Sleighbells might not be ringing yet, but Christmas is already occupying consumers’ and advertisers’ brains. Half of American winter holiday shoppers plan on starting their shopping by October 31st. That means you must launch your campaigns now, analyze campaign performance early, and optimize, optimize, optimize.

And, of course, we’re here to help! Our Creative Shop team, which delivers everything from creative strategies and analysis to the creation and enhancement of creative assets, has sliced and diced billions of data points to reveal relevant and strategic recommendations you can use to enhance and power your holiday campaigns.

There’s a lot to break down, so we’ve divided our learnings, tips, and tricks into two parts. This first post will take a high-level look at the general market outlook, predictions, and disruptors you need to know, followed by the insights we’ve gleaned and trends we’ve seen from years in the business.

The Three (Advertising) Wise Men: Data, Insights and Trends

Meet the three Wise Men who will bring you holiday gifts all season (and year) long: data, insights, and trends. When you combine the learnings each of these generates, you can infuse your creative strategy with dynamic campaigns that target the right audience, on the right channels, at the right time, and with the right message.

Diversification is the key to success. Diversification needs to happen in your media mix and creative strategy if you want to drive results.

Consumer trust has hit an all-time low on most social and search platforms. So, who do consumers trust? News outlets.

The IAB found that 84% of consumers feel that advertising within the news either increases or maintains brand trust. When your ads appear on preferred news sources through content discovery and recommendations, that trust transfers to your brand, making consumers more likely to purchase your products.

A recent Kantar study revealed that adding Taboola native ads to your marketing mix for brand awareness campaigns provides a significant uplift, increasing top-of-mind awareness by 26% for social and 38% for video.

According to Taboola data from 2020-2022, 59% of advertisers saw an average conversion rate increase of 84% and secured higher scale through creative diversification on the Taboola network.

Creative diversification is the top way to beat creative fatigue, elevate campaign narratives and deliver the most relevant content recommendations to consumers.

Now, we’re not saying you need to put all your holiday campaigns under the Taboola Christmas tree, but if you want to have a merry and bright Q4, Taboola’s network and audiences will definitely get you there!

Ho, Ho, Ho-liday Creative Market Insights

Consumers are coping with serious variables this year: an unstable economy threatened by inflation and pandemic-induced supply chain issues that make some items hard to come by.

Even with all that and tons of other pressures, consumers are still planning to spend this holiday season. According to Deloitte, retail sales are forecasted to increase 4-6%, totaling $1.45-1.47 trillion. E-Commerce sales look promising, with estimates indicating 12.8-14.3% growth from last year (between $260-$264 billion).

Beyond the numbers, Deloitte points out a key driver for e-Commerce brands that want to be successful. Given that inflation will drive prices higher, consumers will look for online deals that make the most of their budgets. E-Commerce retailers who offer consumers convenience and affordability along with in-demand products will win the holiday season.

There are four critical market trends that you need to consider when tailoring your creative messaging to address consumer concerns. The strategy tips below are suggested by the Taboola Creative Shop to implement these trends.

Early Messaging Converts

According to Statista, US consumers no longer wait for Black Friday to kick off their holiday shopping. Over 40% begin buying presents by the end of October, and another 25% start before Thanksgiving.

Strategy: Launch campaigns now to capture the swaths of early shoppers is a must.

Reviews Influence Purchases

Consumer reviews are the number one factor when it comes to making purchasing decisions. In a Statista survey, 85% of respondents said reviews are very or somewhat influential, followed by info on company websites (82%) and ads (71%).

Strategy: Provide incentives to today’s shoppers (and even those who made recent purchases) to leave reviews and testimonials, such as a percentage off their next purchase. Replicating this word of mouth marketing in ad messaging builds trust with consumers.

Availability Fuels Conversion

The sting of supply chain issues is far from over, and last year proved that consumers can be fickle. When items were out of stock at their favorite retailers, 70% of consumers bought from other brands instead of waiting.

Strategy: With 51% of early shoppers concerned about availability and 45% worried about long lead times, ensuring you have the right products in stock is crucial. Make sure you are communicating to your customers timely updates on stock and availability, including messaging like “almost gone”, “still in stock”, “ships before Christmas, “arrives in time”, etc.

Owned Media Builds Trust

Buyers are looking for more than the best deal; they want the best deal on the best product. Half of consumers reported checking out a brand’s website to understand product benefits better.

Strategy: Emphasize what makes your products unique and appealing, and boldly highlight those features on your website.

Taboola’s Strategic Advice to Combat Potential Disruptions

Market predictions and disruptors significantly impact how consumers behave and engage with ad campaigns. In years past, getting goods from Santa’s workshop to your warehouse and then into consumers’ hands was a pretty straight path. Today, it’s full of curves and potential roadblocks.

Here’s what you need to know and the strategies you should employ to make 2022 holiday sales smooth, steady, and profitable.

Brick & Mortar Retail Growth

As people continue to doubt availability and shipping times, retailers that embrace and promote the Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) model have an opportunity to capture even more sales.

70% of consumers say BOPIS improves the shopping experience, and they appreciate the convenience it offers.

41% of retailers reported BOPIS shoppers purchased an additional one or two items and 24% noted that average order size increased by five items or more.

Strategy: Projections for brick-and-mortar retail growth are high, set to increase 0.9% this holiday season. Guarantee your stores earn as much revenue as possible by offering BOPIS coupled with in-store specials.

E-Commerce & M-Commerce Growth

M-commerce (mobile commerce) has been gaining steam steadily for the past few years; this year, it will represent nearly half of holiday e-Commerce sales. Consumers demand a smooth shopping experience, so pay extra attention to how your site renders and functions across all devices.

