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What can marketers expect this holiday shopping season?

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Search Laboratory on how marketers can maximize online shopping experiences this holiday season

Black Friday and the festive season is always a busy time of year, but last year was a different story. Footfall to high street stores was low during lockdowns, and e-commerce skyrocketed as consumers flocked online to buy gifts.

Shoppers and retailers alike are now looking for a return to some form of normalcy, while maintaining some of the new habits formed during the pandemic.

According to a report from Google, almost half of all holiday sales were completed on Cyber Monday last year because of delivery concerns and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. So is Black Friday still as important to marketers this year, and what trends can they expect to see this peak holiday season?

Everyone is eagerly anticipating a festive season with lots of merriment and the opportunity to have parties and gatherings now that restrictions have been lifted. This could likely lead to an increase in spending, as we want to indulge ourselves and treat others after the year that has passed.

Trends and predictions

Last year was a bit of an anomaly, with lockdowns and panic buying making it difficult to draw many conclusions. So when looking to identify possible trends it’s important to recognize that last year was unique, and to analyze what’s being going on and your performance during this period in previous years.

In terms of PPC, impressions wise, Google is estimating it’s going to be about 12% lower this year than last year. The brands that will likely perform the best over the festive period will have seized on the opportunity to start ramping up their advertising well ahead in the weeks prior to Black Friday and following it, as it is typically much more expensive for brands to compete directly in those peak few days. It can vary from business to business, but being present at the time when you can have the most impact and offer the most value is essential, whether it be from a price or stock perspective. Keeping an eye on the budget management of your campaigns is also key, as you don’t want to be capping out your budgets when demand starts increasing.

A trend we saw last year was that the discovery of new products was more widely spread between channels. Users are adopting more of a discovery mindset and are starting to look at gifts earlier than ever. Businesses can tap into this by starting their awareness campaigns early and setting their audiences wider to capture new customers across social channels.

For a successful strategy it is also important to take into account the lifetime value of your customers. Establish the long-term benefit for your brand over the holiday sales period. Are you seeking to shift excess or old stock, or are you looking to engage and retain new customers? Identify what percentage of new sales are just one-off purchases and what percentage go on to be longer-term, retained customers, and then target them accordingly.

In our most recent podcast episode ‘Black Friday 2021 predictions, trends and opportunities for brands,’ Search Laboratory’s digital experts discuss the key takeaways from last year’s holiday season and the various trends across digital channels, as well as their predictions on what the role of the high street will be this year. The team also recommend strategies to help businesses maximize their sales during this peak festive period. Tune in to the podcast here.

Where will consumers spend their money?

A big question for marketers this year is where will all this spending take place? Are people moving entirely online for the long term due to the overall ease and choice of discounts, or will consumers be longing for the festive in-store atmosphere of the high street shops with their twinkly lights, store displays and treats such as hot chocolate or mulled wine?

Depending on the industry, Black Friday can look very different. Black Friday and the week following is certainly an important period for retailers, as they focus on strategies around Christmas shoppers, paydays and product drops. In most cases, lockdowns saw a huge shift toward an entirely online shopping experience.

Read the article to gain insight into the key areas that leading marketers are focusing on to optimize their campaigns for the festive season.

Pete Whitmarsh, head of paid media at Search Laboratory.

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