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In-House or Outsourced? Answering the Age Old Question

When it comes to deciding between building an in-house digital team or outsourcing activity to an agency the question remains; is there really a best practice? While there are no hard-and-fast rules, we’ve included some suggestions that can help you decide where you want to invest your resources.

Some industry experts suggest that whether you outsource or keep work in-house depends on specialisation – the more specialised the work, the better it is to outsource. The logic behind this stems from the high costs – or more accurately, the hidden costs, associated with hiring full-time staff: benefits, training, pension, and paid vacation. Outsourced agencies are often cheaper – they might charge more upfront, but they are not as costly as on boarding a new full-time employee. There is little overhead involved in terms of provisions.  Another added benefit: the results are highly focused to get the job done.

The downside to outsourcing? Agencies can have many clients and you might be on the bottom of their food chain when it comes to prioritising who gets the most attention. This is why choosing the correct agency is fundamental to success. Internal teams can generally be cobbled together quicker and pulled off other projects to resolve an urgent problem immediately. But ultimately outsourcing is a great idea when you require a  definitive and specialised strategy.

Let’s break it down by category:

PPC – Both

When looking to run PPC activity it depends upon the life stage of your business and campaign size. Most companies start small, with in-house PPC activity but when it comes to trying to scale business growth campaigns begin to get too large and costly. At this stage, the company may be in a better position to afford outside agencies that can conduct efficient and cutting edge campaigns. A good outsourced agency will also develop close-knit relationships with their clients, becoming a veritable extension of the team and it only feels “out of house” by virtue of their location.

Once a company is significantly mid-sized, it’s often better to outsource to a digital specialist, since they often have expertise that multi-channel marketers are lacking and don’t have the time to invest in. Large companies often split efforts between in-house PPC for smaller campaigns while passing off the heavy lifting and high-end campaigns to outside agencies. Sometimes in-house can run spend into the ground because they don’t have the in-depth knowledge or scope to absorb new technologies or techniques as efficiently as possible.

Display – Outsource

The general consensus is that Display activity is better outsourced than held in-house. Why? It’s too specialised and would require a trained individual, fully immersed in Display activity for it to be viable, as they need to provide accurate attribution, and assessment activities. Most small companies rely on having a ‘Jack-of-All-Trades’ marketing person dabbling in PPC, Social, SEO and Display. For bigger campaigns, it’s best to spend the money and get a specialist who really knows what they’re doing, has the time to run campaigns across several channels, and the time to devote to using a multitude of tools.

Paid Social – Outsource

Social is like PPC in that, depending on your situation, the pendulum can swing both ways. The basic break down is this: Paid Social should be outsourced, Organic social, kept in-house. If the company is relatively small it’s best to save money and keep activity in-house. Paid Social has moved well beyond just occasionally “boosting” posts. It now has a vast array of complex, time-intensive, targeting techniques that might be best handled by specialists who won’t waste precious ad-spend targeting the wrong group of people, and who can also quickly, and correctly analyse data for the next campaign.

Integrating Your Digital Strategy

Lastly, a benefit that cannot be overlooked is an outsourced digital agency’s ability to deliver a fully integrated approach. Outsourcing doesn’t have to be siloed into just one area. In fact, a cross-channel digital strategy is far more effective. Integrating your strategy means that campaigns results can be deduped for higher accuracy, advertisers gain a better understanding of the customer journey, audience lists can be built and used in retargeting across channels, and it is easier to deliver a full-funnel approach.

If you’re looking to scale business growth and run integrated digital activity in a  quick, efficient and cost-effective manner, a digital agency already has the capacity to hit the ground running with a workhorse of a team behind them.

#12DaysofStrategy: How does Christmas on Sunday Effect Shopping Behaviours?

Christmas falling on a Sunday leaves an entire day free for last minute shopping, sometimes referred to as “Panic Saturday”. In addition to this retailers may also see instances of showrooming, whereby a consumer sees an item in-store but completes their purchase online, sometimes at a lower price.

A typical consumer experiences a digital touch at some point along their journey to an in-store conversion. Hence, to make the most of this year’s Panic Saturday on Christmas Eve, retailers should consider how they can best leverage their digital channels to drive in-store conversions for last minute shoppers, and also ensure that they are prepared for showrooming consumers to make their purchases online following an in-store visit.

