The Advertiser’s Go-To Guide for Holiday Marketing in 2021

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Holiday marketing “sleighs” but once a year. And each time, it may feel like you need to reinvent the wheel and pull out all the stops in order to get customers to feel your Christmas cheer. But really, all you need is the right data to help you understand just what audiences want to see — and the right tools to help you reach them.

Especially for brands in popular holiday shopping verticals like beauty, fashion, health & fitness, home, and tech, competition ramps up during the holiday season. On the merry side, that also means there’s a major opportunity to break through the noise, grab people’s attention, and build those valuable customer relationships.

To help you do just that, we’ll break down exactly what you need to know to make this year’s holiday advertising a success, including:

  • A Look Back at Last Year’s Trends
  • This Season’s Market Opportunity
  • Current News Verticals Generating Engagement
  • Examples of Publishers Doing It Right
  • Tips for Driving E-Commerce Purchases
  • Best Practices for Audience Targeting
  • Creative Strategies to Increase CTR
  • Inspiring Case Studies

Let’s get started.

It’s no secret that 2020 was a year unlike any other and, unsurprisingly, its holiday season unearthed some pretty interesting advertising trends like:

  • Images with animals, no text, and people drove more clicks.
  • Videos with illustrations, winter landscapes, and men saw high completion rates.
  • Keywords like “photo,” “remember,” and “lives” generated engagement while “game,” “insurance,” and “business” were crowded by competition.
  • Ads drove the most clicks if they were delivered at night, on Sundays and Thursdays, and across tablet devices.
  • E-commerce spending boomed over Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season.
    • Top-performing content: Evergreen gift guides and deal roundups drove the most engagement for publishers.
    • Top-performing merchants: Men and women’s fashion retailers, home goods companies, and beauty brands saw the biggest returns.
    • Top-performing products: Customers were eager to spend on cozy and comfy home goods, cookware, and lifestyle improvements products.

This Season’s Market Opportunity

Holiday spending is expected to shatter records this year — producing the highest sales to date. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 2021 sales will be up to 10.5% higher than 2020 sales, potentially reaching $859 billion.

After all, U.S. household spend has already increased this year, and it’s only expected to grow as people start buying gifts, food, and decorations for their loved ones. In fact, consumers plan to spend an average of almost $1,000 on these holiday goods. That means advertisers need to start preparing to reach them with engaging content.

Current News Verticals Generating Engagement

We tapped into Taboola’s publisher network and pulled data from November 22, 2021 to see which news categories were driving the most engagement:

  • Holiday: 12,982,990 pageviews in the last 90 days, up +146% vs. the last 45 days
  • Christmas and holiday season: 3,985,070 pageviews in the last 90 days, up +542% vs. the last 45 days
  • Shopping gifts: 290,070 page views in the last 90 days, up +750% vs. the last 45 days

Examples of Publishers Doing It Right

Now let’s look at how top publishers are already tapping into the power of these news trends.

First off, TODAY launched this article and video encouraging people to start putting up those Christmas decorations.

Meanwhile MSN distributed this Cosmopolitan gift guide for remote workers.

And Better Homes & Gardens lent a helping hand to holiday hosts with this piece on after-party cleanups.

Tips for Driving E-Commerce Purchases

E-commerce will once again dominate the holiday shopping market. As the NRF predicts, online and non-store sales will increase by 11-15% this season, generating up to $226 billion for retailers.

The best way to reach those e-commerce buyers is to know what they’re researching and reading online. And Taboola’s data actually shows that many 2020 holiday shopping trends will reemerge in 2021, like:

  • Top-performing products: Consumers are interested in home goods, fitness, and tech categories.
  • Top-performing ad images: Photographs with animals and food can help boost CTR.
  • Top-performing video ads: Increase completion rates by incorporating winter scenes, animals, food, and color in your videos.

Best Practices for Audience Targeting

According to our data from November 7, 2021, U.S. advertisers across categories can use these best practices to generate more engagement from their holiday ads.

Invest in Video Ads

While photo and video ads can still drive clicks, advertisers have a major opportunity to see returns from video ads, since consumer demand is high but supply is relatively low.

Launch Brand Awareness Campaigns on Tablets

If you’re looking to reach audiences at scale and hook in those new customers this holiday season, then it’s time to start getting in front of tablet users.

