The 2021 Holiday Shopping Season: Four Lessons Learned

The 2021 Holiday Shopping Season: Four Lessons Learned

Retail

The 2021 holiday shopping season was a qualified success – all things considered.

Consumers entered the season amid uncertainty. Would Covid-19 spike again? And yes, it did – later in the season. How bad would the supply chain crisis get? It was a problem – holiday inventory shrank 2 percent because of shortages – but it was not a big problem for the big-box retailers who possessed the resources to plan ahead. Would inflation hurt spending? Yes, rising inflation played a role, especially in December.

The good news is that overall, U.S. holiday sales overall rose 8.5 percent according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Online spending in the United States rose 8.9 percent in the United States, according to Salesforce. The bad news is that in both cases, the growth rates were lower than expected. MasterCard had predicted an 8.8 percent increase. Salesforce had predicted a 10 percent increase. But keep in mind that no one was predicting inflation to spike, and inflation definitely hurt sales as December wore on.

What do spending patterns in 2021 say about how advertisers might approach 2022 seasonal campaigns?

  1. Getting a head start is more important ever. Everyone should brace themselves for the launch of seasonal campaigns even earlier. That means Memorial Day campaigns starting sooner. Fourth of July, Back to School, Christmas 2022 – all sooner. That’s because the supply chain crisis is casting a permanent shadow over retail for the year and possibly beyond. During the 2021 holiday shopping season, retailers were launching holiday promotions in September to get out in front of the possibility of shortages hurting inventory availability. By Thanksgiving, 30 percent of consumers had made their holiday purchases, according to Salesforce. Even though the supply chain crisis proved to be less disruptive than many had feared, few retailers lack the scale and resources that the big box retailers possess to offset the effects of inventory shortages. In addition, retailers learned a lesson about the value of getting an earlier start, and now they are all feeling the pressure to get a jump on the seasonal sales before a competitor does. With uncertainty continuing, retailers will to advertise sooner.
  1. Big-tent events may have less impact. A byproduct of launching campaigns earlier is that they can dilute the actual impact of an event-oriented sale (Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, etc.) In 2021, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales were subdued. But muted sales were only a problem for businesses that defined Black Friday or Cyber Monday as a single-day event. In fact, for the past few years, big retailers have been redefining Black Friday in particular as a series of events throughout the month of November. As a result, they may have expereinced strong “Black Friday sales” over a period of days, while sales from the actual Black Friday may not have been as strong. This is all OK. It just means that retailers need to adapt to changing shopping patterns and more creatively combine day-of sales with smaller flash sales that occur near the day-of sale.
  1. Adaptability is essential. Advertisers should be ready for the unexpected. For example, typically as December 25 approaches, we see a slowdown in online retail sales as consumers avoid taking the risk of buying a gift and missing the cutoff day for having a gift arrive by Christmas Day. But according to Salesforce, “Retailers nabbed 23% of their holiday sales during the final two weeks of the year, up 11% from the previous year, even though the shipping cutoff date had long passed by then.” Why? Likely because the surge in Covid-19 with the Omicron variant made shoppers more cautious about buying in-store. Interestingly, Salesforce reported a surge in buy online, pick up in store shopping during this period, which suggests that however they shopped, people just wanted to stay away from browsing in a store. Flexibility also means being adapting to different shopping formats online. Salesforce said that over the 2021 holiday season, 4 percent of global digital sales on a mobile device were made through a social media app; and 10 percent of mobile traffic originated from consumers browsing through social networks. Social commerce will be an increasingly part of the advertising and marketing mix in 2022 especially for any business whose customer base is composed of Gen Zers and Millennials.
  1. Promoting flexible financing options is important. With inflation worsening, consumers are looking for ways to ease the strain on their budgets, but they may be leery of racking up big credit card bills. These are reasons why, according to Salesforce, “Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services in the U.S. during the holiday season increased 40% compared to 2020. Consumers turned to these offerings throughout the holiday season to offset the higher price tags. Alternative payment forms, including PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, also increased by 15% YoY in the U.S.” In fact, the rise of BNPL is one of the hottest topics in retail now. Retailers should make BNPL an important part of their advertising strategies for 2022.