For last minute buyers in the run-up to Panic Saturday, information such as click & collect deadlines, and store information such as locations and opening times are necessary. Both sitelinks and location ad extensions can help with this and drive a consumer from visiting your retailer online to in-store. On Panic Saturday itself, local inventory ads will be imperative in creating a digital storefront and enabling a user to find the exact item they want, and then driving them to your store. Again, location extensions are important; search queries involving “near me” have historically peaked over the Christmas period, and so the easier a consumer can find your store, the better.

For showrooming consumers it is the use of singular marketing messaging across your channels which will create a consistent user journey. Being the opposite of in-store last minute buyers, this presents an opportunity to use sequential messaging for showrooming consumers to increase brand affinity and conversion rates.

Even with two categories of consumers that we can potentially expect on Christmas Eve, the common thread between these consumers is the importance of mobile devices. Last minute shoppers will be using their phones to find stores which stock the items they want, or store information such as directions. Showrooming consumers can be conducting their online research on the go using their mobile devices and may make their online purchases on the spot.

Ensuring mobile websites are fully optimised to capture this traffic and serve the user the most relevant information will be important in order to make the most of this peak for retailers during the festive season.

Hopefully these tips and insights from cross-device performance and cross-channel attribution post-Panic Saturday can enable retailers to make the most of Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, and increase revenue between offline and online activities.

Stay tuned to more from our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy‘ blog series.

#12DaysofStrategy: My holiday sales aren’t where I want them. How do I fix this?

We are almost half-way through December and the Christmas shopping season is well under way. The digital marketing strategy for the festive period has been implemented and we will now begin to see indicators of whether it is paying off… or not.

We all hope that analysing trends and lessons from previous years and developing new, clever ideas to reach shoppers in a different way will maximise sales. However, people are unpredictable and consumer behaviour changes all the time. Therefore, it is rare that campaigns go exactly the way they were planned, and in some cases, sales may be behind where we want them to be. If this is the case, do not panic; the holiday shopping period is not over. It is time to delve down into the details of the campaigns to identify exactly what is working, and what is not.

Devices

The changes in the way consumers use devices in their path to conversion has been a topic of discussion across the industry for the last couple of years, both in the way we use different devices, and using multiple devices in the user journey.

The ability to modify bids for desktop, tablet, and mobile separately on AdWords was not available this time last year. Therefore reviewing performance across devices on a continual basis is incredibly important, and could make a significant difference to campaigns. Do not only consider last click data when making bid adjustments. If possible, have a look at other attribution models to see if any devices are having an influence earlier on the path to conversion.

Demographics and Audience Data

Improvements in audience data and targeting by age and gender has been a focus of Google over the past year, most likely due to Facebook having this readily available for advertisers to use. With these features on paid search, not only are we able to target users based on their search intent, but we can overlay this targeting to hone in on the consumer most likely to convert.

If you do not have many audience lists or demographics applied to your campaigns, set them up as bid only. Let the data build up on the lists over the coming days and weeks, then apply some bid modifiers to bid up where performance is stronger than the average, and bid down where performance is weaker.
If you have been taking full advantage of these features, whether you are using bid modifiers, or have split out campaigns based on audience lists or demographics, review the data over the past couple of weeks. You will most likely see different trends from last year, or even the past few months, then adjust the bid modifiers where appropriate.

Facebook & Instagram Campaign Structure

It is often tempting to set up paid social campaigns and let them run. However, if you are not seeing performance where you would like it to be, demographics and devices are good places to start. This will provide insight into ages, genders, or devices to exclude from targeting due to poor performance, as well as indicate those which are driving the results so far.

The granularity of campaigns on Facebook can depend on spend limits, with minimum advert set budgets specified by Facebook. However, if you do have some budget to play with, explore the option of splitting your advert sets out further by device or demographics. Take a look at the data you have so far, and break out the advert sets by whichever segment sees the largest variances in performance. This more granular structure will allow poorer performing audience segments to be identified more easily in order to channel more spend into the top performing areas.

Time of Day Bidding

With a couple of weeks of data for December, this is the perfect time to review the time of day and day of week bid modifiers applied to paid search campaigns. Ensure all campaigns have hour of day segments applied, then bid up or down based on the performance of the campaigns at the different times.
For Facebook, if activity is limited by the budget and lifetime budgets are being used, advertisers have the ability to turn activity off by hour. Segment the performance stats for advert sets by hour and day to identify if any hours can be turned off due to poorer performance. This will allow budget to be channelled into top performing times of the day.

