Marketers, get ready for the most complicated holiday season ever

November 9, 2015 06:00 AM

This will likely be the most complicated holiday season yet for marketers. 59% of consumers plan to shop differently than they did a year ago, according to Facebook research released today, including 40% who say they plan to shop more online this year.

The research also finds 53% of consumers plan to shop across multiple channels and 37% plan to do most of their holiday shopping before Black Friday.

As the holiday shopping season changes, retail brands such as Macy’s Inc. and American Girl LLC are spreading out Facebook spending during the holidays, including starting their campaigns earlier than in years past. That’s a marked shift for Macy’s, No. 7 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, which last year kicked off its holiday-focused Facebook ad campaign on Thanksgiving Day by presenting every woman in the United States 21 or older with a video ad that sought to capture the “magic and spirit” of the retailer’s holiday promotions. American Girl is No. 129.

To account for the rapidly evolving shopping landscape, Facebook has spent the past year developing tools and ad formats that let retailers market to shoppers throughout each step of the buying process—from discovering and researching a brand or product to completing a purchase, Nicolas Franchet, the social network’s head of retail, e-commerce, global vertical marketing, tells Internet Retailer.

“We’ve been busy building more tools to help brands pivot to mobile,” he says. “We’re in a mobile-driven world. Consumers are looking to their mobile devices throughout every step of the buying process.”

With those tools, more retailers are using what Franchet calls a “full funnel” marketing strategy on Facebook that presents shoppers with different types of ads as they move through the shopping process.

As an example of one such effort, he points to a campaign that Lands’ End ran over the summer in which it sought to drive e-commerce sales among  women ages 18 to 65 who had never bought from the brand before.

The retailer placed a conversion-tracking pixel on its checkout page to track the shoppers who bought from the brand. Using Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool, which lets advertisers use non-Facebook information, it found those shoppers on Facebook. It then used the social network’s Lookalike Audiences tool to find consumers who share similar traits and characteristics to its Custom Audiences group. It then targeted those prospects with what Facebook calls carousel ads in their desktop and mobile news feeds that featured five product photos organized around a theme, such as “seaside style.” Carousel ads feature a Shop Now button that, when clicked, take a consumer to a product page on a retailer’s site or app.

The carousel ads, Franchet says, helped introduce consumers to the brand.

When a shopper clicked on one of those ads and landed on  the retailer’s site, Lands’ End followed up with more specific ads tailored to the shoppers’ apparent interests. The campaign helped boost new website visits by 35.1% and increased sales 4.4% compared to the same period a year earlier.

More retailers will roll out similar campaigns this holiday season, he says. They may start with carousel ads or Facebook’s video ads to help shoppers learn about their brands. From there, when consumers interact with the ads, retailers can follow up with Facebook’s “dynamic product ads,” which let retailers and other advertisers serve ads to consumers who visited their site or app. Those ads let marketers cross-sell and upsell related products. For example, if a shopper buys a bike on a retailer’s site, the merchant can show him ads featuring complementary items, like bike helmets and baskets.

Retailers also will increasingly target consumers across both Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram, where they can run carousel ads, as well as many other Facebook ad units, Franchet says.

Ad units that focus on bold visual images are important because consumers increasingly  interact with images on the social network—and on Instagram. The Facebook research shows that consumers share 28% more photos and videos from their mobile devices during the holiday season.

“Visuals really capture consumers’ attention,” says Ann Mack, head of content and activation, global consumer insights at Facebook. “Marketers can use the same types of images to draw attention to their products.”

Facebook has spent more than year testing various iterations of Buy buttons that let shoppers buy directly on the social network, a Shopping section on its app, as well a new ad system geared toward helping consumers browse retailers’ products. However, those efforts aren’t likely to drive many sales this holiday season, Franchet says. “All these things are not ready for prime time,” he says. Even without them, retailers have plenty of available tools to use this holiday season, he adds.




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