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/

Why Retailers Are Launching Ad Businesses

Why Retailers Are Launching Ad Businesses

Advertising

Best Buy recently announced the launch of Best Buy Ads, a new in-house media company. Best Buy Ads offer a range of ad units including paid search ads, onsite and offsite display ads, onsite and offsite video ads, social ads, and in-store ads. According to Best Buy, Best Buy Ads capitalizes on the fact that Best Buy interacts with its customers three billion times a year. From those interactions, Best Buy learns about the search and shopping habits of its customers. This makes it possible for the retailer to sell ad units that target a specific demographic: people with a strong interest in consumer technology.

Best Buy is the latest retailer to launch an ad business. Other examples include:

  • Walmart Connect, the leading ad business run by a brick-and-mortar retailer.

As with Best Buy, they offer services ranging from display to media buying. They all have one thing in common: they monetize their customer data.

Why an Ad Business Appeals to a Retailer Like Best Buy

An online advertising business is appealing to Best Buy for a number of reasons, including:

  • This is a proven model. The growth of Amazon Advertising (Amazon’s own in-house ad operation) speaks for itself. Amazon Advertising is so successful that Amazon is now challenging Google’s and Facebook’s dominance of online advertising. In light of this, we’ve witnessed a slew of retailers jumping into the ad business. For example, Walmart Connect (Walmart’s ad operation) has enjoyed strong growth.
  • Customer data is a competitive weapon. Retailers such as Best Buy collect a treasure trove of data about their customers, starting with their search and shopping preferences. This data gives each retailer an edge because they can promise advertisers access to a targeted audience with intent to buy. As noted, Best Buy targets consumers in the market for home electronics. By contrast, the recently launched ad platform from retailer Macy’s targets a fashion-conscious consumer. Walmart promises entrée to grocery shoppers and price-conscious consumers. Of course, retailers must know how to mine all this data and then develop attractive ad units. But the data provides a built-in advantage.
  • Retailers’ customer data is getting more attractive to advertisers. Businesses are looking for alternative ways to reach consumers amid the demise of third-party cookies, which are crucial for third-party ad targeting, and the advent of stricter consumer privacy controls on Apple’s iOS, which has also made it harder for businesses to target consumers with ads. With third-party ad targeting across the web threatened, platforms that give advertisers entree to shoppers within retailers’ walled gardens are more appealing. Basically, retailers are using their own customer data to do what Apple and Google won’t do for advertisers anymore.
  • e-Commerce is booming. Online ad businesses in particular are catching fire because of the e-commerce boom. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, “The e-commerce industry is expected to hold on to pandemic-elevated sales into 2022, with big retailers including Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc set to benefit as consumers stick to new, hybrid shopping patterns.” S&P Global Market Intelligence says U.S. e-commerce sales are on track to exceed $1 trillion for the first time in 2022. Businesses want to reach those shoppers, which creates a demand for online advertising. The surge in online commerce also means more people are using retailers’ sites to search and shop, which creates more valuable customer data that retailers’ ad businesses can monetize. This also means advertising.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Consider retailer-based ad networks as a complement to your existing digital ad strategy, not as a replacement. If your strategy focuses on Facebook and Google, for instance, don’t move your ad dollars over to a retailer network. Remember that Facebook and Google also already offer proven advertising products that capitalize on their vast user base. For example, location-based digital advertising tools help strengthen Google’s advertising services at the local level.
  • Do, however, monitor the effectiveness of your advertising on Facebook and Google amid the demise of third-party cookies and the onset of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, which includes more privacy controls that may make Facebook ads less effective (which remains to be seen).
  • Work with an agency partner that knows the terrain. For instance, at True Interactive, we complement our history of helping businesses advertising on Google and social media with expertise across retailer ad networks such as Amazon and Walmart.
  • Learn more about the ad products that might apply to you – and those products are evolving. In 2022, more retailers will use first-party data to help businesses create more targeted ads off-site – meaning advertising across the web, as well as via connected TV.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

For More Insight

Walgreens Doubles Down on Its Advertising Business,” Tim Colucci, May 19, 2021.

Amazon Unveils New Ad Units Across Its Ecosystem,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos, May 4, 2021.

Why Macy’s Launched an Advertising Platform,” Tim Colucci, March 3, 2021.

Walmart Asserts Its Leadership in Advertising,” Tim Colucci, February 8, 2021.

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.

