The holiday season is more than just gift giving. There are many other holiday rituals that marketers can rally around—cooking, baking, eating, imbibing, tree buying, tree trimming, holiday decorating, party hosting, and party attending. And yes, there are gifts—gift shopping, gift wrapping, giving, receiving, self-gifting and even returning.
This is the most important period in the retail calendar, when consumers are highly engaged and spending more time on their devices getting into the holiday spirit, and looking for inspiration online. The total retail spend in the US in 2018, over the holiday season, was $998.32 Billion—and is projected to be $1.035 Trillion this year, according to eMarketer. As a marketer, you need to build momentum by initiating your campaigns months in advance and take note of some seasonal happenings in shopping habits, inventory and devices.
Notable Shifts with Holiday Shopping
As with most peak seasonal periods, campaign planning needs to take into account how to best work with the shifting landscape of the ad ecosystem and the consumer behaviours within it. Here are a few notable shifts over the holidays to leverage:
- Multi-Channel Becomes the Norm: As shoppers spend more time shopping online they will use more than one channel to research and purchase—mobile peaks! They even browse their phones while they browse the aisles.
- Foot Traffic Increases: As shoppers visit restaurants, stores, go to movies/theatre, and travel.
- Behaviours Change: As consumers begin to shop for items and gifts that might not normally fit into their buying habits.
- Easy is the Goal: Consumers want to buy from brands that help them discover new things, find what they need, and get things with the least amount of friction, all in a personalized and relevant way.
- Post-holiday Bliss: Sales and awareness are riding high.
Holiday Merriment still Requires Solid Planning
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays and the possibilities they hold for marketers—after all it is likely your biggest campaign season of the year. However, in order to remain on the path to success, you need to ensure you have a sound campaign strategy and plan in place.
- Define your Goals: Success in programmatic advertising is relative. Success depends largely on the KPIs you define and the measurable goals you set which you can use to benchmark success and prove ROI.
- Identify your Audience: Leverage what you know about past purchasers and who your potential audience could be. Additionally, you can start with 3rd-party audiences that have an affinity for things related to the holidays. It’s important to know who you are targeting to know if you’ve reached them.
- Optimize for the Most Successful Outcomes: Take advantage of the features and functionality found in your demand-side platform (DSP) to optimize campaigns—including your bids and your creatives by capitalizing on those that are performing best.
- Measure Yesterday and Today: Post-campaign insights can include those that you gleaned from your last tentpole campaign, your recent targeting strategy from Black Friday/Cyber Monday or even last holiday season. If you are driving consumers to a physical store, try measuring brand uplift from a location intelligence provider, like Cuebiq.
Mobile and Desktop: Mixing it up for the Holidays!
Holiday shoppers are on mobile, and they’re ready to buy. They are now comfortable with online and mobile purchasing—particularly Deal Seekers—who are most likely to rely on their smartphones to shop. It’s essential to ensure that your mobile experience is frictionless.
Generally in the industry, there would be a big increase in CPM prices before US Thanksgiving and Black Friday. However, over the holidays from December 23 to January 1 there would be a significant decrease in CPMs, as people are online a lot less. Based on 2017/2018 holiday data from Google:
- CPMs increase 28%+ throughout November, building to the highest CPMs of the fourth quarter from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.
- Secondary spend and CPMs peak at Christmas and then realize a 38%+ CPM decrease as the new year enters.
With programmatic, machine learning can do a great job of mitigating this volatility and keeps CPMs relatively flat during tentpole events, like the ones mentioned above. A sound campaign tactic is to have all devices enabled, with wide enough targeting so the DSP’s machine learning will find the best paths and normalize CPM fluctuations.
Think Outside the Box to Wrap Up your Creatives
According to eMarketer, promotional offers from the 2018 holiday season that appealed most to US internet users included Price Discounts, Free Shipping, Free Gifts and Loyalty Points. Leverage these types of phrases in your messaging and/or creatives.
The holidays can be a hectic time. Build brand awareness and traffic while testing new tactics to find growth opportunities in the months leading up to this peak season. When the holidays arrive, you’ll have a strong foundation to propel your business forward by connecting with more shoppers—evergreen, early bird, deal seeker and last minute—and driving sales.
Reach out to your StackAdapt Representative to learn how you can maximize your campaign potential this holiday season.