In 2022, advertising will be an adventurous industry with so many fascinating formats arising and trends coalescing around changing consumer behavior. One thing is clear: wise businesses are going to advertise, both during lean times, prosperous times, and uncertain times. We’ve learned time and again that scaling back because of uncertainty is always a bad strategy, as we have discussed on our blog here and here. Get ready for an exciting ride!

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we’ve helped a number of businesses develop and execute seasonal holiday campaigns. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/background-bauble-celebration-21658/

2022 Advertising and Marketing Predictions

2022 Advertising and Marketing Predictions

Advertising

Welcome to a new, adventurous year of advertising and marketing. The traditional tech giants are going to continue to fight each other for dominance – while TikTok will tap into the burgeoning creator economy to challenge them all for a slice of the advertising pie. Retailers everywhere are creating ad networks, but Amazon and Walmart have already established strong leadership early on. For the most part, businesses will be spending more – more on TikTok, more on Amazon, more on Google, and probably more on Apple’s fledgling ad business. But will they spend more on Meta? Read on for our insights into the year ahead.

Retailer Media Networks Proliferate – and Meta Loses Ground

One of the big stories of 2021 was the proliferation of media businesses operated by retailers such as Amazon, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart. In 2022, we’ll see more of them. Retailers are under great pressure to squeeze more margin out of their core businesses as the industry endures uncertainty. The most well established networks – Amazon and Walmart – are thriving because they tap into the data they collect about their customers (first-party data) to sell targeted advertising on their sites. In 2022, more retailers will use first-party data to help businesses create more targeted ads off-site, too, as an antidote to Apple’s privacy controls. In addition, non-retailers with large troves of first-party data, such as TikTok, will expand the same way.

I also believe Meta’s ongoing push into immersive reality will lose momentum. Meta has made an even bigger push into immersive reality (e.g., virtual reality and augmented reality) as part of its attempt to become the builder of the metaverse. Meta also intends for immersive reality to help the company maintain a dominant hold on social media and to squeeze upstarts such as Roblox out of the market. But the horse is already out of the barn: there are just too many players such as Roblox and Snapchat developing immersive reality applications for Meta to play copycat and use its size as an an advantage. And Meta has faced so much public blowback over its size and reach that squeezing out smaller players makes Meta more of a target for anti-trust regulation. Meta will lose ground, and gaming platforms such as Roblox will ascend in power.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

TikTok Dominates

TikTok is the world’s most visited site in the Internet in 2021, toppling Google, according to Cloudfare. TikTok will become the leader in paid social. Videos and fast-breaking cultural trends are becoming more prominent factors across all social media marketing, and TikTok has mastered both. Oh, and TikTok has another big trump card to play: the site is a magnet for Gen Z and Millennials, who together comprise about 42 percent of the U.S. population. As a recent New York Times profile noted, advertisers “are present like never before, their authentic-seeming advertisements dropped in between dances, confessionals, comedy routines and makeovers.” But TikTok is just beginning to monetize all that interest from advertisers. TikTok will follow the example set by Amazon Advertising and roll out more ad units that capitalize on the customer data the company is collecting. And look to TikTok to become a social commerce giant. If you thought 2021 was the year of TikTok, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

— Bella Schneider, digital marketing manager

The Creator Economy Gets Real

The creator economy refers to a class of businesses comprising millions of independent content creators and influencers. We are reading more about them partly because apps such as TikTok have given them more power and influence. The creator economy will become even more powerful. That’s because collaboration networks are proliferating. These networks give creators an all-in-one platform to create communities and build influence. In addition, gaming sites such as Roblox and Twitch offer creators opportunities to monetize their work with potential partnerships with brands, and crypto currency sites such as Rally.io make it possible for creators to mint their own currency. The big social networks such as Meta are responding by making themselves more attractive to creators. More businesses will tap into niche networks to partner with emerging creators who are lesser-known but possess tremendous street cred. Big-name partnerships with stars will still thrive, but the social media icons will need to make room for the new kids in town.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

Tech Titans Roar

We hear a lot about the big technology firms facing increased scrutiny from Congress and legislators around the world. But to me the more intriguing story is how the tech titans keep trying to outmuscle each other for advertising revenue, an example being Apple enacting privacy controls to hurt Facebook’s ad business. 2022 will ratchet up the fight:

  • Apple will start leveraging and monetizing the data they are collecting (and not allowing others to collect) in the form of some type of advertising platform. This is the culmination of Apple’s stricter privacy controls.
  • Google will remove more visibility and targeting options in the name of advances in machine learning and automation, thus protecting its core ad business by taking more control of it.
  • An increasing number of platforms will emerge that use first-party data to target and track and savvy advertisers will take advantage of this and diversify their advertising spend
  • Amazon will grow with even more ad units for Amazon Advertising and marketing offerings such as livestreamed commerce for businesses of all size, especially smaller ones. Google and Meta will lose market share.