 

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season

Amazon Google Social media

What does the holiday shopping season hold for businesses? We have already heard plenty about the potential problems that a global supply chain crisis will pose. They include product shipping delays, bare shelves, and higher prices. But how are consumers planning to research and buy as the shopping season kicks into full gear? A recently conducted webinar by ChannelAdvisor, “Navigating Online Consumer Behavior: 2021 E-Commerce Trends and Forecasts,” provided some answers.

ChannelAdvisor and Dynata surveyed 5,000 global consumers to learn how they are shopping this holiday season, including 1,000 U.S. consumers. ChannelAdvisor also relied on secondary research from sources such as eMarketer. Here are some major takeaways:

E-Commerce Is Exploding

eMarketer data

 

Chart showing people shopping more

E-commerce has accelerated by two-to-three years as a percentage of total retail sales. ChannelAdvisor says that the accelerated pace will continue for the next few years. That’s because Covid-19 forced more shoppers online. Nearly 60 percent of consumers are shopping online more frequently than before the pandemic, and 32 percent of U.S. consumers have more confidence shopping online than they did before the pandemic. A whopping 58 percent of consumers are spending more time on Amazon.

Key takeaway: businesses should expect the major ad platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok to integrate advertising and commerce more aggressively. We recently saw Google make it easier for shoppers to find products through visual search and display. TikTok continues to launch new shopping features. It’s important that businesses capitalize on these opportunities to capture revenue in these moments when people are searching and browsing on digital.

Get Ready for a Strong Holiday Shopping Season

A chart showing people shopping online

Holiday shopping is increasing in 2021

More than half of U.S. consumers will shop online more than before the pandemic. By contrast, 38 percent of U.S. consumers said they’d shop more online when they were surveyed in May 2020. And 37 percent of U.S. consumers expect to do more holiday shopping online compared to 2020. Only 6 percent of shoppers will shop less.

This finding is not surprising. We saw that even during the hardest days of the pandemic when the world faced economic uncertainty, consumers were willing to open up their pocketbooks and spend. But as ChannelAdvisor noted, much of that spending happened online.

Key takeaway: it’s going to be a busy holiday shopping season, and savvy advertisers are already ramping up their holiday shopping advertising. According to Deloitte, consumers will spend 9 percent more this holiday season compared to 2020. A new survey from JLL says that consumers plan to spend an average of $870 per person on holiday expenses this year, a 25.4 percent increase from last year. Consumers are ready to shop. On the downside, if the global shipping crisis is as bad as economists say it’s going to be, those consumers may experience the disappointment of product shortages. So advertisers are encouraging people to shop sooner while inventory is in stock.

Amazon and Google Dominate Product Research and Purchase

 

Research online

Purchase online

Amazon is the Number One destination for people to research product: 41 percent use Amazon to research products. Google, though, is a strong second place finisher. Amazon has built strong trust because when people are checking reviews, prices, and product inventory, Amazon gives them one easy place to do all that. During the holiday shopping season, even more consumers will do research on Amazon, and  65 percent will purchase on Amazon.

Key takeaway: capitalizing on Amazon Advertising products is a must if you want your brand to be visible when shoppers are doing deep product research. But don’t shift your ad budget from Google if you’re already a Google Ads customer. A two-pronged approach works best.

Social Media Is More Important for Younger Audiences

 

chart showing Instagram usage

People buying on social

Social is the key research channel for younger audiences. 53 percent of 18-to-25 year olds have researched products on Instagram. 51 percent have discovered products they purchased on social media sites. Facebook remains a strong source of product research for 26-to-35 year olds. Meanwhile, 30 percent of 26-to-45 year olds will do the majority of their holiday purchasing on social sites.

Key takeaway: although social media sites lag far behind Amazon and Google for product research, they index high for Millennial and Gen Z shoppers. Given the popularity of Instagram as a shopping destination, it’s important that advertisers capitalize on Instagram ad products such as Instagram Shop to reach younger shoppers. Essentially, Instagram ad products make it possible for businesses to turn posts and stories into ads. Instagram also makes it possible to create ads across Instagram and Facebook, which sounds very efficient – but remember that what works on Instagram might not be as effective on Facebook because Facebook appeals to a slightly older audience.

For more insight into holiday shopping trends, read a recently published True Interactive post, “How Retailers Can Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season.”

