Win Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2019: Amazon Advertising Trends and Best Practices

Get the most out of your Amazon Advertising campaigns this holiday season

Salim Hamed

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are fast approaching. Start planning your Amazon Advertising strategy now, to ensure you're getting the most out of your Amazon ad budgets and capitalizing on Amazon's highest traffic period of the year.

Online Retail Trends

Analysts predict the 2019 online holiday shopping season will break records. Black Friday and Thanksgiving spending is expected to exceed $12 billion (BlackFriday.com), a 25% increase from the $9.9 billion in online sales during the same period in 2018 (Adobe Analytics).

  • 2016 Sales: $5.27 billion (17.7% increase YoY)

  • 2017 Sales: $7.9 billion (49% increase YoY)

  • 2018 Sales: $9.9 billion (25% increase YoY)

  • 2019 Sales: $12.3 billion (25% increase YoY) (predicted)

However, retailers and marketers are faced with a substantially shorter holiday shopping period this year. There are only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2019, compared to 32 days in 2018. Moreover, Christmas this year falls on a Wednesday, which could negatively impact Super Saturday sales because shoppers won't feel as pressured over the weekend to finish last minute gift purchases (Business Insider).

Given the shopping period is a full week shorter, retailers will be starting Black Friday deals earlier. This will amplify the existing trend of earlier Black Friday deals, which has been influenced mostly by online retail, where shopping deals will kick off one week before Black Friday. Amazon has led this effort, changing shoppers’ mindset from thinking of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as single “act fact” shopping days to week-long events.

Amazon Trends

Last year, Cyber Monday was Amazon's single biggest shopping day in the company's history (Amazon Press Release). Amazon doesn't break out retail sales for the "Turkey Five" (the five popular shopping days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday), but they did mention the following 2018 statistics:

  • 180 million+ items were sold throughout the "Turkey Five".

  • 18 million+ toys were sold on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

  • 13 million+ fashion items were sold on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

  • 4 million+ toys/electronics were sold on the mobile app on Black Friday.

  • Sales by SMBs worldwide grew by more than 20% YoY on Black Friday.

Amazon’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are again expected to break records for 2019. Expect Amazon to start launching holiday deals from mid-November until inventory runs out, which has historically been the end of the week after Thanksgiving (Money.com).

Amazon Advertising Best Practices

Now that we’ve covered 2019 Black Friday and Cyber Monday high-level trends, here are best practices to ensure you're ready to fully capitalize on the Amazon holiday season with Amazon Advertising.

1. Prioritize Products and Confirm Budgets

Given the huge spike in Amazon traffic during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, promoting every key product in your catalog will allow you to gain a tremendous amount of reach. However, you'll likely not have the budget to aggressively advertise all products equally. Therefore, a critical first step to holiday advertising on Amazon is prioritizing which products you plan to promote the most heavily while confirming budgets for each.

When considering which products to promote, it’s critical to determine which products are “retail ready”:

  • Products that have a high number of reviews.

  • Products that have at least a 3-star review rating.

  • Products that make sense for the holiday shopping.

  • Products with crisp and compelling detail page content.

When confirming holiday advertising budget for each product, a general rule of thumb:  expect 2X the daily budget spend throughout the holiday period and 5X the daily budget spend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

2. Run Campaigns before Black Friday

If you're planning to promote your products during the holidays, don't wait until Black Friday to start your Advertising Campaigns. Amazon Advertising Campaigns should be running at least one month before Black Friday, ideally two to three months prior. This head start is critical for several reasons:

  1. Campaigns perform better the longer they run: Amazon’s ad placement algorithm is more likely to rank placements higher when the associated campaign has more historical performance data. Historical performance data is important because it allows Amazon to more accurately estimate click-through rates before ads are served, which sometimes results in ads with lower keyword bids being ranked over ads with higher keyword bids, but lower estimated click-through rates. This characteristic makes it critical to enter Black Friday with campaigns that have been running for at least 30 days, so the inability for Amazon to estimate click-through rates doesn’t bottleneck ads from being placed.

