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Steve Harris

Paid advertising tips for a strong Cyber Week

8th Nov 2019 Paid Search 9 minutes to read

Now that Halloween and Bonfire Night have been and gone for another year, we’re beginning to see Christmas adverts appear on our screens again. But before we get to the festive period, retailers must brace themselves for another record-breaking Cyber Week.

Cyber Week, which refers to the week leading up to Black Friday and lasts until the following Monday (Cyber Monday), is a time for retailers to launch deals just in time for savvy Christmas shoppers to grab a bargain. With its origins in the USA, this craze hit the mainstream with UK shoppers in 2014, when the deals were mainly released and snapped up all in one day (Black Friday). But in more recent years, we have seen deals happen earlier and earlier, expanding the event from the one day to a full week!

Search queries for the event grew by 15% YoY in 2018, with this growth driven by searches earlier on in the week, suggesting that user search habits are evolving and that they are bargain hunting earlier and earlier every year; even as far back as mid-October.

Retailers have adapted to this trend and thus have begun offering their deals earlier on in Cyber Week. It’s no surprise that Black Friday is still the most popular day of the Cyber Week period for consumer spending with £2.5bn spent on goods in 2018 and 39% of internet users purchasing at least one product, but it’s important, as marketers, we understand the trend of rising search volume throughout the week and adapt our approach accordingly.

We give you our top 5 tips to optimise your paid media accounts for this peak period, to ensure that you have the most successful Cyber Week in 2019.

1) Start Early – don’t wait for the day itself

As we mentioned in the intro, Black Friday deals have quickly developed into Cyber Week deals. Users are bargain hunting earlier and earlier every year and retailers are promoting offers well in advance of the big day.

Stats from UK Online Retail Association, IMRG state that YoY sales for electricals in 2018 were up 24% on the Monday before Black Friday, 16.5% on the Tuesday, 17% on the Wednesday, but saw just a 0.6% YoY increase on Black Friday. This data suggests that users are shopping earlier to get the best deals.

Retailers and advertisers shouldn’t wait for Black Friday alone and should actively look to start promotions and ‘ramp up’ advertising activity on the Monday before (at the latest). There is also evidence to suggest that generic keywords should be enabled as early as October. Google indicate that they see a higher proportion of traffic through generic Black Friday terms in late October and early November, suggesting that users are searching early for the types of deals that interest them.

This trend switches around two weeks before Cyber Week, where users, who have already researched their interests, are ready to search for specific brands. This combination of generic and branded search will ensure that your brand is visible to potential bargain hunters and won’t miss the boat on early searchers.

Summary

  • Offer early promotions to make the most of discount shoppers during Cyber Week
  • ‘Ramp up’ your advertising activity on the Monday before Black Friday (at the latest)
  • Start advertising Cyber Week specific generic keywords from late October to capture early searchers
  • Maintain high impression share on branded searches

2) Budgets – don’t get caught short

Cyber Week brings a large audience who are high intent and ready to purchase. This means that lots of retailers want to be in the space and are likely to push large budgets behind advertising during these times. With an increase in search volume and advertising competition, comes an increase in advertising spend.

We recommend forecasting for a 10% YoY increase in budgets based on the previous year’s Cyber Week data. This, of course, depends on promotions and how aggressive your brand intends to be over this period. Be sure to forecast for an early start to advertising activity, as mentioned in point 1.

It’s also vital to set up alerts and scripts to inform you of any campaigns that are nearing the end of their budget. The last thing that any advertiser wants is a top performing campaign running out of budget early in the day.

Summary

  • Forecast for an increase in budgets, ensuring clients know that spend will increase over this period
  • Ensure campaign budgets are increased, using last year’s data as a guide
  • Set up alerts and scripts so we don’t see campaigns hitting their spending limit

3) Bidding – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

As established in point 2, competition will be much more intense during and in the run up to Cyber Week. With this, we are highly likely to see an increase in CPCs as multiple advertisers compete for the top spots on the SERP. Therefore, it is important to use manual bidding and set bids higher than normal. As with our budgets, we’d look at last year’s data and set bids higher than what was needed during the previous Cyber Week.

We also highly recommend taking an export of the account before bids are increased. This will allow us to see our normal CPC level which can be returned to this after Cyber Week has passed to prevent us paying an overinflated CPC when we come out of the peak time.

As we recommend using manual bidding during Cyber Week, it is vital to pause any bid strategies that are in use. Bid strategies use machine learning and take signals from recent trends and activity to optimise our bids. As we see heightened volumes and competition during peak periods, bid strategies will be optimising towards what has happened and not what is happening right now. Therefore, to ensure exposure and visibility of our ads, it’s important to switch bid strategies off, two weeks before Cyber Week and switch to manual bidding.

