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MandM Direct and Bing Ads: The perfect fit

  Article , Retail , Success stories

Off-price clothing retailer boosts engagement and conversions

A retail beacon on the Welsh border

MandM Direct logo

MandM Direct logo

Muddy boots and sacks of potatoes make a regular appearance in the UK headquarters of fashion retailer MandM Direct in Leominster, Herefordshire.

“Despite operating on a global level, our countryside location makes us stand out from other, London-based companies,” says Phil Twigg, digital marketing manager, who joined the business 10 years ago. “This has helped us establish a tight-knit, family environment, which I believe is vital to delivering value to our customers.”

MandM Direct was founded in 1987 by Mark Ellis and Martin Churchward, and it specialises in selling sports and high-end clothing at low prices. With brands including Ted Baker and Ralph Lauren in the mix, MandM Direct is now one of Europe’s leading online retailers and prides itself on providing quality products at prices its customers can afford.

In the past, cost per acquisition (CPA) was a big concern for MandM Direct, and the company relied heavily on discount promotions and TV advertising campaigns to bolster engagement and awareness.

In recent times, thanks in part to Bing Ads, the company has refocused its efforts on paid search, recognising that it delivers higher conversion rates and a much better return on investment. As such, over the last year, MandM Direct has been increasing its level of spend on Bing Ads to improve performance and lower the CPA.

Whilst the business has big ambitions to build on its strong footprint across Europe over the next few years, MandM Direct’s main priority for 2017 is growing its UK business.

“Increasing our customer base in the UK is a focus for us at the moment,” explains Twigg. “With a large base of customers that generates millions of unique hits on our website every month, identifying ways we can maximise our impact in the market is crucial. We see Bing Ads as a key part of our future as we look to grow our customer base and apply our understanding of our core demographics to new and emerging markets.”

We see Bing Ads as a key part of our future as we look to grow our customer base and apply our understanding of our core demographics to new and emerging markets.

— Phil Twigg, digital marketing manager

Supporting a shift in business strategy

Over the last 12 months, the business has shifted its focus away from driving high sales through heavy discounts towards delivering a consistent off-price message. “MandM Direct is an incredibly ambitious and innovative business,” explains Twigg. “As such, we are constantly evaluating how we can improve the way we interact with our customers.”

To support this shift in business strategy, Twigg has been working with the Bing Ads team to restructure MandM Direct’s accounts to give the company more visibility online and push spend further. “That shift has delivered big year-on-year increases in clicks and impressions but also conversions, whilst maintaining a low cost per acquisition,” says Twigg.

With a customer base that consists of very different audiences, campaign precision is vital to MandM Direct. “This young, digital-savvy audience may have a decent disposable income, but they invariably have a lot of demands on their attention,” explains Twigg. “Campaign precision and acquiring new customers are therefore key areas of focus for me at the moment as we look to extend our presence in the UK market.

In the last three months of 2016, the Bing Ads team helped MandM Direct reach customers by refining its existing bids and adding audience remarketing lists to its activity.

As part of this process, MandM Direct has placed a great deal of focus on making its bids as granular as possible. It adjusts bids to target customers by age and gender, time of day, device type and location.

The company also targets customers who have previously visited its website by applying Remarketing in Paid Search lists to each of its ad groups.

“We have put a great deal of work into refining our audience targeting,” explains Twigg. “We have got converters, basket abandoners, site viewers and product viewers for the last 30 days, applied to all campaigns.”

To add to this, the business is currently working on expanding to three-, 30- and even 100-day converters to reach key audiences and reduce the CPA. “Modifying our bids in line with our customer groups has been incredibly successful,” says Twigg. “We generally see a lower conversion rate amongst 18- to 24-year-olds, but we are seeing great results emerge when we increase our bids to reach our core demographics. Overall, we are really pleased with performance.”

Refining the message

In addition to refining its audience targeting, MandM Direct has also increased its focus on shaping its message.

In July 2016, MandM Direct began using broad match modifier for keywords to refine the messages it was presenting to customers, maximise its impression capability and reduce the amount of keywords across the account. “Before we introduced broad match modifiers, we had in excess of 200,000 keywords, which for a company of our size is incredibly difficult to manage,” explains Twigg. “When we looked through them, a lot were redundant and no longer relevant.”

This greater level of precision means customers searching for a red dress on the site can now more easily locate the specific products they are looking for. It has also helped MandM Direct become more efficient. “We have now managed to cut the number of keywords in half, which has made the account not only a lot more manageable but also a lot more targeted. It has also given us more room for impression growth and clicks.”

Another recent innovation is the adoption of Bing Shopping Campaigns, of which MandM Direct was one of the first adopters. “Bing Shopping Campaigns are performing really well for us, at the moment,” explains Twigg. “Whilst the impression volume is small, we are pushing it really hard because we see the long-term value it will bring to the business. It is continuing to build steadily.”

Bing Ads offers the best service in the industry. It has worked so well; we’ve rolled it out with all of our international accounts.

— Phil Twigg, digital marketing manager

Results that exceed expectations

Datatable displaying MandM Direct's click-through rate increase, ad extensions benefits, and impression share.

MandM Direct Data Table

The relationship between Bing Ads and MandM Direct couldn’t be stronger. In 2016, MandM Direct’s click-through rate from Bing Ads increased from 4.5% to 12%. “Bing Ads has had a huge impact on our business,” explains Twigg. “All the metrics that we wanted to go up, went up.”

Twigg continues, “Our conversion rates with Bing Ads are market-leading, and our impression share is currently 90% in the UK, which is amazing. A big focus for us is maintaining this volume and ensuring we are continually pushing the right campaigns to our audience.”

In fact, the success of the Bing Ads and MandM Direct partnership has gone international. “Bing Ads offers the best service in the industry. It has worked so well; we’ve rolled it out with all of our international accounts.”

Despite the positive results, Twigg is very quick to point out that it is “very easy to isolate your activity to a single channel when it comes to identifying where to proportion your spend. Our spend with Bing Ads has delivered huge results for us year-on-year, and it is incredibly influential to us as a business, but it requires a great deal of effort to achieve results such as these.”

“Bing Ads has always been very strong for MandM Direct,” explains Twigg. “The nice thing about it is that it adjusts to changing market conditions. As a result, it has always converted better than other platforms, which has allowed us to do more.”

See a summary

Download or save an infographic to discover how MandM Direct used Bing Ads to refine its audience lists and drive down its CPA.

  Download the infographic