Best Time For Holiday Ads? Now, Not Later

While marketers and retailers tend to heap on the holiday advertising as the end of November approaches, a new study shows that online shoppers are actually less receptive by then.

"Even though consumers tend to be more engaged as the fourth quarter progresses, the market is flooded, so they are less receptive to ads later on," Max Mead, VP/business development and analytics of PointRoll, which conducted the research, tells Marketing Daily.

On average, anywhere between 4 and 6% of online shoppers interacted with retail ads in the fourth quarter -- beginning in November at 6%, then drifting lower, with interaction rates hitting their lowest points in early December, most likely due to the heavy levels of online ads. In the final weeks of December, interaction rises to 5% again, he says.

And "brand time" -- the measurement of how long a consumer spends on the brand's ad once they mouse over it -- peaks in the first two weeks of November, averaging 18 seconds and falling throughout the remainder of the quarter, reaching a low of 14 seconds in the last week of December.

That ties in, he says, with the trend toward consumers shopping earlier to find better prices. People increasingly have their deal-finding antenna on when surfing the Web, even if they are not actively shopping, he says: "You're going to be impacted by messages and ads that caught your eye long before the actual time of purchase."

In its recent survey, the National Retail Federation reported that while the holiday season doesn't officially start until Nov. 1, and while it doesn't move into its highest gear until the Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving, more consumers are already planning ahead. About 37% say they will begin holiday shopping by Halloween. (Women are most likely to be early shoppers, at 42.1%, while young adults 18 to 24 are the least likely (27.7%.)

PointRoll, a digital marketing services and ad technology firm based in Conshohocken, Pa., based its research on billions of impressions of how consumers interacted with retailers' online ad campaigns in the fourth quarters from 2006 to 2009.

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