By Ben Alwin, Head of Paid Media, SINE Digital
There is a famous old adage in sales and marketing; “Success is contingent on the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect.”.
Most of the time, this is true enough. Brands and marketers have uncovered a myriad of ways to migrate customers through the marketing funnel – warming even the coldest of leads.
But this winter, it is going to be much more difficult for marketers to encourage consumers to thaw.
We are fast approaching the peak seasonal sales period, with some advertisers already having started on 11th November with Singles Day. Retailers must now navigate through Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Week – competing all the way through Christmas and beyond.
To describe this period as decisive is an understatement. For some retailers, it makes up 50% of their annual revenue.
But this year is set to be more challenging than any in recent memory. In 2021, UK shoppers spent £6bn during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, it shrank to £4.8bn. This year, forecasts suggest total spending will land at around £3.95bn.
The cost-of-living crisis is beginning to bite. Recent surveys indicate that more than two thirds of UK adults are planning to cut back on their spending this Christmas.
So how can marketers navigate this uncertain period to deliver outstanding results?
The lay of the land
The first thing to acknowledge is that, despite a challenging economic outlook, there is still opportunity to drive growth through clever marketing.
Investment in marketing has seen Unilever record sales growth despite mass increases in product prices – whilst McDonald’s CEO recently underlined that its marketing has been an “important growth driver” amidst the rising cost-of-living.
And despite a reduction in overall spend anticipated this peak sales period, the number of UK consumers who plan to shop in the Cyber Week sales has actually risen by 6% from last year, increasing from 33% in 2021 to 39% in 2022.
In a year characterised by economic uncertainty, consumers will be looking at offers during this peak sales period with keen eyes. Marketers just need to catch their attention, and convert interest into action.
Here are some tips and tricks for navigating this crisis, and delivering standout campaigns.
A good strategy isn’t formed overnight, so it’s important to start planning early. Look at what worked well in previous sales periods, make use of platform best practice, and ensure you are briefing on assets early so you have everything ready well in advance. .
Remember that Cyber Week extends beyond just Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Brands should ramp up awareness activity and focus on building audience pools and email lists in advance. Going into the sales period with an already engaged audience will give you a significant competitive advantage.
Looking ahead to 2023, it’s crucial to plan out your marketing budget for the full year. If you know your brand does well in sales periods, devise your budget with this in mind. You don’t want to be left short in Q4.
Maximise use of PLAs and dynamic formats
There are a multitude of product listing ads (PLAs) and dynamic formats available to marketers across the paid media channel mix, with Google’s Performance Max and Meta’s Dynamic Product Ads being the among the most prominent
Shopping campaigns are powered by platform algorithms that use behavioural, purchase and search signals to show users products they are most likely to engage with. Utilising product feeds also allows you to automatically pull updated pricing into your ads, as well as preventing you from wasting spend advertising products that have gone out of stock.
This is a prime opportunity for your customers to get a great discount before it’s too late, but do they know that? Creating a sense of urgency will help to push people through to purchase before the sale ends. This could be via a countdown clock or time-sensitive copy within ads, or on the homepage or checkout of the website. .
Leverage your existing data
When it comes to audience strategy, first party data is your greatest asset. This could be customer lists from previous sales periods, or a high value customer list, both of which you could actively target or use to build lookalikes.
It is also well worthwhile factoring data collection specifically into your cyber week strategy. Lead generation campaigns are a great way to build email lists ahead of sales periods, by offering customers early sale access or additional discounts in exchange for signing up. This will help build hype and awareness, whilst also growing your customer data. Our studies have shown lead gen formats to be more cost effective than website forms in many cases, so we recommend testing them out!
Lastly, it is crucial to revisit your privacy and cookie policies, ensuring they are clearly communicated and that users who opt-in have consented to their data being used for marketing purposes. This will ultimately benefit them in terms of seeing personalised advertising rather than generic advertising, however it is equally important to ensure that your audiences update in real time to reflect any opt-outs.
Carefully plan an SEO strategy. Ensure that everything is sound from a technical perspective so that when the sale launches, you are set up to capture BFCM searches organically.
Websites with an evergreen Black Friday page that is updated with sale content and products over the Black Friday period will have a potential SEO advantage.
Test, test, test (and learn!)
For many brands, Q4 is the largest spend and revenue driving quarter. It therefore presents the biggest opportunity for testing and gathering as much insight as possible to inform future activations.
Are strikethrough prices more effective than “% off” messaging? How do dynamic formats perform vs. other formats? Does studio imagery outperform real life imagery? Is it better to send users to a general sales page or product category page? These are the sort of questions you should be asking yourself to inform the tests you set up and run.
Focus on your USPs
This is high-pressure time for brands and marketers. But don’t let the pressure for sales derail the overarching direction of your brand. The idea is not to devalue your products or brand, but rather to show customers that they are getting quality products at a great price.
With an ever-growing marketplace competition is fierce, so you need to stand out. If you are selling the same or similar products to other brands or websites, ask yourself why people should shop with you vs. your competitors. Do you beat them on price point? Perhaps you have faster delivery times or a better returns policy. Make sure to call out your USPs and lean on them to gain a competitive advantage.
The conditions are challenging this peak sales period. But the truth of the old sales adage remains true. Amid the swirling mass of consumer pressures, brand marketing success will be determined by the attitude of the marketers – not just the customers. Positivity, creativity and proactive planning are essential ingredients of a successful campaign. And this winter they matter more than ever.