The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

Retail

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are just table stakes for retailers to compete in the first-ever $1 trillion holiday shopping season. The real competitive advantage is coming from shipping.

Based on the client work I do, I’ve always known that favorable shipping can help a retailer compete more effectively during the holiday shopping season. Low-cost, rapid shipping caters to the needs of today’s on-demand consumer who want products curated and sent to them and oftentimes at the last minute.

But what’s changed dramatically about the 2018 season is the Amazon effect. Earlier in November, Amazon announced free shipping with no minimum purchase required from November 5 onward. Amazon did not announce a cut-off date, but it will probably be December 22. Now, this change to its shipping policy is huge. Amazon accomplishes two objectives with free shipping during the holidays:

  • Beating Target and Walmart. These two retail giants had announced more liberal shipping and returns policies of their own in October. Walmart had announced it would expand two-day shipping to the entire Walmart marketplace beginning November 1. And Walmart also said that products purchased through its marketplace could be returned Walmart brick-and-mortar stores products purchased through its marketplace. Target had announced free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase or REDcard membership required from November 1-December 22. Amazon trumped both.
  • Luring shoppers to Amazon Prime. Amazon hopes that anyone using free shipping during the holidays will get a taste of what Prime members enjoy all the time – and, presumably, sign up for Prime, where many more benefits await. For example, Prime members get free same-day delivery on millions of items and free two-day shipping on many more. Prime is the center of Amazon’s on-demand world, which encompasses services ranging from entertainment to retail.

Smaller retailers have a harder time competing on those kinds of terms, but try they must. If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, advertising on-demand services such as delivery, shipping, and online ordering/in-store pick-up is key to winning this holiday season. It’s important that you manage your online advertising, including your paid search and display, to show how well you service the on-demand shopper. If you need help, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Walmart

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Google

School is always in session at True Interactive. We regularly learn about Google products through Google’s Partner Academy, which keeps its advertising partners in the know about key product updates.  At a recent Partner Academy event in Chicago, we got immersed in Google’s recently launched smart shopping campaigns. Smart shopping combines multiple campaigns running on Google ad networks and uses machine learning to maximize their performance. My take: retailers should jump on smart shopping now to maximize your holiday campaigns.

Smart shopping combines shopping and dynamic remarketing campaigns into one product available on all networks where people are conceivably shopping:

  • Search.
  • Display.
  • Remarketing.
  • YouTube.

Smart shopping provides an efficient way for advertisers to roll up multiple campaigns into one. In addition, Google optimizes performance of your campaign across each network. According to Google’s blog,

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

To help you get the best value from each ad, Google also automates ad placement and bidding for maximum conversion value at your given budget.

The main advantage of the product is that Google serves your ads among the four networks where they perform best. In addition, smart shopping offers a more efficient spend, more sensible budgeting (you fund only one campaign and let Google optimize your budget), and a simplified approach to campaign management. The product is a boon for large retailers running complex campaigns, including, of course, holiday campaigns.

There is a downside, though: you cannot break out results by the four types of shopping experiences. Therefore you cannot really optimize toward the best performing format. When I asked Google about this limitation, I was told that providing this breakout is one of Google’s highest priorities for smart shopping campaigns in 2019. So, stay tuned.

In addition, you cannot apply negatives, such as negative keywords and topics, to your campaign. So if you want to, say, exclude news topics to avoid having your ad appear alongside an undesirable topic, you cannot do so.

The format also has limits. Smart shopping supports only two bid types: maximum conversion value and target return on ad spend. You also have to install the dynamic remarketing tag on to your site, which drops a cookie on users’ browsers and draws on the product ID as well as the revenue and other attributes to create audiences. (By contrast, with standard remarketing, you don’t need to fuss with this tag. You can use a generic tag that applies everywhere.)

Since smart shopping campaigns take about 15 days to really take effect, make sure you plan ahead so that you hit peak performance on days that matter most to you, such as Cyber Monday. If you have questions about how to deploy smart shopping campaigns, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Note: this post is the first in a four-part series on recently launched ad products from Google. Watch our blog for more posts.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/working-macbook-computer-keyboard-34577/

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Display Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Display Ads

Amazon

All eyes are on Amazon this holiday season, with eight out of 10 shoppers planning to search Amazon for holiday deals. In September, Amazon organized all its advertising tools under one offering, Amazon Advertising, to help businesses capitalize on the gushing river of shoppers flooding the site. Our clients have been asking about the tools available under Amazon Advertising. Perhaps you are wondering, too. Recently I blogged one of those products, Amazon sponsored ads. Now let’s take a look at Amazon’s display advertising solutions.

