An always-on approach to festive shopping season – advice for a successful Cyber Month

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To make the most of the festive shopping season, brands should plan ahead now. Criteo’s Holiday Checklist offers a step-by-step guide to show you how.

Black Friday has become a victim of its own success. So much noise has built up around that one day that smart brands have begun spreading their offers and promotions out across the whole of November. Now the forward-thinking move is to capitalize on this ‘Cyber Month’ throughout the year.

That’s the advice from online commerce media experts Criteo. The company has produced a Holiday Checklist which gives advertisers a step-by-step guide to making the most of the festive season. It looks at suggestions on acquisition and retention audiences to target, ad formats to use, and what messages to promote from several weeks before Black Friday, right through to 2023 and beyond.

“Advertisers can learn a lot from their existing audiences, and leverage those learnings to prepare them for the peak holiday shopping season and beyond,” explains Rory Mitchell, executive managing director, Americas. “A marketer’s focus should not solely be on retaining existing business, but on acquiring new audiences as well. By testing out always-on strategies that are informed by your own, privacy-safe data, you can expand your reach by enriching it with a larger set of first-party commerce insights to build new audiences. That perspective can be incredibly helpful when planning your holiday advertising spend.”

Planning ahead matters now more than ever

According to Criteo, there are a number of reasons why planning ahead is even more critical for advertisers this holiday season.

One is that consumers are expected to start their holiday shopping even earlier this year, driven by concerns about product availability and delivery times. This means marketers also have to start engaging shoppers earlier to avoid missing key opportunities.

Linked to this is the need for marketers to collect first-party data. Even though Google has postponed its withdrawal of support for third-party cookies until 2024, research by Forrester found that almost two-thirds of marketers and retail media owners are worried that privacy regulations will hinder their ability to personalize messaging at scale. The holiday shopping season is the perfect time to acquire new customers so you can continue to grow their value to your business, personalizing offers to them in 2023 and improving long-term customer loyalty.

In addition, a Criteo consumer survey found that physical stores are becoming more popular as the pandemic recedes, not just for purchasing, but also as a source of inspiration. Survey respondents reported doing a lot more click-and-collect shopping this year than they did last. Add to this Criteo sales data shows in-store shoppers make purchases almost twice as often when they also visit the retailer’s website, and it becomes clear that having a robust omnichannel strategy in place will be even more important for retailers this autumn.

“Our global holiday report sheds a lot of light on consumer behaviors and how those have shifted over the past few years,” Mitchell says. “Most notable are that people are shopping for holidays way earlier than some advertisers may think, and that there are multiple online and offline touchpoints that play a role in the user’s path to purchase.”

Crucially, this omnichannel thinking needs to extend beyond marketing to logistics. McKinsey research found that nearly three-quarters of shoppers (70%) immediately switch brand or retailer if the product they want is out of stock.

Four stages of holiday season marketing

The Criteo Holiday Checklist splits marketing activities into four periods:

  • Several weeks before Black Friday (ideally now), it recommends concentrating on acquisition, targeting more focused audiences to builds brand interest to make your budget go further
  • A few weeks before Black Friday, you should use your existing first-party data – and any customer data you collected from your acquisition campaign – to reach your seasonal, lapsed, and active customers to build on product discovery, consideration, and conversion
  • For the rest of the holiday season after Black Friday, add last-minute retail shoppers to the audience mix. Make them aware of nearby stores that stock the products they’re after, and promote click-and-collect
  • Finally, when all the holiday activity has died down, use the first-party data you’ve collected to inform your marketing right through to the start of the next cycle

Key takeaways

Criteo’s Mitchell has two key takeaways for marketers preparing for the coming holiday shopping season.

“One, adopt an always-on approach,” he says. “Leverage always-on customer-growth strategies to find new customers and drive more value from existing audiences. Running automated audiences allows you to make sure you’re present whenever your customers are ready to buy and discover new customers you haven’t considered or didn’t know about.

“Then two, balance acquisition and retention. Understanding your existing customer base and knowing how to bring them back is a crucial growth driver as the industry evolves. With this solid understanding, you can then test acquisition approaches across unique audience combinations and shift investment to top performers.”

Criteo’s Holiday and Festive Season Playbook on a Page can be downloaded here.

Source: The Drum, by Michael Nutley. “An always-on approach to festive shopping season – advice for a successful Cyber Month”.

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