.
“Tickets to the rock operas were sold via the internet,” says Ben Latham, director of digital strategy at Summit. “That was very progressive for 1998.”
Aylott quickly reached the conclusion that he may be able to rehabilitate prisoners and help them start a career in digital marketing, hence Summit was born
Driven by a desire to improve its clients’ performance, Summit launched Forecaster in September 2012. Developed by a team of statisticians, this marketing intelligence platform helps clients understand where and when to invest money to get the greatest return. Summit created Forecaster in response to clients asking how much they should be investing in paid search and how much of a return they should be expecting.
“Six years ago we thought to ourselves, ‘Well, we could answer that question.’ But as soon as we’ve answered it, the information will be out of date, and tomorrow we’ll need to produce a new forecast,” says Latham, who heads up the Forecaster team. “We wanted to be in a position to help our clients invest money so they can get a greater return — and that’s how Forecaster was born and established.”
Forecaster’s technology is based on a performance engine, which allows clients to input a marketing budget. The prediction engine then comes up with a forecast that tells them how much they should invest to get the greatest return.
“For example, we might forecast that with a £10,000 investment, you’ll get £100,000 return,” Latham explains. “It also identifies where exactly to spend that money across paid search, display and shopping, right down to a keyword level of investment, and it can then execute that campaign.”
The real game-changing element is the buying triggers that Summit has created within Forecaster to improve the forecast. Forecaster generates stunning results for its clients, through Bing, by optimising its retail campaigns based on factors such as seasonality and weather, stock levels and TV-campaign synchronicity.
To determine seasonality and weather, Forecaster understands and models the performance of each keyword, product and marketing channel across the year. By clustering seasonal behaviours across thousands of keywords, Forecaster classifies 75 different buying patterns that provide highly accurate predictions of seasonal demand for every one of its clients’ products and marketing channels.
“This ensures Forecaster knows exactly when and where to spend the budget every week of the year, including public holidays and, most importantly, the Christmas peak season,” Latham says.
Forecaster also learns how weather affects buying behavior by comparing sales figures with daily 10-day weather forecasts across the UK. It maps weather-related products, correlating sales performance to the incidence of weather events and temperature differences.
“Forecaster not only identifies these causal relationships, but it also quantifies the impact of weather changes on demand. It predicts how much sales of a specific product type will increase by reviewing daily and weekly weather forecasts, helping clients direct their budget to where and when demand is greatest.”
Specific promotions allow clients to respond to the effects of promotional offers like TV campaigns by automatically changing ad creatives across thousands of campaigns in real time. By anticipating uplift, Forecaster helps clients budget selectively, capitalise on promotions more effectively and plan promotional campaigns with much greater confidence.
“These are really strong figures for Argos in terms of the improvements we’ve seen since we moved onto Forecaster in April 2014. Best of all, we’ve been able to invest more heavily in Bing as a direct result of this success,” Latham explains.
The Forecaster team is delighted with the improved performance they have seen through Bing and is impressed with its growing market share. But, for Latham, it’s the efficiency of the campaigns that is the real draw. “Forecaster, when coupled with Bing Ads, means you can really start to capitalise on the opportunities that exist with the market share that Bing now has.”
With a 48 percent year over year click growth in Europe1 and a market share of over 20 percent in the U.K. and 30 percent in the U.S.,2 Bing is a search engine on the up.
When it comes to utilising Bing Ads features, Latham and his team are keen to try the full spectrum including Enhanced Sitelinks, Location Extensions, Image Extensions and Bing Shopping Campaigns. “As long as it’s applicable to the client, we’ll try it,” Latham remarks.
Once Summit’s clients start using Bing Ads, they make the most of all the products and betas to capitalise on additional traffic and performance enhancements. When using ad extensions, for example, showing Enhanced Sitelinks and Location Extensions at the same time has proven to be successful. In fact, it has led to a 15 percent increase in conversion rates for Summit’s client, Argos.
One of the most innovative offerings from Bing Ads is demographic-based targeting, a Bing Ads-exclusive, which is particularly useful for retail campaigns like the ones Forecaster runs. Demographic targeting gives advertisers the ability to control which gender and age demographics see those specific search ads and can be controlled at either the campaign or ad group level within Bing Ads.
Product Ads have also proven to be a highly engaging ad format, driving stronger performance than traditional text search ads. On average, Product Ads have a 45 percent higher click-through rate than text ads. Forecaster makes use of these through Bing Shopping Campaigns — a simple way for advertisers to organise, manage, bid on and report on their Product Ads, which showcase retailers’ new, used or refurbished products with an image, price and company name. Bing Shopping Campaigns give advertisers control over targeting, deep insight into performance data, and the ability to manage Product Ads consistently across advertising platforms. Summit has found that Bing Shopping Campaigns often deliver a much stronger ROI than regular text ads for its clients.
Increasing marketing spend with Bing Ads is one of the best decisions Summit could have taken to maximise Forecaster’s performance for its clients. Searchers on the Bing Network spend 25 percent more than the average internet searcher, and with 28 million unique searches in the UK alone,3 Bing Ads could be a valuable part of any company’s digital marketing strategy.
1. Microsoft Internal, Q1 2015 vs. Q1 2016 Bing Owned & Operated traffic only.
2. comScore qSearch (custom), June 2016. The Bing Network includes Microsoft Search sites, Yahoo Search sites and AOL Search Network sites worldwide.
3. Performancein.com, ‘’Never Overlook the Power of Bing in Search Marketing Strategies’’ 18.02.2016, Katie Masterman.