1 What is Amazon’s Display Advertising Solution?

Amazon has two very different display advertising options. The first, which was discussed in the last post in this series, consists of product display ads. This ad type is part of Amazon’s pay-per-click (PPC) offerings, has limited reach and ad options, but is available to everyone who wants to advertise on Amazon.

The second option, and the main focus of this post, consists of Amazon display ads. These ads use specific audiences with custom creatives to target people on Amazon and Amazon-owned and third-party sites, apps, and devices. An advertiser can manage the ads themselves through the Amazon demand-side platform (DSP), or they can work with a team of experts.

2 Why Would an Advertiser Use Display Ads?

Just like any programmatic display strategy, an advertiser would use display ads on Amazon to show relevant ads to people who are in their target audience. The seemingly endless list of ad sizes, formats, and placements means that there is just as many options for creative customization, reaching consumers on all devices, both on and off Amazon. Couple that with the advanced audience options available, and almost anything becomes possible. An advertiser can reach current and new audiences at any stage in the search funnel:

  • Build awareness of a brand or product by using look-alike audiences based off of current customer information.
  • Get people when they are in the research phase through product or interest-based targeting.
  • Reengage with customers during their purchase decision using audience lists based on buy behaviors and what pages they’ve visited on and off Amazon.
  • Send customized messages to people who’ve already made a purchase encouraging them to become repeat customers.

3 Are There Any Limitations to Display Ads?

The main limitation with Amazon display ads is the price. Amazon requires a $35,000 budget for a campaign before they will let you have access to any of these features. The product display ads that are part of the sponsored ad solutions do not require any minimum spend amounts and may be a better fit for smaller advertisers or advertisers looking for a smaller test on Amazon.

4 How Can Advertisers Maximize the Value of Display Ads?

Think about your brand and what’s already on the plan for the year. Is there a big product launch or holiday push coming up? Are you noticing declining new customer sales? Is it time to reengage previous purchasers? Taking the time to identify what you really want to achieve with the display ads is the first step in maximizing the value of this ad format. Identify what the goal is, what the important metrics are, and how success will be measured.

Next, don’t rush the creative process. Have unique ads for each audience and goal, if there’s more than one. Understand that someone seeing an ad while they’re relaxing at home during the evening might respond differently than someone actively searching Amazon on their lunch break.

Finally, consider using display ads as a part of a larger tactic strategy. Display ads may not result in immediate direct sales, but do have an impact in other areas. Product searches and subsequent purchases typically go up once a display campaign has been launched. Visits to the brand website can also be expected to go up.

If you’re interested in Amazon display ads, but don’t know where to start or need assistance strategizing and managing them, please reach out to us at True Interactive.

Watch our blog for the final post in the series on Amazon video ads.

Image source: https://www.udemy.com/amazon-pay-per-click-advertising-ppc/

Coming Soon: A $1 Trillion Holiday Shopping Season

Coming Soon: A $1 Trillion Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

Get ready for a strong holiday shopping season. eMarketer has raised its 2018 holiday shopping forecast, with total retail spending growth expected to be 4.1 percent, up from eMarketer’s previous prediction of a 3.8 percent growth rate. The 2018 season will approach $1 trillion in spending, or $986.77 billion to be more precise. In addition, eMarketer says that retail ecommerce will grow at 16.2 percent, with that growth being driven largely by mobile.

“We expect that the 2018 holiday retail season will be one of the strongest in recent years,” eMarketer said in the October report, Holiday Shopping 2018. Reasons for a strong season include:

  • A strong economy that will fuel spending.
  • A lengthy shopping season, with 32 days occurring between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the longest possible calendar between these two landmark dates. “This will give shoppers ample opportunity to complete more of their holiday shopping online,” noted eMarketer.
  • The growth of mobile. “The other key growth factor is the extent to which mobile is fueling consumers’ ecommerce migration” said eMarketer. “Mobile now drives nearly two-thirds of online shopping activity, according to research firm comScore, and is inching ever closer to a majority share of ecommerce spending. Although shoppers are still much more likely to shop than buy on mobile, they are increasingly comfortable transacting on smartphones, thanks to more seamless, optimized experiences on both mobile web and apps.”

The prospect of a stronger holiday season is good news for retailers and consumer electronics firms. Per eMarketer, “Consumer electronics will prove popular during the 2018 season, particularly with an ever-expanding slate of voice-activated and connected home products hitting the market. Apparel and accessories will continue its online migration, while the toys and hobbies sector promises to get more competitive.”

The companies in the best position to thrive:

  • Have strong mobile commerce operations.
  • Capitalize on an expected intense period of spending around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday is no longer a single-day event. The day really begins on Thanksgiving now.
  • Effectively invest in advertising across the digital world, with a focus on Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

To make sure you benefit from the holiday spend, be sure to check out some recently published resources from True Interactive:

  • Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads,” a post from Samantha Coconato that discusses one of Amazon’s popular advertising products for businesses that have a presence on the platform.

