Cyber Week Lessons CMOs Can Apply To Their Digital Marketing Strategy

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With a tough retail environment continuing unabated throughout 2023 and on-sale promotions becoming almost BAU for many, the average CEO could ask their CMO if planning themed sales weeks, like Cyber Week, are still needed at all going into 2024.

Based on data from the most recent 2023 Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions, the answer is a resounding yes. According to Abode Analytics, online sales for Cyber Week, including the five days from Thanksgiving, were up 7.8% compared to last year – with $12.4 billion in e-commerce sales on Cyber Monday alone.

For many brands, paid digital marketing was a huge part of driving traffic, however this is inevitably twinned with the ongoing challenge of then trying to convert it into sales once that buyer has successfully arrived on your platform. However, this market moves quickly and staying on top of the latest ROI opportunities is always a challenge.

The biggest channels in use include Google’s Performance Max (Pmax), Google Search, Meta, Bing and newcomer, TikTok.

According to Neil Andrew, CEO and Founder of Lunio, for the first time ever, this festive season has seen the overall click volume for campaigns significantly change and more marketers relying on automation platforms to scale campaigns quicker and drive bid management efficiencies. Andrew said, “More and more retailers are moving the lion’s share of their ad budget over to Google’s Performance Max (Pmax), indicating they are seeing improved campaign performance when compared against Google Search. The data we are seeing indicates this move towards PPC automation will only gather momentum as we gear up for more festive season sales into 2025.”

So what can CMOs learn from this going into the remainder of the crucial Festive season?

Monitoring Of Invalid Traffic

Average invalid traffic rates continue to be a big consideration for advertisers also. According to Andrew, this needs to be reviewed by many digital marketers before the rest of the festive season “During the 2023 BF/CM period, we saw invalid traffic rates increase across four of our top five channels when compared against annual averages. Advertisers investing heavily in non-Google channels such as Bing and TikTok should be mindful of considerable spikes in invalid activity during seasonal peak. Advertisers who invest heavily in Meta without any IVT prevention system in place are also potentially exposing themselves to a considerable degree of ad- spend inefficiency – or worse, wasted ad spend that can negatively impact their ROI and overall campaign effectiveness.”

When it comes to monitoring for signs of invalid activity during seasonal peaks, there are a few things to look out for, including:

Average session duration of less than 5 seconds

A low dwell time can tell you your landing page isn’t resonating with user search intent – or it can potentially indicate an influx of bots.

Traffic peaks with low conversion rates

If you see significant traffic peaks without a corresponding uptick spike in conversions, it should be investigated.

Bad Bots are now a major consideration. With advancements in automation and AI we have seen invalid traffic become more and more sophisticated over the past three years. Sophisticated IVT is much better at mimicking genuine human behavior making it much harder to detect, which in turn drives up the average rates observed on ad platforms.

Optimizing paid media performance during seasonal spikes in demand can be seen as mission-critical for many CMOs according to Andrew Turner, Managing Director at Incubeta, “Relatively small dips in conversion rates during the busiest times of year can have outsized consequences when it comes to hitting revenue targets. By automatically detecting and blocking bot traffic, it ensures ad spend is concentrated on audiences with genuine purchase intent.”

There is little financial incentive for ad networks to clamp down aggressively on more sophisticated IVT the advent of tools like ChatGPT have also arguably made it much easier for potentially bad actors to create bots with very limited coding / technical ability, leading to an increased ambient level of invalid activity online.

According to Paul Oates, Head of Performance Media at Forge Holiday Group, prior to implementing an invalid traffic solution, we experienced monthly instability in metrics such as conversion rate. Oates said, “Lots of factors play a role in determining these performance metrics, and optimizing landing pages to drive a better customer experience can be difficult when there is noise created by bots arriving on site. Proactively blocking bot clicks has enabled Sykes Holiday Cottages to deliver more stable and predictable growth across our most important paid media channels and ensure 100% confidence that the metrics we are reporting on only take into account actions from real customers”

Improving On-Page Targeting And UX

A key focus should also be on landing page optimization. It doesn’t matter how compelling your ad copy is, or how well-optimized your campaigns are – if your landing pages aren’t up to scratch you’ll simply be spinning your wheels (and wasting lots of money in the process). It is believed that Google judges the quality of the landing page based on parameters such as relevance, content originality, transparency, and navigability.

Automated campaign types rely heavily on on-page keyword placement on landing pages to serve them to the right audiences. This potentially means CMOs should start to focus more on:

Addressing Landing pages with a bounce rate of 90%+

Bounce rates for PPC landing pages are typically quite high, but a rate of 90% or more may calls for further investigation.

Improving on-page targeting

Ensuring your landing page makes it clear what your product is and who it’s for. Don’t try to target multiple audiences with one page.

Aligning campaign goals

Make sure your PPC campaign goal aligns with your landing page conversion goal – are your customers landing on what they expected?

Optimizing UX

A lightning-fast landing page with an intuitive and compelling user experience will improve your ad’s chances of being shown. You should aim to devote 25 – 30% of your overall PPC budget to landing page and conversion rate optimization for maximum spend efficiency.”

It is clear that for most CMOs, paid digital marketing needs to be constantly refined in order to drive a consistent amount of high-quality traffic that can convert. It is clear things are always changing and new technologies and approaches developing, so staying on top of the latest opportunities to refine your approach and improve ROI is going to be key to making the most of the learnings from the festive period and beyond.

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