Unfortunately, we can count on CPCs to rise across all platforms as they attract more businesses competing for ad inventory and keywords. It’s going to be a more expensive 2022, but also a more interesting one with more ad units proliferating.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

Google Ads Become More Powerful

Given the evolution of keyword matching (now AI-powered to serve ads based on the meaning of a search query), and the simplification of the ad product offerings (as Google deprecating Expanded Text Ads next summer), we will see Google Ads become leaner but more powerful. Advertisers will be forced to rely more and more on Google’s algorithm to drive results – all this, at the expense of reduced control advertisers have over campaign settings (ad content, keyword matching, targeting choices, etc.). I believe the biggest changes will continue to happen on Google’s back end as it seeks to make the algorithm (automated bidding strategies used in ad campaigns) smarter. Thus, we will see increased focus on cookie-less conversion tracking and an expansion of first-party data collection capabilities in Google Ads (i.e., scaling up enhanced conversions).

— Héctor Ariza, digital marketing and analytics manager

Social Media Ad Dollars Get Redistributed

Lush Cosmetics recently said it is quitting Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok over concerns that those platforms have a negative impact on teens’ mental health. (The company will remain active on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.) Lush said it will happily lose $13 million in sales because of the digital detox. It remains to be seen whether Lush will reactivate the accounts it quit (Lush quit some social sites in 2019 before returning), and of course a big question is whether more businesses will take such a drastic approach. I don’t think we’ll see more businesses take the Lush approach – social media is just too important – but they will shift some of their ad dollars away from Facebook and Instagram. In the past, businesses have remained loyal to Facebook (now known as Meta) because the site is critical to their advertising and marketing strategies. But the whistleblowing activities of ex-Meta employee Frances Haugen have raised the stakes. She asserted that Meta has kept internal research secret for two years that suggests its Instagram app makes body image issues worse for teenage girls. Businesses will monitor what their customers, investors, and employees say about Meta especially in this era of purpose-driven branding. Some will shift their advertising to Snapchat and TikTok while Meta takes the heat for brand safety issues. But this shift may be temporary. Meta will probably mollify brands with some updates to its products to create more brand safety, as it is already doing with its news feed to address concerns over lack of user control over their news feeds. In addition, Meta faces the ongoing threat of regulatory oversight. More accountability will come to Meta in 2022.

— Beth Bauch, director, digital marketing

Contact True Interactive

To succeed in the ever-changing world of online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/year-2022-track-new-year-calendar-6786741/

 

2021 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Trends

2021 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Trends

Retail

It was another year of uncertainty for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which together are considered the official start of the holiday shopping season. The emergence of another COVID-19 variant, ongoing supply chain problems, and inflation all called into question what kind of experience shoppers and retailers would have this year. Now that the numbers are in, here are some takeaways:

  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday underperformed online. For the first time ever, Black Friday spending online dropped from the previous year, according to Adobe Analytics. Cyber Monday didn’t fare much better: Adobe said that online spending was essentially flat.
  • People returned to stores on Black Friday. Sales rose 29.8 percent on Black Friday compared to 2020, and sales in stores rose 42.9 percent, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks sales activity online and in stores within the Mastercard payments network (combined with estimates for all other forms of payment, including cash). But foot traffic to stores did not return to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Amazon and Walmart were big winners. According to PYMNTS, nearly 71 percent of Black Friday shoppers made their online purchases at Amazon. Nearly 59 percent of consumers who shopped in-store visited Walmart. Overall, Walmart did quite well. Although Amazon got the lion’s share of online traffic, Walmart came in second place, capturing 41 percent of digital purchases.
  • Consumers got an early start on holiday shopping. Sixty-one percent of shoppers surveyed by the NRF said they had started their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, up from 59 percent in 2020 and 51 percent in 2011. And 31 percent of U.S. shoppers started their holiday shopping in June.
  • Supply chain problems were evident. Digital out-of-stock messages are up 261 percent in November compared to November 2019, according to Adobe.

