The retail holiday season is already in full swing. For many retailers the true indicator of how the season will go starts on Thanksgiving, and Black Friday results come in. The retail research firm ShopperTrak estimated that shoppers spent $11.2 billion at physical stores on Black Friday this year, which represented a 1.8% decline from Black Friday 2011. Still, 90%+ of our clients exceeded their projections for those critical days, which signals that the 2012 holiday season should be a strong one for many retailers. As I was reflecting on how we were able to influence results it really came down to 3 things; Preparation, Agility, and People; The PAP Strategy. These 3 key elements drove the success of the season, and I’m confident that no matter what the external factors are that these 3 factors drive the success or failure of any brand, or agencies during the season. Let’s break them down.
There is a saying my Dad used all the time, “Proper planning prevents poor performance. This couldn’t be more valuable during this time of year. In our industry, this means using previous holiday data to forecast projections, diligent preparation of keyword and publisher selection, and promotional calendar planning. What was the phone tree, or process to alert the team of issues should they arrive? For example, our research this year leads us to do additional keyword research adding nearly 200 thousand keywords to our account to support the promotion. Without planning properly we could have easily missed this large opportunity by scrambling during the promotion, or worse not recognizing the opportunity at all.
Agility refers to the changes that occur during the promotion period. Black Friday creates a situation where brands are spending a typical month’s budget in 24 hours. This means that each hour or minute of the day has an amplified meaning. Our team was able to find opportunities in mobile, or various conversion rates by publisher, that enabled us to raise bids due to higher conversion rates (we actually saw CTRs, and conversion rates, triple within 2 hours for some brands). If we had waited until the next hour conversion rates the opportunity would have passed.
Nothing is possible without great people. You can have the best planning or the greatest tools, but nothing is possible without talent. I know team members who worked throughout the holiday weekend, with many taking their laptops out shopping with them on Black Friday so they could check results. These personal sacrifices are certainly not ideal, but part of what turns typical result into spectacular results. It’s important to promote a family first atmosphere around the office; after all, in retail holidays season many times your co-workers become your family.
At this point I’m not longer surprised at the continued growth of the channel, but it never ceases to amaze me the value of a PAP strategy. I can’t wait for the plans of the rest of the season to be carried out, and the New Year to begin. Happy Holidays to everyone!