#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!

#12DaysofStrategy: The Impact Christmas has on the Travel Industry

Most online retailers will be running sales from now until the end of New Year to make the most of the influx of consumer shopping and trying to hit year-end targets.

But what about the travel industry?

Air Travel search interest drops in October, November and December by 11%, 18% and 14% respectively compared to the yearly average. This lull is driven by the consumers’ shift in focus towards Christmas. For many consumers, it is not the time to be thinking about travelling when there are so many things to do and money is tight.

Thus, whilst most of the eCommerce world are running wild over the festive period, the air travel industry bides its time for a rush of their own. In January consumers begin looking for the next big event, namely the summer holidays. It is at this point right the way through to March where we see peaks in interest and ticket sales for international travel, particularly air travel.

However, this is only half the story!

Does domestic travel industry undergo the same post-Christmas metamorphosis?

According to Google, the search interest for train related keywords only differentiates by at most 18% above and below the yearly average compared to the 45% seen in airplanes, indicating that trains are far less seasonal than their winged cousins. Trains also don’t see a dramatic dip in the last quarter of the year as planes do.

From our internal data we are able to analyse the spikes of a specific train company. They see an onsite conversion rate of 5% in October and 7% in November above the average. Total site visitors were 8% higher during the final quarter compared to the average. Customer site visits to the website peak in the final quarter, with conversion rates correlating in October and November, but diverging in December.

Highlighting how site visits and conversion rate varies over the year compared to the average for one major train company.

There are two questions to pull from this:

Firstly, why do conversion rates peak in October and November for train travel?

The first thing to note is that train tickets can be bought online 12 Weeks prior to travel, which means that tickets for Christmas Eve become available on the 2nd of October. Anyone looking to plan their journey to see loved ones over the festive period is likely to carry out their booking in the two months before December when prices are increased.

Secondly, why is there a drop off in onsite conversion rate in December despite user numbers remaining elevated?

Booking within three weeks of your journey online does not give you the same monetary benefits as it does for those of us who are more frugal and book earlier. Thus, people tend to research online for train times but have less incentive to go through the online checkout process. According to the train company, this results in higher traffic but a drop off in conversions as more people purchase on the day at the stations.

What can we learn from these trends to help us optimise digital marketing for travel clients?

For those in the international travel market, the time to act is from January to March immediately after the holiday period. Push messages relating to getting away for the summer. Increasing digital ad spend during this time of year will be necessary if you want to stay competitive.

However, in the domestic travel market, consider focusing advertising spend in the months leading up to December when people are looking to plan their holiday trips back home. Christmas related messaging, and more aggressive bidding would enable you to take advantage of the pre-festive period.

Whilst the travel industry is affected in a wholly different way than much of the retail industry, it is certainly impacted dramatically. Digital advertisers need to understand the influence of Christmas on consumers’ mindsets towards different industries and act accordingly.

If you found these tips useful check out other posts including, Effective Messaging Timelines in the Run Up to Christmas or check in on Tuesday for our fourth post in our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy’ blog series, “How to Maximise Audience Use.” We will be covering more topics throughout the series so stay tuned, and follow our progress on Twitter with #12DayofStrat!

#12DaysofStrategy: Effective Messaging Timelines in the Run Up to Christmas

Now that the Black Friday week is over ad copy messaging is more relevant than ever, with the run up to Christmas being a key trading period for most retailers.

Ensuring messaging runs across all digital channels, such as Display and Paid Social, as well as offline such as print and storefronts, is crucial. It delivers a consistent message to consumers and reinforces brand recognition, especially when tied with a strong Christmas tagline.

Updating messaging as we move closer to Christmas helps to capture consumers at different stages of the buying cycle, from those still browsing in early December to the last-minute shoppers purchasing a few days before the holidays.

Early December

To show ads are current and relevant to the consumers shopping needs, include seasonal words in ad copy, such as Christmas or Boxing Day.

Bing’s 2015 Christmas analysis showed that including endorsements such as ‘As Seen on TV’ and ‘Recommended’ can have a strong impact. In addition, consider including payment options such as ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ or ‘Free Credit,’ if these options are available for big ticket items.

Alter messaging according to the keyword group or theme. For more generic gift keywords the call-to-action should be more focused on browsing the range of products available, as consumers searching using these terms may not have decided what they would like to buy. Emotional based ad copy is effective here and should be tailored towards the recipient.

Example: ‘Find The Perfect Gift For Mum This Christmas.’

Manufacturer or product keywords require a stronger call to action such as ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Buy Today.’ Those consumers search for a specific product are more likely to have done their planning and now know what they would like to buy.

Bid multipliers now allow advertisers to split campaigns out by device. This makes it possible to tailor messaging for those exclusively searching on mobile. For consumers on the move use messaging to encourage store visits such as ‘Come Into Your Nearest Store Today.’ Additionally, including the price of products in headlines (if price-competitive) will allow consumers to make easy price comparisons and ultimately decisions.

The Week Before Christmas

In the final week before Christmas, use ad copy to highlight the urgency of making a purchase. This will capture those last-minute shoppers.

Messaging should include the last guaranteed delivery dates, and considering creating a countdown script to automate the process. After the last delivery dates have passed, alter the messaging to ‘Click & Collect’ if this option is available and the date is later than for last delivery.

Use device-specific campaigns to target mobile consumers with messages such as, ‘Still Available in Store,’ after delivery dates have closed. This will help to drive those final sales.

If you found these tips useful check out our first post What to do After Black Friday or check in on Monday for our third post in our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy’ blog series, “How to Maximise Audience Use.” We will be covering more topics over 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.

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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