Google Shopping Structure

The middle of the holiday season is not the time to make any major changes to the structure of shopping campaigns; however there may be some adjustments which can help to improve top line performance. Drill down into each product group, and break out both the products which are driving sales and those which are spending the most. This will allow bids to be adjusted at a more granular level. Decrease bids on the products which are spending a lot, but not generating the desired return. Increase bids on the products which are performing well, but do have impression share maximised.

Paid Search Keywords

It is the task which many of us want to put off, however search query reports for paid search are key to ensuring budgets are being spent as efficiently as possible. Make sure all the irrelevant search queries are excluded from campaigns. Pull these reports on a regular basis as there are always new queries. Add any search terms which are driving sales through non-exact campaigns into the account as exact match. This will allow you to keep an eye on these keywords, and manipulate bids on them specifically.

Paid Search Ad Group Granularity

For paid search campaigns, review the keywords in each ad group to make sure they are all closely related. If there are any which are not, split them out into a new ad group and amend the ads where possible to contain the keyword. This is to ensure that your ads are as relevant as possible to the search terms they appear for, which will help improve quality score. As a guide, we recommend a maximum of five keywords per ad group. If there are any more than this, the ad group will likely benefit from being split out.

Ad Copy Messaging

It is not only ad relevance in paid search which is important; users also need to be served appropriate messaging, and this applies across all digital marketing activity. It is easy to fall into the trap of running with ad copy which is familiar to us as advertisers. It may have performed the best in the past, but on-going testing is crucial to a successful campaign. Often, we are limited by both promotional messaging and character limits, therefore testing does not need to be anything drastic, and during peak sales times it should not be. Test one section of the ad, whether it is the headline in paid search ads, the image in Facebook ads, or the call to actions. Make sure the unique selling points which differentiate you from competitors are highlighted.

If you have some tests up and running already, now is the time to review the results. Think carefully about which metrics are most important to your goals, then pause the ad variation which is lower performing, and set up a new test for the coming weeks. If you do not have any tests running, get some set-up. The ad variation feature released earlier this year in AdWords is a great way to do this quickly without having to create lots of new ads. It allows advertisers to simply find and replace in ads. If you are nervous about testing the unknown over such an important sales period, the tool allows tests to be run across a proportion of impressions, so set the test to only run on 20% of impressions for example.
Hopefully, some of these tips will be useful for improving performance of both paid search and paid social campaigns over the festive sales period.

Before starting to look deeper into your accounts, remind yourself of the goals of the different campaigns over the holiday period and think about the KPIs which are most important to each aspect of the activity. If you want to see more tips on how to run online Shopping campaigns, then please check out How Holistic Marketing Can Support The Festive Season

Stay tuned to more from our 12 Days of Christmas Strategy blog series.

#12DaysofStrategy: How Holistic Marketing Can Support The Festive Season

As Christmas Day approaches, there is fierce competition in the retail industry to close sales. At the same time, users turn to researching online to find the perfect Christmas gift. Through their research, a user will come into contact with a variety of touch points where holistic marketing can support the users’ journey to conversion.

Holistic marketing refers to the coming together of different marketing aspects. Syncing multiple digital marketing channels, including Programmatic Display, Paid Search and Paid Social activity can be used to create a seamless brand story to take the user through to converting.

For example, a user may be interested in purchasing the latest smartphone for a family member this Christmas. Buying a smartphone is a considered purchase, requiring thorough investigation before commitment. There are also dozens of Phone Providers to could choose from, so why choose your brand?

Programmatic Display

At the beginning of the consumer journey, the prospective buyer is likely to be interested in increasing their knowledge of this topic, and so the user may research phones online. Whilst doing their research they may find themselves on tech-sites and blog reviews to help them make their decision. As part of the phone provider’s Display marketing strategy, Display banners featuring messaging on the brand’s great range could be contextually aligned with the content on these sites. The call to action on the banners at this stage of the users’ journey should be more generic, opting for ‘Shop Now’ rather than ‘Buy Now’.

Paid Search

After seeing the Display banner, the user may want to find out more about the phone provider’s range, and so continues their journey by searching for them on a Search Engine. This stage of the journey can be supported through Paid Search activity with an ad featuring Christmas messaging as well as messaging which compliments their Display banners. If a user clicks through to the website, then after acquiring the information they need, the user may continue their daily business to give time to digest the information.

