Cyber Weekend is in the bag and advertisers are already assessing the landscape and updating promotional plans for the coming weeks. Digging into the data, we found a few high-level insights to take note of now that the Thanksgiving leftovers are (hopefully) all eaten.
Much of the below analysis is related to/an expansion of data regularly included in our quarterly Digital Marketing Report, which has more in depth explanations of some of the concepts covered here.
After Strong Q4 Start, Google Shopping Ads Deliver Over 40% Sales Growth on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
In the first half of Q4, retailer sales driven by Google Shopping Ads grew an impressive 37% Y/Y. Those gains picked up in the week ahead of Thanksgiving with sales growing 45%. On Black Friday, Google Shopping Ad sales grew 41%, while Cyber Monday sales rose 42%.
Sales growth was most consistent from one brand to the next on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, while Cyber Monday and the week before Thanksgiving produced a wider range of results, likely reflecting differences in promotional strategies.
With Shopping Ads cannibalizing Google text ad volume, sales growth for all Google search ads has been more modest than Shopping Ad growth, but Google search advertisers saw Black Friday ads produce 17% higher sales Y/Y, while Cyber Monday sales rose 18%.
Phones Produced 40% of Google Search Ad-Driven Sales on Thanksgiving, 32% on Cyber Monday
Note: In this chart, as in all subsequent charts, the black line indicates Black Friday.
Mobile internet activity follows a consistent weekly pattern, with usage spiking on the weekends and dipping throughout the rest of the week. Thanksgiving Day breaks that pattern, with activity roughly in line with a typical weekend day. In 2018, phones produced 61% of all Google search ad clicks for the average brand and 40% of sales driven by those clicks.
As consumers returned to work – and their laptops or desktops -- on Cyber Monday, phones had a smaller, but still major impact on advertiser performance, producing 50% of clicks and 32% of sales from Google search ads in 2018.
Spend Ramps Up on Black Friday for Amazon Advertisers
Early reports indicate a record-breaking Cyber Weekend for Amazon, and Merkle advertising data certainly points to a huge ramp up in consumer activity on the e-commerce giant’s site.
Ad spend for both Sponsored Brands and Sponsored Products skyrocketed on Black Friday and remained at elevated levels throughout the weekend. Spend for each of the two ad formats increased at roughly the same pace over Cyber Weekend.
Amazon Grows Google Paid Search Presence through Text Ads but not Shopping
At least part of Amazon’s overall Cyber Weekend sales (and ad revenue) success can be attributed to Google paid search ads, which Amazon invests in heavily across many product categories.
Amazon’s text ad impression share ramped up significantly in the week leading up to Thanksgiving and Cyber Weekend, while most retailers saw impression share hold roughly steady. Increased Amazon impression share comes as no surprise, as we’ve long seen Amazon get more aggressive with text ads during the holiday season.
However, in each of the last two years Amazon’s text ad impression share has grown steadily throughout the holiday season, with only modest increases around Thanksgiving. This year, Amazon’s visibility in text ad auctions is already at elevated impression share levels typically not seen until December. If it continues to become more prevalent throughout the next few weeks as is normally the case, this could shape up to be the biggest year for Amazon’s investment in Google text ads yet.
On the Shopping side of things, Amazon’s impression share has increased modestly since mid-November, but the retailers studied are seeing much more significant growth in their own impression share over the same time frame. This seems to indicate that the auction changed over the past couple of weeks to organically increase impression share for advertisers. As such, the data indicates that Amazon itself doesn’t seem to be getting significantly more aggressive in the Shopping space, and may even be dropping off slightly relative to other advertisers, similar to what we observed last year in Shopping.
Get Location Details Click Share Slumps on Thanksgiving and Black Friday
‘Get location details’ clicks provide insight into the share of ad traffic coming from Google Maps, as this click type is primarily attributed to ads triggered by searches within the Maps navigation app. This year, we found a dip in the share of traffic coming from these ads on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, with a modest rebound over the weekend followed by another dip on Cyber Monday.
As we’ve exposed in the past, traffic from Maps ads tends to rise in the final days of the holiday season, peaking just before Christmas Day as last minute shoppers increasingly head in store to ensure they have gifts in time. We’ll likely see a similar trend in a few weeks.
Audience Click Share Grows for Larger Advertisers, Steady for Many Others
The total share of Google paid search traffic coming from Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA), Customer Match and Similar Audiences grew in the second half of November for larger brands, resulting in an increase in the aggregate share of traffic coming from these audiences for a set of long-standing Merkle advertisers. However, median audience share for the same set has been roughly steady, as plenty of advertisers did not see an uptick in traffic.
Particularly in the case of day-to-day audience traffic share trends, results can vary significantly from advertiser to advertiser as differences in strategy, brand affinity, and marketing efforts outside of search are hugely important in determining how much traffic comes from audiences.
That’s it for now. Be sure to check back in to the Merkle blog for updates and additional insights as the holiday season progresses.