Leaves are falling, elections are over, turkeys are shipping, and the Cowboys are back on TV (and at the top of their conference, I’ll add): all indicators that another peak retail holiday window is right around the corner. Due to unique challenges, largely a result of pandemic implications, this year’s Turkey 5 event promises to yield particularly challenging scenarios for advertisers to navigate. Turkey 5 is the five days that encompass Thanksgiving day through Cyber Monday and always the prime jewel of advertisers and promoters across retail verticals.
Driven by supply chain fears and an eagerness to buy products before they’re out-of-stock, shoppers are researching products earlier than ever. It’s urgent that brands deploy and scale proven best practices to gain maximum exposure. While the lead-in period (14 – 30 days prior to the event) is an effective tactic to gain visibility as shoppers research, we shouldn’t necessarily expect higher conversion rates during these periods. In fact, the first half of June, leading up to Prime Day this year, yielded particularly high costs and limited conversions.
Never does a peak window pass that our team members don’t encounter a new challenge, reap unforeseen gains, and yes, learn how to take our clients even further the following year. In this rapidly evolving market, it’s more critical than ever to leverage learnings from prior peak windows to maximize the available ad dollars. Let’s take a look into 3 strategies our teams have learned to accept as imperatives when approaching a peak window on Amazon.
1. Ensure a strong promotional presence to take ad dollars further
In the past, it was more than acceptable to simply increase the advertising budget to gain scale and leverage the residual impact of more shoppers and higher conversion rates on Amazon during Turkey 5. In 2021, though, that approach will only take brands so far. In some cases, it can lead to disappointing sales and a huge missed opportunity that only comes once a year.
As brands lean into digital retailers at unprecedented rates (through the use of aggressive advertising and promotions) it’s much more challenging to break through the noise. Momentum recommends ensuring a promotional strategy to gain a leg up on the competition. Every brand, regardless of the category, should consider including at least a moderately aggressive strategy.
We’ve found that even categories within CPG can take advantage of volume and conversion rate lifts during peak windows. In fact, many CPG products make easy add-to-cart options for consumers on-site browsing high-priced items. The increase in ad investment should mirror the category, and ideally, be based off of prior peak window learnings. The same is true when planning the strength of a promotion; leveraging prior learnings and what you’ve observed the competition doing (or not doing) during a peak window should be considered. As a secondary consideration, the lower priced the item is, the stronger the promotion needs to be to move the needle on sales and break through the noise. Generally, discounts, coupons, and deals should range from 15% – 40%.
Many brands are also moving towards an evergreen promotional strategy during peak windows. This was the case for Prime Day in June. The shift in strategy empowered shoppers to take their time when making a purchasing decision. Time-limited deals are becoming less lucrative, and, as with all ecommerce decisions, empowering the shopper to choose their own path to purchase, at their own time, benefits not only them but the brand as well. We recommend aggressive promotions that span between 2 and 7 days. This approach also grants the media manager time to pivot advertising dollars when they’re seeing performance strongest, as opposed to being locked into a limited window to ensure success.
2. Utilize the DSP to reach new shoppers and gain additional scale
Another opportunity that is no longer acceptable to ignore is the Amazon DSP. This quintessential platform leverages Amazon’s powerful 1st party consumer data to reach relevant audiences across the internet and bring them back to your products on Amazon.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the DSP has become a unique opportunity for manufacturers to take advantage of large brands exiting and limiting activity in the display exchanges. Brands dependent on an open economy such as Hilton, Southwest Airlines, and GM have taken pauses and implemented cutbacks in display spending over the last year and a half. This void created an incredible opportunity for manufacturers with inventory and mostly stable supply chains to lean in. However, the DSP has evolved into more than just a unique opportunity- it has become a quintessential component to an effective Amazon advertising strategy.
Many categories have experienced a significant increase in search auction saturation. While this was happening prior to the pandemic, it has only accelerated since. With lower barriers to entry,
Amazon’s search platform, Sponsored Ads, is an easier path for manufacturers to activate and scale advertising.