Paid Social

Later on, the user may go on one of their social media accounts. As part of the brands integrated marketing approach, the user could be retargeted with a banner through a Paid Social campaign which features information about the phone provider’s great Christmas offers relating to the phone they were researching. The call-to-action will now become less generic and more sales led. To complete the path to conversion, the user may click on the banner or make their own way to the website.

By considering this holistic approach, the user will be provided with a seamless story across the marketing channels which ensures a strong brand message which can help the consumer make an informed decision and support the journey to conversion to ultimately drive sales for the brand.

Stay tuned to more from our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy‘ blog series.

#12DaysofStrategy: Taking your Shopping Campaigns to the Next Level

With Christmas just around the corner, brands are pushing for the last sales before Christmas day. This year the industry has seen online sales over Christmas have soared by 12% with many traditional high street retailers allocating more budget towards digital marketing and online advertising. With the rise of Amazon Prime, same day delivery and Click & Collect, Christmas shopping has never been so stress-free.

Despite online shopping becoming more popular over the years, the market space has also become increasingly saturated and extremely competitive, especially around Christmas, the most exciting time of the year. Hence it becomes important for advertisers to be more strategic and creative with online shopping strategies.

Preparing your holiday Google Shopping campaigns is almost the same as getting your high-street shop window ready for the festive season. A well-optimised feed with attractive item titles and stand out images will not only attract more customers to your site, but a smoother customer journey is also more likely to increase the conversion rate.

Below are a few tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your Product Listing Ads this Christmas. Most of these are simple to set-up and a few hours of work will ensure extra sales from areas you haven’t explored before. If in doubt, ask one of the experts at NMPi.

Feed Optimisation

Google Product Listing ads are triggered based on how well the search term matches the product title and description. So, if your products fit into the gifting, partywear or festive food category then remember to include Christmas themed keywords in your product titles and descriptions so that they appear for the relevant search terms. For instance, if you’re promoting “stocking filler gifts under £5”, then remember to add this description to the relevant items in the product feed.

Use of Custom Labels

The use of custom labels will help you categorise and subdivide the products in your feed which can really help with reporting and bidding. Assigning Christmas related Custom Labels will make bid management a lot quicker. You can save time by setting up rules and bid strategies, meaning that you can spend more time elsewhere. For instance, if you have novelty products that fit into the Secret Santa category, then label it with “Secret Santa” and push the bids up for products within this category during the first two weeks of December when most people are looking for Secret Santa gifts.

Query Level Bidding

Query Level Bidding allows you to bid differently on different types of keywords and more specifically separate your product terms from your generics. Like traditional pure search campaigns, generic and product name terms convert differently as they are aimed at customers at separate parts of the sales funnel. To ensure the highest return on investment (especially with the high spends around Christmas) you want to bid higher on brand and product name search queries which are more likely to lead to a conversion and lower on generic prospecting terms. There are online tutorials on how to set this up, but the focus around Query Level Bidding is to get the priority setting, negative keywords and base CPCs set up correctly.

Currency Converted Shopping

Do you have an English feed, ship internationally and are already running Google shopping in the UK, US or Australia? Good news! Thanks to Google currency conversion, you can now target multiple countries using one English feed. This minimises the time spent on preparing another feed, and most important of all, you don’t need to make any changes to your existing website. Currency converted shopping takes minutes to setup and it’s the quickest way of getting your products in front of potential international customers when the intent to buy is at its highest.

We hope you found these tips useful and will help you drive more online sales from PLAs this season. If you want to see more tips on how to run online Shopping campaigns, then please check out The Essential Guide to Google Shopping.

Stay tuned to more from our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy‘ blog series.

#12DaysofStrategy: Getting Demographic Targeting Right

With increased competition this year and Amazon’s ever-strong presence, advertisers need to be more intelligent with their budgets. This includes which keywords to bid on, which users to target, and the best times to increase coverage. This year, Google has enabled demographic targeting for search, and this article explores the opportunities it creates in improving efficiency this Christmas.

Using demographic bid modifiers, advertisers can now increase or decrease bids based on the user’s age and gender. This can be applied instantly to all ad groups, allowing advertisers to easily optimise campaigns, up-bidding where conversion rate (CR) is stronger and conversely, trimming bids where CR isn’t as strong to maintain CPA targets.

google-adwords-demographic-targeting-for-search

Why not take your strategy one step further by targeting a single gender per campaign. This gives you total control over the budgets, keywords, and creative. For keywords around men’s products, include a ‘treat him’ call to action and vice versa for women’s products include ‘treat her’ messaging to enforce the spirit of giving. Test different ad variations to see if certain messaging has a stronger impact based on gender, for example, free gift-wrapping might appeal more to men.

