How Digital Channels Performed During The Holiday Rush

DigitalSalesDriveBlack Friday came and went and while the results were mixed (The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated an 11% drop in combined online and in-store retail sales), digital seems to be the bright spot.

ComScore, for instance, found $26.7 billion was spent online in the month of November, a 16% increase from last year while Adobe’s Digital Index clocked Cyber Monday online sales totals at $2.65 billion. Cantor Fitzgerald Equity Research noted that the digital components of omnichannel retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy performed well, with year-over-year growth of 54.4%, citing Channel Advisor percentages.

Here’s how the first mega-spending weekend played out for digital advertisers.

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With yet another truncated holiday shopping season (there are only 28 days that fall between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, as opposed to 33 in 2012), marketers upped the ante on bidding strategies.

According to Andrew Casale, VP of strategy at Casale Media, the real winner this Black Friday weekend was bidding that took place on Cyber Monday, coming in at “15% more overall demand/spend than we observed from already elevated Black Friday figures.”

Bids per impression were 42.9% higher than the Q3 average this Black Friday, and the average clear price was 33.3% higher than the Q3 average.

Retail spent the most and Casale said Target, Gap, Best Buy and Walmart were the top spending brands during the initial holiday spending period.

Social Payday

Facebook drove on average $124.44 per referral to retailers compared to Pinterest’s average of $98.62 per order, according to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark. Additionally, paid search and social platform Kenshoo found that in spite of a 7X CPM increase year-over-year in Facebook Marketplace ads, click-through-rates increased by 5.2X while ROI grew five times.

FBX also performed well. “While overall performance increases throughout the month of November were staggering, the same metrics were even more compelling this year on Cyber Monday,” noted Kenshoo marketing research analyst Laura Ruszkowski. FBX CPMs increased 3X year-over-year and CPMs for marketplace ads increased 10X. Both drove 5X ROI.

Social ads platform Nanigans saw similar traction. Retailers using Nanigans to buy Facebook ads experienced a 36% increase in click-through rates on Black Friday vs. earlier that week, according to Nanigans.

Mobile Browsing, Not Buying

Monetate tracked about 40 million desktop and mobile Black Friday sessions and found that while mobile sales accounted for 26.7% of total online sales (13% increase YOY), the smartphone conversion rate was down 20.8% YOY. This indicates that mobile traffic is up but sales are not following.

“Q4 is a huge deal for us from a client standpoint,” said Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Monetate. “The biggest thing we’re seeing this year is increased mobile activity whether it’s responsive or apps. We’ve seen is lots of shopping happening through mobile, but not as much in terms of conversion.”

Similarly, Rakuten Marketing found that while mobile accounted for 36% of traffic on Cyber Monday, the channel only contributed to 22% of revenue.

This could stem from an inability to measure fully the path-to-purchase.

“There are different multi-device and point of sale behaviors where consumers are doing research on their laptop, iPad or phone and then looking in-store and converting online, so that’s one thing we’re focused on here,” said Amy Zahller, director of media buying and analytics at Rakuten Display. “We’re getting that in-store purchase data matching across all of the channels and [determining where the] users we’re reaching [are] finding influence.”

Despite some of the challenges retailers have attributing mobile ROI, they’re still investing in the channel. Location-based mobile ad platform Spotzot, for instance, found that out of a sample of 10 retail brands, there was a 5x increase in mobile offers presented this November than last. Many retailers, according to company CEO Pehr Leudtke, pushed mobile coupons earlier in the month to drive up foot traffic in-store.


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