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Holiday 2020: The Most Unprecedented Time of The Year

Holiday 2020: The Most Unprecedented Time of The Year

As we’ve all heard a countless number of times through news and commercials, we are in the middle of an “unprecedented” time. This encompasses everything from trying to find our favorite toilet paper brand, attending a Zoom wedding, learning your kid’s fourth grade common core math, deciding which mask matches your outfit today, and of course, planning for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Even with our long history of managing our clients’ holiday season planning and execution, we are having to pivot and revisit our holiday best practices ensuring we’re prepared for the changes this year. Based on our analysis from the last six months, measuring the impact of the shifts we made this summer, and how the back to school shopping period has reacted, we have found the below variables to be the biggest factors in play for the upcoming season. Factor #1: Fear of Going Out (FOGO) As we have seen over the last six months, COVID-19 and the stay-at-home orders that have come with it, have greatly impacted consumer shopping patterns. The biggest pattern being even more people shopping online as stores have been closed, and as stores have started reopening in some areas curbside pick-up has become a larger trend. With the possibility that retail stores may see another round of store closures this fall and winter as COVID-19 cases continue to fluctuate across the country, online will see continued focus. Even where stores are open, consumers are looking for the quickest way in and out of the store. This will put more pressure on retailer sites to retain their in-store customers, as consumers are doing a larger amount of their research online, along with actual orders. This disruption of the consumer’s shopping behavior also opens up the risk of them changing the brands they choose to purchase from. Various studies have revealed nearly half of all consumers purchased from a new brand since March 2020. You’ll want to prepare for new features and betas from vendors that highlights buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup services. Utilizing audience specific data within all your online marketing channels will also be key to ensure your ads and promotions are getting in front of the correct people at the right time to both earn new customers and retain your past customers. Factor #2: Shift in Category Trends With so much of people’s everyday lives and hobbies being impacted by COVID-19, we have seen the categories people searching for online greatly shift as well. Travel enthusiasts who are now homebound are not purchasing their travel accessories, and people who would dress up for the office each day are now moving away from their more formal attire as they work at home. We have seen these shifts within search interest as well. Searches for sweatpants are up nearly double compared to last year and searches for gardening gifts are up 58%, while gifts for travelers are down 14% compared to previous years. These environmental changes mean we cannot rely on last year’s trends to determine budgets or consumer interests. Continue to track search trends for your brand and top categories. Besides mining your own search data or social insights, year-over-year views Google Trends for Search or views in Shopping Insights can help you keep a pulse on search intent and brand health. You will want to track closely any dips that may mimic the significant decrease in search trends we experienced across industries since March 2020. Factor #3: Inventory & Shipping Inventory challenges will be impacting almost every retailer, including the supply chain in receiving product to stock, fulfilling orders within retailer factories, and demands on shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS. Due to the need to social distance within factories, as well as delivery services demands, many are forecasting the cut-off for Christmas delivery to be in the first week of December. This will be the same week as Cyber Monday, and about two weeks sooner than in past year’s cut off dates, creating a need for brands to communicate this change to consumers early in the season. Use your digital tactics to assist in encouraging consumers to shift their holiday purchases earlier. Beginning in your display and social messaging at the top of the funnel, following down to the lower funnel tactics like sitelinks messaging within paid search. Develop a plan for December, and consumers who may have missed the shipping cut-off. Focus on BOPIS features, gift cards, e-gift cards, and add a website functionality that allows gift givers to buy a particular item which then notifies the recipient to pick out their size/color for a more personalized experience. Factor #4: Amazon Prime Day As many insiders had speculated, Amazon Prime Day has been moved to October 13th and 14th, with some deals available to members now. This will add extra competition to all online retailers, both from Amazon, as well as the other retailers likely pushing promotions during the same time to compete against Prime Day. On the positive, Prime Day will play a big role in getting consumer’s mindset focused on Holiday shopping earlier. We predict this will also result in Prime Day stealing at least some sales away from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, especially for categories like electronics. Factor #5: Election Year And finally, as we witnessed in 2016, the chaos leading up to and potentially following the U.S. Presidential election may impact shopping confidence in Q4. At a minimum, brands should be prepared and forecast a decrease in purchase intent and researching within 10 days of the election. This disruption in consumer confidence, along with Prime Day and the shipping cutoff date being moved up, means you will most need to shift marketing dollars earlier than usual and allow them to be agile. In doing this you will want to also work alongside your inventory planning team to ensure your shift in marketing spend will align with product available to purchase. Impact & Forecast With all the additional factors this year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday will actually be concluding the online holiday shopping season rather than starting it. With this shift, Black Friday and Cyber Monday expected growth should be tamer than years past. Shoppers have historically begun shopping earlier each year, but the need to evade crowds and avoid shipping delays will have consumers purchasing earlier than ever. While brands will be focusing on online revenue, they also have an opportunity to increase their impact beyond the bottom line this year. Not only are people’s shopping behaviors going to be disrupted this year, but so are their charitable traditions. People who historically spend time volunteering in soup kitchens or going to the mall with their kids to shop for a child off the angel tree, likely won’t be able to do that this year. There’s an additional opportunity for brands to offer charitable opportunities, beyond just adding a dollar to your purchase for charity, to their consumers during this time. Brands who take this intentional approach stand to increase their realm of influence to those in need, as well as build a stronger loyalty with their customers as we head into 2021. 0

