Three Trends from Black Friday Weekend 2019

Three Trends from Black Friday Weekend 2019

Retail

Black Friday weekend (aka Thanksgiving weekend) 2019 gave many retailers to celebrate.

According to the National Retail Federation, a record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, a 14 percent increase over 165.8 million in 2018. Consumers spent $361.9 billion, a 16 percent increase over $313.29 billion spent in 2018. Adobe said that online sales during the weekend totaled $28.4 billion. At True Interactive, we watched spending trends, took a close look at how we’ve worked with our clients to prepare for Black Friday weekend, and analyzed reports to understand the big trends affecting the weekend. Here are three trends that stand out:

1 Black Friday Weekend Isn’t Just for Retailers

You don’t have to be a shopping expert to see how big Black Friday weekend has become. On Black Friday, if you happened to be doing a Google search, you would have noticed a message on Google’s home page inviting you to check out deals on the Google Store online – and on Monday Google was back at it hawking deals on Pixel phones, the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Hub Max, and a host of other Google products. Everyone seemed to be offering a deal – a Hulu Black Friday streaming deal, a discount for Helium 10 software, $700 off tickets to attend a CB Insights Conference, a Cyber Monday sale from the Rockettes . . . the list goes on and on. Many businesses relied heavily on email to serve up deals, resulting in a flood of offers that were difficult to tell apart (judging from their email headers).

The challenge for retailers: it’s getting harder and harder to stand out with online offers as nonretailers compete for your customers’ attention spans. Retailers are under more pressure to create compelling ads with stunning visual imagery, compelling calls to action, and effective use of targeting to reach the high-value customers who are more likely to see and respond to your offer.

2 You Have to Invest Early to Win

Earlier in November, I blogged about how the big bellwether retailers were promoting Black Friday deals weeks before the big weekend. This is the reality of winning shoppers on Black Friday weekend: you can’t wait until the run-up to Black Friday to win audiences unless you want your efforts to get lost in a sea of promotions that I just described above. You have to start weeks, even months, in advance to develop a comprehensive strategy that encompasses online advertising and organic content.

As we have blogged, we recommend a phased approach that includes building brand awareness well before the holiday shopping season begins to kick in, then promoting more specific deals as the holidays approach. Meanwhile, prepping your website to prepare for an expected increase in traffic is crucial. The masters of this approach, such as Amazon, Target, and Walmart, create special landing pages where they showcase their deals (naturally optimized for search) as part of integrated advertising roll-outs. But you don’t have to be a big-spending retail giant to succeed. Any retailer can do these things by using advertising tools such as Google’s Black Friday promotion extensions.

The challenge for retailers: winning during the holidays means spending earlier – and smarter.

3 Go Mobile or Go Home

Mobile has been becoming a bigger part of the Black Friday weekend for the past few years. In 2019, mobile was the story. As reported in Retail Dive (citing Salesforce data), mobile orders increased 35 percent on Black Friday in 2019; 65 percent of all e-commerce went through a mobile device. And smart phones continued to drive revenue into the weekend.

So what’s going on here? Well, the uptick reflects people simply getting more comfortable using their phones to make complex purchases. But in addition, offline retailers are making it easier for people to order on their phones and pick up in the store. As Retail Dive reported:

One out of every five online purchases will be picked up in the store, according to The NPD Group’s Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey. That’s good news for retailers that have rapidly scaled their in-store pickup options for online purchases, because many of those customers buy even more when they get there, according to NPD chief industry advisor Marshal Cohen.

The challenge for retailers: this development is not necessarily a good one for online merchants. If you have no brick-and-mortar store to act as a fulfillment center for click-and-collect orders, you’ll need to find better ways to compete. Winning now means offering deals well before the weekend with liberal expedited shipping policies to make shoppers reconsider click-and-collect.

Contact True Interactive

Black Friday weekend is the centerpiece of the holiday shopping season. But there are many days left for you to attract shoppers. Contact us. We can help you succeed with online advertising.

Photo by Justin Lim on Unsplash

3 Ways to Gear up for Black Friday with Online Advertising

3 Ways to Gear up for Black Friday with Online Advertising

Advertising Google

Black Friday is coming in hot! We’re already seeing an explosion of deals. For instance, Walmart has gone live with a wave of reductions and early Black Friday deals. Amazon’s Black Friday “preview” features a smart home device bundle deal. And not to be outdone, on November 8, Target celebrated “HoliDeals” with a two-day Black Friday preview sale.