An important consideration is to optimise our bids by device. Mobile searches for Black Friday deals have increased by 200% in the last two years and in 2018, nearly two out of three online sales during the holiday season were made on a smartphone. Therefore, it is recommended to ensure mobile bids are increased to capitalise on this.

Summary

  • Switch off bidding strategies
  • Use manual bidding for the duration of Cyber Week, using last year as a guide and set bids higher for this year
  • Download your account before making bid changes. It will be easier to revert after peak
  • Optimise your bids for mobile to capitalise on rising search and sales volume

4) Creative & Messaging – don’t get lost in the crowd

In a highly competitive landscape, with most (if not all) advertisers offering attractive promotions, it is important to stand out. Of course, there is only so much that we can say within our character limitations, but there are certain ways we can stand out from the crowd.

It goes without saying, that any promotions or offers should be communicated in your ad copy. It is important to plan this well in advance, ensuring promotions are signed off and dates confirmed. Upload your ads to the ad platform before the ‘go live’ date to ensure approval. This way, any disapproved ads can be amended before the promotion date.

These ads should be scheduled to run during the dates of the promotion. Doing this means you are well prepared for the live date and don’t have manually enable the ads on the day. It also prevents ads running longer than the promotion but be sure to switch back to your existing ad copy otherwise all ads will be paused and your campaigns won’t run.

Within your search ad copy, it is recommended to use ‘countdowns’. ‘Countdowns’ customise your ad to show how long is left of the promotion or offer, for instance ‘Hurry Only 2 Days Left!’. This can create a sense of urgency and entice users to purchase before the offer expires.

In addition to this, it is highly recommended to ensure any promotions are communicated in ad extensions. Sitelinks, callouts, price and promotion extensions are a great way of communicating the message and to take up more space on SERP.

If your activity comprises of Shopping Ads, it is important to apply merchant promotions to your ads. These show your promotion on your PLAs and are known to boost CTR and conversion rates.

Summary

  • Align your ads with your on-site messages and promotions
  • Plan your Cyber Week communications strategy, ensuring it is set up, approved and rules created for the correct dates
  • Schedule ads to run during promotional periods and pause as soon as it’s finished
  • Utilise countdown ads to create a sense of urgency
  • Utilise relevant ad extensions, including merchant promotions for PLAs

5) Develop a Cyber Week audience strategy

There is a great opportunity to target existing customers, using your first-party data during Cyber Week. It is best practice to segment this data in many ways, but the most effective way to use this is to segment it by recent purchasers and users who purchased during Cyber Week in the previous year.

These users are highly valuable and by layering this data on our campaigns, we can increase bids to reach these users and cut through the competitive space straight to the top of the results. Your first-party data is also likely to be used in any email marketing strategy too, so be sure to align your activity and messages. These users may be eligible for a bigger discount or early access to sales.

The same logic applies to our remarketing audiences, whereby we should be more aggressive with our bidding on basket abandoners and previous converters. As there’s a lot of comparison shopping during Cyber Week, it is always good to be more aggressive when bidding for users that have previously engaged.

By uploading first-party data and setting up remarketing audiences, we can find similar/lookalike audiences. These audiences are built off the back of our lists and find likeminded users with similar browsing habits and interests. This can be an invaluable tool over Cyber Week and open the door for new users to find your website and all it has to offer.

In recent years, search advertisers have been given much more audience data to use at their disposal, including in-market audiences. These audiences contain high-intent users who are in the market for a specific product or service.

This year, Google has indicated that there will be specific ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Christmas’ shopper segments, which include users who are actively shopping during these peak periods. We’d recommend layering these in-market segments on your campaigns to reach shoppers who are interested in purchasing relevant products.

Summary

  • Target first party data by uploading CRM data that has been segmented to include users who purchased last Cyber Week
  • Set up a range of remarketing lists – set aggressive bid modifiers for basket abandoners and previous converters
  • Harness similar and lookalike audiences to find new users who share interests and habits with those users that have already interacted with your brand
  • Utilise in-market audiences, particularly the seasonal ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Christmas’ segments

Conclusion

To conclude, Cyber Week 2019 is set to be the biggest yet. In order to make it the most successful one yet for your business, it is important to plan early. Confirm promotions and key messages and get the ads uploaded to the platform a few weeks before. Raise additional budgets and set higher bids during the period to ensure visibility and exposure. Create a plan of how to target previous customers and how to entice new users to your site to purchase.

And remember, users are searching for bargains earlier and earlier, so be sure to start your campaigns well in advance of Cyber Week!

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Steve Harris

Head of Paid Media

When Steve isn't at work, you'll find him playing the drums in an 80s covers band, or coaching an under-10s football team. He's discovered a love for DIY; and listens to an eclectic mix of music from KISS to Kendrick Lamar, Metallica to Migos.

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