Holiday Shopping Starts Early -- Marketers Revamp Ad Targets

Holiday ad campaigns might have to start much earlier than they traditionally do to reach consumers during the decision-making process, notes programmatic ad tech firm Rocket Fuel.

Rocket Fuel’s 2015 Holiday Shopping Study found that shoppers who plan in the long term spend more than three times as much as last-minute shoppers. Advertisers trying to reach customers on Black Friday could be wasting 45% of their budgets on people who have already made a decision.

Robert Jones, director-research and insights, Rocket Fuel, said there’s an opportunity coming into Black Friday to think about different types of consumers using data points. With a more sophisticated targeting solution and an approach that weeds out consumers who’ve already made up their mind, campaigns will be more efficient, he added.

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“It is completely possible to track what people have done down the line,” Jones said. Retailers can control the holiday shopping journey, he added, if they consider each consumer on a one-to-one basis.

The survey identified different types of holiday shoppers: “pouncers,” or those who typically wait until the week (or day) of Black Friday or Cyber Monday to start planning purchases; “planners,” or those who plan one to two months ahead; and “prognosticators,” or those overachievers who start planning three or more months ahead. 

So what does all this mean to marketers who are advertising promotions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Advertisers gearing up for the holiday season need to consider when to introduce a product and what data they’re using to target. Jones said one of the biggest challenges is cookie lifespans. Cookies typically don’t last from July to December, so marketers need to use non-cookie-based data, like loyalty data, to get messaging out to consumers in late July. That way, they can sow the seed for holiday shopping decisions down the line.

Other interesting data points include:

  • Marital status, children and household income did not appear to impact when a consumer starts planning his or her holiday shopping.
  • The survey showed 32% of Cyber Monday shoppers knew what they wanted to buy -- but not where they wanted to buy it.
  • The No. 1 source “planners” rely on to stay informed about holiday deals and promotions are retailer sites.

The survey, conducted last month, included 600 respondents ages 18+.

This year, holiday spending is expected to rise 3.7% to $630 billion, according to a forecast from the National Retail Federation. The NRF also forecast that holiday sales are expected to represent about 19% of the retail industry's annual sales of $3.2 trillion.

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