As we discussed in our recent blog post, “3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season,” Black Friday is more than a day. It’s more like a season unto itself. And as the examples above illustrate, more retailers are responding by not only extending Black Friday hours, but actual deals, beyond the day. As a consequence, advertising begins early, too, and carries over into Cyber Monday.

Don’t want to get left behind? Here are some ways to stay competitive with your Black Friday offerings:

1 Put Google to Work for You

Maximize the value of Google’s many advertising tools to showcase your Black Friday sales and your merchandise. These tools include Black Friday promotion extensions, which allow advertisers to get granular with specifics in their text ad promotions, without cutting into established character counts. And note that Google’s Black Friday-specific ad units, as distinguished from the typical promotion extension, will drive your ad to prime placement so that it shows up at the top of the SERP under “Black Friday Deals.”

2 Be Visual

It should go without saying that Black Friday means turning it up a notch with visual storytelling. This is a time to make your merchandise pop. Fortunately tools exist to make it easier on platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Instagram.

As we’ve noted, Google’s Showcase Shopping Ads take a common-sense approach to advertising. Using Showcase Shopping Ads, brands can visually group related products, and in the process merchandise them more effectively. Google recently blogged about how retailers such as Urban Outfitters are benefitting from Showcase Shopping Ads. According to Google:

Urban Outfitters is one example of a retailer using Showcase Shopping ads to get into the consideration set and inspire those new to their brand. Urban Outfitters expanded their Showcase Shopping ads to 50 key categories across apparel, home decor, and beauty. Overall, they saw a 241 percent CTR lift across campaigns running Showcase Shopping ads, with 52 percent of those customers being new. Moreover, Urban Outfitters saw a 186 percent increase in sales from new customers via Showcase Shopping ads (compared to reactivated customers).

In addition, Google recently announced it has improved Showcase Shopping Ads by expanding them into Google Images. Moreover, Google also announced it is making YouTube more shoppable. You get the idea: Google wants advertisers to rely on Google to reach customers.

Meanwhile, Instagram and Facebook Stories are a brilliant way for advertisers to draw potential customers with appealing content that incorporates a narrative and interactive elements. In a survey by research firm Ipsos, 62 percent of respondents reported becoming interested in a product after discovering it via Stories, and more than half indicated they make more purchases online due to Stories.

Finally, Amazon, now the third-largest online ad platform behind Google and Facebook, offers tools like Sponsored Products (which promotes products to shoppers who are using certain keywords, or viewing similar products on Amazon) and Sponsored Brands Display Ads (through which advertisers can upload a customized creative). Amazon provides more insight into these products here.

3 Go Mobile

As we recently blogged, the 2018 holiday season marked the first time smart phones accounted for more than half of all visits to websites during the holidays. Brands are wise to embrace mobile—and deliver a great experience on their site, regardless of where consumers are accessing it from. You don’t want to lose customers to an online experience that reliably delivers from a PC or laptop, but not a smart phone. A failed purchase from a smart phone may result in . . . no purchase at all.

Contact True Interactive

Need help making the most of the opportunities Black Friday affords? Contact us.

Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

The holidays are always in season for retailers. Even though holiday shopping traditionally does not begin until the week of Black Friday, advertisers need to constantly anticipate and respond to shifts in consumer behavior and any factors that affect how people shop during the holidays. Here are three ways retailers can succeed in the 2019 holiday shopping season, based on our experience:

1 Be Mobile

According to Adobe, the 2018 holiday season marked the first time that smart phones accounted for more than half of all visits to websites during the holidays. With 51 percent of shoppers using their phones to address shopping needs, retailers better have a strong mobile advertising presence.

To be mobile, brands need to first and foremost capitalize on tools that maximize the value of the mobile format. For example, Google Gallery Ads, available in beta, consist of swipeable images that display on multiple pages on a user’s mobile phones. Shoppers can swipe through the images or click one to expand the gallery into a vertical view that users can then swipe down. At the end of the gallery, a call to action to visit the advertiser’s site appears. A company such as ours that has access to Google can fast track you into using tools such as this one.

In addition, Google has launched tools that make it easier for brands to make your inventory sparkle, such as Google Showcase Shopping Ads. These types of tools are especially useful for making inventory more attractive (and literally shoppable) as people are using their mobile phones to browse for holiday ideas before the season officially kicks off.

