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3 Tips for Black Friday 2017: What You Need to Know

Although we’re still enjoying the final days of summer (summer doesn’t officially end until 22nd of September), it’s already time to start thinking about our Black Friday strategies. Don’t get caught off guard waiting until the last minute to plan your campaigns. Now is the time to go over last year’s metrics and see what worked and what didn’t.

There has been a gradual decline in Boxing Day sales as the popularity of this American retail holiday overtakes the Christmas period. Retailers are seeing better returns after jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon, with the increase in traffic in some instances as high as 27%. When comparing Black Friday to Boxing Day, conversions are consistently higher on Black Friday. According to The Independent, last year, UK shoppers spent an astonishing £3.3bn over the course of the Black Friday holiday season. Our client data shows that that Black Friday, and smaller surrounding retail holidays linked to it, are vastly outperforming Boxing Day. Black Friday is here to stay in the UK, and must be taken seriously by retailers and advertisers as part of the marketing mix.

Recent Trends

Black Friday is Coming Earlier and Earlier

Much like the dreaded “Back-to-School” commercials popping up at the end of July, or Christmas jingles before Halloween, Black Friday is beginning to follow that trend with many brands starting sales in the lead up to the actual holiday. In 2015, online giant Amazon started its sales 12 days before Black Friday. Other retailers have started to get in on the trend to make the most of the pre-Christmas season. With companies like Sears Canada releasing their Black Friday deals on October 6th last year, BlackFriday.com has predicted that in 2017,  the holiday prices will be leaked in early October once again, if not late September.

Sofa Shopping

Online shopping on Black Friday continues to steadily increase. In 2012, 33% of consumers preferred to shop from the comfort of their own homes, to avoid the long lines, fighting, and in-store chaos that the holiday provokes. As of 2016, the stay-at-home shopping figure has risen to 44%. This trend will continue in 2017 especially as most retail sites are mobile and tablet friendly, making shopping from home, the bank, or on the go, a pleasant experience. The top stores reaping the most digital rewards in the UK are Argos, Amazon, M&S, Curry’s and Tesco Direct.

Make it Mobile

It’s a foregone conclusion, but advertisers must make their Black Friday campaigns cross-device friendly. While many people are shifting to digital indoor shopping instead of pounding the pavement, they are predominantly shopping via mobile devices on the go. Desktop is no longer the main digital channel for Black Friday shoppers.  Mobile searches have grown 50% since 2016, with bargain hunters looking for the best brands, and then for the best deals. Mobile and tablets will continue to drive more shoppers to make online purchases. In order to assure campaign success, mobile and tablet channels must provide relevant targeting and seamless shopping experiences.

How to Crack Christmas

If you would like to learn more about spicing up your Christmas campaign you can watch the replay of our “How to Crack Christmas Webinar,” your ultimate guide to holiday success.

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Black Friday Online Sales Performance 2016

There was a lot of talk before Black Friday suggesting that this season would not see nearly the same growth as it had in previous years. In fact, advertisers anticipated that in-store sales would take a massive hit as most people turned to the internet for the majority of their shopping. Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, we can accurately determine what success the massive shopping day actually received.

According to Sky News, “Black Friday failed to deliver a double-digit surge in online sales growth while high street shopping visits unexpectedly rose, according to industry figures.”

“Online purchases climbed by 6.7% compared to last year but this well short of a forecast for 25%, and was a big slowdown compared with a rise of 31% in 2015.

Footfall – a measure of shopper visits – was up by 2%, with high street growth at 2.8% beating retail park and shopping centre growth. Footfall was expected to decline by 5%.

We’ve taken a look at a sample base of our client activity and determined our own stats from the holiday.

