The surge in online shopping last year meant holiday shopping—and advertising—exploded, with early promotions and free shipping driving consumers to fulfill their wish lists online. Between November and December last year, online revenue rose 50% to $1.1 trillion.
As a result, the paid media landscape changed significantly. Facebook posted a 31% growth in advertising revenue in Q4 2020, with ad spend increasing across the Facebook suite of apps. On Instagram, ad spend was up 33% year over year, driving CPMs up by 10% from 2019. Google Ads (including search, display, and YouTube) also saw significant YoY Q4 increases, up 23%.
With holiday promotions starting earlier and earlier each year, our e-commerce clients are already beginning preparations for the shopping season. Now more than ever, though, Q4 is proving to be a hugely valuable time for B2B advertisers too.
In this post, PPC team lead Tim Johnson and I break down the steps your B2B business needs to refine your paid media strategy, stay competitive, and drive results during a holiday season typically dominated by B2C retailers.
Last Year’s B2B Holiday Shopping Trends
It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the retail industry. Mandated lockdowns and social distancing kept shoppers out of stores and pushed them online. In fact, a recent McKinsey study found that most product categories saw a 15 to 30% growth in online shopping.
These shopping trends had massive implications for B2B entities, too. Now, 70-80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service vs. in-person. As a result, digital transformation is more important than ever.
In order to keep up, B2B businesses invested heavily in their online presence last year, with more than half of marketing budgets being allocated to website development, and broader digital marketing efforts falling closely behind.
These trends show no sign of slowing down this year. Plus, when we weigh some of the updates to tracking that have impacted paid channels in 2021, there are new considerations that can influence marketing strategies moving into the holiday season.
Factors Affecting the 2021 Paid Media Landscape
The IDFA update that rolled up with the latest iteration of iOS14 in April has had big impacts on Facebook advertising in particular, but loss of tracking for users that opt out of the new framework has limited audience sizes and end-to-end visibility on LinkedIn, too. You’ve likely found remarketing audiences have been particularly affected—this is definitely something to keep in mind for upcoming holiday campaigns. Recycling old customer lists or custom audiences from last year may not yield the same reach in 2021.
It’s also important to remember that the holiday advertising timeline may look a bit different after last year. With 2020 holiday promotions beginning as early as October, we can expect advertisers to launch seasonal campaigns long before Black Friday rolls around.
What B2B Marketers Should Consider When Developing a Holiday Strategy
In order to stay competitive during the holiday season, here’s what you should keep in mind.
While most e-commerce advertisers are preparing to ramp up their spending in Q4, factors like buying habits have a big impact on end-of-year budgets for B2B brands.
This is a great time to reconsider your campaign strategy and goals. If seasonality impacts buying decisions for your target audience, traditional demand generation may not be the most effective or impactful campaign objective. Instead, shift budget and focus on acquiring new users at the top of the funnel or nurture existing prospects.
Landing Page Experience
With your campaign goal in mind, crafting a dedicated landing page for your campaigns specifically for the holiday season can help you retarget users down the line more effectively and increase conversion rates. If you’re unsure where to start, check out this blog post on conversion rate optimization for PPC landing pages.
Calls to Action
As you consider your goals and landing page experience, consider what you are offering to users. If your objective is lead generation (contact us form), consider shifting to offer something of value like a white paper or free download in exchange for an email address that you can use for future targeting. This type of self-sustaining content is helpful to a user. And if your content truly is useful, they will remember you later when you need them to.
Given the influx of competition across channels during the holiday season, ad copy and creative will be crucial factors within your control that can have an impact in the auction.
Take a look at creative performance from last year’s campaigns as well as more recent ads. Powering creative optimizations with your own data as well as best practices from Facebook and Google are the most effective guideposts for developing a holiday ad creative strategy.
Steps to Approach Your B2B Holiday Strategy
With user intent and consideration in mind, here’s how you can approach your B2B holiday strategy development from the ground up.
On social media, remember that impacts to tracking related to the most recent iOS14 update might mean previous targeting strategies could use a refresh. To expand your remarketing pools, think about incorporating intent signals like video view percentage, page engagers, and more.
In search, don’t rely on your same old high intent keywords. Look to great new audiences aimed at the top of the funnel, like custom intent and custom affinity audiences.
Mobile-first ad creative and landing pages are more important than ever. Make sure your ad experience considers users that are browsing on mobile devices, particularly during a season where consumers are generally away from their desktops!
Personalize your ad experience and drive consideration with ad formats like Conversation Ads on LinkedIn. These direct-response ads can be an effective way to drive users towards content like e-Books, whitepapers, and more.
We’ve found that many of our B2B clients’ budgets scale back at the end of the year in response to a slowdown in their sales pipeline. With this in mind, stretch your budget further in a highly saturated auction space by prioritizing top and mid-funnel objectives and targeting.
After the Holidays: Tips for Keeping Your Campaigns’ Momentum
As business gets back to normal following the holidays, don’t lose the momentum you are building. As budgets shift back towards lead generation, use your new audiences to drive early returns and get ahead of your projections.
Continue to engage your new users with more useful creative and content as you slowly work them through the marketing funnel. Create audiences that segment users based on their recent interactions and create a unified strategy across your advertising platforms.
If you have been able to grow your email list, update your customer lists on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Updated lists will perform better when looking to directly retarget or create lookalike/similar audiences to continue your prospecting strategy.
Analyze and Improve Ad Creative and Copy
Learn from your new creative messaging. Look closely at engagement metrics, user sentiment signals on social, and any A/B tests you had running. There may be learnings you can apply to your old lead generation efforts to improve them in the new year.
Make the Most of the Holidays
For some B2B brands, taking the holidays off seems like a safe decision, especially with all the COVID concerns out there. No matter what your industry though, there is always more we can do to learn and prepare for the future. These changes in online trends don’t appear to be going away soon, COVID or not. Taking a good look at your past holiday strategy and seeing how you can add in some of these tactics to prepare for a strong start to 2022 and beyond seems like the real safe decision.