Being mobile also means providing a great follow-through experience on your site, whether that site is accessed from a laptop, a PC—or from a smart phone. As I blogged last year, a number of businesses encountered turbulence because their online experience didn’t deliver well after shoppers clicked through on ads to buy things.

Be ready – across the entire mobile journey. (Note: check out this case study about our work with Snapfish for more insight into how we’ve helped a business succeed with mobile advertising.)

2 Prepare for Black Friday Week

Black Friday not just a day anymore. It’s a shopping state of mind.

Black Friday remains the single most important shopping event of the year. But winning retailers understand that Black Friday has become, in fact, an entire week. As the popularity of Cyber Monday shows—four hours on that day were, in 2018, the busiest period of the entire year. People are in Black Friday shopping mode hunting for deals during Thanksgiving Week and immediately afterwards. That shopping rush includes Thanksgiving Day, which incidentally shows buyers relying more on smart phones than they do on Cyber Monday or even Black Friday itself.

To maximize the opportunities afforded by an expanded Black Friday phenomenon, online retailers need to be ready with advertising strategies—paid search and display, for example—that attract customers to buy during the entire week.

3 Compete with Shipping

One of the major stories of the 2018 holiday season was the rise of shipping as a competitive tool: Amazon, Target, and Walmart all tried to outdo each other with attractive shipping offers. Amazon, for example, famously extended free shipping, with no minimum purchase required, for a limited time starting November 5.

Shipping will be a big story for the 2019 season, too. With Thanksgiving taking place later in November, the official holiday season will be shorter. And a shorter season usually means a sense of urgency, as consumers try to make up for lost time by having products shipped to them faster. While smaller retailers may have a harder time matching the efforts made by behemoths like Amazon, it’s important to stay competitive by having your act together and your shipping strategy sorted. Achieving more efficient product fulfillment and shipping may involve hiring more labor. It might also demand tweaks to your online advertising.

Contact True Interactive

Bottom line: brands want to stay abreast of the trends in order to maximize the holiday shopping experience they provide for customers. If you need help, contact us.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-shopping-lifestyle-beautiful-3040029/

Advertising Opportunities in the Era of Connected TV

Advertising Opportunities in the Era of Connected TV

Advertising

The final episode of Game of Thrones set an HBO record, with 19.3 million viewers tuning in on May 19. Though this number sounds big, it’s small potatoes compared to the numbers generated during the heyday of linear television: consider the 105.9 million viewers attracted by the M*A*S*H finale in 1983, for example. The reality is that we’re simply not gathering around our TV sets to create massive audiences for advertisers anymore (with notable exceptions such as the Super Bowl). In fact, audiences are increasingly fragmented as they watch television shows across multiple devices and channels, on their own time and terms. What do these changes mean for advertisers?

The Challenges

For one thing, it’s harder to reach people en masse. And depending on the viewing platform, television shows may not even offer an opportunity for advertisers to air commercials. Sure, the Big Three television networks still allow advertisers to place ads, and opportunities like the Super Bowl and Academy Awards can still be lucrative. But shows appearing on HBO or streaming platforms like the forthcoming Disney+ don’t accept advertising.

Opportunities in a New Era

 So what’s an advertiser to do in an era of connected TV?

  • Take advantage of the good things that are part and parcel of the connected TV era, like the tools that now exist to help you understand your audience. There are technologies out there — AUDIENCEX is one example — that allow advertisers to come up with more targeted ads. You may no longer have the ability to advertise to massive audiences, but you can target smaller, deeply specific demographics you think might respond to your product: millennial women who live in Boston, say. You can also better understand, and act on, the times that audience might respond best to what you’re selling.

Both the whiskey and cookie campaigns knew how to tie in to the cultural phenomenon that was Game of Thrones in smart, inventive ways, making both products shoe-ins for the themed show-end parties that inevitably took place around the globe. Meanwhile, Shake Shack offered Game of Thrones menu tie-ins—a Dragonglass Shake made of custard “frozen with packed snow harvested beyond the Wall,” and a Dracarys Burger “griddled by the fires of Drogon and Rhaegal.” The items, part of a secret menu, were meant to be ordered in Valyrian, a tongue consumers could master with the help of a Shake Shack-provided translation guide. Mountain Dew featured a cast of musicians singing the Game of Thrones theme as part of Mountain Dews #ACanHasNoName campaign — an example of how businesses incorporated humor to provide light commentary on a TV show known for its heavy themes.