Black Friday Performance

From the data collected, we found that (on average) Black Friday revenue was up by 13% year on year (YoY), with an 8% YoY increase for Cyber Monday.

black-friday-year-on-year-stats

  • Black Friday increased its dominance over Cyber Monday in terms of traffic, conversion rate and revenue:
    • Black Friday saw 251% more traffic, 384% more revenue, and a 152% higher conversion rate compared to the November average.
    • Cyber Monday only saw 172% more traffic, 190% more revenue, and a 114% higher conversion rate compared to the November average.

black-friday-vs-cyber-monday-performance

 

Breakdown By Device

black-friday-2016-device-breakdown

  • 55% of traffic on Black Friday was generated on mobile devices. This is up from 46% last year.
  • 38% of Black Friday Revenue was driven from mobile devices which is up from 31% last year.
  • Not surprisingly based on last year’s trends, revenue from desktop and tablet dropped by 4%  YoY.
  • Mobile and tablet traffic increased over the Saturday and Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

black-friday-2016-stats-by-day-and-device

Time of Day Performance by Device

Black Friday continues to show a daytime dominated trend with desktop and mobile revenue peaking before midday. Tablet, however, continues to perform best during the evening.

black-friday-revenue-by-time-of-dayblack-friday-time-of-day-performance

 

Performance by Country

  • Looking at the performance uplift in markets outside of the UK, US, and Canada which have traditionally performed well on Black Friday:
    • France saw the biggest uplift in traffic generating nearly 2.5x the November daily average.
    • Germany, Ireland, and the Nordic markets also saw significant uplifts in traffic.
    • Spain saw the highest uplift in revenue on Black Friday, generating nearly 7x the November daily average.

black-friday-performance-by-country

 

With Black Friday gone, Christmas is fast approaching. If you want to make sure your sales continue during the holiday period check out our “12 Day of Christmas Strategy” blog series for all the latest inside tips to achieve the best performance possible.

What to Track this Holiday Season

Many retailers have already begun their Black Friday Sales, and more will join in the lead up to this Friday. But sales are not the only valuable thing that brands should be looking at during the largest sales period of the year.

Advertisers risk losing out on something almost as valuable as sales, customer data. It can be difficult to reach relevant shoppers during gifting periods, so tracking this holiday season’s information can be incredibly important to future holiday sales promotions. This data can be re-examined and re-used in next year’s campaigns. Here are a few easy ways to collect, and use your data wisely.

  1. Appropriate Tag Set Up – Tags are crucial to gathering consumer data and helping segment audiences (see next point). Focus tags on specific pages such as, the home page, product page, and basket page, to be able to reach consumers at the right stage of purchasing.  Bid higher for users on basket pages, as they are more likely to convert. Another tip is to create an onsite tag to collect customer information, as well as the addition of a field that reports if that page has a Black Friday deal.
  2. Building Audiences – Use data within your CRM to create an audience list of prior customers, with a focus on previous Black Friday shoppers. You can determine these users based on on-site tracking, and linking them to Black Friday keywords. A list like this will allow you to target users most likely to come to your site for Black Friday sales. Similarly, you can also build audiences from Facebook, and email lists. To make the most out of data, it can be applied to Programmatic Display retargeting campaigns.
  3. Google Analytics – Google Analytics gives advertisers the ability to capture in-depth consumer data. If you have not already done so, set up an account to track useful information such as time-of-day searches, trends, and site behaviours. You can then use this information to allocate next year’s budget.

If you keep these tips in mind, you can make your data work harder and build the foundation for a successful Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day season.

‘Miracle off Oxford Street’: The Shift from In-store to Online

Black Friday is kicking it up a notch with more shoppers than ever moving from out on the streets, to inside their homes, as online shopping is expected to skyrocket during the start of the holiday season.

The Brick-and-Mortar Decline

Retailer information specialist, Verdict, has predicted that retailers will see will see a sharp downturn in brick-and-mortar sales this Black Friday. This doesn’t seem to have many retailers sweating at the collar, even though it looks like the shop-shunning trend will continue this season.  Retailers will try and stem the loss of Christmas sales, and the mounting costs associated with Black Friday, such as additional staff, and an increase in operational requirements.

Even in the US, the birthplace of Black Friday, retailers such as Target have implemented a longer shopping period, rather than relying on a one-day frenzy. Target rolled out a 10-day shopping extravaganza entitled: “10 Days of Deals” that discounts certain product ranges over the course of the period.

