Study: Holiday shopping ads on Facebook should start well before December

By Justin Lafferty Comment


People say that the holiday shopping season starts earlier every year. Retail brands on Facebook should take note.

New data from Facebook Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer Marin Software shows that while brands traditionally go heavy on advertising in December, the most ROI-friendly activity happens two weeks before Thanksgiving — when people click on more Facebook ads.

Marin Software published a report outlining best practices this holiday season for Facebook advertisers: budget around user behavior, start early and sequence ad messaging, target based on intent and making sure ad campaigns are mobile-ready.

Marin’s Director of Product Marketing, Dan Morris, talked with Inside Facebook about strategies for the holiday season:

Advertisers are betting big in December. They’re investing heavily in advertising mid-December through Christmas. However, Facebook consumers may not be using Facebook to interact with ads during that same time period. We made the joke internally that, go figure, maybe Facebook users, instead of clicking on ads, they want to be sitting down and talking with friends and family. Consumers are starting to begin their shopping earlier and earlier every year.

Here’s a look at ad spend charts on Facebook for the past two holiday seasons:

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 6.09.51 AMAnd now here’s a look at ad clickthrough rate in the 2012 holiday season:

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 6.09.58 AMMarin’s data shows that brands have been buying Facebook ads when CTR has usually been the lowest. The study suggests that marketers start their holiday ad campaigns roughly two weeks before Thanksgiving with top-of-the-funnel holiday shopping messaging, bringing awareness to top products. Marin cited a study Google conducted, showing that 30 percent of consumers will start shopping before Halloween.

Brands should also go heavy on advertising right after New Year’s Day, Marin suggests, when consumers have gift cards and are looking to spend holiday cash.

By starting earlier than the competition, Marin suggests that brands can sequence their holiday ad messages to lead consumers down the funnel.

The study also pointed out the power of retargeting, noting that an average of 98 percent of shopping website traffic doesn’t convert on the first visit. Marin says that brands should use several targeting measures, such as search intent-based targeting, behavioral targeting, demographic-based targeting and CRM-based targeting.

Marin’s study explained how demographic-based targeting can help with holiday shopping advertising:

From an advertising standpoint Facebook is considered to be one of the most effective channels for reaching users based on demographic characteristics like age, gender, education, income and interests. However, advertisers many times base their demographic targeting on Facebook on assumptions about their target rather than real buyer data. As a first step, retail advertisers should mine their customer databases and determine the demographic characteristics of last year’s holiday buyers. Use this information as a starting point for building out your campaigns. In addition, retailers can use DMP’s like BlueKai and Aggregate Knowledge to determine high LTV audiences based on data that goes outside of Facebook’s “walled garden” of Facebook-only data.

Lastly, marketers should embrace mobile this holiday season. According to Deloitte, 68 percent of shoppers were forecasted to use their smartphones during the holiday season (and 63 percent of tablet owners said likewise). As evidenced by the re-launch of Atlas, Facebook is becoming more and more powerful in terms of cross-device advertising.

Marin’s study recommends that brands use call to action buttons, deep linking and high-quality video to their advantage. Additionally, as images are always at a premium in Facebook’s News Feed, Marin noted that brands should avoid stock images in favor of more native pictures.

Morris talked with Inside Facebook about the mobile holiday push:

When you’re thinking about your Facebook campaign or your search campaign or your cross-channel campaign, think of mobile as a starting point. Make sure that you’re not looking at mobile in just a silo. If you’re getting a lot of clicks and a lot of CTR, awesome, but if your conversion rate is wrong, some narrow-minded advertisers might say, “Jeez, I’m going to take money away from mobile.” The same person, especially through Facebook, would be retargeted across devices now. Through the Website Custom Audiences pixel, you can actually target users who have come to your website through a Facebook ad on mobile, and retarget the same person on desktop when they’re ready to buy.

Click here to see the full report.

Readers: If you’re an advertiser, do you plan to start holiday campaigns earlier than last year?

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.