We’re one month out from Black Friday, and following the trends of 2020, this Black Friday is poised to be the biggest online shopping experience in the history of digital commerce.
The coronavirus pandemic forced governments to drive people inside. After two full months of 24/7 lockdown from mid-March to mid-May across most of the world, the tentative reopening was a welcome reprieve – one that was not uniform around the world in terms of getting back to business. Varied measures of protection were put in place but the impact of shuttering businesses can still be keenly felt when looking at retail sales and GDPs. A lot of money went unspent.
In European nations with strong social safety programs, fewer workers were launched into precarious financial positions than places like the US with its emphasis on sinking or swimming. The US is on the brink of major waves of defaults and evictions as the unemployed face dire prospects. In places like France, where the unemployment scheme picked up the slack, the unspent money from earlier in the year is still available in the form of savings – estimated at over 100B euros as of September 2020. That money is doing more than burning a hole in a few pockets.
The desire to spend money is as old as money itself. The hedonistic release that comes from yearning for something and then obtaining it (or yearning to offer something to someone else) is extremely powerful under normal circumstances, but the pandemic and subsequent confinements magnify it further. Stuck at home on your couch at night under curfew means that you are not spending money at a restaurant or bar with your friends, and you miss out on the laughing and general enjoyment that that situation boasts. You scroll social media with Netflix playing on the TV. You see something you like. Your face or fingerprint is enough to get Apple Pay to buy it and now all of sudden you have something to look forward to: the delivery of your new Yeezies in a few days.
People don’t order Yeezies every day, but the holidays will add a big layer of justification to buying just about anything. Already about 35% of people bought something for themselves on Black Friday. A great deal is a great deal after all. Armed with savings and itching for sensation, out will come the Visas.
We’ve already seen huge jumps in eCommerce since the pandemic began, accelerating existing trends to the point where eCommerce now represents 33% of retail sales in Europe in 2020. How much will that number grow over the next two months?
A lot. France has curfews in place and with 68% of ICU beds occupied in the Paris region, there is much talk (and even more rumors) about a return to confinement. Ireland and Wales are already back to lockdown. With winter on the horizon and record cases everyday around the world, the chance of spending the holidays with family is looking look very remote. All this points to a continued explosion of eCommerce.
Go All In
If you are a digital marketer and you have any sort of online sales – be it retail or your own DTC – now is the time to start your campaigns. The holiday shopping season was steadily creeping closer to October (if it wasn’t already the case in places like Germany). Now with major shopping avenues set to go dark, people are going to have to shift their shopping up further to accomodate deliveries – and, if confinements persist – re-shipping gifts they ordered to their family and friends.
eCommerce results from periods during the spring lockdown were off the charts. Brands that were able to adapt and leverage their eCommerce sites saw huge gains: social campaigns produced ROI of nearly 15x in some personal cases (using the Facebook attribution model). Search topped 20x ROI on pure brand. Yet if the lockdown was virgin territory, every single consumer-facing business is now looking at this holiday season for redemption. Competition will make Gladiator look like a game of musical chairs. A not so wild prediction: the four days covering Black Friday and Cyber Monday will see the largest spike in digital investment to date.
So what can you do to make sure you are going to be able to bite off your chunk of the prize this Black Friday? Here are some tips for digital marketing during Black Friday:
Start Earlier and Run Longer
Black Friday is always a tricky beast to tame when it comes to digital media since a lot of the platforms that we rely on use algorithms that have to learn in order to optimize. This learning phase can take a few days for a campaign that runs a week. If you start at 00:01 on Black Friday, you are going to spend the entire day in a learning phase where the campaign will underspend and not necessarily hit the right combination of people. The answer is to get the authorization to start the deal early in order to let the algorithms work their magic so that your campaign is in full stride once the calendar ticks over to Black Friday.
There is a lot to be said as well to have the offer period run longer than just 4 or 5 days. Unlike Search, which shows a gigantic peak in volume (I’ll get to that in a minute) social platforms don’t have more inventory on those days than other days. But every advertiser and their grandmothers are bidding on inventory. Up go prices. Fortunately the conversion follows (it is Black Friday after all) so it’s still very interesting in terms of performance. But giving your campaign more time means that the algorithm can select more pertinent people at a lower price.
I will not be surprised if we start seeing Black November, a month of discounts and deals from brands eager to offload surplus inventory and drive their sales back up. Check back in a few days.
Diversify Your Touchpoints
Because of the inventory issue, it is a good idea to look beyond the traditional players to see where you can leverage full-funnel solutions during the Black Friday period. If your budget is too big (meaning it will be hard to spend on one platform over the course of 24 hours) you will be forced to diversify or suffer lower performance. Snapchat and Pinterest both offer pixels that can be installed on eCommerce sites in order to pilot campaigns on performance. Display actors like Teads do as well. YouTube has a click through option that can drive traffic and sales.
Videos historically drive many fewer clicks than static assets, but if you’re going all in, don’t limit yourself to a specific format. Videos that act as caroussels showcasing your product deals can entice, just make sure that they are short and very to the point.
People spend a lot of time racking their brains for gifts for their loved ones. I can attest. After being with my wife for 10 years, the holiday season can be a little stressful when it comes to finding the right gift(s). Like every connected human, I rely on Google to help me find new ideas.
Generic campaigns are not necessarily the ones that drive conversions – it’s just not the same part of the funnel. But Black Friday offers an exception to this rule. Black Friday is a time when people want to buy right now, and that desire short-circuits the traditional pathway down the funnel. People search for gift ideas, giftsets, and offers. Whether they know about your brand or not, they are egged on by the impending doom of not finding a gift for someone before December 25th. In some cases the brand affiliation is less important that usual since people are buying for other people.
You should definitely add extra SEA campaigns focused on your product category and let them run for the month of November. Any clicks coming from these campaigns are potentially people that are discovering your brand for the first time. Given the conversion context, acquisition only makes the strategy sweeter.
You should not bid on too generic keywords of course. The general rules of SEA still apply: boost keywords where you are strong in SEO. Don’t get into bidding battles with brands or retailers that have deeper pockets. Find your niche and optimize the hell out of it.
Make Gifting As Easy As Possible
It might be a little late operationally for this last point but I still need to make it. 2020 is unlike any year in modern history. Many gifts that are bought online will be sent directly to the recipient, and will not pass through the hands of the gifter first. That means that offering extras like wrapping or Holidays-themed gift sets is more important than ever.
A product in a cardboard box wrapped in bubble wrap is not comparable to the magic of a beautifully-wrapped gift with a ribbon that screams “I thought of you.” A name on a shipping label is not the same thing as a personalized note that says “Happy Holidays, love you.” In fact, many recipients of gifts might not even know who the gift is from when the get it! Now I’m a fan of Secret Santa but for family members and friends where I put time and thought into the gift, I would like them to know that it’s from me.
If there is any way to incorporate these extra elements into your eCommerce holiday operations, that will be a boon for your brand. Gift wrapping might be out the question in terms of factory and fulfillment operations go, but it is something that you should be looking at over the long term to make sure that you are as prepared as possible for the new realities of gifting.