Expand this to your brand campaigns and trial sending men and women to different landing pages, e.g. send women to a ‘male products’ page at the time when gift purchasing is most prevalent. Run this as a test with the homepage as a control to review any potential uplift in CR.

As stated in our blog #12DaysofStrategy: Making the Most Out of the Gifting Season, Customer Match is a fantastic tool for advertisers who collect data on gender in their CRM. Retarget to men who purchased female products last year (and vice versa), and use the messaging to remind them about your great service and USPs which led to that initial conversion.

A commonly discussed hypothesis is that women do their shopping early, whilst men leave it to the last minute. Interestingly, looking at 2015 data for some of our clients (see graph below), we have seen the trend is very similar for both genders. The peak is around the third week of December, which then declines towards last delivery dates. Ensure you consider previous conversion data when making decisions on where to allocate the most of your monthly budget.

gender-revenue-stats-december

To conclude, having a well-developed strategy for demographic targeting will not only help maintain efficiency in a more competitive market but will also allow advertisers to truly tailor their messaging to the most relevant audiences at the time they are most likely to convert.

#12DaysofStrategy: Paid Social Tips this Christmas Season

The Christmas season is upon us and there are so many things for advertisers to think about in regards to their holiday strategy:

  • More people on new devices including, tablet and mobile;
  • Consumers will be sharing their holidays as well as looking for gift recommendations;
  • and last but not least for some retailers January Sales will begin as early as Christmas day.

This is a lot to contend with, and social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter can be an excellent source to tapping into the holiday shoppers. In our Day 6 edition of our “12 Days of Christmas Strategy” series we are going to give you a few tips on how to make the most out of your Paid Social advertising strategy, and look at why it can be so beneficial for advertisers to be using these channels.

The first thing to mention is that advertisers need to be aware that social media activity changes during the Christmas and holiday period. This means that the way in which advertisers show content should change corresponding to this. As gifting becomes the primary reason for making purchases in December, change messaging to reflect this: “Get something special for that someone special.”

When targeting on Paid Social channels, advertisers are able to target demographics with a precision not available on other DSP’s. On Facebook, for instance, users must state their gender on their profile, this makes it incredibly accurate to creative gender targeting campaigns. Furthermore, many users share details of their relationship status as well as members of their family. Consider targeting males who are listed as in a relationship the few days before Christmas. If they are in a relationship with a woman use messaging such as ‘Delivery available in time for Christmas day, buy her the perfect present today!’  And you can also target males who are listed as in a relationship with a man ‘Delivery available in time for Christmas day, buy him the perfect present today!’ We know that most of us are notoriously late shoppers, so creating a sense of urgency in your messaging will help to get them to convert.

Look-a-like targeting is another very powerful tool available across many social platforms. If you have an audience email list of consumers who purchased previously, especially during last Black Friday and Christmas periods, consider using look-a-like targeting to expand your consumer base, and reach those who are most likely to purchase.

Email addresses can be an incredibly powerful targeting tool. These are people who you know have an interest in your brand, and in many cases have already purchased from you. Consider creating a list of people who purchased from you during father’s day or mother’s day, then send them messages like: “Make sure to get your Mum the gift she will love this Christmas,” or “Your Dad would look great in this new sweater!”

Increasingly Boxing day sales are beginning online on Christmas day, with businesses taking advantage of the increasing number of people on their phones and tablets. Across data from NMPi campaigns last year, Christmas day sees a much larger proportion of sales on mobile than average.

56% of Facebook users reportedly only log into Facebook on a mobile device, with the remaining 44% logging in across both mobile and desktop. Therefore, with more people accessing social media sites such as Facebook on mobile device rather than desktop, it may be worth injecting spend into your social campaigns over Christmas day and optimising your ads to appear best on mobile.

Hopefully, these tips will help you make the most out of your Paid Social campaigns this holiday season.

 

#12DaysofStrategy: Making the Most Out of the Gifting Season

Christmas is the most important time for many online retailers, and securing a slice of the gifting pie is essential to achieving targets. Therefore it is vital that advertisers do everything they can to plan their digital gifting campaigns to perfection. This article will help you make the most out of your Paid Search strategy.