Google Ads 2020 Product & Feature Announcements: Offline Sales

Google Ads 2020 Product & Feature Announcements: Offline Sales

Google Ads has concluded their series of product & feature update announcements with the second of two of updates highlighting tools built to help advertisers connect their online and in-store experience. By bringing the best aspects of stores into digital, connecting with nearby consumers, and accurately optimizing toward store sales, Google aims to make the transition from digital engagement to offline purchase more seamless for both advertisers and consumers.    While the pandemic has drastically reduced in-store foot traffic, the store is still a critical point of transaction for consumers even when they’re doing their research and shopping online--which means it’s more critical than ever for brands to connect their digital and physical assets. According to a Google study, 77% of US shoppers plan to browse for gifts online instead of in-store this holiday and 67% regularly confirm online that an item is in stock before going out to a store. This isn’t just an opportunity for big brands. 66% of shoppers plan to shop more at local small businesses, which means that accurate digital representation of in-store products and inventory is important for every size business.   Helping Consumers Research Google Local Campaigns are an effective automated advertising solution across Maps, Search, Display, and YouTube focused on driving in-store traffic from nearby or interested users. Now Google has announced that Local Campaigns will also allow brands to optimize for other types of interactions, like clicks on the “Call” and “Directions” buttons displayed across Google formats like Google Maps, a welcome option during this time of massively changed consumer behavior.    It’s no longer enough to simply know a business’s hours or whether it is currently open. That’s why Google has added more information to the location listings themselves in order to give consumers the current updates so they can make informed decisions. Restaurants and QSRs can now show the status of service attributes like ‘dine in’ and ‘takeout’ enabling searchers to know at a glance what to expect. In the coming weeks, Google will also add similar attributes for retailers highlighting whether the store has ‘curbside pickup’ or is open for ‘in-store shopping’. These two updates, available globally in every country where Google My Business currently operates, highlight Google’s push to put the consumer first. They recognize the importance of adding more store information and connecting potential customers with local businesses even if just to share more details of the offering or speaking to someone on the phone. This is great for major brands, but it also allows more niche and smaller businesses a chance to improve their online options and ultimately be flexible to the user’s needs. The more options, the better.   Buy Online, Pick Up In Store More and more consumers are shopping and researching online, but many still want to go to the store to actually collect their new purchases. Google’s new Shopping Ads features encourage that process.   LIAs (Local Inventory Ads) have been a staple for many brands to show searchers stock availability in stores nearby. Following the success of ‘curbside pickup’ and ‘pickup today’ attributes, Google have now released a ‘Pickup later’ option. This extends to specific days like ‘Pickup by Friday’, and is a way to promote products which are not necessarily in store but can be very soon.     Interestingly, Google has simplified Location Extension management for large retailers and chains by adding a small but helpful way for these advertisers to select the stores they want to feature in their location extension from a curated list. This minor feature is to help major brands organize their listings quickly - a helpful way of being flexible in such changeable times.   Both the extended ‘pickup later’ LIA feature, and the improved management of Location Extensions highlight new ways for brands to encourage users to go in-store. While the structured data and feed needs for LIAs and Google My Business updates for Location Extensions may be considerable, this also acknowledges the importance of physical stores or locations for many advertisers, and these present a way to engage with users seeking products in a timely and seamless way--yet another way of Google extending varying options for consumers in times of such varying preferences.   Smart Bidding Gets Smarter with Store Sales While more flexible location information and options are key, optimizing towards in-store activity is also vital. Now, Google’s smart bidding algorithm will officially expand to include store sales. This global beta means store sales can be included as a conversion metric - alongside online conversions and store visits - and any existing auction-time the contextual signal bidding will now predict potential offline store-sale purchasers too.   This beta is no surprise to many, given last year’s announcement of store visits integrating into smart bidding. It is a natural progression and helps bridge the gap for brands to more accurately align investment and automate bidding towards offline sales, not just online. Despite this helpful new feature, integrating store sales and uploading store sale data remains a hurdle for many advertisers, and it could take months for slower advertisers to start testing the value.   Helpfulness Every brand is having to rethink their approach to business in 2020, and Google is no exception.  When they launched this new process of sharing announcements and new features back in June, the core theme was “helpfulness.” Consumers are already seeing value from Google’s changes as they rely on digital more and more to shop, to plan, and to navigate a tumultuous time; and advertisers now have dozens of new Google marketing features to help navigate the coming holiday season and beyond. These updates reflect the power of digital in being agile and flexible, and the importance of now providing people flexible options too. At iProspect we’ve been leaning into these new offerings and already finding success and incremental performance, and we believe every advertiser can unlock additional opportunity by leveraging the tools Google has announced over the past three months. 0

