Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? Well, you better be. Q4 is fully upon us and I am dedicating my column this month to helping you navigate the incoming barrage, as well as to helping preserve the sanity of your marketing teams.
We are all very familiar with the Q4 consumerism clusterfuck, but in the digital age there is so much to take advantage of, even if you haven’t pumped out a new album, greatest hits or box set. At Deviate Digital, we’re hired by artists, managers, promoters, labels and brands to manage e-commerce campaigns, especially around peak traffic periods, and there is so much potential to boost sales across recorded music, merch and ticketing if you take the time to set it up properly.
Ideally, any set-up needs to be done 60-90 days in advance, but if you’ve left it too late, there are still plenty of things you can do to ensure a great sales period. (But next year maybe put a reminder in your diary for September or October to get your plans together!)
Competition is fierce, and you can expect the cost of any paid media to rocket during, before and after the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period, as well as in the lead-up to Christmas. But let me be the first to tell you that simply slinging your marketing team a new asset and a link to your shop two days before is not going to cut it. They’re also not going to thank you for sending the billionth email they receive in the days leading up to these events with last minute requests. The entire Western world is competing for our attention online during this period and we have to make sure we navigate it appropriately.
For instance, it can be tempting to assume that a Black Friday strategy should be purely about driving sales – but don’t forget everything you know about the way your users behave online. While one person may make a split second purchase based on an impulse or an ad, another will spend hours researching, comparing and browsing before buying.
It’s worth creating funnels early to catch all consumer types. If you have an artist or event with a high traffic site or social it’s also well worth putting a Black Friday post, landing page or banner on there in the run up. Create those funnels well ahead of the game.
While things change daily (read: hourly) in the digital space, it’s 100% worth reviewing your past performance for ads and audiences around peak periods. There may well be an opportunity to up-weight bids more aggressively around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which can lead to bigger returns.
If you’re intending to sell across Google, in order to highlight specific offers within the Shopping Network you can use Merchant Promotions to distribute online offers across different Google properties.
The entire Western world is competing for our attention online during this period and we have to make sure we navigate it appropriately
Also, top tip: if you are running shopping feed ads make sure you’ve removed any out of stock products. If these are still promoted within the shopping feed it’s for sure going to impact cost, reduce customer satisfaction and hinder account optimisation. It’s crucial that you set up the promotions feed in advance of this period as it can take a few days for Google to accept enrolment on to Merchant Promotions.
And let me reiterate: do not leave any of this prep too late. Do not email your marketing department a day before expecting them to perform miracles if you haven’t given them enough time.
Are you running other ‘business as usual’ or ‘always on’ ads during this period? Consider whether you need to switch them off. They’re going to cost loads more, and you’re suddenly competing with an influx of advertising from thousands of brands into the space. Unless you are happy to take the financial risk or you are sure of cutting through the noise, consider switching them off until the madness subsides, to allow any specific promotional ads to thrive.
Utilise those mailing lists ahead of time. Think back to the amount of bullshit mailers you had to delete from your inbox last Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Let your fans know in good time that you’re planning a promotion, give them a peek of what will be on offer to lock them in early.
You can also use this data to target ads to exactly the right people at the right time as well as relying on your data directly to do some of the heavy lifting. If you are mailing out on the day itself, subject lines are the be-all and end-all of your email strategy during such a fight for inbox attention, so take the time to craft creative, well-written variations that you can test and learn from. If you’ve not cut through in the way you’d hoped, try extending your promotional period to mop up any residual sales that may be left on the table.
There are a lot more tips I could give you, but I’d be talking us out of a job. The big one you really need to know is preparation. And what we all need to be aware of this year is the state of the economy, if we still have one by the time this goes to print. If you have taken the time to read your data properly and know your audience, you’re unlikely to fuck this up. Just make sure your offers and products are well matched, good value and considerate to the financial positions of those buying.