Retail Is Changing

December 8, 2020

By James Malins


Like everyone else, the thing advertisers want most this holiday season is certainty.

Unfortunately, we can’t add certainty to our online shopping carts. But what we learn from this holiday season and how we contextualize those learnings within historic trends will tell us a lot about the future.


Commerce Is E-commerce, but Certain Categories Are Up for Grabs

For more than a decade, e-commerce has grown year-over-year — a trend that accelerated during the pandemic. According to eMarketer data, 71 percent of Americans said they plan to do more than half of their holiday shopping online this year. What’s less clear is how some traditional gift categories will fare?

It’s also important to remember that there are bright spots. Gift cards, which made up half of all gifts last year, may become more popular with consumers continuing to practice social distancing. Remember, gift cards can be end-to-end digital products, making them ideal for last-minute shoppers who don’t want to take the chance of shipping delays.

Here’s another bright spot. We saw health-related gifts skew dramatically higher for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. That suggests there’s an opportunity for some advertisers to leverage a vertical that isn’t traditionally associated with the holidays. If advertisers do see a boost in holiday demand for health-related gifts, they should investigate the likelihood of that trend continuing into 2021. After all, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a reset around health in the second year of a pandemic.


‘Tis a Four-Part Holiday Shopping Season

Historically holiday shoppers break down into four cohorts: early shoppers who start October 1, early mainstay shoppers who show up and plan between November 1 and Black Friday, Black Friday & core mainstay shoppers and last-minute shoppers. Traditionally, advertisers focus on Black Friday & core mainstay shoppers, but this year major retailers remained closed for Black Friday.

In a sense, the shift away from Black Friday helps advertisers stay flexible by allowing them to reallocate around all four cohorts. Within that reallocation, advertisers have an opportunity to focus on specific audience segments through targeting and custom creative. Advertisers can allocate budgets proportionally across the four cohorts and drive down to more granular segments based on consumer demographics and product category. That more granular approach will payoff throughout 2021 because it aligns with the overall trend toward audience-based marketing.


Attention Holiday Shoppers: It’s an Omnichannel World

Traditionally, holiday shoppers buy gifts for others and skew female. Homemakers, corporate execs, and affluent boomers are all major gift-givers. In all likelihood, the same types of consumers will over-index on gift-giving this year too. But where are these audiences found?

Turns out, the media consumption of gift-givers is very similar to the general population and equally fragmented. To reach these audiences, advertisers need a coordinated omnichannel strategy that controls for reach and frequency across traditional linear and digital channels. But an omnichannel strategy, even during the holiday season, isn’t necessarily more expensive.

Budget-conscious advertisers can broaden the definition of “holiday” content. By way of example, “baking” and “Mariah Carey” are two of the top three holiday-adjacent content categories. Depending on the advertiser, there may be more holiday-adjacent categories to leverage. At the same time, advertisers can find efficiencies by reaching shopper audiences outside non-holiday content such as the news, personal finance, and family categories — each of which saw CPMs drop during the holidays last year.

But don’t think of context as unique to the holiday season. Increasingly, advertisers are thinking of context as critical to solving for a post-cookie world. At the very least, this holiday season is an opportunity to build new capabilities around audience targeting. That challenge is a gift that will pay dividends in the new year and beyond.

James Malins is general manager of cross-channel strategic solutions at Amobee.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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