Google Ads 2020 Product & Feature Announcements: Relevance at Scale on YouTube

Google Ads 2020 Product & Feature Announcements: Relevance at Scale on YouTube

Today during their latest in a series of product announcements, Google released a handful of updates that will help marketers navigate the vast landscape that is YouTube. As a marketer, planning an awareness campaign on YouTube can be daunting due to its massive audience, the amount of content available and the amount of content being consumed by users each day, which has only increased since COVID-19. Google’s new YouTube updates will allow for marketers to make their awareness campaigns more impactful against their target audience and across all devices.  Google’s first update highlighted market and device expansions for several products to help marketers plan for efficient reach for awareness campaigns as consumption on TV screens continues to grow. Nielsen Total Audience Ratings (TAR), which allows for better understanding and comparability of YouTube consumption between traditional TV, will be expanding into the UK and Italy. Third-party TV data will now also be available in Reach Planner across more markets which will allow marketers to better plan for incremental reach on YouTube. In addition to market expansion, Google announced expanded coverage for reach planning in Display & Video 360 allowing marketers to see reach across YouTube, open auction but also - for the first time - programmatic deals. Updates to these tools will enable media planners to understand how far each additional dollar invested can go across all devices. Having these insights could lead to increased investment in channels that are forecasted to drive the most reach.  Google also announced a new way to achieve relevance with your target audience while still leveraging YouTube’s massive reach. YouTube dynamic lineups is an Awareness targeting tactic now available within Google Ads and Display & Video 360. These lineups are created using advanced contextual algorithms, to identify signals that are collected and aggregated into patterns of how users are engaging with different channels and videos on YouTube. These patterns are then classified into categories that are scalable and the content within the line ups are dynamically updated to continuously improve relevancy. YouTube dynamic lineups will help brands and marketers expand reach and maintain relevance with their target audience by identifying new content categories to target that would have previously been ignored.  As a final update, Google shared new results from a recent mixed media modeling analysis. The results showed that YouTube campaigns were able to drive a greater ROI than TV in a majority of the Nielsen MMMs included in the study.  The updates shared today by Google will help equip marketers and brands with tools that will allow them to effectively plan, target and measure YouTube Awareness campaigns; whether that be a standalone video strategy or one that is holistic across TV, YouTube, and other online video. Video consumption is on the rise as people spend more time at home due to COVID-19, digital marketers need the tools to better understand where they should be investing their dollars. By making it easier for agencies to show the incremental lift and efficient cost of YouTube across all screens, digital agencies are primed to increase their share of brand's awareness budget that may have previously been reserved for traditional TV.  0