By Sameer Sondhi, Chief Business Officer at Verve Group
Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are fast approaching, with advertisers worldwide preparing to ring in a holiday season like no other. The global pandemic has resulted in a drastic shift for the entire ad industry, with advertisers adapting their marketing strategies in response to changes in mobile consumer behavior, including accelerated smartphone usage. With all of these trends in play, here’s what U.S. advertisers can expect from the mobile ad economy this holiday season.
Mobile Holiday Shopping Trends in 2020
During last year’s U.S. holiday season, one-third of purchases were generated on smartphones. This year, 37 percent of adults say they are more interested in mobile holiday shopping than the year before. This increase reflects how COVID-19 has fundamentally altered mobile shopping behavior in 2020.
Another noteworthy 2020 trend is the increase in the amount of time users are spending on mobile overall. In 2020, eMarketer estimates that U.S. adults will spend an average of 4 hours, 1 minute on mobile internet each day, with 3 hours and 35 minutes of that time being spent on mobile apps. That mobile app time figure is up by 25 minutes from 2019, due in large part to the pandemic.
Over the last year, consumers have also been fast to adopt new retail options such as buy online, pickup in-store, and curbside pickup — and mobile devices are playing a key role in these new fulfillment behaviors. eMarketer previously forecasted that click-and-collect ecommerce sales in the U.S. would increase by 39 percent this year, but the organization has since revised this 2020 prediction to reflect a 60 percent increase due to COVID-related shifts in consumers’ shopping habits.
Meanwhile, despite the surge in ecommerce, awareness and support of local businesses has increased in the pandemic as well, with Google searches for “available near me” growing globally by more than 100 percent since last year. Overall, brick-and-mortar stores will still play a role in this year’s holiday commerce. In fact, only 7 percent of people say that they do not plan to shop in-store at all, with 34 percent of consumers planning to visit five or more stores this year during their holiday shopping.
Interestingly, even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain top shopping days in the U.S. holiday season, 61 percent of online consumers are still purchasing gifts after December 18. In the pre-Christmas crunch, this category of late holiday shoppers should not be overlooked by advertisers, especially when it comes to reaching them on their mobile devices.
Turning Mobile Trends into Mobile Ad Strategies
By tracking consumers’ mobile shopping shifts in 2020 and overlaying those trends with known ad spending patterns, we’ve uncovered areas of opportunity for this year’s holiday advertisers.
Based on 2019 data from Verve Group’s brand performance ad platform, it’s clear that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the uncontested peak days for mobile shopping in the U.S. during the pre-Christmas season. As such, we see that reflected in ad spending. In 2019, ad spend for casual, action, and role-playing games was 70 percent higher on Black Friday than the average daily spend during the whole month of December for these categories. On Cyber Monday, the highest ad spend recorded in 2019 was for the shopping app category, with a focus on consumer electronics.
With both Black Friday and Cyber Monday representing strong days for advertising campaigns in terms of ad spend, eCPM values also reached a seasonal high on these days on our platform. However, we observed that average eCPM prices in the month of December were 33 percent lower in 2019 when compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Meanwhile, ad requests were 22 percent higher — meaning users were on their mobile devices far more often during days in December than the two big shopping holidays. This is a massive opportunity for advertisers. Given the high percentage of consumers who still shop in December (especially after December 18), advertisers can land top inventory for lower eCPMs by allocating budget across all of December, rather than just on peak shopping days such as Black Friday.
In addition to capitalizing on premium inventory at lower prices, holiday advertisers should lean into advanced mobile targeting and attribution opportunities this year. To combine mobile and brick-and-mortar advertising campaigns this season, advertisers will need to tap into sophisticated location-based targeting options. Brands can target holiday shoppers based on previous shopping behaviors and segment by geography, contextual data, and other custom requirements within mobile environments. By monitoring results closely, advertisers can react quickly to changing consumer behaviors or shifting campaign budgets.
As with the rest of 2020, this holiday shopping season promises to be unique — both in terms of shopping behaviors and the types of consumer purchases being made. But make no mistake: Consumers are ready to spend this holiday season. The challenge for today’s marketers is to meet them in the mobile environments to which they’ve migrated and with the offers that will resonate this season.