So, what should we take away from these numbers?

  • Advertisers who get an early start on the holiday season are winning. Each year, it seems that holiday sales and promotions happen earlier and earlier. And it’s true: advertisers such as Target and Walmart have been rolling out holiday promotions well in advance of November. According to Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting, Sensormatic Solutions, “Retailers kicked off holiday deals early this year to spread traffic peaks out throughout the season, helping to avoid crowded stores on Black Friday, better track and plan inventory, and create an improved holiday shopping experience.” The data shows that consumers will respond to those deals. This was especially true in 2021, when consumers were worried about supply chain problems hurting product availability.
  • Advertising on retail networks is getting more important. Google remains the Number One go-to platform for online advertising – but advertisers cannot deny the growth of retail ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect. These platforms mine first-party shopping and search data on their platforms to offer businesses personalized ad units — even if you do not sell products on their sites. They are part of a growing industry of retailer-based advertising networks.
  • With shoppers returning to stores, advertisers should apply digital tools that make your offline inventory more visible and appealing. Consider options such as local inventory ads from Google to promote items available for purchase in store. In addition, retailers can use the local product inventory feed for local inventory ads and free local product listings.

Contact True Interactive

To maximize the value of your holiday shopping ad campaigns, contact True Interactive. We help our clients create effective online advertising all year-round, including the holiday season, and we understand the nuances of creating effective holiday ad campaigns.

Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

Related Posts

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season,” Clare O’Shea.

Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos.

How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos.

 

How Will Facebook’s Reputation Problems Affect Advertisers?

How Will Facebook’s Reputation Problems Affect Advertisers?

Facebook

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you know that Facebook announced the creation of a parent brand known as Meta. Facebook still keeps its name to refer to the social media app. But Meta now coordinates Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and other brands that Facebook has been launching or buying over the years. The announcement cast a spotlight on the fast-growing metaverse. But it also drew attention to Facebook’s ongoing reputation problems, which became more intense in recent weeks with the publication of the Facebook Files in The Wall Street Journal. Many branding experts and industry watchers asked whether the name change will help Facebook overcome its latest reputation crisis. I have another question: how much of a threat is Facebook’s (now Meta’s) reputation crisis in the first place?

According to the Facebook Files, Facebook has knowingly allowed its algorithm to publish harmful and divisive content on users’ news feeds. The accusations have been supported by documents shared by a former employee turned whistleblower, Frances Haugen. She has also shared her findings with Congress. The blowback has been strong. Legislators have accused Facebook of subverting democracy. Facebook bashers have vowed to stop using the app.

But what will advertisers do?

This is an important question. Obviously this is not the first reputation crisis Facebook has encountered — and I’m referring specifically to the social app Facebook, not Meta, WhatsApp, or Instagram. On at least one occasion, some advertisers have responded by boycotting Facebook temporarily or permanently. But Facebook’s advertising growth suggests that the company’s reputation problems have not resulted in a long-term advertising decline. Here are two reasons why:

Advertisers Are Used to Conflict

The fact that a publisher and aggregator of news content (which is what Facebook does) knowingly shares divisive information is not exactly shocking news to advertisers. Mainstream news media have been attracting audiences by publishing divisive content for decades, long before the internet existed. And they’re doing so today. As a result, advertisers probably have a higher tolerance for conflict than Facebook’s critics do. This, to me, is the most powerful and compelling point to bear in mind. Advertisers don’t want their ads to appear alongside inappropriate content. But no one is accusing Facebook of allowing that to happen. The existence of controversial content, in and of itself, probably won’t be enough to create an advertising exodus. So long as Facebook manages brand safety well (a problem that has vexed apps such as YouTube), advertisers will tolerate conflict.

It’s All about the Audience

Facebook’s strategy of building and engaging users has angered critics, but it has also helped Facebook build a bigger user base. This chart from Facebook’s latest earnings announcement is telling:

Facebook UsersAdvertisers are looking at these numbers, too. More users on Facebook is obviously attractive to advertisers. They’re going to go where the users go. It’s a simple as that.