These brands typically relied on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to generate audience impressions that would continue to accumulate after the final episode of Game of Thrones. The tie-ins weren’t restricted to food and drink. Adidas’ Twitter promotion highlighted six limited-edition pairs of shoes “[i]nspired by the colours and details of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond The Wall.”

Even the American Red Cross got in on the action, partnering with HBO to kick off a Bleed #ForTheThrone Facebook campaign that encouraged blood donations in exchange for an opportunity to win an Iron Throne. The Red Cross did its homework, too, spending the largest majority of its advertising dollars to reach males in Hartford, Connecticut, and Chicago where apparently the appeal of one’s own Throne looms large, as noted here.

As these examples show, it’s never been a better time for advertisers to tap into popular culture to invigorate their brands. The nature of the rules—and opportunities—has simply changed. The question is: have you?

Contact us. We understand advertising in the era of connected TV.

Why the Amazon/Sizmek Deal Matters

Why the Amazon/Sizmek Deal Matters

Advertising Amazon

On May 31, Amazon said it will acquire assets from Sizmek, an advertising technology firm. The announcement consisted of three paragraphs with little detail. But the deal is valuable for Amazon as the company builds a stronger advertising platform to compete with Facebook and Google.

Amazon Advertising Gains Market Share

Amazon’s advertising business is slowly taking market share from Facebook and Google. According to eMarketer, Amazon will capture 8.8 percent of U.S. digital ad spending in 2019. This amount trails far behind Google (with 37.2 percent market share) and Facebook (22.1 percent). But Amazon is building its advertising operation from scratch, and in a short time it has emerged as a threat primarily to Google, as consumers shift their product searches away from Google and toward Amazon.

How Sizmek’s Assets Will Help Amazon

Amazon purchased Sizmek’s ad server and dynamic creative optimization tools, the latter of which helps personalize ads using data. Sizmek’s tools will bolster Amazon’s already strong warehouse of customer data with even more data from ad serving. Doing so will give Amazon more targeted ways to advertise to the millions of people who search for products on Amazon and willingly share their personal information with the company. The deal isn’t making Amazon bigger, but it will make Amazon smarter.

What Advertisers Should Do

At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize on Amazon as an advertising platform as part of our broader digital advertising offerings. We’ve been actively blogging about the many features Amazon Advertising is developing, such as video ads on Amazon’s mobile app. Based on our own experience, we suggest advertisers:

  • Examine how partnering with Amazon Advertising will help you attract and acquire customers, even if you don’t sell products on Amazon. As The New York Times reported recently, Amazon is tapping into its rich vein of customer data to help companies create more targeted ads across the digital world – an “insanely powerful” capability, according to the article.
  • Watch as Amazon’s competitors evolve their platforms to compete with the Amazon threat. For instance, Google recently announced new features intended to make it a stronger mobile advertising platform (which we discussed here). And, don’t forget Microsoft. Its own advertising business, while small, gives businesses an alternative to the Big Three of Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Online advertising is changing rapidly as the major players make acquisitions and develop their products organically. Advertisers will benefit so long as you remain vigilant and capitalize on these improvements. True Interactive can help you. As an outside party, we constantly evaluate new tools and ensure that our clients benefit from them with effective digital advertising campaigns. Contact us. We’d love to make your online advertising more powerful.

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Google

Google continues to develop new automated bidding products that make it tempting for businesses to hand over their online advertising to Google. The latest tool is a new automated bidding option for app marketers running Google App campaign, target return on ad spend (tROAS). With tROAS, an algorithm adjusts bids higher to serve ads to people who are likely to spend more after they install an advertiser’s app. As Google announced May 8:

To grow profitably, it’s also important to also consider how much revenue you generate relative to the cost of driving those installs and actions. That’s why, you’ll soon be able to bid on a target return on ad spend (tROAS) so you can automatically pay more for users likely to spend more, and pay less for users likely to spend less. If you’re looking for users who will spend twice as much as they cost to acquire, you can set that multiplier for your tROAS bid, and it will find you the right users accordingly. tROAS will be available next month for Google App campaigns on iOS and Android globally.

I’m not surprised that Google is adding to its arsenal of bid tools. Automated bidding is important to Google. It’s a source of revenue for a business whose growth is fueled by online advertising. And based on Google’s disappointing quarterly financial results announced weeks ago, the company is feeling the pressure to improve ad revenues – which might help explain why we’re hearing more and more about automated bid tools.

