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With economic uncertainty looming over the holiday season like the Grinch in his mountaintop lair, one must ask: will this year see a more subdued holiday shopping season? We analyzed Connected TV campaign performance data—from good times and bad—to find the answer. Good news, the results look promising for a very merry Q4.↓
“Economic uncertainty” is a phrase that marketers would rather not read when planning their Q4 strategies. But there’s really no way of dancing around it this year. In fact, it’s best to understand exactly what it can mean for your advertising efforts.
With that in mind, we analyzed campaigns launched from MNTN Performance TV, our Connected TV ad software, to help you plan for Q4 no matter the economic climate. We approached this in two ways:
Our analysis provides paths forward for any advertiser looking to generate strong returns this holiday season. Here’s what we found.
Why should you expect consumers to continue spending big this Q4 shopping season? Because they tend to save for—and buy—for moments that matter. Case in point: Mastercard SpendingPulse forecasted a 7.5% increase for U.S. back-to-school shopping.
If this behavior continues into Q4 as expected, then you’ll be in good shape for a repeat to what was a very successful year for Connected TV advertisers. Let’s dive into last year’s numbers.
Advertisers expectedly cashed in with enormous revenue performance on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the weekend in between. Early December also ranked among the top revenue earners, as well as roughly two weeks before Christmas day—suggesting shipping times were top of mind.
The top 10 days with the most conversions in Q4 were the same as the days with the most revenue—just the order is a bit mixed up. Giving Tuesday ranked third for number of conversions, but fifth in total revenue. Could it be that shoppers were purchasing lower-cost items to save some cash for donations? One would hope.
If there was ever a time to have retargeting campaigns live—this is it. Each day in the buildup to Black Friday made the top ten list. Even Thanksgiving itself found its way in at the number ten spot, which means that plenty of shoppers were splitting time between joining family at the dinner table and scouting out deals online.
The usual heavy-hitters were well-represented as Black Friday and Cyber Monday monopolized the top places in our lists. Setting that aside, there are lessons to be learned from the rest of the strong performers. Here are the top five things to keep in mind.
Spikes in revenue and conversions two weeks before Christmas means shoppers were aware of shipping times. With supply chain issues still present, that’s likely to occur again.
If you can deliver on time this holiday season, be sure to mention it in your ad creative. Also consider including gift card messaging in your ads; last-minute shoppers are common and digital gift cards aren’t affected by shipping delays.
Launch campaigns early in the quarter to generate touchpoints leading into late November when things really heat up. If you want to contribute to those year-high site visits leading up to Black Friday, get your campaigns live no later than October.
Every weekday immediately leading up to Black Friday ranked high for Verified Visits. Take advantage of that traffic with pre-Black Friday deals—those shoppers are scouting out savings, so capture them with a deal too good to pass up.
Having a retargeting campaign live during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness will help finish the year strong. Your retargeting audience will be massive due to increase site traffic, allowing you to deliver messaging to those shoppers to drive conversions.
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If rough waters are indeed ahead, then you should know how to navigate them. The best thing to do is to look back at times when there was a similar air of uncertainty, and (un)fortunately we have two not-too-distant cases we can examine: the 2008 financial crisis, and the first few months of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The above quote comes from 2009, and reinforces the importance of staying visible to consumers. That was the lesson born from the Great Recession for many advertisers. With the rise of Connected TV and its data-rich performance data, we can quantify how important that lesson is.
Ad budgets tend to get cut when the economy dips, but that’s not a good idea. When examining Performance TV campaigns from the initial months of the COVID-19 epidemic, those who kept campaigns live in March and April of 2020 (a time when economic uncertainty was at its highest), saw better outcomes in the following months than those who paused or went inactive.
|ROAS in May-June ‘20 vs. non-active advertisers|
Those same advertisers generated positive returns on their campaign spend, and that motivated them to increase their ad spend in the following months. More importantly—when they ramped their budgets the returns kept pace with the increased budgets and scaled ROAS in near lockstep with increased budgets.
|Advertisers Active in March-April ‘20|
increase in ad spend May-June
increase in ROAS
You can help bring a bit more certainty to shoppers if you convince them to convert with an enticing discount. When looking at macro-activity during the Great Recession, consumers were drawn to coupon sites. If shoppers are more selective with their spend, then you need to give them a reason to spend with you.
