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The big event: are all the Q5 shopping ‘holidays’ worth your time?

How should marketers approach the end-of-year mega holiday? / Alexander Kovacs via Unsplash

For the cynical, the last few months of the year are starting to look like one long parade of shopping events. Halloween, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas – and now, increasingly for the west, the Chinese-born Singles’ Day – make up what some call a fifth quarter of the year, Q5. Are they all worth investing in, or are some overhyped? We ask three experts from The Drum Network how to make sense of the season.

Sam Fenton Elstone, chief executive officer and co-founder, Anything is Possible

The mix of events old and new does more than give people shared experiences to chat about as they get used to post-pandemic life. From any retail or e-commerce brand’s point of view, they should be seen as a chain of touchpoints that lets you engage regularly with customers in the final weeks of the year – and find out what they really care about.

It’s not about the individual events or the individual’s response to them – it’s about how well you know your customers and how you shape journeys into the festive season that you know they will respond to. As the third-party cookie phases out, these predictable contact opportunities become essential for engaging on a first-party or zero-party basis with people who are in-market for your offering.

Event fatigue is something you only need to worry about if you aren’t bringing value to each part of the conversation. The difference is how you build your bond with your customers, how you enhance each engagement, how you build the narrative around their hopes and fears – and where they intersect with your brand.

Martin Corcoran, managing director, Summit Media

By nature, an effective ‘always on’ approach means retailers and brands should be in for every event.

Yes, some events are worth more sales and convert customers more easily than others. Yes, some events are growing faster than others. But a big share of a small event now could be a big share of a large event later.

Drive automation of your activity, discount only when aligned to an achievable objective and assume you’ll invest for as long as the ROI is acceptable. Customers are trained to expect market-led events and are ready to buy, so I would encourage brands to participate and engage with customers as often as possible driving frequency, spend and loyalty.

Sally Hunt, senior account manager e-commerce, Adapt Worldwide

Advertisers must start considering whether any of these shopping events represent value for money in isolation. An overcrowded marketplace drives CPCs and CPMs sky-high, and savvy brands will soon start to question the status quo. Many already have.

Arguably, advertisers are better holding off and pooling resource to invest after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. During Q5, consumers retain a high shopping intent as they prepare themselves for Christmas, but prices fall back as many brands pull back from the market.

The other key message we’ve been pushing out to all our e-commerce clients is that prospecting early in the shopping season is key. The data we have access to shows that value for money remains resolutely high until surprisingly close to Black Friday.

Start thinking about your Q4/Q5 strategy as early as possible. Rushing into the season, a feature of years past, inexorably leads to the herd mentality that led Black Friday to be a feature in the first place.

Strategizing using historic data will help you capitalize on the relative value for money that can be had either side of Black Friday. And if planning early is essential, so too is remaining flexible. As many of us learnt last year, the ability to pivot and flex marketing budgets and strategies based on market conditions is great to have in your toolbox.

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