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How publishers can help brands plan an effective Black Friday and Christmas

The Black Friday and Christmas season is still a key opportunity to draw in consumers

Zack Sullivan, chief revenue officer UK at Future PLC, argues why brands should look to publishers for that extra cut-through during Black Friday and Christmas this year, reflecting on the strides the company has made – particularly in shoppable content and affiliate marketing.

UK consumers have almost £200bn of pent-up savings to splurge during retail’s busiest time of year – from Black Friday to Christmas – according to our latest survey.

National lockdowns have given shoppers time to accumulate cash and now they want to spend – and spend big. The majority of consumers (70%) are planning to shell out the same amount or more this Black Friday than they did in 2020, and for Christmas over three-quarters (78%) intend to maintain or increase their budgets.

Our love affair with e-commerce is here to stay, and online marketplaces, brand websites and online independent stores take the top three positions for shoppers’ confidence; with over half (54%) of consumers planning to conduct their Black Friday buying sprees online. For brands seeking to influence these buyers, engaging them during their research phase will pay dividends as we all plan to make this a Christmas to remember.

So how does this look in practice?

Trade demographics for interest-based insight

Despite claims to the contrary, Black Friday is not dead. More than four-fifths (82%) of shoppers will be the same or more engaged with Black Friday in 2021 than they were last year, and over half (55%) want to make Christmas their biggest celebration yet – hardly a surprise when you remember the bitter disappointment we felt in 2020.

Premium publishers like us have access to vast amounts of first-party data, giving them an in-depth understanding of the audiences brands need, delving far beyond broad demographic insights to unique interests and priorities. If publishers and advertisers utilize these insights to provide a quick route to purchase for readers who are engaging with content relevant to their passions, brands will be rewarded with a share of their spending this peak trading season.

Leverage evergreen content

This year, 30% of consumers consider Black Friday to be their main opportunity for purchasing Christmas gifts, and with access to thousands of deals, they value genuine advice on which ones are the best. The good news is publishers already have ‘evergreen’ content to lure in determined researchers ahead of Christmas purchases – whether that be expert opinion pieces, authentic reviews or ‘how-to’ videos curated throughout the year. Quick-thinking brands will seize this opportunity to capture attention and convert browsers into buyers in one click, while supporting publishers in monetizing their sites, and thus continuing to deliver high-quality e-commerce environments.

During flagship retail events, consumers will use buying guides to discover which offers bring the biggest savings, best meet their needs and are relevant to their interests. The influence of publisher forums and comment pages on shoppers’ buying decisions is growing, acting as a digital ‘word of mouth’ that can also support advertisers’ objectives. By working with publishers that have in-house deal experts and specialist editorial teams, brands can make strategic decisions to ensure ads are placed alongside quality and trusted content that resonates with their target buyers.

Plan with precision

Our survey went on to reveal that the average consumer researches potential Black Friday purchases 4.8 weeks ahead of the event, meaning brands should aim to reach consumers through quality editorial content during mid-October. The average research time for Christmas, meanwhile, is 5.7 weeks, which makes mid-November the sweet spot to maximize campaign performance.

When it comes to Black Friday itself, agility is critical. Brands should partner with publishers that own a real-time view of what resonates with audiences and what doesn’t – there’s no wriggle room to get it wrong. Those with in-house experts can monitor deals every 10-20 minutes, providing an up-to-date understanding of consumer shopping trends so advertisers can make in-flight campaign adjustments. Products that generate the most conversions can be rewarded with homepage takeovers or standalone spotlights within highly-relevant editorial content, while sold-out products can be clearly marked to avoid negative brand associations.

As the year’s biggest shopping season approaches, prospects look bright for brands. Advertisers can reap the bounty of £200bn in consumers’ savings by working with publishers that deliver direct access to high-intent audiences that are ready to spend.

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