UK retailers cited shopping fatigue, and administrative chaos as part of the reason some have turned their backs on Black Friday. They feel they have been forced to offer deep discounts for several weeks that practically give away items and cut into regular priced Christmas sales. Another point to consider is that while Americans have the day off after Thanksgiving, no such holiday exists in the UK, meaning in-store turn out is bound to be lower due to work.

The unmanageable influx of foot traffic, operational woes and skewing of traditional Christmas revenues have many UK retailers disillusioned with in-store Black Friday events. Sixty-one percent see the shopping day as an ‘unprofitable and unsustainable promotion.

The Online Shift

It sounds like doom and gloom, but for retailers who are still participating in the largest revenue generating day of the year, Black Friday will see growth in online shopping. This means retailers will really need to be on top of their online strategy.

For the reasons stated above, in addition to the increase in mobile and tablet purchases, we are expecting to see the majority of shopping happen online this holiday season. In order to maximise sales, retailers will need to prepare for a heavy influx of online traffic and have everything in place to avoid website crashes or slow loading times.

Consumers have shown a preference for online shopping; tired of battling the crowds for a limited number of products and returning home frustrated and empty handed. A few quick taps, and the product can be delivered or collected hassle free. Black Friday will continue this eCommerce trend and survive digitally in the UK, even if in-store sales slump. Retailers with a strong multi-channel strategy in place will reap the rewards of the growth in online shopping.

Black Friday: Last Minute Tech Tips

How do you prepare for Black Friday? What steps do you take to mitigate potential issues and prepare your clientele? At NMPi we’re ready to tackle the pending holiday madness with a few tech strategies to ensure a smooth, and successful holiday run.

Monitoring

Websites take a lot of strain on Black Friday so by monitoring heavy activity, it allows us to react in the unlikely event a client’s website is taken offline due to a large influx of traffic. If the client website goes down, all the campaigns are instantly paused, allowing the client not to lose any ad spend due to technical difficulties. We currently monitor site traffic every single minute, 24-7.

Google Analytics API

If you don’t have it already, we recommend getting access to, or asking your agency about, Google Analytics real-time API which allows us to get an accurate snapshot of the number of people on a client’s product page. At NMPi, our analysts are alerted if the number of visitors goes over a certain threshold allowing us to react during Black Friday to hot products and adjust bids accordingly.

Scripts

Script management is important during Black Friday and the following holiday shopping period. It enables campaigns to run more smoothly, automating activity where speed and accuracy are vital. We’re currently running several scripts that help keep us on top of activity during Black Friday- During this busy period, it’s a good idea to run scripts that detect 404 errors and broken links to ensure these pages are rectified before launching your Black Friday campaigns. Another good idea is to launch a script that monitors the landing page and watches for out-of-stock items so that you can pause your activity and conserve your client’s ad spend. Given the speed at which transactions occur on BlackFriday, we recommend running this script over the course of the entire day.

Black Friday is around the corner, with these tech adjustments, you can ensure a successful and smooth holiday campaign season.

Need help with your Black Friday and Holiday campaigns? Contact us

Facebook and Instagram’s New Holiday 2015 Behaviour Segment

With Christmas fast approaching, Black Friday less than a week away, and online shopping on the rise, retailers are heavily focused on maximising their digital advertising sales this holiday season.

A recent survey by The National Retail Federation shows that the average person plans to carry out 46% of their browsing and buying online. As the world’s largest social network, it is no surprise that Facebook has rolled out a new ad-targeting segment called ‘Holiday 2015,’ aimed specifically at people who are engaging in the holiday season.

This new segment will be available between 26th November and New Year’s Day on both Facebook and Instagram. You will find the ‘Holiday 2015’ ad-targeting option within the ‘Behaviours’ category under ‘Seasonal and Events’.

Facebook Holiday Targeting

These Facebook users are identified by picking out holiday-related keywords, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in posts which they have published, commented on, liked or shared. Facebook will take into account users who interact with these posts the most, with the audience remaining aggregated and anonymised.

This is not the first time Facebook has utilised real-time conversations. Earlier this year, the Big Game targeting segment was introduced for the Super Bowl. It will be interesting to see how advertisers use the Holiday 2015 segment in comparison; especially with so much hype around the Black Friday period.