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 Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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

How Businesses Are Navigating Back-to-School Season with Digital Marketing

How Businesses Are Navigating Back-to-School Season with Digital Marketing

Advertising

Back-to-school season is complicated this year. On the one hand, the proliferation of vaccines has created a certain sense of Covid-19 being sometime we can live with. But for kids, there isn’t necessarily a clear-cut “back to normal.” Although teens can be vaccinated, there is no vaccine ready for kids under 12, and the Delta variant is emerging as a real threat. Brands find themselves in a situation awkwardly similar to what they faced in 2020: welcoming kids back to school during an uncertain year. Read on to learn how some brands are navigating this delicate situation in their back-to-school digital marketing.

Embracing the Positive

The American Eagle campaign Future Together. Jeans Forever underlines the brand’s established mission of positivity. In a 30-second spot featuring singer Addison Rae and actors Caleb McLaughlin, Jenna Ortega, Chase Stokes, and Madison Bailey, the message is clear: this fall, students can at least look forward to the joy of being in the same room with their friends at school. And with the return to in-person learning, American Eagle is leaning in to the denim category. The implicit message? Now that students are back in the classroom, those go-to sweatpants that have dominated for the last 18 months of Covid and remote learning might just get kicked to the curb in favor of fun new styles—denim in particular.

The Joy of Creativity and Personal Expression

As reported in Ad Age, last year Dick’s Sporting Goods found success partnering with TikTok, and the retailer is returning to the platform as they double down on back-to-school messaging for 2021. This time around, the focus is on a “Lock In” TikTok challenge that underlines creativity: e.g., creators spend an evening in a Dick’s store and put together their own styles and content. As Ed Plummer, Dick’s chief marketing officer, explains, “We basically give them the keys to the store to see what they can come up with from a style perspective and share that with their followers.” The campaign’s energy and optimism not only reaches young consumers where they like to hang out (TikTok), but it underlines a simple message: joy in personal expression is a constant, no matter the uncertainty of the times.

Pop Art

Pop-Tarts also have personal expression on the brain. In a collaborative first for the Kellogg brand, Pop-Tarts partnered with Lyrical Lemonade to co-host a pop-up experience in Los Angeles. On August 13, select visitors were invited to decorate traditional back-to-school gear—from backpacks to notebooks and sneakers—with Pop-Tart-inspired art. The partnership gives Pop-Tarts greater access to the Gen Z demographic, as Lyrical Lemonade enjoys a wide social following. Case in point: the announcement of a limited-run Pop-Tarts x Lyrical Lemonade Toaster Pastry—the flavor is Lemon Creme Pie—generated more than 115,000 likes within 24 hours. And the benefits appear to go both ways. As Lyrical Lemonade founder Cole Bennett said in a press statement, “It’s been a while since everyone has been back together in school, and we loved the idea of collaborating with Pop-Tarts to get creative and make that first day back amazing.”

Meet the Parents

Meanwhile, Kohl’s recognizes that it’s not just students embarking on a new chapter: parents used to having their kids at home may be making their own transitions right now. As part of a campaign meant to run earlier and longer than past initiatives, a 30-second Kohl’s spot depicts a father dropping his son off at school. As the dad sits in the car singing along to a Zombies song, the son circles back to wish him a “great first day.” Greg Revelle, chief marketing officer of Kohl’s, notes, “It’s not just about your kid going back to school but all the changes going on for parents and loved ones as well.”

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from these brands?

  • For starters, make no mistake: even during uncertain times, it’s okay to be upbeat. By now people are accustomed to living with uncertainty. And as Ad Age points out, consumers are “craving optimistic, forward-looking marketing.” By focusing on the positive aspects of this new school year, American Eagle generates excitement—and hope.
  • That said, be careful not to promise “back to normal.” Celebrating rekindled friendships recognizes that one aspect of school is coming back for many kids via in-person learning. But ads that promise a complete return to the way things were before the pandemic risk coming across as tone deaf. Consider the Pop-Tarts campaign that celebrates fun—in the Now.
  • Use digital wisely to appeal to the digital generation. As Dick’s Sporting Goods shows, relying on TikTok is a smart play that will reach teens and inject a sense of fun that we don’t always associate with back-to-school.
  • Finally, even as you reach out to Gen Z for back-to-school, don’t neglect other demographics. Kohl’s wisely gives a tip of the hat to the parents who are helping to keep things stable during Covid—and beyond.

Contact True Interactive

Trying to figure out how to navigate this not-quite-post-Covid era in digital? Contact us. We can help.