Utilising contextual advertising to optimise shopping in the New Year

The post-Christmas period, when Boxing Day and January sales occur, remains one of the biggest and most successful periods in the retail calendar, with hitting the sales only becoming more popular as time passes.

According to insights retrieved by Seedtag, festive shopping content which starts about a month before Black Friday can carry right the way through to the new year, with the peak appearing on Boxing Day as consumers en masse hit the high street looking for bargains.

A trend which is global, Christmas, Boxing Day and new year remain some of the most crucial and profitable times of the year for brands and retailers alike.

Due to advancements in technology and a heavy appetite from consumers to spoil their loved ones, festive sales continue to grow every year – even in the face of global pandemics – with spending this year expected to reach a record between $859 billion of sales.

As a brand, it really is the best time to pique consumer interest, leveraging and building on the hype of Black Friday, riding the wave of published content and carrying the attention through for another couple of months.

The pandemic created an e-commerce boom but brands must continue to engage and capture the interest of their customers during a time of increased purchasing when savings have never been higher and confidence is returning even in the face of a new COVID-19 variant.

However, as cookies begin to disappear, brands need to rethink what they did before and find new solutions that enable them to accurately target consumers without the reliance on third party data or data signals collected from dubious sources with the appropriate consumer consent – just look at the recent fines doled out to providers of location data.

At such a critical time of year and with all the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked, brands need to act in order to be successful and this in many ways requires a rethink on the most appropriate approach. In my many conversations with agency customers, brand marketing teams and retailers this process is underway and they are confident they have prepared the best approach for their customers in 2022.

However, amplifying activity within the small festive window remains essential. Companies wanting to stand out from the crowd must learn from Christmas and be prepared to act quickly for the next round of sales. Attracting and engaging consumers in a way that enhances user experience, respects the consumer’s personal privacy and drives meaningful attention, that will create a bright and successful start for 2022.

Accelerating marketing efforts throughout 2022

As cookies start to be phased out, there has never been a better time to explore and learn about other solutions which are able to deliver the same if not better results.

The answer comes in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) – and more specifically, contextual AI. This year, contextual targeting will play a pivotal role in helping brands to maximise their marketing and advertising investments.

The technology allows brands to track and analyse consumer interests around the main shopping events, and can even take data and insights from previous years to help brands fully utilise festive content published across the most premium sites, without the need to use or store personal data.

One specific example of brands utilising contextual targeting to improve Christmas campaigns comes from fashion and fragrance brand Carolina Herrera, which leveraged contextual AI to boost brand awareness, capture attention and encourage engagement throughout the 2020 festive shopping season. Having undertaken a full-scale contextual analysis, Carolina Herrera focused specifically on fashion and lifestyle environments, rather than health and beauty, which ultimately drove higher quality traffic to the brand’s website and created huge success around its fragrances, Good Girl and Bad Boy.

Last year, data insights from Seedtag showed that in 2020 consumer interest and traffic increased across some markets. During the festive period, lifestyle achieved an interest of 36% at the end of November, much higher than other relevant content categories.

However, from the beginning of December to Christmas Day, the awareness of food & drink increased to 18% whilst families prepared for their festivities. After Christmas Day, both technology (31%) and style & fashion (15%) had an increase in awareness, indicating that these types of purchases were bought from the direct consumer with money they may have received during this period.

Using these insights to understand the context can help provide brands with the most relevant and engaging communications with New Year advertisements. It also allows brands to determine which will be the most effective display ads to serve to audiences.

Teaming up with contextual advertising

Through contextual AI, marketing teams can develop a much better understanding of what is popular this time of year, by looking at data accrued over the past few months, or even during last year’s event. From there, they can make informed decisions that enable enhanced performance over the festive period.

One of the learnings from Christmas is that contextual AI was key during last-minute Christmas sales as brands could use this space to advertise their great deals. Whether this is available on a website, being in front of target audiences with the right content will be the difference between winning or losing with competitors: this is where contextual advertising plays a vital role. Consumers want to see the best bargains from products they are interested in and to do this, brands must be present in the spaces where their potential buyers will be – whether this is on a fashion, beauty or technology site or page.

This technology can also help brands determine which product for each market is the most relevant for its customers during the festive season. For example, in the food & drink market, brands can identify cooking trends as well as what time its customers are looking at relevant ads. Similarly to this, in the style & fashion industry, brands can also understand what type of clothing consumers are looking for. From New Year’s outfits to branded football kits, companies can make sure they are promoting the correct items.

Utilising Context in Retail

Using AI for brands in retail can boost the exposure of other products or stories to generate sales and brand awareness. Not only does this encourage post-Christmas spending, but also for future purchases too. Contextual AI can be used all year round for different campaigns. Brands can reach new audiences and identify new customers through artificial intelligence that can determine the best approach moving forward, based on previous learnings.

Understanding consumer buying trends during a time when consumers are purchasing for a number of brands can be a challenge for advertisers. However, by moving away from personal data and towards a more contextual, AI-driven approach, brands can become more targeted without compromising consumer privacy.

As we move into the new year, competition for effectively reaching audiences becomes considerably fiercer. Through contextual targeting, not only can brands reach those targets, but the ads they serve will help uplift engagement and improve brand favorability.

by Paul Thompson, UK and Netherlands Country Manager at Seedtag

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