Advertising, Connected TV, Creative, Prospecting

The Performance Marketers Guide to Memorial Day 2021

More travel, more vaccines, more spending - here’s what you need to know to start the summer right

The Performance Marketers Guide to Memorial Day 2021

9 Min Read

With vaccines on the rise and normalcy slowly returning, it looks like the country is in for a swell summer – will we see a ‘Roaring Twenties’ resurgence of travel, entertainment and leisure? Time will only tell. While we can’t predict the future, as performance marketers we know that looking at the past is a telling indicator of future success. If last year’s data is anything to go by, all signs are pointing up for Memorial Day. Retailers were able to effectively engage with existing and new customers, even with it being at the height of the pandemic. The average number of daily orders during these five days increased by +18% across retailers and verticals. While the average daily order amount increased by +27%. The top performing categories were fashion and athleisure, shoes, beauty products and clothing – but that’s not to say they weren’t the only winners. Pet supplies, tools and hardware and furnishings were also popular categories, as people invested more on the home-office and their furry friends while being holed away at home.

We’ll cover:

Site Visits on the Rise

We dug into last year’s spending and browsing patterns, and it looked like website visits were consistently high in the three weeks leading up to the holiday, and spiked on the holiday by 12.7% versus the month’s average. This was to be expected, since many shoppers were stuck at home due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, what we found interesting was that the site traffic spike during the same time in 2019 was lower – 8.1% increase versus the month’s average. It’s testament to the fact that COVID-19 had an impact on shoppers looking online for deals.

In lieu of being stuck indoors, people were occupying themselves with browsing online and celebrating the holiday weekend by taking advantage of sales events, as the chart below suggests.

Analysts predict that at the current vaccination rate, we’ll reach herd immunity by Memorial Day – and one can only guess what that means. An article from the BBC reported that over-50s have been rushing to book trips after they’ve received vaccination – and you know what else? This demographic (the Baby Boomers) are the wealthiest generation with a lot of spending power. They hold 70% of the disposable income in the U.S. and spend roughly 50% of all CPG dollars

Key Takeaways: 

  • Last year, site traffic spiked on the holiday itself (12.7% higher than the month’s daily average). 
  • We expect site traffic will behave similarly to last year, given that many COVID-19 consumer trends are yet to fade, and people will be itching to get outdoors and continue to shop online
  • Take advantage of this major opportunity by ensuring your campaigns are active, your budget is competitive, and you’re driving shoppers to your site to convert.

Let’s Talk Conversions.

Website visit activity aside, let’s look at another important metric – conversions. Did you know that Memorial Day broke records in 2020? In 2019, sales barely surpassed $2B spend but they reached $3.5B this year (63% increase). We saw an increase in conversions starting Memorial Day weekend that lasted through the following week. You might be wondering what they were buying – staycation supplies, like food and groceries for their barbecues and their cookouts, for starters. Oh, and don’t forget the beer to cool off those hot dogs – off-premise beer sales had the strongest week of 2020, second only to the July 4 holiday week of 2019 over the last year.

When we analyzed our own data from 2020 versus the year prior, we noticed a 8.6% increase in conversions on Memorial Day itself versus May’s daily average. However, in 2019 conversions were 3.4% lower than the May daily average. This signals COVID-19’s impact yet again, as the uptick in site traffic didn’t increase conversions in PC (Pre COVID) times, whereas both conversions and site traffic increased during COVID-19. We’re expecting this behavior to continue, into this year’s holiday. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Shoppers weren’t just browsing, they were buying. The week after the holiday was especially strong for conversions last year.
  • Don’t take your foot off the gas. Keep your campaigns running (and well-funded) after the holiday weekend since that’s a prime time to capture conversions from shoppers looking to prep for the summer.

Memorial Day? More Like Memorial Week

The consistently high website visits and conversions data is a promising one for advertisers to lengthen their promotions beyond the weekend itself, and stretch it out for the week following the holiday as there is an appetite for extended sales. Even if your sales event needs to end on the weekend itself, you should still keep your ad creative running (minus any mention of special deals) to continue getting shoppers to your website and through to check-out.

Get Your Prospecting and Retargeting Going

Prospecting and retargeting are essential ingredients to a successful strategy. Why? Think full-funnel. You’ll want to identify potential customers through prospecting, and then retarget these same users closer to the holiday in addition to utilizing the rest of your first-party targeting pool. Consider the below your advertising checklist when approaching the Memorial Day holiday:

  • Target in-market users for prospecting. Use the 3rd party audience targeting list that we provide below as a starting guide, but branch out by adding additional segments to expand the pool. For example, if you’re a travel advertiser, don’t limit to targeting users only interested in international travel. Think road trips, staycations and weekend escapes, too.
  • Retargeting can increase engagement rates by up to 400%. You’ll want to start broad with your prospecting strategy first to generate interest, and then retarget those who exhibit the most interest in your brand. Identify these targets through looking at your own first-party data, and serve retargeting ads at cart-abandoners, previous purchasers and those who viewed 2+ pages on your website, for starters.