For advertisers looking to take advantage of the holiday season traffic, we highly recommend using this segment in the run up to Christmas by testing it overlaid with their usual targeting options. Users engaging positively with keywords like Black Friday and Cyber Monday on Facebook show a higher propensity to buy, and will likely result in a higher CTR and conversion rate. However, advertisers cannot rely too heavily on this ad segment alone, it must be used alongside strong messaging and enticing creatives. Consider using it in conjunction with Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads.

How Google Shopping Can Benefit you this Holiday Season

As the second holiday season unfolds for Google Shopping, merchants can feel confident that this heavily direct-response focused channel will reap substantial rewards during the last few months of 2015.

Here are some key points advertisers should know about Google Shopping and consumer trends going into this holiday season:

Merry Mobile: The Virtual Holiday Shopper
While shopping days like Black Friday will remain big for brick and mortar retailers, online merchants are closing the gap with the help of mobile. People are now using their mobiles as virtual shopping carts and shop assistants, signalling a dramatic change in consumer behaviour.

Online purchases have dramatically increased over the past year thanks to mobile, and it’s expected to continue to rise over the course of 2016. It is the merchants who are advertising on mobile this holiday season that will take their sales to the next level since 40% of holiday shopping now takes place online, and 48% of shoppers indicated that they start their holiday shopping well before Black Friday. Google Shopping is the perfect advertising platform to take advantage of this holiday mobile rush.

Retailers can expect to see a massive shift in the way consumers do their holiday shopping as purchases made via mobile and tablet increase. Shopping is no longer a frantic activity that takes place on a few peak days over the holiday season; consumers are now researching and making purchases while they sip coffee, walk the dog, watch TV or stand in line at the bank. Mobile is creating a space for these “micro-moments,” shopping can occur anytime, anywhere.  Inside Adwords suggested, “Shopping moments will replace shopping marathons. There is no longer a sense of urgency since every day is shopping day.”

NMPi Account Director, Leonie Tamkin remarked, “Part of this shift has come from the fact that online we’ve seen such a huge surge in purchases on Black Friday, with more people wanting to be prepared early. Merchants have allocated more of their digital budgets into Black Friday shopping. Black Friday is a time when consumers are going to be searching for the best deals which is where Google Shopping becomes more important as a price comparison tool.”

What’s Missing: Google Shopping Assortment Report
How can retailers take advantage of these shopping micro-moments? By optimising their feeds and staying on top of the latest shopping trends with the newly launched Shopping Assortment Report, merchants can review and refine the products they are offering. The report displays the most popular items that competitors are showing ads for, and gaining traffic from, that aren’t in their product feeds. It also provides information on the benchmark prices for these recommended items.

This information will be vital as the holiday season kicks into high gear as it gives merchants important information about potential missing revenue that can be easily recouped by adjusting their product range and stocking that product. Merchants can review the last 14 days of activity on the Shopping Assortment Report to determine what’s working, what they’ve missed, and note changes or trends occurring over the holiday season.  The report also encourages more fluidity between digital and buying teams from the advertisers’ side because these reports can help shape buying strategies.

Online Activity and In-Store Holiday Purchases
Retailers looking for a successful holiday season must blend their virtual and physical presence. Online activity and in-store activity are no longer separate segments of the path to purchase. Consumers are seamlessly combining online and in-store activities blurring the line between online and offline purchasing.

Google Shopping has honed in on this trend with local inventory ads that provide consumers with important details such as stock availability, location, and product detail at their local stores when they’re on the move. This feature goes hand in hand with the increasing trend of researching online, then purchasing offline. It’s also a great method to drive footfall for the purchase of products that require more consideration. Google Shopping has also made mobile purchases even easier by implementing a feature that allows customers to swipe over the desired product to reveal relevant information. This could translate into an increase in holiday sales.

Brick and mortar stores have increasingly become distribution centres where holiday shoppers come to retrieve online purchases. Merchants eager to increase their take this holiday season need to adjust their marketing strategies to align with these trends in consumer behaviour, while continuing to provide a convenient and personal shopping experience.

