Agency holiday planning can sometimes be even more stressful than at a brand. After all, your clients are counting on your agency’s experience and skills to put together a winning strategy. With so much riding on Q4 for most retailers, agencies need to really make sure that they are pulling out all stops when crafting the end-of-the-season advertising portfolio.
Now that the first photos of kids heading back-to-school are popping up on social media, it’s time for retailers to start beginning the shift to holiday mode. Though Labor Day seems too soon to start rolling out holiday marketing, for agency practitioners it’s actually the perfect time to put the last touches on your Q4 media plan proposal for your clients to approve.
But, don’t wait too long! A recent study by Facebook proves the holiday season is getting longer. One in five consumers now actually begin their holiday shopping in October. But shoppers are also starting early and finishing late; the advent of 1-2 day shipping means the season starts before Halloween and lasts until a couple of days before Christmas. So even though it seems like forever between now and New Year’s, time is actually running out.
For retailers, a happy holiday season actually begins in the summertime. For results that top last year, make sure your calendar is booked up through January with a cohesive cross-channel holiday marketing strategy.
Here are our tips for agencies to make sure you put the very best ideas together for your clients’ 2019 end-of-the-year holiday shopping marketing plan.
Agency Holiday Planning Tip #1 – You might want to recommend more budget than you initially thought
It seems like every story about holiday ad spend promises that this year will be bigger than ever before. That’s because it’s usually true. In 2018, shoppers spent over $850 billion dollars over the course of the holiday season, up 5.1% from the previous year, according to Reuters. Online sales also set new records; they were up 16.5% for a total of $126 billion. As sales continue to soar year over year, the National Retail Federation reports that many retailers say Q4 accounts for as much as 30% of their annual sales.
And to keep pace with shoppers’ spending, your clients need to keep spending more this year. Last year’s Digital Advertising Trends report for the 2018 holiday season from Skai found that 46% of companies planned to increase spending for the holiday season from the previous year, while 46% remained the same.
But understanding where to place that ad spend is just as important as knowing how much to invest in holiday advertising. Our report also found that the three major areas of spending were Google Search, Facebook, and Instagram. The majority of respondents, 78%, said they would be running ads on Google Search for 2018 holiday season, while 72% said they would also be buying Facebook Ads. Perhaps surprisingly, Instagram came in third at 45%.
So, even though you are probably recommending that your clients spend more than last year, make sure you don’t shoot too low.
Agency Holiday Planning Tip #2 – Set a timer for search and social
When it comes to holiday advertising, timing is everything. If your client is looking for an SEO boost in time for the holidays, ClickZ’s Mike O’Brien says you should probably try to begin building up your clients’ audience pools in the early fall.
“Ideally, you should have worked on your segments through the fall so they’re ready by early November,” O’Brien writes.” If you haven’t already, update your website during the first two weeks of November to reflect your holiday deals so that search engines will have had a chance to index them by the week of Thanksgiving.”
You’ll probably need to plan your clients’ social campaigns to run at about the same time as your search ads, since, according to 2018 data, most marketers rely on social and search to work hand-in-hand since consumers increasingly shift across channels during holiday shopping.
As Chris Costello, Senior Director of Marketing Research at Skai noted in our 2018 report: “Search and social advertising are both aspiring to be full-funnel experiences, which means they are starting to overlap in form and function.”
Agency Holiday Planning Tip #3 – Be ready for the “Cyber 5”
The “Cyber 5” has come to refer to those major shopping days from Thanksgiving, November 28, through Cyber Monday, December 2.
Consumers generally hunt for deals in-store on Black Friday, which falls on November 29 this year and look for bargains online the following Monday. The weeks before the Cyber 5 are an important push to make sure that customers don’t forget about your brand on those all-important Thanksgiving weekend shopping days. So much so that our research found in 2018, marketers devoted 19% of their search budgets to Cyber 5 spending, though the days make up for just 9% of holiday shopping.
One of the best ways to prepare for this year’s Cyber 5 is to look at your client’s marketing performance from last year. Did they go big and win? Or did they go big and lose? Did they play it a bit too conservatively last year and watch as their competitors cashed in?
The Cyber 5 is a bit too important to leave to chance. You should have a very aggressive plan of action for your clients to maximize this incredibly important handful of days.
Agency Holiday Planning Tip #4 – Help your clients to think big, but stay on message
An excellent holiday campaign is one that appeals to both October shoppers and last-minute December shoppers alike, connecting experiences across search, social, and your client’s website for cohesive messaging that keeps customers up-to-date throughout the season.
However, when it comes to holiday advertising, simplicity is key.
A complex, labyrinthine holiday marketing campaign might seem completely doable in August, but come November, when the holidays actually roll around, you’re probably going to wish you’d stuck with messages that drive customers to your website or into your store. Look carefully at last year’s campaigns as if you were starting your holiday shopping right now (yours and your competitors’). Where did those campaigns succeed? Which areas could have been more cohesive.
So, even though you want to really blow your client away with some incredible thinking, you may need to pull back a bit on the final plan to ensure that you can feasibly get everything done flawlessly.
Agency Holiday Planning Tip #5 – Take cues from your client’s Prime Day wins and losses
If your client’s campaign around Amazon’s Prime Day was a winner—hopefully it was a success—then there might be some great insights there for holiday marketing. As we pointed out in our “Get Primed for Prime Day” white paper, Prime Day prep has a lot in common with holiday marketing, especially where your calendar is concerned.
Look back on your data around each stage of your Prime Day campaign. What channels and messaging drove conversions and CTR? Chances are, they’ll work for the holiday season as well. And if there were areas where you could have been stronger, that knowledge gives you a lot of knowledge about ways you might need to pivot in the weeks leading up to the Cyber 5.
On the other side of the coin, you can learn a lot from Prime Day misses too. Which products or deals didn’t seem to move the needle? Which channels didn’t drive the return you thought they would? There’s an old adage, “You either win or you learn.” Brand clients understand that not every campaign you run is going to be a winner, but they also have high expectations that their agencies will use those bumps and bruises to be more careful in the future.
As Prime Day gets bigger and bigger every year, the insights from July become more valuable for November and December.
Do you have the right agency technology in place for the holiday season? It’s getting close!
Marketing technology has become the X factor for advertisers throughout the year—but is even more important during these key Q4 months. The tools you use may absolutely be the competitive edge you need to drive the results that your brand clients need.
Does your current platform really set you up to handle all of your client’s campaigns? Does it have automation and machine learning to work 24/7 even when you’re not in the office to oversee and optimize your client’s advertising performance?
There’s still time to upgrade to Skai. If you have any concerns about your current tools, why not just schedule a quick demo to see how we can help with your Search, Social, and Amazon advertising programs.