Drive Purchases Across Mobile Devices

When it comes to driving purchases, on the other hand, advertisers should focus on mobile customers who are researching and buying on the go.

Distribute Ads on Mondays and Tuesdays

Since weekends can be saturated with online content, brands that want to cut through the noise would we wise to launch ads on Mondays and Tuesdays — when consumers are still clicking but the space isn’t quite as crowded.

Automate Ad Buying with SmartBid

SmartBid automatically optimizes your ad bids to maximize impressions and conversions. Basically, the deep learning tool uses historic and real-time data to increase or decrease your bids as needed — so you can make the most of your budget and harness valuable opportunities to earn results.

Consider High Impact Placements

Generate brand awareness by launching your ad campaigns in brand-safe, high impact placements across premium publisher websites and apps. Whether you want to reach audiences on the homepage, mid-article, in the Taboola Feed, or across mobile platforms, high impact placements can help you do it — giving you control of where and how your ads are served.

Creative Strategies to Increase Performance

To stand out this holiday season, you need more than vague, generalized best practices. You need data-backed insights that tell you exactly what people are clicking on, reading, and watching.

That’s why Taboola Trends exists — so advertisers can access up-to-date analytics about which images, videos, and headlines are delivering the most engagement across the web.

Here’s what we found for U.S. advertisers on November 26, 2021.

Images

Ad images with photos, animals, and people are seeing high CTRs. Meanwhile images with food, text, and indoor shots can send that CTR downwards.

VideosTo boost those video completion rates, advertisers should include winter landscapes, food, and color in their ads. Videos with live-action footage also perform better than those with illustrations.

HeadlinesVisuals aren’t the only ad elements you need to catch people’s eyes and entice them to click. Headlines must also be compelling enough to quickly get your message across and inspire readers to learn more.

So, if you’re deciding between multiple headline options, just plug them into the Taboola Title Analyzer to see which will generate the highest-predicted CTR.

Let’s look at these three holiday titles, for example:

  • 8 Ways to Save on Your Holiday Gifts This Year
  • 10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Loved Ones
  • Check Out These Holiday Gift Deals You Don’t Want to Miss

By testing them in the Title Analyzer, we can clearly see that “8 Ways to Save on Your Holiday Gifts This Year” is likely to perform best among the batch.

Inspiring Case Studies from Holiday Advertisers

Holiday advertising may seem overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that it can be done successfully — and every year new campaigns and strategies emerge to raise the bar for the whole industry.

Just check out these two case studies from holiday advertisers who did it right and reaped the rewards.

HDTV Retailer Drives 300% Higher ROAS

A leading US consumer electronics company wanted to drive new sales during the holiday shopping season and branch out beyond just search advertising. So the retailer promoted its line of 4K/Ultra-High Definition TVs across Taboola’s discovery platform, delivering personalized recommendations to readers on premium publisher sites.

Compared to search ads, the discovery campaigns were more 11X more cost-effective and drove a 300% higher return on advertising spend (ROAS).

International Airline Increases Video Viewability by 80%

A global airline was eager to expand its reach and promote holiday deals to European travelers. While the brand had already tried in-stream video, it was looking for a less-intrusive solution that fit into the user experience, instead of interrupting it.

By partnering with Taboola, the airline was able to distribute its videos natively across web pages, where users are open to discovering new content. As a result, the brand increased its viewability by 80% and drove a 40% completion rate for its 45-second videos — much better than on Facebook where only 22% of viewers finished 30-second videos.

Give Your Brand the Gift of Data-Backed Campaigns

Advertisers have had enough on their plates this year — actually, for the last two years at least! Now it’s time they give themselves an early holiday gift and use these data-backed best practices and tools to make their seasonal ad campaigns shine.

Yes, consumer behaviors can be unpredictable and competition can be brutal. But this year more than ever, brands have a major opportunity to tap into high demand for holiday deals, ramp up those e-commerce strategies, and end 2021 with their most performance-driven campaigns yet.

So, get building and start reaching those customers with the personalized campaigns they deserve. And, as a result, you’ll start seeing the results you need to make your holidays merry and bright.

Create Your Content Campaign Today!