  2. Advertising improves organic search rank. Organic search result rank for a given product improves when users engage with that product via sponsored results (i.e., either clicking the sponsored product directly, making subsequent branded search queries after seeing the sponsored product, or buying a product from the same brand). Therefore, by promoting your products in the months leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you'll be improving your organic relevancy which allows you to better capitalize on the much higher traffic during the holidays.

Expect lower than average conversion rates in the weeks leading up to Black Friday because shoppers are naturally holding out for deals. It's also important to remember that shoppers begin product research for the holidays as early as November 1.

3. Coordinate Promotions with Advertising

Of course, promotions are a proven method to drive demand during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as are advertising campaigns. But our customers have seen that coordinating their promotions with advertising campaigns will drive considerably higher revenue than isolated promotions. Therefore, for key product promotions, make sure you're considering the promotion schedule when determining your advertising budgets.

Also, our customers have observed that promotions and discounts don't need to be considerably large to meaningfully drive sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The percent discounted is definitely correlated with sales, but all products will see substantially higher sales even with modest to no discounts, simply because of increased traffic and shopping propensity of customers during the holiday season.

4. Monitor and Adjust Budgets in Real Time

The night before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, make sure you've set your campaign budgets accordingly. During the actual day of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can expect much higher impression volume, but CPC and conversion rates likely won’t increase at the same magnitude. It's important to continually monitor your campaign budgets throughout the day, ensuring budgets are replenished as needed while keeping in-line with overall daily/holiday budgets. The goal of this exercise is to ensure your campaigns have budget to serve sponsored advertisements until the late hours of the day, while still staying within your predetermined top-line brand/category budgets.

If you’re thinking this sounds challenging, tedious, and not scalable… you’re right. That’s why Downstream provides automation capabilities that allow customers to schedule future campaign budget changes. You can optionally distribute your daily budget evenly across the entire day to ensure ads are still being served in the evening. This automation capability gives customers the confidence to deploy holiday budgets across entire product catalogs on critical days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

5. Track Data for the Post-Mortem Analysis

Perhaps the most important preparation for a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertising strategy is conducting a post-mortem analysis using your own historical data. Analyzing historical data points like product sales, attributed advertising sales/conversions, and real-time search engine results will significantly influence your overall strategy for next year. It's critical to leverage your own data for this post-mortem analysis because every product category on Amazon has unique dynamics and major events like Black Friday cannot be modeled using data from a typical day in retail.

Capturing, storing, and analyzing this data can be challenging, especially for year-over-year analysis. This is why Downstream has developed a robust set of tools built specifically for Amazon Advertisers, that empower you to capture, analyze, and action your critical retail/advertising data during the holidays.

  • Unlimited Data Retention: Amazon only archives data for a certain number of days, but Downstream archives data indefinitely. This makes Black Friday year-over-year analyses a breeze.

  • Self-Intelligence Data: Advertisers constantly search Amazon.com during Black Friday and Cyber Monday to understand their organic and sponsored search rank. This approach obviously doesn’t scale and advertisers don’t store this rank information for future analysis. Downstream has access to self-intelligence data that will track your ads’ search rank throughout the day and we’ll store this information in perpetuity.

  • Dashboards and Visualizations: Typically, post-mortem analyses are conducted in spreadsheets with pivot tables and charts. But spreadsheets are cumbersome to refresh as new data becomes available (i.e., data constantly changes because of Amazon’s attribution windows) and cannot be easily shared with team members. Downstream provides a rich dashboard interface where you use visualizations and pivot tables to explore your data in our web application. These dashboards can be shared directly in the application, exported to PDF reports, or scheduled and shared via email.

  • Labeling:An effective post-mortem includes segment analyses, where data is bucketed into logical business constructs then analyzed (e.g., products with promotions, branded/non-branded campaigns, hero ASINs, seasonal products, etc.). Downstream allows you to bucket data by custom labels, empowering data analysis that’s much more relevant and actionable for your business.

  • Global Currency Conversions: Black Friday is a global event, so it's important to harmonize your data across all Amazon marketplaces. Downstream automatically converts data to uniform currencies to enable this cross-marketplace analysis.

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