It feels strange to say this so early in the calendar year, but the holidays really are fast approaching—and, with them, the need to start planning your holiday campaigns.
What does that planning entail? And what trends, data, and forecasts are driving your holiday planning needs? Well, this isn’t one of those “Do Not Open Until…” presents, or even a vehicle with an obnoxiously enormous bow. Read on for details and insights to help inform your media planning today!
US retail sales slowed last year (thanks, inflation and high interest rates!) on the heels of marked retail and e-commerce growth over 2020 and 2021. This year, retail holiday season sales are projected to grow by 4.5%, a sign that growth rates are falling back to earth after outsized pandemic and post-pandemic leaps.
However, now that we’re no longer “pandemic nesting,” consumer spending is increasing in nearly every retail category except home goods and computer/consumer electronics. And, a Deloitte survey shows that 1 in 4 consumers are willing to spend more on travel (Hey, if we’re done nesting, we might as well fly the coop for a while!). So, despite slower projected growth, most categories can still look at the holiday season as the gift that keeps on giving.
To help marketers unpack this season’s opportunities, we’ve pulled together the latest research on consumer behavior, and combined it with expert insights from Jared Rosenbloom, Basis’ Group VP of Integrated Client Solutions. Read on for our top tips on how to deck the halls with winning campaigns this year:
With the supply chain issues and economic instability that has marked the past few years still fresh in their minds, 2023 holiday shoppers are concerned about low inventory, raised prices, and delayed shipping during the holidays. As a result, they’ll shop earlier, with the holiday season effectively lasting all of Q4. In fact, holiday shoppers last year had, on average, 21% of their holiday shopping completed a couple of weeks before Halloween. Spooky, right?
“Holiday shopping starts earlier every year,” says Rosenbloom. “The earlier you start advertising—even just a month earlier—the more campaign learnings you’ll earn, the more you’ll drive down costs, and the more efficient your campaigns will be over time.” Plus, your ads will have less noise to cut through, making it easier to make an impact on early shoppers. The big takeaway? When it comes to holiday campaign planning, the time to act is now.
Rosenbloom says business’ key performance indicators may look different this time of year: A conversion in the form of an email sign-up in April might switch to a product purchase in December, for example. Those conversions will also cost more this time of year—the CPA for a sale or acquisition on December 22 will likely cost more than it did on June 8.
As all media tends to be more expensive during the holidays, it’s important to consider what you’re willing to spend per KPI. Review last year’s budget and see where (if at all) things went haywire to apply learnings to this year’s spend. Heavy-up during limited-time offers, promotions, and flash sales, and adjust the rest of your budget accordingly. And note that popular media—like fast-growing streaming audio and digital video—have finite space. The element of supply-and-demand is as real as Santa is to your 3-year-old, so buy earlier to lock in space.
During the 2022 shopping season, 80% of holiday shoppers researched or browsed before making a purchase, whereas 20% made a purchase on impulse. This signal of intentional shopping, combined with the growth in social search and a rise in shopping via emerging media (including augmented reality, shoppable videos, and TikTok) showcase the importance of taking an omnichannel approach to holiday marketing for optimal awareness, discovery, consideration, and conversion. To that end, here are a few things to keep in mind:
For some, “Christmas in July” means Google Analytics 4 is in, and Universal Analytics is all but out. Brands that have started getting comfortable on GA4 will reap the benefits of understanding consumer behavior across websites and apps, while those who haven’t updated from UA will see new data stop pouring in. Plus, if you activate now, you’ll have year-over-year data for the next holiday season.
When it comes to data, Rosenbloom recommends “cleaning house now so you aren’t fixing issues later.” This might include optimizing your website for user experience and data intake, and then leveraging your data and customer lists to make a big impact during the holidays.
Have an e-newsletter? Willing to offer new customers a discount in exchange for some of their information? Encourage and incentivize those opt-ins, and then use that consented first-party data for audience targeting. Have an app? Advertise it! 44% of US adults discover apps by searching or browsing in the app store, and nearly 1 in 4 do so thanks to brand advertising.
Then, find privacy-friendly and regulation-compliant ways to leverage app and first-party data to make your targeting work smarter, not harder. For example, create targetable audiences with a CRM to sharpen your focus and to make your creative more relevant and effective. Almost 90% of consumers enjoy personalized offers, so use your first-party data to give them just what they’re wishing for.
Are those visions of sugarplums or of planning documents dancing in your head? It may seem too soon to think about, but the reality is, consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier, and the gifts of consumer behavior data, retail trends, and advertising opportunities are ready to be unwrapped. Much like curdled eggnog, you shouldn’t let your holiday campaigns spoil: Plan early, agree on your KPIs, earmark your budget, and activate your data, and you’ll be smiling like Buddy the Elf this holiday season.
If you’re looking to take the guesswork out of holiday campaign planning, here’s our gift to you: a comprehensive holiday advertising checklist, complete with everything you need to do now to knock the planning stage out of the park come Q4. Happy holiday campaigning!