At True Interactive, we’ve been actively working with clients to create successful holiday advertising campaigns online. Contact us if you need assistance with yours. We’re happy to help.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

What Retail Apocalypse? Holiday Shopping Is Surging

What Retail Apocalypse? Holiday Shopping Is Surging

Marketing

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are bigger than ever. The so-called retail apocalypse might not be so apocalyptic after all – especially for retailers that have beefed up their online presence.

According to Adobe Analytics, Americans spent $19.62 billion online over the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday — 15 percent more than they spent during the same time frame in 2016. The top two days for online shopping were Cyber Monday (more than 81 million visitors) and Black Friday (more than 66 million). What can retailers learn from this explosive growth? Plenty:

  • Black Friday is more than a day. Black Friday is no longer a day, but a multi-day phenomenon, with retailers promoting online deals the entire week of Thanksgiving. In fact, major retailers were hosting Black Friday deals online before Thanksgiving week. Retailers are making Black Friday an element of a broader shopping experience.
  • Thanksgiving is becoming a big shopping day. As Adobe reported, Thanksgiving Day saw an 18.3 percent increase in online spending to $2.87 billion. In addition, a Foursquare report suggested that brick-and-mortar stores open on Thanksgiving – and open earlier in the day – would have an advantage over stores that were closed. Stores that promoted Thanksgiving Day sales, both online and offline, were likely to benefit as consumers combine shopping with eating on Turkey Day.

We expect a robust consumer spend during the holidays. Note that with Christmas Day occurring on a Monday, shoppers will accelerate their spend to avoid the problem of having to ship last-minute purchases over the weekend. Meanwhile there is still plenty of shopping to be done. Businesses that have planned ahead will win. It’s never too early to start planning for the 2018 holiday shopping season. To optimize your online spend all-year round, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/RZWM4T2UAD

It’s Always Black Friday

It’s Always Black Friday

Marketing

If the holiday shopping season seems to be starting earlier, you are not imagining things. When I look at our digital advertising spend for retail clients, I see an larger-than-usual uptick going back to the first full week of November – more so than we expect to see for that time period. It’s not just that we are spending more. Consumer search volume for holiday-related content is spiking by as much as 30 percent higher than normal for early November. Why?

I see two factors at play:

  • Consumers remain confident in the economy. According to Deloitte, “With disposable personal income climbing and consumer confidence staying elevated across the U.S., the holiday shopping season could bring healthier sales for retailers to cap off a tumultuous year.” Deloitte made this prediction in September. The reasoning is sound, and so far consumer behavior is bearing out the prediction.
  • Thanksgiving is happening earlier. We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving Day Thursday, November 23, the earliest since 2012, when Thanksgiving was celebrated on November 22. An earlier Thanksgiving means an earlier start to the holiday shopping season. Retailers launch their pre-Black Friday promotions earlier, putting consumers in shopping mode earlier.

As a result, we’re busier than ever as we manage holiday-related online advertising for our clients. But there’s a catch: the season is going to end sooner, too. Here’s why: Christmas lands on a Monday. Consequently, carriers will not deliver on Christmas Eve (Sunday), and they’ll charge a premium for a Saturday delivery December 23.

As a result, we’re prepared to decrease our digital advertising spend sooner than we might do so normally. Why? Because we don’t want to create a spike in demand for retailers’ products too close to Christmas Day, when a retailer is unable to fulfill the order by December 25.

If you manage digital advertising for a business that caters to holiday shoppers, make sure that you:

  • Do a gut check on search traffic now. Are you seeing a spike in demand as we did for our clients? If so, is your budget set up to handle the increase?
  • Be ready to decrease your holiday ad spend sooner than you normally would to avoid putting too much stress on your fulfillment services with Christmas deliveries being complicated by December 25 landing on a Monday as noted.
  • Monitor your Google AdWords account very closely. As my colleague Mark Smith recently wrote, Google has empowered itself to increase your AdWords budget by twice the amount you had planned. Consequently, if you experience unusual spikes in demand (as might be happening already), your monthly budget could be spent much sooner in the month than you had planned – which could jeopardize Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertising. As Mark notes in his blog post, for shorter-term campaigns, you may need to set your spend levels lower to have some level of protection, especially if you know you’re going to get high-volume traffic within that time period.

How is your holiday spend going? Are you seeing an unexpected spike, and how are you responding? If you need help managing digital advertising (during the holidays or otherwise), contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://static.pexels.com/photos/291762/