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How to optimize advertising campaigns during Q4

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September 14, 2023 | 7 min read

With the globalization of Black Friday, Singles Day, and other holidays, the last three months of the year brings retailers exceptional opportunities to reach customers and drive sales

With deals found at every turn, Q4 is now one long festival of online and in-store shopping that drives massive spikes in revenue. In fact, in the US, year-on-year sales have been steadily increasing and the last three consecutive years have seen growth above 6%.

However, as shoppers search out the best deals, their path to purchase evolves. Retailers must, therefore, strategize and create robust and effective communications to make the most of this exceptional time from messaging and formats to targeting and marketing channels.

This article will explore the changing customer behavior during Q4 and the crucial elements needed for campaign success.

How customer behavior changes during Q4

To build a successful strategy it's imperative to fully understand your customers' behaviors and their changing expectations. And as economic uncertainty and inflation have taken center stage in 2023, what has worked in the past, may not be the best strategy for this Q4.

In recent years, believing it's the best way to find great deals and save money, consumers actually begin researching for Black Friday deals in early October, a full six weeks beforehand. The number of web searches then increases rapidly in mid-November with interest dropping off completely right after Cyber Monday which outstrips the other five cyber shopping days in terms of year-on-year growth.

And with 4.5x more new users engaging with brands during the 'Black November' promotional season and 3.7x more lapsed users placing orders, it's essential for retailers to develop a strategy for opportunities that covers, not just the full quarter, but every sales channel, because a robust omnichannel approach helps retailers retain over 89% of their customers.

Customer buying habits are also changing rapidly, with mobile purchasing and shopping app downloads increasing year-on-year. Last year alone, 92% of German consumers planned to do Black Friday shopping online, while in the US, e-commerce is seeing growth 4.5x faster than in-store sales. However, if customers want to get their hands on the latest, must-have gadget immediately, don't discount physical stores just yet, they are still the preferred option.

Crucial elements for Q4 campaign success

As mentioned above, consumers start researching their holiday shopping in early October, so have your campaigns and assets, such as, promotional calendars, social content, email and text automations, ready ahead of time.

The following five elements of promotional planning will also help you stay ahead of the game, and your competitors.

1. Social listening

With consumers using social media and search engines to browse gift guides, read reviews, and discover new products, social listening is probably the most effective tool you can implement. And with planning for Q4 starting in springtime, social listening gives you ample opportunity to monitor your social media and other online channels to fully analyze conversations about your brand and create a buzz around the right products at the right time to give your customers what they want. Two-thirds of marketers agree this is the most useful way to gather insights on the products your customers are interested in, where problems are occurring in the sales funnel and, how they feel about your brand.

2. Exclusivity

While Q4 is undoubtedly a great opportunity to gather new customers, don't forget about the loyal fans you already have. Surely they deserve a better experience? Exclusive offers, such as early-bird access to limited-edition or popular items, special discounts, or exclusive VIP gift boxes, for your most ardent supporters makes them feel special, and can also help generate a buzz around your business, giving other consumers an incentive to download your app, or become brand ambassadors. Exclusivity is particularly important for Millennials and Gen Z buyers who value it nearly twice as much as Gen X and Baby Boomers.

3. Personalization, segmentation, and retargeting

During any promotional period, you should always aim for more personalization and better segmentation because customers actually want personalized content. Hubspot's '2023 State of Marketing Report' reveals that 83% of customers are willing to share personal data in return for a personalized experience, especially offers that suit their needs and rewards them with discounts. Targeting new consumers with personalized content during a promotional period also significantly increases your chance of keeping them as a repeat customer afterwards.

When it comes to segmentation, you can create customer groups and marketing tactics using previous knowledge. However, it's important to analyze and interpret data during the campaign using the technology available and adapt the segmentation in real-time rather than relying on, and being inflexible with the original assumptions.

Retargeting ads, both online and in-app, are ideal for Q4 promotions where consumers are driven by price and actively looking for bargains. For brands, the value of the ad lasts beyond the promotional period itself because retargeted customers are more likely to become regular customers, spending more on their next purchases.

4. Gamification

Gamification has been around for a while but it's becoming more popular as a way of interacting with consumers, especially with Gen Z, who are becoming the biggest customer group. According to Customer Glu, 87% of online retailers plan to introduce some level of gamification by 2024, so Q4 is the perfect time to try something new and turn an exclusive offer into a game to get people excited about your brand.

5. Email marketing and automation

Email’s main advantage over social media is that offers cannot be missed, because even if a consumer decides to delete the email, they physically have to do so. In Q4, everyone has a sale and inboxes are inundated with deals, so to stand out, let your customers know what's in the sale that will fit into their individual needs. And while most brands use some form of email marketing or automation software, those emails should still feel personal. A highly effective way to achieve this is via trigger points that create different content based on site activity, and these triggered emails have 3x higher open rate than standard emails.

Why a smart strategic approach to Q4 is important

A good Q4 sales season can make a huge difference to the profitability of any retail business which is why it pays to be smart when developing your campaigns and advertising strategy.

November truly is a sellers' market where the cost of advertising inventory reaches its peak and competition for the best ad placements heats up. A conservative estimate is to budget for a 50% rise in the cost of a single impression, which means to get the maximum out of every ad, you need to ensure you have the best content in the right place and reach the right audience.

When it comes to the campaigns themselves, you can choose your mix of personalized retargeting and branding ones. However, it's also worth thinking outside of the box and considering more advanced tactics so you don't limit your campaign’s potential. For example, abandoned cart automations, teasers, featured categories, and omnichannel campaigns are all highly effective.

Summary

With deals to be found at every turn and customers lining up, retailers need to strategize and create effective communications to reap the rewards Q4 has to offer. RTB House have created a manual for building this strategy. If you would like access, please contact RTB House.

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