The Real Threat to Facebook

Based on advertiser behavior, the bigger threat to Facebook consists of stronger privacy controls – especially from Apple. As widely reported, Apple rolled out an update to Apple’s operating system in 2021 that included an important privacy control known as Application Tracking Transparency (ATT). ATT requires apps to get a user’s permission before tracking their data across apps owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Apple Settings, users can see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make changes to their choice at any time.

Advertisers have feared that ATT will trigger an uptick in users opting out to having their behavior tracked. Consequently, advertisers will have a harder time serving up targeted ads because they cannot track user behavior. This concern is well founded. As many as 96 percent of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked. And as a result, social apps have (so far) lost $10 billion in ad revenue. Facebook itself forecast a pullback in ad revenues for the fourth quarter because of the significant uncertainty it faces in the fourth quarter in light of continued headwinds from Apple’s iOS 14 changes.

If you advertise on Facebook, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What factors might influence your choices going forward?

Contact True Interactive

To succeed in the dynamic world of online advertising, contact True Interactive. We help businesses succeed with relevant and engaging advertising. Read about some of our client work here.

 

Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do

Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do

Advertising

It still feels a bit like summer in early October, and retailers are already starting to ramp up their holiday shopping promotions:

  • On September 29, Walmart announced its Top-Rated by Kids Toy List, “featuring the must-have toys of the holiday season.”
  • On September 30, Target announced that its Holiday Price Match Guarantee would kick off October 10 (earlier than ever) and that Target Deal Days would be back October 10-12.
  • Amazon quickly responded on October 4 by releasing “Black Friday-worthy deals.”

Why are these retailers getting out in front of the holiday season, and what are the implications for other advertisers?

Digging Deeper in Major Announcements

The announcements require a bit of unpacking.

Target’s Holiday Price Match Guarantee allows shoppers to request a price adjustment on all qualifying items purchased if they go on sale before December 24. This news sends a signal that Target expects shoppers to begin looking for deals earlier in the season.  On the other hand, Target Deal Days and the Walmart Top-Rated Kids Toy list (the largest ever such list by Walmart) are clearly intended to stoke shopper demand for the holidays. As Target announced, “For three full days, shoppers can get a head start checking off their holiday lists with incredible deals on favorite products like Beats, fleece, kitchen gifts and more.”

Amazon made the most overt holiday land grab with its October 4 announcement. The company’s epic-length 3,000-word press release looked like a laundry list of holiday deals and related news, ranging from discounts for “need to have electronics” to a detailed list of gift guides. The announcement was peppered with references to Black Friday – an attempt to gain the upper hand on traditional offline Black Friday events.

What the Announcements Mean

Retailers want to stoke demand now for a few reasons:

  • They want to capitalize on the anticipated surge in holiday spending resulting from pent-up demand for discretionary goods. Buoyed by stimulus checks, consumers have been confounding economists with their robust spending, showing once again how unpredictable consumer behavior can be during the pandemic.
  • Retailers also want to encourage people to buy now before the effects of the global supply chain crisis kick in. The lingering supply chain bottleneck is expected to result in higher prices and product shortages later in the holiday season. Retailers want people to spend now when consumers are more likely to find what they want.
  • Retailers are also following a practice that has prevailed since before the pandemic: extending Black Friday. For the past few years, retailers have been tinkering with the Black Friday format as holiday shopping becomes more multi-channel. Black Friday as an in-store event still matters very much, and in 2021, with shopping returning to pre-pandemic behaviors, we should see the offline Black Friday becoming more popular again. But Black Friday has changed forever: it’s an online event, too, and retailers are no longer constricted to saving Black Friday deals until the day after Thanksgiving.

