In 2016 we ran a range of Black Friday PPC campaigns for an online clothing client. By planning our international PPC strategy and identifying opportunities from the previous year, we were able to see a surge in sales, at a more profitable rate than in 2015.
Black Friday has been marked in shoppers’ calendars for years in the USA and Canada. However, it is now a well established, powerful force for e-commerce businesses in the UK. Changes in buyer behaviour for a large percentage of Christmas shoppers has led to businesses completely rethinking their marketing strategies in order to accommodate the Black Friday weekend. Not only have we seen the introduction of the event, but we’ve also seen a significant shift in how the public purchase items during it. Traditionally, people raced to the high street to grab deals. However, over the last two years, growth in online sales has exceeded what’s been seen in stores. Why? Well, it could partially be down to the fear of being trampled in an Asda doorway like we saw in 2014!
As positive as Black Friday can be for sales, it can be quite a risky time for businesses as well.
PCA Predict has published an impressive set of Black Friday 2016 statistics. They found that transactions on Black Friday 2016 were up just 6.7% on 2015, compared to an increase of 31% between 2014 and 2015. Overall, the stats reflect the growing influence of online during the Black Friday weekend.
Black Friday case study
I’d like to share with you the details of one of our clients, who are a clothing retailer that trades solely online. Black Friday is their busiest sales weekend of the year, so capitalising on all available opportunities is vital.
In 2015, this retailer saw sales increase over the Black Friday weekend. However, advertising costs saw a sharp rise too.
With a return on investment (ROI) of 3:1 on their advertising spend during the four days of the Black Friday weekend, we reviewed what paid activity had been conducted, on what networks and which targeting had been applied. It was clear upon review that a number of opportunities were missed.
Our online advertising approach
The first opportunity we identified was to use the advertising networks to target not only a UK audience, but also international audiences that were aware of the Black Friday phenomenon. During the weekend, we developed international campaigns on both Google’s search and display networks, as well as the fashion feed, Polyvore, to address international territories.
On a national level, we used new networks where we knew our target audience would be. Social media platforms were some of the additional channels used. When reviewing existing activity on Google networks, we studied trends from the previous year to see how users behaved online throughout the Black Friday weekend. What we found was the shopping cycle and demand for sale items started on the Thursday before. Our strategy was to launch our offers ahead of the client’s competitors on the Thursday, which led to a spike in sales. This move was made with the objective of capturing relevant, new traffic which may have been missed out on previously. Our philosophy was if shoppers expect to see offers early, then we should be meeting those expectations.
Another insight gained from the previous year’s activity was the lost impression share that was recorded during the weekend. Quite simply, advertisements were not being displayed for relevant searches due to insufficient budget, or bids that were too low. A key strategy was to make adjustments to the budget or bids, in order to address the increased search demand. After studying the volumes, we established budgets and bid adjustments for the weekend so we weren’t missing out on as much of the impression share, whilst still remaining profitable.
The client’s approach
A great campaign isn’t just about driving traffic: it’s also about fulfillment and meeting customer expectations for delivery.
Over the 12 months leading up to Black Friday 2016, our research indicated that stock levels were an issue that affected potential growth in sales.
An increase in digital spend would lead to more sales, and it stands to follow that stock levels would have to be scaled to cope with demand. This was their focus, and this issue was addressed ahead of Black Friday and was a key part of the success of the campaign.
Whilst many retailers are finding Black Friday revenue growth either slowing down or plateauing, our campaign delivered much higher growth than the UK average.
The international campaign delivered dramatic growth year-on-year, nearly doubling over the course of the weekend:
- Weekend’s Overall Global Revenue: +89.6% vs 2015
- Black Friday Global Revenue: +89.5% vs 2015
- Cyber Monday Global Revenue: +81.5% vs 2015
The UK campaign showed significant improvements as well, although not as dramatic as the overall global results:
- Weekend’s Overall UK Revenue: +56.6% vs 2015
- Black Friday UK Revenue: +45.4% vs 2015
- Cyber Monday UK Revenue: +112.1% vs 2015
- Examine international territories for the Black Friday weekend, as it could lead to more fruitful opportunities being identified.
- Ensure all stock levels and product offerings are appropriate for the demand over the Black Friday weekend, otherwise sales opportunities will be missed, which could lead to dissatisfied customers.
- Review trends from previous years and changes in the buying habits/cycles of users to identify sales opportunities.
- Pre-plan your PPC strategy well in advance of the Black Friday weekend to ensure your activity can adapt to the changing market demands. As markets get more competitive, you’re in danger of losing out on impression share. Some of the precautions you may choose to take include increasing budgets, changing bidding strategies, and editing the target CPA/CPC.