By Paul Wright, MD for UK, FE, ME & Turkey
The past year has been a year unlike any other, but the familiar rhythms of the calendar have persisted for the world of eCommerce despite the unprecedented conditions driven by the coronavirus pandemic. The retail sales season will soon be upon us, starting with back-to-school sales next month through to retail’s most significant sales event – Black Friday. These next few months are a critical time for retailers to engage and convert loyal customers beyond this holiday season alone, but they must start preparing now.
Black Friday especially has become increasingly lucrative for retailers, leading to a huge increase in revenue; and is now considered to be the peak of the Golden Quarter for mobile shopping apps, surpassing pre-Christmas December sales. Last year’s Black Friday was particularly rewarding for retail marketers, as the sales event shattered records for app engagement. The UK saw huge upticks in revenue as shoppers flocked to retail apps amid government-imposed lockdowns, which saw brick-and-mortar stores closed over November’s retail peak. Digital retail came to fill the void as consumers turned to their mobiles for Black Friday shopping in droves, leading mobile commerce advertisers to see almost double (98%) the in-app revenue compared to the year prior.
Black Friday itself is now an event that stretches far beyond a single day, with many retailers offering deals far in advance of that final Friday in November. With research from eBay Ads showing a quarter of UK shoppers think about Christmas shopping before the end of August, and two-fifths (41%) noting they’ll have finished their gift buying by the end of November, it’s crucial for retailers to reach shoppers early. The majority of retailers begin planning their Christmas marketing campaigns in the summer, so they are ready to roll out campaigns ahead of the Golden Quarter. Though Christmas might seem a long way off, retailers risk missing a golden opportunity if they do not begin planning their mobile marketing strategy ahead of the retail peak.
Black Friday is a critical time for retailers
With last year’s Golden Quarter seeing shoppers embrace mobile commerce more than ever before, retail marketers need to refine their mobile marketing strategy now, if they are to reap similar rewards in 2021. Black Friday is a prime opportunity for retailers to bank up their revenues in the run-up to Christmas, with last year seeing in-app purchase revenue average 50% higher than the previous month. By refining and carefully planning their mobile marketing strategy well in advance of this retail peak, retailers can set themselves up better for the holiday season.
The careful allocation of marketing spend is crucial in the lead-up to the retail peak, and a crucial component to any effective mobile commerce campaign will be user acquisition. By focusing spend on acquiring users in the months leading up to Black Friday, retail marketers can have as large an audience of app users as possible ahead of the event. The fact that Black Friday sales often begin weeks earlier will also play a part here, with user acquisition aimed at getting the maximum return on investment over a longer period of time.
Driving customer loyalty ahead of the retail peak
The holiday period is, of course, a highly competitive space for retail marketers and the increased media cost means that marketers have a greater than ever need to leverage data to ensure high-quality returns through smart targeting. 2020 saw app marketers up their targeting budgets to try and capitalise ahead of Black Friday, leading to a 23% increase in non-organic installs and 21% increase in remarketing conversions across the retail sales peak, with more marketing effort focused on re-engaging existing users on Black Friday.
This is all the more crucial this year, in the aftermath of Apple’s iOS 14 update, which has changed the landscape for mobile advertisers with its wide sweeping privacy changes. This in turn has made it much harder for advertisers to target users ahead of the retail peak, as they did in previous years. If marketers are to re-engage these shoppers this year, they need to adopt a privacy-first retargeting strategy to drive customer retention.
By using data to inform and improve the in-app shopping experience in real-time, retailers can tailor their mobile marketing strategy for each individual user. Offering highly targeted ads and marketing in the months preceding the sales peak will enable retailers to stand a better chance at standing out from competitors and driving higher revenues once the holiday season rolls around. Marketers should also consider deploying these strategies on Black Friday itself, as it is likely to be lower-cost and therefore deliver a greater return on advertising spend (ROAS) than user acquisition. This will require careful planning ahead of the event, to ensure mobile marketing budgets are allocated in the most financially rewarding places.
Retailers have a golden opportunity
There is plenty of encouragement here to expect a strong digital retail performance heading into this year’s holiday season. Based on the previous Black Friday, and the COVID effect, we can foresee installs and revenue taking significant leaps during this year’s Black Friday. However, we shouldn’t overlook the negative impact the pandemic has had on many people’s livelihoods. Though the economy is beginning to recover, the average spend per consumer might not see much change year-to-year.
At the same time, there may be a greater desire for gift-buying after a disappointing Christmas in 2020, with research suggesting around a third (30%) of shoppers are planning to spend more on celebrations and presents this year. Most indicators suggest that 2021 will continue the trend of a retail sales peak, and could even greatly accelerate it. Indeed, the eCommerce performance from earlier this year shows that shoppers are installing and using retail apps more than ever – and spending more within them. In this way, it’s a crucial time to drive long-term engagement and loyalty among customers.
If retailers are to truly capitalise on this golden opportunity, they need to start planning their mobile marketing strategy for the holiday season now – well ahead of the retail peak.