Making It Easy with Automated Bid Tools

When a business lets Google handle its online advertising, Google does all the heavy lifting. You tell Google how much you are willing to bid for a keyword, and Google manages the bidding including any modification, a process illustrated here. Ideally, advertisers connect with their most relevant audiences at an optimal price. And Google rakes in revenue.

Google will tell you that automated bidding is a more efficient way to manage your campaign, and indeed Google offers many tools such as machine learning to change bids constantly.

Proceed Carefully with Automated Bid Tools

If you lack the resources and time to manage your online advertising and you want to do it all in-house, then automated bidding can be very tempting. But it’s also important that you keep in mind a few big caveats:

  • When you let Google do the driving for you, you lose control of the ability to modify a bid as your needs change, and you lose control of any targeting adjustments you might want to make.
  • You have to be comfortable that Google is representing you on its own media platform. It’s like telling a TV network to pick the shows to run your ad on and set the price for the ad for you (would you ever do that?) And yet this is the kind of conflict inherent in having Google manage ads on Google. You lose control over the ability to negotiate and set a price while Google represents your interests on its platform – and the outcome may not always be in your best interest.

You can expect Google to roll out more automated bidding tools powered by artificial intelligence, which promise to manage bid modifications more effectively.

Test the Waters

If you’re thinking of testing the waters, I suggest that you test automated bidding on a few campaigns. Don’t give Google control over your advertising right off the bat. During your test, carefully check metrics such as costs per click and costs per action. Are they improving to your satisfaction? If so, test some more campaigns with variable bids. If you decide to move forward with automated bids, then commit to staying on top of these tools so that you can learn about developments that could have an impact on your bidding strategy. Automated bidding sounds easy, but you do need to stay invested in learning as with any technology.

True Interactive has deep experience managing online advertising for clients such as these. We understand the nuances of manual and automated bidding and are happy to help you. Contact us to learn more.

Online Holiday Shopping Season Hits $126 Billion

Online Holiday Shopping Season Hits $126 Billion

Retail

Winning the hearts and minds of consumers during the holidays increasingly means having a digital strategy to attract and convert them. According to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent $126 billion online during the 2018 holiday season, an increase of 16.5 percent year over year. For the first time ever, smart phones drove half the traffic, amounting 31 percent of revenue (34 percent growth year over year).

The numbers do not surprise me. By early December, the holiday season was already well on its way to achieving strong results. The final numbers suggest a number of lessons for retailers:

1 Start Early to Win Online

Our own clients were working with us to start raising awareness online for their holiday sales long before the holiday shopping season began. Businesses that began building awareness for their holiday inventory via online advertising were best positioned to attract the surging traffic from shoppers going online looking for deals.

2 Respect the Power of Thanksgiving Weekend

Reports of Black Friday’s demise are exaggerated. Black Friday achieved a 23.6 percent increase in online traffic. But Black Friday is now part of a bigger five-day Thanksgiving weekend shopping extravaganza. The period between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday generated 19.2 percent of all online holiday spend. In particular, Cyber Monday saw a surge of buying. A four-hour time block on Cyber Monday (7:00 pm to 11 p.m. PST) was the most active period of the year. These four hours recorded more than $2 billion in sales. Conversion rose sharply through the evening, as consumers rushed to take advantage of deals. Businesses that invested in a strong Thanksgiving Weekend digital media spend were in the driver’s seat to win, especially if they capitalized on Cyber Monday by spending on ads with strong calls to action during the waning moments of Cyber Monday.

Go Mobile

The increase in smartphone traffic clearly shows that businesses need strong mobile-centric advertising strategies, including investments across mobile display networks. But going mobile means more than having a mobile presence. Going mobile means:

  • Promoting your app effectively. Mobile apps are now driving more revenue than ever. Having a strategy to promote your app is more important than ever.
  • Formatting content for mobile viewing and including an easy conversion path on mobile.

At the same time, it’s important to ensure that your messaging on mobile is consistent with your messaging on other channels.

Start Succeeding Now

You don’t need to wait another year to apply these lessons. They hold true with other major events that attract a surge of shopping and advertising, such as Presidents Day and Memorial Day. True Interactive can help you prepare. Contact us.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/holiday-shopping-smartphone-phone-1921658/