It’s important to stay active even when times are uncertain. Any perceived short-term benefit gained by reducing ad spend will be eclipsed by the downside later on. And, the data shows that short-term gains aren’t really on the table for Connected TV advertisers who paused campaigns. Here are our top five things to keep in mind.
Take the lessons of the past to heart; television campaigns are crucial to staying top of mind, and performance marketing ensures you generate ROI on your ads. Connected TV combines both, so be sure to use it.
If you’re concerned about generating returns, prioritize a ROAS or CPA goal for your Connected TV campaigns. That will ensure that they’re reaching shoppers who are more likely to convert.
Don’t pause campaigns, and keep your budget strong even if things are looking uncertain. Consumers will prioritize purchases that matter, and it’s hard to find a time of the year when that’s more common than Q4.
Monitor performance and if you see strong trends, don’t be shy about increasing ad spend. Q4 will be competitive and there’s a good chance that if you don’t go big, your competitors will—and they’ll reap the benefits.
Deals make a difference with consumers, so feature promotions heavily in your ad creative. Announce them via voice over and title cards—the visual and audible combination works.
Connected TV combines the impact of television advertising with the capabilities of a digital performance channel. Advertisers who leaned into that aspect were quite jolly when looking through their campaign performance at the end of the year. Whether it’s in times of uncertainty or prosperity, this approach pays off.
We recommend getting your prospecting campaigns live early to generate early touchpoints, and launching retargeting to take advantage of year-high website traffic. Last year, the majority of advertisers running campaigns on Performance TV listened.
|Percentage of Advertisers Who Ran Campaigns, by Type|
Prospecting and Retargeting
So how did running both campaign types work out for advertisers last year? Pretty well. Those who ran both a prospecting and retargeting campaign drove a higher return on ad spend than those who just ran prospecting alone.
|ROAS When Adding Retargeting to Prospecting|
If we could just write “launch both upper- and lower-funnel campaigns” a bunch of times in a row, we would. That’s how important it is. But, since there are other insights to share that you’ll find helpful, we’ll do that instead. Here are our top five things to keep in mind.
Increase your touchpoints, and increase the likelihood that when shoppers are ready to convert—it’s with you. Since the Q4 season is competitive like no other, it’s best to get in front of as many of the right shoppers as possible.
Keep audience size large but focused on interest, geographic, and in-market viewers. Don’t hamstring your efforts by narrowing your focus too much—this isn’t the time to think small.
Retargeting campaigns take full advantage of existing website traffic and cash in on your prospecting efforts. You worked hard to drive that traffic, so leverage it for even more conversions.
Take advantage of Connected TV’s flexibility and swap out ad creative to promote certain sales. If you have a new offer for Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday, update your creative to reflect that to grab audience attention.
Since your retargeting efforts will target higher-intent audiences, consider enticing these viewers with more aggressive promotions to give yourself the edge and entice them to purchase.
Whether this Q4 holiday shopping season is another record-setting year, or more of a mixed bag with economic uncertainty playing a part—Connected TV has proven itself to be a reliable performance channel. It allows advertisers to make the most of an opportunity to engage with their audience in both good times and bad.
The key is to keep your campaign budgets strong to compete in what is the busiest time of the year. The ad channels will be crowded with the competition, and you can’t afford to let the Q4 opportunity pass you by. Our data shows that even if consumers cut back on their spending, Connected TV campaigns are great at reaching those who are likely to buy.
Methodology: Analysis was conducted on MNTN Performance TV advertisers using recorded performance data from September 1st, 2021 - January 31, 2022. Performance was also analyzed from March 1st, 2020 - June 30th, 2020. To be included, advertisers needed to have fallen into Q4-shopping focused verticals, and have recorded revenue and performance/spend data for 80%+ of the days that fell within the timeframe.
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