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Study: Holiday Ad Campaigns On Facebook Should Start Earlier Than You Think
New data from Marin Software shows user behavior on Facebook doesn't always reflect broader e-commerce holiday trends.
Here we are on the cusp of the holiday retail frenzy in which every retailer will be vying for consumer attention and wallets.
According to eMarketer, retailers will increase ad spending by 20 percent over the holiday season. According to new research from Marin Software, retailers aren’t getting their timing right when advertising on Facebook during the holiday shopping season.
Turns out, consumer habits on Facebook don’t particularly reflect overall e-commerce spending trends. Retailers waiting to concentrate their Facebook ad blitz around Black Friday are late, according to Marin’s study.
“While overall eCommerce spending trends suggest that retailers should be investing heavily around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Facebook ad engagement trends suggest the inverse: that Facebook retail advertisers may want to invest more before and after the holidays. In 2013, CTRs for retail advertisers on Facebook were relatively high two weeks before Thanksgiving and then tapered off during the holiday week. While CTR’s increased for a short period right before Christmas, they did not fully revive until after New Year’s Day.”
The chart below illustrates what the this click-through rates (CTR) trend looked like during last year’s holiday season among Marin’s retail clients advertising on Facebook. Note the lull the week before Thanksgiving (November 29) and the sharp dip on Christmas day (December 25), followed by high CTRs in early January.
Marin suggests that “retail advertisers still have the opportunity to reach users in early November before they shift into holiday mode and build awareness for their products and services, which they could potentially buy on other channels.”
In addition to starting early — Marin even suggests ramping before Halloween when some 30 percent of consumers have already started holiday shopping, according to a Google study — sequential messaging tailored to consumer’s stage in the buying cycle can also improve Facebook ad performance. Facebook and Adaptly released a case study showing how well sequential messaging can work on the platform earlier this year.
What’s clear among Marin’s data is the disconnect between retailer expectations for user behavior on Facebook and actual behavior. For example, the CTR of Facebook ads on November 12, 2013 was 1,620% higher than the CTR on Black
Friday and 855% higher than Cyber Monday. Looking at ad click volume, Marin Software found November 12, 2013 had 60% more clicks than compared to Black Friday, and 100% more clicks than Cyber Monday. The highest number of Facebook ad clicks occurred on December 24, 2013 — 472% more clicks than Black Friday.
Marin doesn’t say how those ad clicks converted — presumably consumers clicking on ads on December 24 are looking for last-minute in-store deals, and online-only offers aren’t likely to convert then, for example. But, for retailers that miss the early-bird behavior on Facebook, there are big opportunities in early January. Marin advises that “retailers should consider targeting Facebook users throughout January when people generally have holiday gift cards to spend.” The ad click data certainly appears to back that up.