Remarketing

Ensure you have all your remarketing campaigns set up whether for Paid Search, Paid Social, or Programmatic Display. Make sure you are using all the audience lists you have available to capture users who have already shown an interest in your brand (Check out our post on How to Maximise Audience Data). By simply overlaying remarketing lists and increasing bids for those who have visited gifting pages on-site, advertisers can boost conversion rates by up to 10%.

Split Campaigns by Gender

There are clear gifting trends in December based on gender. We see that females tend to make their purchases earlier in the month whilst there is a definite spike in men’s purchases just a few days before Christmas. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this reflects the different approaches to gifting for men and women. This should be reflected in an advertiser’s strategy by splitting gifting campaigns by gender and weighting bids for female consumers earlier in the month and men’s closer to Christmas.

Customer Match

An exciting feature released earlier this year, for Paid Search campaigns, enables users to create and target (or exclude) user lists by uploading customer email addresses. It is ideal for a successful gifting campaign as it creates the opportunity to show different promotions to loyalty card members or use CRM data to cross-sell gifting products. For example, if gender is included in your CRM you can target males that purchased female gifts (watches for example) last year and retarget them with offers for other products (e.g. jewellery) as they browse for what to buy their loved ones this year. This strategy can also be used across Paid Social campaigns.

Don’t Get Caught Out by Stock Availability

The best products sell out quickly and can leave a considerable cost for advertisers who are unprepared. You may notice a product that had been converting well has altogether stopped selling. You go in and check and see that it is out of stock and you pause the campaign. By this stage it is too late, you have already cost yourself money and time. Therefore, it is essential, (especially around Christmas) that you have an “out of stock” script running hourly across your product campaigns. You can set it up to check pages where products are no longer available and alert or even directly pause the keyword in question. This will help use budget efficiently so that you can pause activity on any sold out products, and prevent wasted spend.

Countdowns

Not everyone plans ahead and takes care of gifts for loved ones early so it’s important to highlight in ad copy the countdown to next or same day delivery, which can capture the last minute purchasers as well as creating an urgency to buy. Countdowns can improve CTR by 11% and are a given for a successful gifting campaign.

Ad Customizers

Multiple gifts for family and friends mean that bargains are essential for the majority of consumers. As such it is important you are conveying your best deals to customers. However, it can be difficult to keep on top of the ever-changing offers-not to mention the suffering quality scores for every ad copy change. What is the solution? Ad customizers!

With promotions laid out with start dates and end dates in the business data section in AdWords, add a simple dynamic reference in your chosen ad copy and you have ads that will change as (and when) your promotions do. You can even add countdowns into the end date to increase the urgency! The ad copy never needs to be altered, only the reference sheet and as such, your quality score is maintained even when the ad shown to users changes.  Show the best deals to the potential customer, install some urgency in them with a countdown and save yourself money by lowering those all-important CPCs.

Taking these insights into account should help put your gifting strategies in the best position to ensure maximum activity, and secure a portion of the festive feast on offer.

If you found these tips useful, check out our other posts including, How to Maximise Audience Data or check in on Thursday for our next post in our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy’ blog series, “How Social Media Strategies are Effected by Christmas.” We will be covering more topics throughout the series so stay tuned, and follow our progress on Twitter with #12DayofStrat!

#12DaysofStrategy: How to Maximise Audience Data

Maximising the value advertisers leverage from their audience data is one of the fundamental digital marketing principles marketers need to get right. However, this is often something that advertisers struggle with, but there are several types of audience data that advertisers have access to and can easily collect. Often referred to as first-party data, the data that advertisers own in relation to their own audience can be leveraged within digital marketing in a number of powerful ways, all of which can all ultimately contribute positively to a brand’s bottom line, throughout the Christmas shopping season, and beyond.

First-party data, data that advertisers own in relation to their own audience, can be leveraged in a number of powerful ways, all of which can all ultimately contribute positively to a brand’s bottom line, throughout the Christmas shopping season, and beyond.

