Cyber Monday: A Peek Into This Year’s Holiday Season Buying Trends

The day we (in the advertising industry) have been waiting for all year has finally come! In this highly competitive time for our industry, there are things that we – programmatic believers – can learn from, apply to future strategies and observe about the changing landscape of our growing space, as evidenced by Monday’s cyber activity around the world. Cyber Monday is a great way to see what the world’s top marketers are after and what they are willing to pay to get in front of their audiences.

Here are some of the trends we’ve observed in the first half of Q4 2016:

Longer Advertising Periods

More brands are recognizing the value of advertising not just the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but over longer time periods. We see this everywhere, from floods of new campaigns weeks before the Thanksgiving weekend to longer and earlier promotions being promoted within the creative itself. The graph below compares the Q4 period of the last 2 years. We can see that this year, the line is steeper, indicating buyers are being more aggressive or perhaps trying to reach their audiences sooner, before the market gets overly competitive.

Exchange Wide Daily Spends (by relative Index)

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday Expand Borders

Black Friday (BF) and Cyber Monday (CM) are no longer exclusively a North American phenomenon. Although these two big shopping days originated in North America, we are seeing them catch on across other regions. Check out the EMEA Q4 trends for the past two years below.

EMEA Daily Spends (by relative Index)

Picture2.pngBudgets Moving to Programmatic

Budgets are increasingly moving from manual, direct deals to programmatic deals. We saw four times more budget allocated toward guaranteed programmatic deals this year than last year – a testament to header tag adoption enhancing the availability and diversity of media available to programmatic buyers. Additionally, 25% of the guaranteed budget this quarter is being allocated towards tandem ad units, all through programmatic pipes.

Top Spenders Remain

The usual suspects are present again! What’s interesting is that some of the new top 10 brands adopted quite the aggressive approach this holiday season. Check out the trend below for ecobee, maker of smart WiFi thermostats, that went from being absent in early October to cracking the top 10 programmatic spending brands this year.

Exchange Wide Spend by Brand (Top 10, by relative Index)

 

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Exchange Wide ecobee Spend

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Top Verticals

While the big three – retail, CPG and auto –  have been dominating the space as always, marketers have gotten smarter around taking advantage of more users being online and in a giving mood. Therefore, they’ve been piggybacking on the core retail/shopping objectives of the season. The value of the programmatic inventory and ultimately the value of a user have increased, and we’ve also seen clearing prices rise by a significant percentage across most top categories.

Exchange Wide Spend by Vertical (Top 10, by relative Index)

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Top 10 Vertical with AVG Clear prices (Top 10, by relative Index)

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Header Tag Spends Grow

It goes without saying that marketers are favoring header tag inventory as evidenced by a massive change in composition between spends originating from header tag vs traditional tag based publishers. Looking back a year ago, less than half of holiday budgets came from header enabled publishers and while this change definitely aligns with what we have been observing on the supply side this year, it’s clear that marketers have been adjusting as well. Changes on both sides were/continue to be necessary.

Exchange Wide Spend for HT vs Tag Based (% of spend)

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So what does the rest of the quarter have in store?  While we believe we’ll continue to see similar trends throughout the rest of the year, one of the predictions we are making is that we will not see the same drop in activity as we have seen in the past years following Cyber Monday. The reason for this is simple and is tied to the very first observation mentioned in this post. It is no longer just about Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it’s about a new normal where programmatic budget allocation by marketers is valued equally among other advertising channels and is being leveraged and optimized throughout the entire holiday season.

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