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.