“Bing Ads has focused on getting the fundamentals right, and that’s what’s made the difference.” — Andrew Johnson, PPC Manager
SimplyBe is the award-winning flagship fashion brand brought to you by N Brown Group, a Manchester, UK-based business that celebrates a heritage spanning over 150 years in retail.
The innovative retailer works in partnership with the top-ranking, global media network agency Carat and the Bing Ads account team, both with a local presence in Manchester, to deliver highly relevant campaigns for its plus-sized target audience.
The Group has received accolades such as being voted Number 1 UK Online Retailer for Plus-Size Clothing, and it’s in this context that SimplyBe has been able to flourish.
SimplyBe’s mission is to provide fashion that customers simply can’t find on the high street, specifically for 25- to 34-year-olds. This mission seems to be working too; in both 2014 and 2015 the brand won the High Street Fashion Awards “Best Curvy Collection,” adding to the Group’s overall awards tally.
It’s certainly music to Andrew Johnson’s ears, who, as PPC manager across all the brands in the N Brown Group, heads up a team of four dedicated search specialists employed to maximise growth across paid search channels for SimplyBe.
And it’s a role that Johnson relishes, having spent eight years on the agency side before moving to the fashion powerhouse in September 2014 in search of a new challenge.
“My team and I have been brought in to help take SimplyBe from what was predominantly a catalogue focused-brand into the digital world. We want to be digital first,” explains Johnson.
The switch from catalogue to digital is one of the biggest challenges the company faces, along with ensuring that the brand speaks to its audience in the right way.
“Our partnership with Carat has played a major role in shaping our digital journey and allowed us to implement activity with a far greater level of precision. Their strategic direction has helped inform a robust strategy — including significantly increasing paid search spending with Bing — that continues to transform our business,” adds Johnson.
Recent collaborations with high-profile fashion consultant Gok Wan and plus-size models Iskra Lawrence and Gabi Fresh have helped to shape the brand as champion of the curvy figure, with an emphasis on body confidence and positive body image. Integral to the successful switch to digital is paid search, which is one of the biggest lines of investment for SimplyBe.
“Paid search has played a huge part in helping us to move into the digital space because there’s such a large audience. By using PPC, we’re able to grow the brand by speaking directly to our existing customers as well as getting in front of loads of new customers,” says Johnson.
Shopping on mobile is now the biggest channel for driving new customers to SimplyBe — with more than 50 percent of traffic coming from mobile devices — and the team utilises Bing to replicate the success they have experienced with other search engines via this channel.
“We’ve seen a real acceleration in the way Bing is doing things over the past 12 months. They’re catching up and narrowing the gap with other search engines,” says Johnson. “They now have a dedicated team where we’re based in Manchester, for example, and investing more in their products. It’s becoming a much more attractive proposition for us to invest in.”
With the impressive market share growth of the Bing Network in SimplyBe’s two main target countries — over 20 percent in the UK and 30 percent in the U.S.1 — Johnson recognises the value to be gained from investing heavily in Bing Ads. Bing Ads now accounts for nearly double SimplyBe’s total paid search spend to what it was previously; 15 percent versus 8 percent, and at some times during the month it can go up to as much as 20 percent.
In terms of Bing Ads features, usability is key for Johnson, and as such investment in new features is increasing. “It’s a much tighter and neater platform than it used to be. The introduction of features like Sitelink Extensions and Enhanced Sitelinks mirrors other leading platforms, which makes it effortless to use.”
The team makes extensive use of Remarketing in Paid Search to help them gain new customers and to improve lifetime retention, as it enables them to target the same customers again.
Bing Shopping Campaigns, a recent addition to the UK market, is a potential game-changing feature that SimplyBe is seeing impressive results from in terms of volume and performance after incorporating it into campaigns only recently.
Best of all, the extensive use of extensions including Enhanced Sitelinks, Callout Extensions, Location Extensions and Image Extensions, whilst pushing for more volume, have had a combined impact that has led SimplyBe to achieve a 30 percent increase in click-through rates at a 5.66 percent lower cost per action than other leading search engines. The cost of sale also works out significantly cheaper, at 16 percent.
Johnson intends to continue to invest heavily in Bing Ads, spending proportionately more to benefit from these cost-effective results. He pins down the success to a fundamental change in approach: “Bing Ads has focused on getting the fundamentals right and that’s what’s made the difference.”
1. comScore data, June 2016.