First-Party Data Sources

  • Cookie Data – The most common audience data that advertisers can leverage within digital marketing is first-party cookie data. This can range from numeric data, indicating that a user has visited a certain page on your website right through to more detailed alpha-numeric data such as the Order ID of their purchase, and the value of their purchase. Advertisers can maximise this data by segmenting their audience into lists based on commonalities such as the pages they visited, or the value of their previous purchase. Tailored advertising messaging relevant to customer’s actions and behaviour on the website can then be served to deliver relevant advertising and an efficient customer experience.
  • Website Data – Other audience data that comes from a brand’s website, such as Google Analytics 360 data, can be used in combination with audience lists to further segment. By making ads more tailored and targeted advertisers will see a higher return on investment. For example, fusing bounce rates and site dwell time into the optimisation process when retargeting can often sift out poor converting traffic from first-party data.
  • CRM Data – Advertisers are increasingly taking advantage of their own CRM data. Often used in conjunction with cookie data, CRM on-boarders facilitate the fusing of these two data sources. The benefit here is that CRM data, such as e-mail addresses, can be used as an alternative to cookie data. Additionally, it can be used to cross reference against cookies, essentially cleansing the cookie data and making it more robust for prospecting new customers and retargeting existing customers. Furthermore, it allows advertisers to target specific customer segments such as repeat customers, loyal customers, or even lapsed customers.
  • Search Data – Search data from PPC campaigns is another valuable audience data source. Advertisers can use this data to understand the products a customer is searching for or to assess the level of purchase intent they have. It can be then be used to infer banner creative messaging and to create additional targeting segments for display.

If you found these tips useful check out other posts including, The Impact Christmas has on the Travel Industry or check in on Wednesday for our fifth post in our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy’ blog series, “How are Social Media Metrics Affected by Christmas.” We will be covering more topics throughout the series so stay tuned, and follow our progress on Twitter with #12DayofStrat!

Black Friday Trends 2016

The busiest shopping period of the year is once again fast approaching and this year’s Black Friday extravaganza, is again expected to exceed previous years for e-commerce.

Black Friday has long been a popular shopping day in the US, traditionally the day after Thanksgiving when retailers kicked off the festive sales period and ‘moved into the black’. This day has been the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season in the US as far back as the 1920s, with the term ‘Black Friday’ becoming popular since the 1960s.

In the last decade, Black Friday has become increasingly important for e-commerce for the holiday shopping period in the US, UK, and other global markets. There have been many digital spin-offs too with Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, being the most notable.

The Digital Rise of Black Friday
In recent years, consumers have become increasingly familiar with the images of long checkout queues and stampeding bargain hunters which is further fueling the shift from offline to online. More shoppers are choosing to avoid the manic in-store experience and instead, pick up bargains from the comfort of their own home, particularly in the UK and other markets outside the US where Black Friday falls on a normal working day. This resulted in high street sales over the 2015 Black Friday period being relatively disappointing whilst online, websites crashed due to the large surges in online traffic.

A look at Google Trends for ‘Black Friday’ shows how this online search interest has been increasing consistently over the past decade with year-on-year growth exceeding 20% over the past two years.

picture1

The Global Evolution of Black Friday
Despite originally being a US-only retailer event, Black Friday sales have strongly taken hold in the UK and many other international markets in recent years. In 2015, UK Black Friday sales hit a record £1.1 billion with £3.3 billion in total generated over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend according to Experian. Using Google Trends to map search interest year-on-year shows how Black Friday awareness has evolved from the US to a global phenomenon.

Up until 2006:
Black Friday is a US only event, overtaking the last Saturday before Christmas as the busiest shopping day of the year from 2003 onwards.

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2007-2008:
Black Friday popularity spreads to Canada following cross-border shoppers flocking to the US in previous years.

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2009-2010:
Black Friday awareness spreads over the border to Mexico and across the Atlantic to the UK and Germany mainly due to advertisers originating from the US promoting Black Friday deals.

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2011-2012:
Black Friday searches spread to South America, other markets in Western Europe, Australia, and India.

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2013-2014:
Awareness spreads to Russia, Scandinavia, Central/Eastern Europe, and South Africa.

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2015:
Black Friday searches increase further across Europe and awareness also starts to extend as far as Singapore and Pakistan.

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Despite the growing interest demonstrated from the Google Trends charts above, Black Friday was still a relatively low awareness event in many European markets in 2015, however, despite this, the year-on-year growth figures from Google Trends shows that this awareness is increasing rapidly with growth exceeding 500% in markets such as Spain, Denmark and Ireland.

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And with the increasing adoption of retailers running Black Friday sales in markets such as France, Germany, and Spain, we expect that this awareness will continue to grow further in European markets in the 2016 holiday period and beyond.

So what are the key dates for the 2016 holiday shopping period? What trends can we expect to see, and what actions can we take to maximize the performance of our paid search campaigns?