So, in a sense, bellwether retailers are following a pattern they started in recent years – creating holiday shopping demand earlier – but with a newfound sense of urgency to get out in front of the impact of the supply chain bottleneck.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Realize that when big retailers launch holiday promotions, they create general consumer awareness of the holiday shopping season. As a result, retailers should expect an uptick in searches for holiday sales and promotions. Now might be a good time to capitalize on that increased search activity to activate your own campaigns.
  • Create a sense of urgency in your holiday campaigns – but don’t overplay your hand. If you expect the supply chain bottleneck to create limited inventory later this season, do get proactive about promoting deals now, and let shoppers know why they need to act sooner rather than later. But be careful with your tone. A “shop now and avoid headaches later” approach could backfire if your inventory levels are not affected as seriously as you thought they would.
  • If you’re an Amazon Advertising customer, optimize your holiday advertising now by maximizing the value of Amazon’s various advertising products, such as Sponsored Ads. Amazon also recommends experimenting with video with shoppable links, Amazon Live, and actionable ads (voice and remote). Amazon raising awareness for holiday shopping deals is like the rising tide that lifts all boats. With increased awareness for holiday deals comes more search traffic on Amazon, and you should capitalize on that.
  • Capitalize on Google advertising products. Inevitably, the increased chatter about the holidays from these big retailers will create an uptick in searches for holiday merchandise online. For example, Discovery ads are designed to show more relevant products in moments where customers are exploring their interests in Google’s feeds.
  • As shoppers respond to the holiday blitz, make sure you are using all tools at your disposal to accelerate the path to purchase. For instance, we’ve discussed on our blog the rise of social commerce options on apps such as Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok, which make it easier for shoppers to browse and shop with an easy click. Snapchat recently shared a holiday shopping guide with detailed campaign strategies. Snapchat notes that most Snapchatters start planning gift purchases and creating wishlists two-to-three months before Christmas. Snapchat urges retailers to launch holiday ads in October to stay top of mind with shoppers who are browsing for gifts and building wish lists.
  • Manage your expectations – and shoppers’, too. Yes, there will be an uptick in search and shopping behavior sooner than normal. But human nature is not going to change: many people will continue to wait until the last minute to do their shopping. Have a game plan in place to respond to shoppers who experience product shortages (if indeed predictions for the 2021 season play out as expected). Be ready for an uptick in negative reviews, and be ready to respond. Retailers should also be ready to offer top rated alternatives to products out of stock as this example shows.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we help businesses maximize their online spend all year-round, and we have deep experience managing holiday shopping campaigns online, ranging from campaigns on Google to Amazon Advertising. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season

How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season

Advertising Retail

Will there be a return to a pre-Covid holiday season? Yes, and no. Shoppers are coming back to stores – so the holiday season will be more omnichannel than it was in 2020. But shoppers now face another set of challenges that could once again make the holiday season seem different than it was in the past – namely a global supply chain bottleneck that will likely cause product shortages and higher prices. Here are a few ways retailers can prepare:

1 Buckle Up

The pandemic has taught us that even in times of uncertainty, people will spend. Granted, they might spend money on different things and in different ways (such as adopting online more aggressively). But they will spend.

This holiday season, be prepared for a holiday spending surge. Don’t let negative news about the Delta variant convince you otherwise. According to Deloitte, consumers will spend 9 percent more this holiday season compared to 2020.

But here’s the rub: with increased spending, consumers may experience increased levels of frustration. Because of the global supply chain crisis, consumers may encounter product shortages and higher prices. And they may not understand why, either, which could create a backlash against retailers, fair or not. Retailers can mitigate against the disappointment somewhat by relying on your website, Google My Business listings, and other points of contact to discuss the inventory shortage and its potential impact. But that doesn’t mean consumers will notice your efforts.

What can a retailer do, then? For one thing, be ready for an uptick in negative reviews, and be ready to respond. Retailers should also also be ready to offer top rated alternatives to products out of stock as this example shows:

Inventory on a website

At the same time, consider how your ad copy might encourage shoppers to get out in front of shopping for the holiday season. Make sure they understand the advantages of tapping into your fulfillment options to encourage purchases. Consider tools such as free and fast shipping annotations to encourage early shopping. But just the same, many consumers will continue the time-honored tradition of putting off their holiday shopping until the last moment, and because of the product shortage, they’re going to be in for an unpleasant surprise.

2 Be Ready for a Multichannel Experience

Shoppers are ready to come back to physical stores. According to Google, as of mid-August, 70 percent of U.S. shoppers are buying the majority of the items they need in stores, compared to 61 percent in June. And they’re spending online, too: U.S. ecommerce sales continue to rise. Here’s what this means:

  • Keep online advertising for online purchase and fulfillment strong. The surging online behaviors are not going away.
  • Welcome people back to stores. Let shoppers know your stores are open, and in your ad copy, play up a positive and warm in-store experience. Your stores may not be quite ready to offer in-store events to the extent you did pre-pandemic days, but neither will they be empty. Consider options such as local inventory ads to promote items available for purchase in store.
  • Continue to plan for a hybrid digital/in-store Black Friday that extends far beyond the actual date of Black Friday. This trend pre-dated the pandemic. The difference between 2021 and 2020 is that more shoppers will be willing to experience Black Friday in physical stores (although Thanksgiving Day shopping won’t surge like it has in recent years with big retailers announcing closures that day).