Running prospecting and CTV retargeting in parallel provide deep insights into who your consumer profile is and who responds best to your ads. You’ll be able to easily access that data through a reporting interface like MNTN Performance TV. By tying your performance back to your targeting criteria, you’ll know which audiences are best to continue targeting.

We’ve put together some key audience segments you might want to consider if you’re trying to reach new shoppers with prospecting campaigns, keeping in mind the activities that people will be partaking in as viral transmissions hopefully subside.

  • An Oldie But a Goodie – Memorial Day Shoppers
    Tried, true and tested, this is the catchall for everyone who celebrates the holiday.

    Connexity > CNX Seasonal > Memorial Day
    Lotame > Holidays & Special Events > Holidays > Memorial Day
    NinthDecimal > Seasonal > Spring > Memorial Day Sales Shoppers
    AddThis > Premium > Seasonal & Holiday > Memorial Day
  • A License to Grill
    For those cookout fanatics who will be looking for new equipment to up their cooking game, with the accessories to match.

    AdAdvisor by Neustar > Grocery > BBQ/Seasoning Sauces
    Cross Pixel > Audience Profiles > Food and Dining > BBQ/Grillers
    Zipline > US Data > AmeriLINK Consumer Buying Behavior > Seasonal Audiences > Memorial Day / Summer BBQ
    Clikagy > Interests > Cooking > Cuisines > BBQ
  • Home Renovations and Homewares
    Target shoppers who are working on DIY projects like renovations, or who simply need to spruce up their home for Summer entertaining days.

    Cuebiq > Geo-behavioral Audience > Retail > Housewares and Furniture Shoppers
    Ninth Decimal > Customer Journey > In-Market > Home Improvement & Hardware Store Retailers > Home Furniture Shoppers
    Skimlinks > About to Buy > Home > DIY & Home Improvement
    Retail > In-Market > Home & Garden > Interior > Furniture and Accessories > Home Decor
  • The ‘OOO’ Set
    Did someone say Summer vacation? Reach users who are itching to travel again, now that restrictions have eased.

    Travel and Tourism > Interest (Affinity) > Personals > Leisure & Vacation Travelers
    Acxiom > Basic Rate > ACXM Travel > Likely Activity > Leisure VacationNavegg > Product > Family > Gifts and Special Days > Holiday or Vacation
    MRI > Vacation Travel Attitudes > Travels to New Places

As for your retargeting campaigns, here are some key audience criteria you should keep an eye out for when trying to drive conversions from shoppers who have already visited your site:

  • Cart-abandoners 
  • Previous purchasers
  • Users with 2+ page views 
  • Users who first visited your site within the last two weeks

How to Approach Your Campaigns This Year

Budget and Timing

1. Start Memorial Day ads early May with prospecting ads to allow time to generate brand awareness, and then increase promotional activity in the week leading to the holiday and continue to flight these out a week later to catch those residual shoppers.

2. Don’t forget your retargeting campaigns! You’ll want to max out any lower funnel activity, since there is a small window for promotion. You can either run these in parallel to your prospecting efforts or in the final week leading to Memorial Day to catch them with promotions on higher-end (with a higher Average Order Value) products. Also, the type of retargeting platform is important – if you want to make a splash then we suggest retargeting on Connected TV, where you can use your own first-party and CRM data and serve these users ads directly to their television screens. 

3. Reserve a bigger proportion of your budget to help lift conversions in the week leading up to Memorial Day, and the week after. Not only will you want to ramp up promotional activity during this time, you’ll want to keep budgets strong to beat the competition. 


1. Be creative with your promotions, since Memorial Day is the start of Summer, shoppers are likely to be using (and looking to buy) your products long after the weekend is over. For example, if you’re a BBQ or food/beverage advertiser, making a good first impression with your Memorial Day advertising will likely bring multi-month sales. 

2. Memorial Day signals the unofficial start to summer, but don’t forget that it is also a time to honor the fallen. Advertisers should therefore approach the holiday with care and sensitivity, by keeping their advertising also simple, respectful and relevant. It’s a great opportunity to promote any military benefits and discounts in appreciation, for starters. A recent survey found that 90% of the military have taken advantage of a military offer, and 96% have shared one of these offers with a fellow colleague. Putting in the time and effort to create an authentic message that pays attention to the little things – even a visual of a poorly executed salute is enough to leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth. This is a great opportunity to tell your audience that their service matters, instead of only focusing on your brand.

3. Customers want their goods, fast. Use this to your advantage if you know you can get things quickly to them, by driving this message home in your creative. They also want flexibility, like free returns and free trials for a risk free purchase – so think beyond the usual percentage discounts and explore different ways of communicating your offer.