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PMG’s 2017 Digital Marketing Holiday Predictions

10 MINUTE READ | November 16, 2017

PMG’s 2017 Digital Marketing Holiday Predictions

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

With cyber week literally right around the corner, I’m going to try to keep this as simple and high-level as possible for you. I asked PMGers across channels around the agency to share their insights on what we should expect from retailers during Holiday this year. I received an overwhelming number of responses, and from those, I noticed three trends and three challenges that were on the minds of PMGers across marketing channels.

At a very high-level, we predict this season to be more visual and socially driven than ever before as retailers will be relying more heavily on omnichannel strategies to capture the attention of shoppers. Video will also be at the forefront as online videos will help brands cut through the noise and influencer shoppers’ purchase decisions.

youtube holiday content

YouTube holiday content views have increased 65% YoY since 2011 –  Pixability

In the digital age, convenience is paramount, and customers shop whenever and wherever they like. Nimble advertisers will leverage and measure the full extent of digital to help shoppers connect the dots, both online and offline. And with the decline in brick-and-mortar foot traffic, offline conversion measurement will be critical as we expect a number of retailers to test new strategies like Google Posts on GMB listings, offering seamless in-store pickup options, shipping lockers, etc. to help merge the online and in-store experience; expanding Cyber Monday into Cyber Season.

“66% of shoppers plan to webroom this holiday while 50% were likely to showroom. Nearly half (43%) planned to leverage ship-to-store options.” – Deloitte

While this is nothing new, shoppers will be starting their searchers on mobile first this Holiday Season. As multi-step checkout processes are becoming a thing of the past, expect retailers to dedicate more budget to the mobile experience; ensuring their ads are displaying during key times like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the days leading up to shipping cutoff.

“Black Friday 2016 was the first day to ever record more than $1B in sales from mobile devices.” – Adobe

In the paid search channel, many retailers will be testing a lot of conditional text parameters for audience segments including Black Friday shoppers from LY and general Holiday shoppers. Leading us to our next trend, the use of Audience Targeting Technology.

For PMG clients, we’re expecting to see huge gains in cross-channel campaign efficiency and sequential-message targeting through the Holiday season and into 2018 by leveraging custom audiences based on our client’s first-party data through the use of our Audience Management Platform (AMP).

AMP logo

At a very high-level, the Audience Management Platform helps PMG clients offer a more intimate, personal experience for every person who engages with our brands online; acting as a connector between CRM data and audience-based targeting capabilities found in search and social channels.

By using a holistic cross-channel approach to marketing, we utilize first-party data to build precise audience segments based on the audience concerns of our clients ahead of time that’s ready for activation across channels to ensure the right people are receiving the right prospecting or sequential messaging from our brands.

AMP allows us to activate both behavior and non-behavioral audience segments across platforms like Facebook, AdWords or Twitter within hours of a person’s first experience with one of our brands. Rather than the reactive nature of audience targeting that traditionally relies on third-party data for sequential messaging, AMP positions PMG at the forefront of the space, enabling our brands to act on relevant insights earlier in the planning phases and adjust as needed throughout the campaign.

To do this, AMP tracks how consumer profiles change in real-time and automatically updates those audience segments accordingly. These refreshed segments are then deployed to media platforms where analytical insights drive future targeting and messaging strategy; giving brands optimal brand positioning via relevant messaging and campaign strategy alignment.

Since AMP uses real-time first-party data, rather than third-party insights, the analytical and reporting capabilities of this tool give our teams a strong framework to strategize around. It is through this data-supported framework that we’ve created more holistic cross-channel holiday strategies designed to connect the brand with the right people and will be activated at the right times during Holiday for our clients.

While most agencies remain completely reliant on cookie-based audience targeting this Holiday season, PMG proudly provides a first-party data-driven audience targeting opportunity for our clients. AMP allows for unparalleled reporting and audience analysis that supports a refreshing and holistically transparent approach to audience targeting and cross-channel marketing.

“By creating audience segments with CRM data and not cookies, AMP boasts a 60-80% average match rate, while cookie-based remains well below 35%.”

This approach is vital for brands wanting to remain top of mind in the midst of Holiday, whereas cookie-based targeting insights can take up to 6 months to retrieve, AMP dynamically refreshes audience segments every day.

With everyone, particularly in retail, fighting for SOV in the space, custom takeovers will be an easy “sell in” for brands to utilize. On top of that, we expect to see more digital out-of-home and Connected TV advertisements, as brands turn to more visually creative methodologies to target the on-the-go shopper. Because of this, keep your eyes peeled for brands on digital screens, and not just digital billboards, but gas stations, cabs, elevators, mall directories, etc. and then retargeting users on their mobile devices with sequential targeting from those screens.