3 Connect Mobile to the Entire Shopper Journey – Online and Offline

The rise of mobile commerce shows that consumers are comfortable using their mobile phones to search for merchandise and pay for it. What was different about 2020 is that people relied more on their mobile phones to order merchandise for curbside pick-up, which made retailers learn (quickly) how to manage the interplay between order placement and pick-up at curbside. By now, retailers need to go beyond managing mobile efficiently; they need to consider ways to create an even better mobile experience through creative ad copy online and excellent follow-through for curbside pickup.

Contact True Interactive

To maximize the value of your holiday shopping ad campaigns, contact True Interactive. We help our clients create effective online advertising all year-round, including the holiday season, and we understand the nuances of creating effective holiday ad campaigns.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Three Business Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Three Business Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Advertising

One year ago, could you have predicted that our economy would come roaring back and that more than half of the U.S. adult population would be vaccinated against COVID-19? I sure didn’t.  As we approach the midyear point in 2021, I am grateful for family, friends, co-workers, and our clients at a time when many people have suffered loss. This is also a humbling time. In 2020, many business owners were facing uncertain futures. It was not easy to understand what was around the corner, and sometimes we were flat-out wrong when we attempted to look ahead. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now say we’ve learned some things. I have shared below some of my own lessons learned based on my experiences at True Interactive:

1 Conventional Wisdom Is Flawed

Conventional wisdom says that during uncertain times, people save more and live cautiously. And during the pandemic, people did save. But they also spent. (And invested — the stock market soared.) Consumers spent in ways that make sense in hindsight, but not necessarily so at time. For example, consider the surge in spending on home maintenance and groceries as people in lockdown focused on home repair projects and learning how to cook. Or think of the surge in short-term travel. Americans could not board airplanes and go to far-flung places (especially big cities), but they did take shorter trips to smaller towns and parks. That’s a reason why Airbnb saw a big turnaround in its business later in 2020 after suffering a downturn initially. Businesses that allowed conventional wisdom to dictate their decisions were in for a surprise.

2 Predicting Future Behavior Can Be Dangerous

There was no blueprint for predicting how people would behave and how businesses would make decisions during a global pandemic. When a national emergency was declared on March 13, 2020, in the United States, agencies such as True Interactive could have been forgiven for predicting hard times ahead. After all, during uncertain and difficult times, businesses often scale back their advertising and marketing budgets. But that didn’t happen to us, thank goodness. I could not have predicted that our digital media clients would experience a spike in demand – not once, but many times in 2020. I could not have predicted that one of our clients, a photo-sharing app, would benefit from people living in lockdown and spending more time at home working on craft projects. And certainly the predictions of economists were not useful. The pandemic required businesses to think differently. To be flexible and agile – relying less on long-term predicting and more on agile planning, meaning that we constantly examined our performance, keeping an open mind to revising our plans from one month to the next.

3 Real-Time Analytics Rule

I mentioned that we needed to be more agile in our thinking. We could do that because we relied on real-time analytics — data such as clients’ conversions and website traffic that told us just how well they were performing. As I mentioned, our digital media clients saw spikes in demand. Fortunately, they were watching their numbers in real time just as we were watching their digital ad performance in real time. The analytics did not lie: those clients were doing just fine during the pandemic. Not everyone was, though, as anyone in the travel and tourism industry can attest. The reality of 2020 is that each industry was affected differently, and even inside industries, businesses were affected in different ways. Many retailers suffered greatly, but others prospered because they benefitted from services such as curbside pickup. The truth was in the real-time numbers. Anyone who relied on historic data was at a disadvantage.

Real-time analytics are serving us well now. We know that travel and tourism is back – not because of what we read in the news, but what our client data says.

Onward in 2021

At True Interactive, we continue to grow thanks to great clients and an incredibly talented and committed team. And we will continue to learn – together. In real time. What are your lessons learned?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash