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Best Gift Ever: The Right Data Delivers Holiday Search Campaign Success
As holiday shopping time nears, it's time for retailers to start their search marketing campaigns. Learn what works and how to get started.
It’s that time of year again – brick-and-mortar retailers are already decking the halls, and that endless loop of seasonal favorites pouring out of store speakers can’t be far behind. Hard to believe, but holiday shopping season is just around the corner.
Last holiday season, consumers spent $601.8 billion (up 3.8 percent from $592B the year before), the National Retail Federation (NRF) found, including on the critical shopping days of Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Thanksgiving (the top three online shopping days, respectively).
According to the NRF’s Monthly Consumer Survey from October 2013, shoppers planned to spend an average of $730 each on gifts, food and holiday decorations last year.
Much of this spending was fueled by the steady growth of online shopping – e-commerce spend grew quickly in 2013, according to the NRF, up 9.3 percent from the year prior, to $95.7B. It now accounts for 6.4% of overall retail spend, according to Census Bureau data from April of 2014.
An impressive 76 percent of smartphone owners planned to use their devices for holiday shopping last year, according to Google, and in 2014, smartphones are likely entrenched even more deeply in people’s lives.
Fortunately, marketers today have a powerful window into a consumer’s purchase intent: search data. To help advertisers create powerful campaigns, the Bing Ads team (my employer) looked at holiday retail searches during the top three shopping days across the Yahoo Bing Network, broken out by hour, spanning all retail categories and devices.
According to these trends, here are some key themes to consider as you plan your holiday campaign strategy:
Thanksgiving Day: Turkey Takes A Back Seat
When it comes to holiday shopping and spending online, Thanksgiving Day is playing a pretty big role in online spend these days, gaining on the other “Big Two” — Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Thanksgiving’s share of clicks grew 20 percent from the previous year, while Black Friday’s share decreased. And Thanksgiving sales are growing.
According to the IBM Core Metrics 2013 Holiday Season Report, Thanksgiving Day online sales grew nearly 20 percent from last year, peaking at 7:25 p.m. (For simplicity’s sake, all of the times I’ll reference in this column will be Eastern Standard Time.)
Apparently, people like to shop online quite early on Thanksgiving Day – the first surge of PC/tablet shopping peaks at 5 a.m., dips while people are presumably enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, and peaks again at 3 p.m., after people finish their meal. Then it appears that either the turkey’s tryptophan takes over, or folks head out to the stores, as online shopping drops sharply into the later afternoon and evening.
When it comes to mobile, searches slowly ramp up throughout the day and peak after Thanksgiving dinner at 2 p.m., peaking only once, clearly deviating from PC/tablet activity. What people searched for also differs on mobile – clothing and shoes were searched more often on mobile, whereas computers and video games saw more searches on PCs and tablets.
Black Friday: The Early Bird Gets The Worm
Black Friday search activity begins in the wee hours of the morning as shoppers prepare to take advantage of killer deals. Searches peak at 5 a.m., and slowly decline throughout the day. The IBM Holiday Report found that Black Friday online sales grew 19 percent from the previous year, peaking at around 9 a.m.
Cyber Monday: Online Shopping’s Holiday Heavyweight
Cyber Monday has only been in existence since 2005, but has quickly become one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. PC/tablet searches spike early in the morning, peaking as early as 5 a.m., and holding steady throughout the work day – folks are already in front of their computers working, why not buy Aunt Sylvia that gift? – until they begin to decline at 4 p.m.
Like Thanksgiving Day sales, Cyber Monday sales are growing. IBM Core Metrics reports that online sales grew nearly 21 percent from the previous year, peaking later in the evening.
Coupons Vs. Delivery: Give ’Em What They Want, When They Want It
Shoppers love a deal, but they also need their gifts to arrive in time for the big celebration. So it’s no surprise that coupons and delivery continue to be two very important sales tactics during holiday retail.
However, it’s important to note that their significance is time-dependent. Searches for coupons trend downward into December, while searches for delivery increase and spike the week prior to Christmas.
Wrapping It Up: Our Top Tips For Holiday Campaigns
It almost goes without saying that carefully monitoring your search ad budget is essential any time of the year. But during holiday shopping season, being aware of spending trends and peak times is even more important.
If you’re using “daily budget,” check in on Black Friday and Thanksgiving to ensure your budget is sufficient – many marketers go dark by mid-morning. If you have your budget set to “monthly,” ensure you have enough to cover the top days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, especially since many of the top holiday shopping days fall at the end of the month.
For Cyber Monday, remember that searches continue to peak later in the evening, so make sure your budget doesn’t go dark by the end of the day. And don’t forget to set your mobile bids high enough so your ad shows in locations #1 or #2, which are especially important for ad visibility on mobile devices.
When it comes to your showroom and/or website, make online and offline shopping as seamless as possible. This means ensuring your prices and promotions are the same online as they are in-store, and including location and hours in both your keywords and ad copy.
The easier you make it for customers to spend money, the better. So help customers check availability of merchandise online, and then add items to their wish lists for them to purchase later. Ad Extensions, like Location Extensions and Call Extensions, can help your customers find you quickly – putting your business address and phone number right at their fingertips.
Finally, think strategically about product and offers. Product Ads allow you to showcase your product online, including a relevant product image and product details. During the holidays, shoppers are often looking for a deal, so make sure to highlight offers in your ad copy and keywords.
And remember, there is more momentum around [coupon] searches early in the holiday shopping cycle, while later in December, [delivery] becomes more important – especially for those last-minute shoppers.
Even though “the most wonderful time of the year” is still months away, a little strategic planning can go a long way to ensuring a successful holiday retail season – and a happy holiday for marketers everywhere.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.