Programmatic advertising was predicted to increase 31% in 2017 (up from $39 billion in 2016) which is why we foresee an increased spend level across the channel.

While digital streaming services take a bigger market share from cable television, be on the lookout for more Connected TV and streaming services spots. Brands will allocate spend initially designated for traditional marketing into the digital space; hoping to spread their reach through platforms like DirecTV Now, Hulu and Pandora, and layering on cross-device targeting to ensure their message is heard.

We also anticipate brands to dedicate more spend to digital audio advertising than ever before this season. As streaming audio like Spotify and Pandora replace terrestrial radio, Holiday hosts will turn to these platforms and play music for every occasion – making it a great opportunity for brands to tap into. “With music streaming being responsible for more than 50% of all US music industry revenue last year, paid and ad-supported streaming services brought in a total of $3.9 billion, causing brands to seriously consider digital audio to play a big part in their Holiday budgets.”

music streaming revenue

Last year, music streaming was responsible for more than 50% of all US music industry revenue. – Variety

Amazon continues to knock out retailers left and right as shoppers turn to e-commerce titan before Google during the Holiday season. Not to mention that since Amazon did such a great job at seeding the space with heavily marked down Echo and Kindle Products last year, expect them to use what they learned then to land promotions more accurately this time around.

“Amazon soaked up 43% of all 2016 online revenue.”

Speaking of the Amazon Echo, I’m particularly interested to see how many people turn to their voice assistants for shopping this year. Another thing worth noting is the rise of brand partnerships with Amazon. As you’re doing your own shopping, take a peek at how many brands will be fighting for attention on Amazon’s site through Amazon Marketing Services advertisements.

Unfortunately, we won’t have a good grasp on how Amazon’s planning to capitalize on Holiday until we’re in the thick of it, but we’re sure it will be monumental.

As platforms and publishers make ready for the most wonderful (and lucrative) time of year, many are eliminating or adding features in an effort to be more transparent and bolster their public image as trusted partners to improve both shopper and brand experience. Alongside this increased effort around identifying the advertiser behind the ad, publishers are working hard to increase brand safety during national emergencies and surrounding social issues, invalid traffic, and viewability issues, particularly in the programmatic and social industry, in the attempt to meet the needs of marketers.

“Over 180 automated filters and detection algorithms have been built over the years to prevent invalid traffic from impacting Google’s clients.”

With more interactive touch points between shoppers and brands, we’re interested to see how shoppers will react to all the new advertising opportunities they’ll be faced with this season and if a demand for transparency will be made, similar to what we’ve seen surrounding political ad transparency.

In like manner, publishers are adding new opportunities and measurement capabilities to the mix, so many in fact, that’s it’s becoming quite difficult to keep up with or honestly know what to prioritize in the media plan. As brands take advantage of all the new testing opportunities, we’re anxious to see which brands utilize what specific new technologies and how they plan to do so. Some things to keep in mind are augmented reality opportunities, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook brand stories, the use of influencers, chatbots and canvas testing across platforms.

And finally, we see the toughest challenge for brands during Holiday to be differentiating themselves from the competition. As one marketer at PMG put it, “The holidays seem like a shouting match between every retailer in the world, with all of them searching for an audience that hasn’t lost their hearing yet.” With many retailers feeling the squeeze after a softer Summer period, plus the continued brick-and-mortar decline, expect to see more competitive friction than usual this season.

Some brands are simply tapping out of the Cyber hype – like the ingenious #optoutside campaign by REI or charity donation campaign by Patagonia last year; encouraging their shoppers to get outside and explore, or support their city through charity, rather than spending the BFCM weekend shopping online.

As the Christmas creep was fought by some retail giants, shoppers know what’s coming and are on the lookout for the best deal rather than what their favorite brand has to offer. And now, with more and more shopping ad formats and advertising options to take advantage of, it will be difficult for brands to truly capture a shopper’s attention this year, differentiate their creative and ensure that loyalists stay devoted to their brand.

To sum up, based on what we see across the industry, we anticipate a considerable portion of budget focused on mobile shoppers, an increased use in audience targeting technology, and sizeable dynamic campaign takeovers to consume every screen available as brands feel the pressure from Amazon and one another.

Only time will tell if these predictions hold up, but luckily, we don’t have long to wait.

Happy Holiday season marketers, may the odds be ever in your favor. 

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A very special thanks to all the PMGers who shared their perspectives with me.

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