Strategy: Ensure landing pages and the entire online shopping experience are mobile-optimized and easy to navigate.

Cyber Five Decline

Last year, online retailers saw a 1.4% decrease YoY for sales during Cyber Five, the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. With consumers shopping earlier and returning to in-store shopping, retailers need to rethink their promotional schedule and offer significant deals earlier in the shopping season.

Strategy: Think of October and early November as prime shopping times and spread out your promotional cycle to entice people to purchase items in those early weeks.

Economic Climate & Value

An unstable economy and high credit card interest rates have led 80% of consumers to embrace the Buy Now, Pay Later(BNPL) model. Even though they will spend more this holiday season, they’ll try to alleviate financial burdens by fanning out spending and using BNPL.

Strategy: Make sure you offer BNPL options and that it is easily accessible on the checkout page. Compliment that with a focus on affordable choices, great value deals, and ongoing promotions.

Supply Chain Issues

Consumers continue to be impacted by supply chain issues, finding the products they want are out of stock or only available in limited quantities. To combat potential problems, concerned shoppers will track down most-wanted items far in advance or contact retailers directly about stock inventory.

Strategy: Be direct about availability in messaging. Consider encouraging consumers to buy ASAP with language such as ‘while supplies last’ and ‘limited availability.’

Evolving Retail Calendar

If you haven’t been paying attention, throw the old holiday shopping schedule out! Consumer spending used to be predictable, occurring within a small window. That window is now the size of a whole house due to consumer preparedness, supply chain hiccups, and an unpredictable economy.

Strategy: Everything is flexible now. Be ready to adjust promotions and campaign messaging regularly and on the fly as trends change and evolve.

Taboola: Unwrapping Data Insights

At Taboola, our proprietary data and technology are the gifts that keep on giving – giving us unique insights and revealing trends you can use to craft the most irresistible click-worthy campaigns.

Readership Trends

Categories earning the highest volume of pageviews and readability indicate a clear sign of reader interest. Typically we see the same verticals appear at the top of the list each holiday season, so items that fall into those categories should be hot sellers again this year.

Last year, the top four shopping categories were:

  • Technology: 101.7 billion pageviews
  • Health and fitness: 21.6 billion pageviews
  • Food & drink: 15.5 billion pageviews
  • Style & fashion: 14.5 billion pageviews

Leverage this readership data to engage customers and sell more by focusing your creative messages on three key points:

Talk about a product’s unique technology: When consumers compare tech products, they want to understand what makes one item better than another or what special bells and whistles are offered. Don’t be shy and modest about what you’re selling! Use direct messaging and point out why other consumers love the item. Bonus: Pull in some social proof from the customer recommendations and reviews you’ve collected.

Communicate how your product can help improve a potential customer’s health or lifestyle: For health and lifestyle products, consumers are looking for product benefits, ease of use, and quality. Let new customers know if something is easy to put together, does a body good, or is loved by your audience.

Include messaging related to financial savings or the promotional value offered: People can’t resist a good deal (hello, FOMO) and won’t pass one up these days. Highlight any discounts and when those deals will end to spur people into action, help you secure early sales, and put you closer to meeting your Q4 goals.

The big takeaway: No matter the product category, use your creatives to entice customers with the most compelling product features and exclusive pricing.

Keyword and Image Trends

Consider Taboola Trends your personal elf, funneling secrets from Santa’s workshop. Each week it analyzes some 75 million clicks and 50 billion impressions from native ad campaigns across the Taboola network, revealing which keywords, images, and video scenes drive the most clicks and engagement.

Build data-backed campaigns by incorporating those insights. The result will be better-positioned ads that resonate with audiences and generate results.

When combining the trends that drove engagement across the Taboola network in previous holiday seasons with what’s working today, here are the ideas you should take advantage of for your 2022 holiday campaigns:However, check Taboola Trends frequently so you can update campaigns and use fresh data.

Performance Trends

Let’s look at the most powerful approaches brands used over the past couple of years to connect with consumers and boost campaign performance.

In 2020, advertiser messages empathized with consumers and were sympathetic to the pandemic’s impacts and the corresponding financial uncertainty. The highest converting ads focused on educating audiences, promoting ways people could save money, and accentuating the long-term value of products.

Our analysis of 2021 campaigns provided somewhat of a different picture. High-performing campaigns unfolded in a specific order, aligning with key dates and consumer behaviors. The creatives started with product-focused, descriptive, and informative messaging, followed by promotions, pushing gifts, and amplifying what’s new.

Breaking it down further, we compared YoY advertiser performance for October, November, and December of 2020 and 2021 to pinpoint performance-based creative trends that produced high engagement and conversions.

Consumers were drawn to the same types of ads both years, implying that they should again resonate with shoppers this year. Consider implementing these strategies:

  • October: For top-performing ads, launch campaigns early and include informative content inclusive of reviews and testimonials.
  • November: Keep creatives focused on family, nostalgia, and community themes, followed by gifting-first promotions & offers.
  • December: Achieve higher engagement by balancing holiday-themed ads with direct messages about product benefits, unique differentiators, and urgency.

Bringing it back to the last 90 days, we’ve seen a notable uptick surrounding holiday-related keywords across the Taboola network and our publisher partners’ organic content. This confirms the theory that consumers aren’t wasting any time and have already started to prepare for the holidays as early as June and July, with more significant increases emerging in August.

Here’s what’s trending now:

But Wait, There’s More…

This is only the beginning. Stay tuned for part two, which will cover data-backed strategic creative themes to help you build a full-funnel approach, vertical-specific creative tips, content trends, actionable best practices, and much more!

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