Summary
Google shopping can offer a big boost to retailers this holiday season if merchants heed these changes in shopping habits.  87% of consumers do their research online first before finalising a purchase in-store.  By understanding this change in consumer behaviour and the growing impact that mobile has on the way people shop, Google shopping gives merchants the opportunity to take advantage of these micro moments, the popularity of location based shopping, and to keep on top of product trends.

What-is-Google-Shopping



Google Launches Black Friday & Cyber Monday Ad Extensions in the UK

Google have relaunched their Black Friday/ Cyber Monday ad extension to make more of the weekend!

The ad below is an example of this new Black Friday Paid Search ad, which was available in the US only last year. The ad allows you to add specific Black Friday and Cyber Monday attributes to your ad text. These attributes are displayed as an extra line on the ads.
Google-Black-Friday Ad Extensions UK

*Text in image has been made bold to emphasise change to ad.

The extension allows you to actively promote your offers for the Black Friday weekend and will appear in your AdWords account on 9th November. Once the extension has been set up, it will start appearing from 24th November. The extension will switch messaging automatically to Cyber Monday part way through the weekend and will stop showing on the evening of 30th November.

We recommend monitoring the percentage of time the extension shows with your ads, and testing whether ad copy also containing ‘Black Friday’ performs better or not.

We will be reporting on the results we saw when the weekend has finished, so stay tuned!

Our Cyber Weekend Shakedown and Top Tips for a Bumper Shopping Period

 

Black Friday through to Cyber Monday is fast becoming known as one of the most important times of the year for retailers, as shoppers respond in their masses to the major discounting that takes place during this weekend.

 

With retailers promoting sales earlier and earlier each year, we have seen a significant growth in search volumes for Cyber Weekend (see graph below), and not just in the USA and UK but also in other international markets.

 

In this blog we share the impact of the recent Cyber Weekend on our own Retail campaigns, and offer our top tips to help you maximise the bumper shopping period across the holiday season and beyond.

 

 

Graph: Year on Year Increase in search terms relating to ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’

 

Retail client performance across Cyber Weekend:

 

Across many of our retail clients where we provide international PPC coverage, we have traditionally seen the Americas perform strongly. However, it was interesting to see that over the sale weekend there was a significant shift towards increased revenue performance from Europe and in particular, South East Asia.

 

Our results show, as per the graphs below, that there was a clear upward trend with a 36.1% increase in search volumes across our campaigns, a 3.5% increase in conversion rate and 32.9% uplift in revenue.

 

Graph: Uplift in impressions and conversion rates over Cyber Weekend across our Retail clients

 Graph: Uplift in revenue over Cyber Weekend across our Retail clients

 

Our Top Tips & Recommendations to maximise key shopping times:

 

With the scale at which Cyber Weekend drives sales and revenue, we have outlined a checklist for campaign preparation every PPC executive should be looking at for the holiday season:

 

• Campaign Settings

o Ensure budget caps are increased

o Set your ads to ‘accelerated’

o Create a variations and misspells campaign on your brand term

• Keywords

o Expand keywords that relate to gifts, gift cards, and relevant events/holidays such as Christmas sales

o Create brand + location keywords

o Ensure negative keywords are added around terms relating to ‘returns’

• Bid Strategy

o Set automated rules to increase bids during peak periods

o Consider reducing bids or campaign budget caps after last delivery dates have passed

o Conduct more regular CPC vs. EPC checks

• Ad Copy

o Schedule ads to run with promotions

o Check successful ads with high CTR from the previous year

o Include last delivery messaging – particularly for international territories

• Sitelinks, demographic targeting and mobile

o Include seasonal messaging/offers in enhanced sitelink description lines

o Test gender-specific ad copy e.g. “gifts for him”

o Test mobile bid adjustments particularly with retail clients

 

Our advice is that preparation is the ultimate key to a successful bumper shopping period and our performance overview from the Cyber Weekend proves this. Therefore we would suggest that you make sure you maximise all areas of your Paid Search strategy and ask clients in advance of their marketing efforts so that you can be prepared to maximise the big sale days! Good luck!