In many cases, and due to this heavy saturation, many small and medium-sized businesses have found it unprofitable to scale significantly on search. The DSP is an effective tactic to circumvent the expensive search auction and reach the same (and even more) shoppers. Sponsored Ads shouldn’t be discounted as a result, as it is still the foundational component to Amazon Ads, but this factor should incite necessary urgency to activate the DSP, thus ensuring another strategic lever.
We recommend leveraging evergreen display learnings to amplify Turkey 5 promotions. In particular, having already identified high-performing upper funnel audience groups and then amplifying these during peak windows is an effective way to gain scale efficiently. The flighting of a DSP campaign during a promotional window should correspond to the strength of your promotion. We recommend reserving funds for promotions we’re more confident about and then scaling those campaigns during the window when the promotion is live. For less appealing promotions, we may recommend more even flights. In addition, the DSP tends to be much more responsive to aggressive promotions than search- you’ll see this reflected in the performance results. If your promotion is strong, we highly recommend an aggressive display budget to amplify its visibility.
3. Lean into mid-funnel Sponsored Brands and Sponsored Display placements
Within Amazon’s search platform, Sponsored Ads, advertisers typically prioritize Sponsored Products due to their ability to scale efficiently. These ads have historically been lower cost and perform better due to their more organic appearance. However, over the course of 2021, our teams have observed both a drop in costs and an increase in returns for Sponsored Brands, oftentimes even out-performing Sponsored Products. This is an evolution caused by many advertising incorrectly prioritizing Sponsored Products.
The real appeal of Sponsored Brands, however, has always been the unique awareness-focused placement of the ad unit at the top of the search results. Typically, this placement is 5 to 10 times more likely to be clicked on than top-of-search Sponsored Products placements. Sponsored Brands also features the ability to link directly to a brand’s Store page. This tends to be a softer entry point for shoppers who are engaging with the brand for the first
time and can be a great tactic to introduce or reinforce brand messaging. We recommend leaning into this placement during peak windows to amplify the visibility of active promotions, particularly for high volume, high priority, and hyper-relevant searches.
Additionally, due to feature updates, Sponsored Brands and Sponsored Display have become more appealing. Along with the ability to edit Sponsored Brands post-launch, Amazon has added video, lifestyle imagery, and Store spotlight placements to bolster the visibility and attraction of the placement. We’ve found many of these features to perform well, even when looking at lower-funnel metrics such as return-on-ad spend. We recommend testing these placements within an evergreen strategy and then amplifying support for the strong-performers during peak windows.
Similarly, Sponsored Display has been the primary development focus of the Amazon Sponsored Ads teams this year, yielding a flurry of new updates. The most significant of these is the addition of audiences and the ability to serve ads off Amazon, similar to the DSP. Now, advertisers can target mid-and-upper funnel in-market, lifestyle, and interest-based groups, as well as lower funnel remarketing those who have viewed the product or purchased it in the past. As with all tactics, leveraging which audiences have performed best in the past tends to be most effective. Sponsored Display can become a critical placement for brands who have yet to activate on the DSP. It can also be an additional tactic to cross-sell into adjacent categories or target competitor product detail pages, particularly products with weak or zero promotional activity during Turkey 5.
The need to constantly evolve
As our team prepares for this year’s Turkey 5, we are planning heavy and frequent monitoring of accounts to identify new opportunities and to gauge the effectiveness of our approach. As with all things Amazon there is only one certainty; that nothing is certain, the unexpected should be expected. To be successful during a digital retail peak window a well-planned advertising and promotional strategy is only the first step. The real trial comes with the execution of a well-planned strategy. It is critical to adapt and pivot in real-time as learnings are coming in.
While these strategies have become imperatives to driving success on Prime Day, the need to continue evolving will persist in the realm of Amazon and retail media more broadly. Our team will analyze performance during and post-Turkey 5 to leverage additional learnings for our clients to take advantage of during the next Turkey 5.