Key Days for Online Sales 2016

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Thanksgiving & Black Friday
In recent years, retailers have started launching Black Friday promotions increasingly earlier, often starting on Thanksgiving afternoon in the US to entice turkey stuffed bargain hunters, or even up to a week or two before Black Friday in order to spread sales more evenly over the period.

Cyber Monday
The Monday following Black Friday, expect many retailers to switch from ‘Black Friday’ to ‘Cyber Monday’ deals. Similar to Black Friday, awareness of Cyber Monday has spread from the US to Canada, the UK, South America, and Australia although awareness is significantly lower in European markets.

Google trends for ‘Cyber Monday’
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Sofa Sunday
The Sunday within the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend, known for driving high traffic volumes, particularly from mobile and tablet devices, as consumers shop from the comfort of their sofa.

Manic & Green Monday
The first and second Monday’s in December are two of the busiest online shopping days for ordering Christmas presents.

Singles Day
Starting as a relatively recent shopping day for single people in China in the 1990s, November 11th is now a massive online sales event for China and South East Asia. E-commerce revenue generated on this day in 2016 is set to top that of Black Friday sales due to the vast population in that market.

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2015 Performance Trends
In terms of predicting trends for the 2016 holiday shopping period, looking at last year’s performance data provides a good indication on what we can expect to see this year.

Black Friday was Still No. 1 for Revenue
Aggregating performance data across a sample of NMPi clients shows that Black Friday was still the clear winner in terms of both traffic revenue generation with Cyber Monday coming in second.

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Black Friday, by far, saw the greatest uplift in traffic volumes, however conversion rates actually peaked on Cyber Monday with strong uplifts in conversion rate also seen on the first three Mondays of December as shown in the chart below:

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2015 Saw the First Mobile-Dominated Black Friday
Black Friday 2015 saw mobile traffic overtake desktop for the first time, accounting for around 46% of traffic from our sample of accounts. We can expect this trend to continue for Black Friday 2016 with the percentage of traffic from mobile likely to increase further.

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Mobile & Tablet Conversion Rates Increased Significantly on Key Sales Dates
In addition to the higher percent of traffic, conversion rates on mobile devices (which traditionally lag behind that of desktop) actually saw a greater percentage of uplifts. Mobile conversion rates on Black Friday jumped to more than double that of the November-December average.

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Black Friday is Daytime-Dominated
The two charts below comparing traffic by hour of the day shows how Black Friday traffic volumes from our client samples were heavily weighted towards the early part of the day, particularly on desktop and mobile devices as consumers rush to pick up the best bargains both overnight and in the early morning. In comparison, the trends for Cyber Monday follow a more typical weekday trend.

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Top PPC Tips for the 2016 Black Friday & Christmas Sales Period

• Have a full digital strategy in place that can track and attribute conversions across devices and channels.

• Ensure your website is optimised for mobile devices as well as desktop and ensure it can withstand peak traffic and stock levels for key sales dates

• Analyse performance from last year and integrate previous learning into this year’s strategy. e.g.,
o Which products/ categories performed well – clothing, gift cards, electronics, and toys tend to be top of shoppers gift lists?
o What keywords drove performance?
o Which ad copy messaging generated the highest CTR?
o What days, times, geographic locations, devices and audience segments performed the best?

• Ensure campaign budgets are increased to accommodate the additional traffic.

• Schedule device level bid multiplier adjustments to maximise on the expected uplifts in conversion rates on key times of day for Black Friday and other important days based on performance data from 2015.

• Use AdWords Ad Customizers combined with Expanded Text Ads to push Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales messaging and countdown to sale end dates.

• Maximize use of Ad Extensions–sitelinks, callout extensions, structured snippets etc. to push key information shoppers will be looking for e.g., free/next day delivery, free returns etc.

• Integrate with promotional landing pages and use AdWords Scripts to flag landing pages where stock has been depleted, or any noted site downtime to avoid wasted ad spend.

• Ensure ‘Black Friday’, Cyber Monday’, ‘gift’ and any other applicable seasonal keywords are added to your campaigns.

• Utilise remarketing and RLSA targeting.

• Make use of the new Demographic for Search feature in AdWords to increase bid multipliers or separate out campaigns for top demographic segments.

• Maximize shopping campaigns – adjust bids and make use of campaign priorities to maximise impression share on key sales driving products and categories.

• Ensure Bing opportunities are maximised including Bing shopping campaigns