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Cyber 5’s Eight Biggest Paid Search Trends

Another Cyber Monday has come and gone - a day (well really almost week) that brands plan for nearly all year long. As we all know, Cyber 5 (the five shopping days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday) offers consumers some of the biggest deals of the year, making it one of the most important shopping times with consumers handling a large bulk of their holiday shopping in this five-day period. There is no other time of the year quite like Cyber 5, which is why it is so critical for retailers to drive sales and look at trends from previous years to understand how to plan for the next one. 


Overall retailers are pleased with performance from 2019’s Cyber 5; however, an analysis of Paid Search data across more than 20 retail advertisers shows some important changes in the landscape. These eight trends that iProspect saw during this year’s cyber week will be critical in planning for 2020. 

Consumers shopped heavily from their mobile devices this year, driving increases across all Paid Search KPIs.

year over year percentage change for Cyber Week

 

Despite mobile impressions being flat year-over-year (YoY), mobile clicks and transactions saw double digit increases, which shows that consumers continue to rely more on their mobile devices for their holiday shopping. According to Forbes Cyber Monday Recap, mobile purchases accounted for 33% of all Cyber Monday sales, setting a new record at $3 billion as people become more and more comfortable making large purchases from smartphones. Tablet continues to decline due to increased usage of mobile devices instead. 

 

With 33% growth, Black Friday almost surpassed Cyber Monday in online conversions this year.

 

YoY Conversions by Day for Cyber Week

Forbes reported that 93MM Americans shopped online on Black Friday compared to Cyber Monday’s 83MM. This is a signal that consumers feel confident in their pre-purchase research and that deals aren’t going to get any better on Cyber Monday. Consumers are much more aware and savvy of the promotional rotation and trends that brands offer over this particular week. With many retailers not varying promotions much YoY, there is incentive to switch it up in 2020 to keep consumers on their toes and coming back to purchase the full weekend.


The young consumer dominated holiday purchases. 


 

The young consumer dominated holiday purchases

 

Consumers under 35-years-old made up 33% of purchases on the Sunday starting off the week; that percentage jumped to 45% on Black Friday, mainly due to the strong increase in purchases from the 18-24-year-old age group. With a smaller share of wallet, this younger consumer waited for the holiday deals before choosing to make their purchases.


These shoppers also influenced driving an increase in mobile performance (first trend) and an increase in Black Friday purchases (second trend). These younger shoppers are more comfortable making purchases on mobile devices and are savvy enough to know deals are relatively consistent throughout Cyber 5.


As we see younger consumers play a pivotal role in purchases during this holiday timeframe, it also becomes crucial that brands are investing budget into the latest ad formats. This will help advertisers find pockets that are less saturated than long-standing tactics, and capitalize on new traffic. One of these tactics this year was Showcase Shopping campaigns, which in Q3 alone saw a 24% increase in volume YoY, and we’re seeing traffic lifts upwards of 50% YoY for the holiday timeframe at an efficiency that’s more than double that of holiday last year.

 

Men hold out for the major shopping days more than women. 


 

conversions by gender and day for cyber week

The percent of purchases from men increased from 22% on Sunday at the beginning of the week, up to 29% on Black Friday. According to Accenture’s 13th Annual Holiday Shopping survey, men were expected to spend approximately 15% more than women. This is because they are turning to brands for holiday gift inspiration and relying on the company to do the research for them. To capitalize on this trend, be sure your brand is leveraging visual ad units to give gifting inspiration to shoppers.

 

This goes along with the trend Forbes reported as well, showing that women’s apparel was one of the losing categories for Black Friday 2019, due to an over saturated market when compared to other categories, making it harder to captivate shoppers. 

 

Western states saw larger growth in conversions YoY compared to the rest of the U.S. due to their time zones.

Western states saw larger growth in conversions YoY compared to the rest of the U.S. due to their time zones

Growth in conversion rates (CVR) on the West Coast is due to brands pushing additional funds later in the day to help meet revenue goals in the final hours. Adobe cited that the top shopping hour was 11 PM EST until midnight, which is only 8 PM PST; this allows for ample time for people on the West Coast to convert in the evening. The biggest key takeaway here is to be strategic with your budget, honing in on not only the hour, but the geography as well. Be sure you are pushing fundings during the top shopping hours for each state, as opposed to only focusing on a national level. 

Brands are relying on more remarketing tactics YoY.

Percentage of conversions from remarking by day

Conversions with remarketing lists made up 17% of conversions in 2019 vs. just 10% in 2018. Conversions from remarketed consumers actually saw its largest spike on Thanksgiving day, making up 22% of total conversions. Remarketing will remain an impactful tactic in 2020 as we continue to see users coming to research more ahead of their actual purchase, making it more important for brands to follow up with those researchers. As privacy laws change in 2020, and as the cookie continues to be restricted, it will be crucial that brands maximize their use of remarketing within the new privacy landscape.

 

Consumers shifted forward their purchases due to earlier deals. 

Consumers shifted forward their purchases due to earlier deals.

The largest YoY increases in conversions by hour occurred on Wednesday evening around 9:00 PM CST (up 73% YoY), Thanksgiving evening (up 35%), and Black Friday morning (up 42% before 9:00 AM CST). This was driven by earlier sales this year, such as Walmart starting their deals at 10 PM CST on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Target giving their rewards members access to deals all day Wednesday. 

With the shortened shopping season this year, people were more ready than ever to start purchasing earlier in the day. According to CNBC, shoppers had already spent $600 million online by 9:00 AM EST on Black Friday, a 19% increase from last year. With brands starting sales early, consumers had done their research and knew what they were already buying heading into Black Friday.  

More consumers shopped online and went into stores in 2019. 

store visits year over year for cyber week

Paid Search store visits occur when a consumer searches and clicks on an ad, and then visits a store in the following 30 days. On average, store visits were up 8% throughout Cyber Week with Thanksgiving and Black Friday up 13% and 12% respectively. Cyber Monday saw a 9% lift. This means that YoY more consumers are researching deals online and then going into the store, especially on Thanksgiving day.

This trend is largely driven by companies becoming more savvy with their omni-channel marketing strategies. It is no secret that there is no clear path-to-purchase anymore, so brands are finding creative ways to blur online advertising with brick-and-mortar purchases. 37%of customers said they were planning on using Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) this holiday season, but BOPIS orders beat this projection by 39% on Black Friday according to Adobe Blog. Furthermore, shoppers say they are 82% more likely to buy additional products when they go to the store to pick up their online order. In 2020, we’ll continue to see the lines blurred between online and offline shopping behavior as consumers trend towards doing both fluidly.   


Conclusion

 

Consumer shopping behavior is ever-evolving and analyzing the massive amount of data collected during the Cyber 5 week gives us a compact view of the trends that will guide our strategy, not only for the next holiday season, but also throughout 2020. What we’ve learned most from this year is that consumers still love a good deal, product research is easier than ever before via mobile devices, younger consumers are increasing their buying power, and the shopping experience is shifting to no longer be online or instore but both simultaneously. Keeping this in mind as we head into 2020 and start to prep for another Cyber 5 will be critical in creating a plan that truly resonates with consumers and drives an increase in sales for your brand.

 

Source: iProspect SA360 Paid Search Retail Data, Cyber Week 2018 & 2019

Contributions by : Sammie Anagnostis and Sydney Green