How Agencies Can Deliver Performance Goals This Holiday Season

A pandemic isn’t going to stop holiday shopping

With the rise of COVID-19, everything shifted. People adapted how they shop, work, and learn, and businesses adjusted how they operate. Agencies also need to shift, as clients ask them to partner in new ways and continue to be thought leaders.

Agencies are taking on new client concerns, as well: Inventory and supply chain are now crucial considerations for their planning and strategy. Creative ideas that reflect the current reality are expected, and performance—ROAS or other commerce-related outcomes—is more important than ever heading into this unprecedented  Q4 holiday season.

What to Expect This Holiday Season

If summer sales are any indicator, the holiday season will be strong. According to a recent report by NPR, U.S. shoppers spent more in June 2020 than they did during the same month in 2019.

Similar to the rise of drive-through birthdays and Zoom weddings at the beginning of the pandemic, people will find ways to celebrate the holidays with loved ones whether they can be together in person or not. Based on Criteo data, here are  five key trends to pay attention to this holiday season:

1. Ecommerce will lead the way for holiday shopping. Criteo data shows that online retail keeps gaining momentum: Sales were 30% higher in the Americas during the two weeks from June 15-28, compared to a pre-pandemic average from Feb. 2-14.

2. Driving loyalty from new online shoppers will be a huge opportunity. According to our global consumer survey, conducted in May, 39% of U.S. consumers purchased from some online stores for the first time during the peak of Covid-19; 37% discovered direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands; and 33% discovered small merchants that they previously didn’t know about. Of these shoppers, 84% said they are likely to keep purchasing from these newly discovered stores.

3. Holiday wish lists will match lifestyles changes. In the same Criteo study, 55% of U.S. consumers said the crisis period was a good opportunity to make lifestyle changes. Specifically, Criteo data from 1,600 U.S. retailers shows that during the first three weeks of August, a variety of products spiked in sales. Americans flexed their creativity by purchasing art and crafting materials (+105%), tested their green thumbs by buying gardening tools (+208%), and secured toy kitchens and play foods (+93%) for their little ones.

4. The peak shopping season will begin earlier than ever. An autumn Amazon Prime Day could kick off a “big deals season,” putting Black Friday deal hunters in the mood to shop earlier than ever and smoothing out the sharp spikes not usually until late November.

5. Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday doorbusters will go virtual. Best Buy, Target and Walmart announced their stores will be closed on Thanksgiving, breaking a tradition of doorbuster deals that attract huge crowds. It’s likely that other retailers and brands will follow suit, and in-store promotions will be replaced with online discounts that span a longer period.

3 Performance-Driving Strategies

With an increased focus on clear return from their clients, agencies need to find ways to infuse performance DNA in their strategies, regardless of marketing channel or stage of the funnel. Here are three clear ways to deliver performance for holiday success:

1. Target the most valuable audiences. To spend their clients’ holiday budget efficiently, agencies need to start by reaching audiences who are most likely to buy their clients’ products or services. Using both their clients’ first-party data and audience data from tech partners, agencies should 1) drive interest from new audiences shopping for items like their clients’; 2) drive interest from new audiences that look like their clients’ best customers; and 3) re-engage their clients’ customers and drive sales online, in-app, or in-store.

2. Use shopping intent data to connect dots across all channels. With many large retailers already announcing the closure of  their brick-and-mortar stores for Thanksgiving Day, it’s more important than ever that you have a strategy to drive customers online during Cyber 6. Shopping intent data allows you to target consumers based on their actual shopping behaviors, rather than assumptions. Agencies need to use intent data so they can see real customer journeys and purchase intent, and drive results across every channel where their clients’ customers shop: websites, apps and stores.

3. Be aware of the emotional context of their client’s ads. These are hard times, and it can be damaging for the wrong message to end up in the wrong place. Agencies need to think about their client’s target audience and how their lifestyles have changed. Ads should include the ways brands and retailers are helping consumers stay safe, such as free and contactless delivery and community donations. The ads also can spark ideas for new at-home activities, such as crafting, organizing or learning new skills. This builds consumer trust and brand transparency.

Planning for these upcoming trends, incorporating fresh strategies and selecting a strong partner can help agencies outpace the performance expected by their clients this holiday season and into 2021. When implemented successfully, agencies can look forward to an exceptional holiday season.

A former agency account and new business executive, Larson Banilower transitioned to agency partnerships for marketing and media technology companies. Larson helps agency partners grow more impactful relationships with their clients. In his current role as head of agency, Larson leads the vision and go-to-market strategy for Criteo’s newly formed Agency Team, which is dedicated to all agencies across North America.