By Randy Stark, Sales Engineer at Adara
What used to be two competing days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is likely to morph into one giant block of mostly online shopping this year. Deemed the Cyber 5, the long weekend from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday will bring a host of new elements for search marketers to consider. Understanding as much as possible about the millions of potential customers and their new behaviors ahead of time is an important new element of the typical prep that goes into holiday search planning. Maximizing flexibility in order to respond to changes throughout the process will ensure that marketers can take full advantage of their new insights.
Combining Old Patterns With New
Simply recycling the insights from last holiday season is not going to work in 2020. With Covid-19 limiting in-store shopping, there has been a dramatic increase in digital retail. This holiday season, there will be people new to online shopping, people looking to spurge after 9 months of pandemic life, and people who are at this point experts at looking for deals. There will also be higher volumes of every type of shopper across the site, mobile, email and just about every other channel one can think of.
Search can be thought of as the road that takes people where they want to go – some people are new drivers, while others are speeding. And, since it’s the holidays, there will be a lot of traffic. In order to ensure that everyone gets the best possible search experience, the first step in 2020 planning must include a fresh analysis of those shoppers (or drivers if we keep the analogy going.) Understanding more recent shopping habits across demographics and customer segments can help with forecasting as well as with personalization. It’s possible that new segments are identified that benefit from unique messaging.
Get Ready for Changes
Despite the many automation that Google and other search providers continue to roll out, the holiday season is simply too important to “set it and forget it.” Rather, marketers should plan for a scenario where they are gathering data for rapid analysis which they can use to quickly react. For example, designate media budgets that can be throttled up or down, or even switched to other channels if it becomes clear that 2020 patterns are truly unpredictable. It’s possible that social media really explodes this year, or that mobile is even stronger as a conversion channel than forecasts said. If budgets are pre-committed to different agencies, then shifting is difficult. It’s a good idea to dole out budgets in chunks and switch them up based on performance and volume. If there’s a centralized media buying plan, then it’s even easier to lean into the elements that are working best.
Marketers should also install analytics and reporting systems to monitor performance data in real-time. Marketers need the ability to see and react to intra-day demand changes. Search scripts or API based tools such as Supermetrics can be helpful here. Automated alerts can be a compliment as well.
It’s not a good idea to rely completely on automated bidding from either Google or a third party vendor. These systems react to observed historical performance, meaning marketers could be underbidding during times of initial demand then overbidding after it subsides. One option is to install a hybrid campaign structure where manual bid campaigns can be used to react more quickly to real-time trends. The automated and manual campaigns can both be set up ahead of time, and then be turned on and off based on real-time performance.
Retailers should ensure that their product feed is well optimized. While this is a standard best practice, improvements to data feed quality will pay extra dividends in Q4. The feed should be regularly updated with daily or intraday refreshes. Proactively create merchant promotions and set sale prices with effective dates. Populate as many recommended product attributes as possible such as GTIN, MPN, Brand, size, color, and shipping cost.
The Cyber 5 is a time for fast reaction and immediate gratification, conversion numbers are usually highest during this time. However, all of the planning and insights that are recommended here will also set marketers up for long term success. The habits that consumers have formed in 2020 are not going to go away, and so learning as much as possible about them now will inform campaigns for 2021. Nimble paid search optimization now can be used for post-holiday analysis that can feed a robust organic search strategy, as well as improvements to an on-site search. And of course, the better that marketers do during Cyber 5, the more new customers they have to market to with loyalty, sales and other promotions to create long term value.