The 2020 SteelHouse Holiday Marketing Guide
Throw Out Your Old Holiday Playbook
Welcome to the Holidays: Time For a New Approach
This isn’t the time to rehash last year’s holiday strategy. Just sticking to a basic “search, social, and display” ad strategy will end up leaving money on the table. Why? Because new consumer trends have emerged out of this year’s craziness that have changed the advertising landscape.
The most notable media consumption change is that streaming television has thrived.
Millions of consumers are stuck indoors and seeking entertainment, which has resulted in an explosion of streaming TV time.
Meanwhile, record numbers of consumers are turning to ecommerce; shopping levels during the first wave of COVID-19 (April and May) were higher than the peak of the 2019 holiday shopping season (November to December).1
And 66% of consumers plan on spending more online for their holiday shopping this season.2
These massive shifts in consumer behavior call for a new addition to your holiday strategy: Connected TV (CTV) advertising. It’s set to be a key difference maker for advertisers this busy holiday season—our goal for this guide is to teach you how to make the most of it.
This year's connected TV opportunity
Connected TV's Rise in 2020
Ecommerce had its strongest ever holiday shopping season last year, making up 13.4% of total holiday sales and driving over $135B in revenue.3 This year is projected to be even bigger for ecommerce sales, but it’s not the only consumer trend gaining momentum.
Even before the pandemic, Connected TV was gaining steady user adoption. By 2023, US household adoption was expected to reach 82%.4 When COVID-19 hit, it accelerated CTV’s adoption across the board.
Connected TV in the COVID-19 Era
Year-over-year increase in CTV viewing time5
US households with at least one CTV device6
US households with at least one CTV service7
Ad-Supported Streaming is Thriving
You might think of Netflix, Disney+, or other subscription services when you think streaming TV, but it's ad-supported content that dominates total streaming viewership. Nearly ¾ of 18+ streaming viewers watch ad-supported services.8
Watch subscription only
Watch ad-supported most
And while Disney+ grabs headlines for its number of subscribers, it’s lagging behind in viewership. In separate research published by Reelgood, Disney+ accounted for just 4.8% of total streaming time.9
More ad-supported services are coming online, with NBCUniversal’s Peacock the latest to launch. And with Forbes estimating Hulu generates $7 per month in ad revenue per ad-supported user,10 publishers have a heavy incentive to offer more ad inventory in Q4.
Connected TV Ad Spend is Pacing Higher
US advertisers spent nearly $7B on Connected TV ads in 2019, and this year it’s expected to be closer to $9B.11 With streaming TV’s explosive growth in viewership this year, we expect that number to pace even higher for 2020.
Case in point: Per SteelHouse data, after an initial 12% decrease in CTV ad spend at the outset of the pandemic (March and April), it surged 106% in May and June—and hasn’t given up any ground since.12
Advertisers Are Shifting Budget to Connected TV
A majority of marketers (59%) report plans to increase spend on Connected TV in the second half of 2020, beating out non-CTV/OTT video ads (56%), and even social (56%).13
The opportunity is so alluring that many marketers will shift budget from multiple existing ad channels. And while many will pull from existing TV budgets, over a quarter of marketers are using digital budgets instead. We expect that number to grow in Q4 since CTV’s targeting and reporting capabilities function like a digital channel.
Marketer Survey: Which ad budgets will you reduce to increase spend on CTV?14
Connected TV Tips & Strategies
How to Tap Into Connected TV This Holiday Season
More ad inventory is coming online, ad spend is up, and your competitors will likely be active on Connected TV this holiday season. You can’t afford to be absent on CTV in Q4—so what’s the best way to use it and maximize your return on ad spend?
Treat it as a direct-response performance channel. SteelHouse Performance TV, our CTV ad solution, is built to drive the best performance possible for your campaigns, regardless of your goal. It leverages a combination of preferential pricing, audience and device targeting, and a top-tier ad experience to make an impact.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be looking at CTV strategy through the lens of Performance TV.
Unlock Connected TV's Performance Potential
Just running ads on CTV doesn’t immediately make it a performance channel. You need a platform designed to specifically optimize toward your business goals. This is the secret ingredient other CTV solutions are lacking.
Performance TV combines goal-oriented optimization technology, exclusive pricing, and top-tier inventory to generate the best possible results for your campaigns.
Automated Media Buying
Just supply your budget and goal (no bids required), and it automatically optimizes your campaign thousands of times per day.
Living Room Quality PMP
We’ve negotiated preferential pricing on top-tier streaming inventory to ensure your campaigns deliver better returns.
2020 SteelHouse Performance TV Benchmarks
While ultimately campaign performance will be determined by your industry and specific goals, Performance TV puts you in the best position to achieve them.
Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)
Site Visit Rate
Cost Per Completed View
Cost Per Site Visit
Top 5 Ways to Maximize Performance
Regardless of whether you’re trying to drive site traffic or revenue and conversions, we recommend an approach that taps into the top, middle, and bottom of your sales funnel. SteelHouse Performance TV offers a combination of campaign tactics and features that are designed to engage your audience every step of the way.
Here are the top 5 ways you can use Performance TV to seize this year’s opportunity.
Use Prospecting to Reach Valuable New Users
It’s important to reach new audiences in the run-up to the holiday season because shoppers tend to seek out brands they’re already familiar with when it’s time to buy. Performance TV helps you reach those new audiences thanks to its full integration with the Oracle Data Cloud, the world’s largest CTV audience provider.
You can leverage Performance TV for prospecting campaigns that are not only effective at raising awareness, but also drive highly qualified site traffic that converts. And with television ads topping the list of ad formats for brand recall, they’re some of the most effective prospecting ads you can deploy this holiday season.
Top 5 Keys to Prospecting Success
1. Launch Multiple Campaigns
Run a campaign with a focus on gift-giving, and another for shoppers in-market for themselves to reach multiple audiences and assess which performs better.
2. Start in September
You’ll want to raise awareness in the early parts of the holiday shopping season. Make prospecting a heavy focus in September, October, and into November.
3. Competitor Conquesting
Target audiences that have shopped with your competitors to not only reach shoppers interested in your offering, but also steal market share from your rivals.
4. Make it Direct-Response
Prospecting on CTV drives an efficient cost per visit because it prompts viewers to take action; give your ad a strong CTA to drive site visits and conversions.
5. Audience Extension
Performance TV serves related display ads on web and mobile once they’ve seen your CTV ad, allowing you to immerse your audience across multiple devices.
Retarget Your Newfound Site Visitors
By leveraging Performance TV for driving new site traffic, you’ll have an enormous retargeting pool to tap into. Take full advantage of it by deploying Performance TV retargeting campaigns, which function just like digital retargeting except they use HD video ads streamed over television.
Performance TV retargeting is an enormous opportunity to take advantage of CTV’s direct-response nature. With only 10% of marketers15 seeing video ads as a lower funnel strategy, you have a competitive advantage with CTV retargeting since it’s something your competition may overlook.
Top 5 Keys to Retargeting Success
1. Get Aggressive
Since these shoppers have already visited your site but haven’t decided to convert, offer this group of shoppers more aggressive promos to convince them to buy.
2. Ramp in November
Launch your retargeting campaigns to target shoppers in the run-up to Black Friday, and then keep them running all the way into the New Year.
3. Increase Budget
Dedicate 30% of your budget to retargeting up until November 21st, then increase to 70-80% in the last week of the month and first two weeks of December.
4. Focus on Products
These shoppers already understand your brand, so make your offering the focus with ads that highlight your products.
5. Retarget Everywhere
Performance TV retargeting campaigns also serve dynamic display ads on web and mobile that feature products viewed by your shoppers.
Immerse Shoppers With Audience Extension
Ads streamed on television are great at grabbing user attention, and generate 32% more ad recall than the next closest device.16 Performance TV ads serve exclusively to television screens to tap into that effect.
But holiday shoppers tend to jump from device to device. It’s a best practice to have related display ads (both in message and aesthetic) running on web and mobile to ensure you deliver a consistent message across multiple channels. SteelHouse Audience Extension is built with that in mind.
Extend Your Audience
SteelHouse Performance TV is equipped with Audience Extension, which serves related display ads to viewers who have seen your ad on CTV.
By combining CTV and display ads in a single campaign, you drive better performance than just display alone. Here’s how a leading home supply retailer’s Performance TV retargeting campaign stacked up against display-only retargeting.17
More unique site visitors
Lower cost per visit
Fewer impressions per single site visit
Provide a Living Room Quality Experience
Performance TV’s Living Room Quality doesn’t just unlock preferential pricing and inventory, it also taps into viewing habits to deliver a top-tier ad experience that prompts user action.
Even though viewers can watch Connected TV on mobile or desktop devices, the vast majority watch it on television. This is good news for advertisers, because nearly 90% of viewers use a second digital device while watching TV,18 and 65% use a second screen to look up brands advertised while streaming.19 Living Room Quality is designed to leverage that viewer behavior and drive better campaign performance.
You Only Pay for True CTV Ads
It only serves ads to TV screens (not mobile or desktop) to ensure your campaigns are only paying for true CTV inventory.
It Only Serves Ads on Top Networks
Ads are served on streaming networks like Hulu, ESPN, Bravo, FOX Sports, and over 150 others, ensuring your brand is paired with premium, brand-safe content that elevates your brand perception.
It Leverages Second-Screens
By only serving on TV screens, Living Room Quality allows viewers to take immediate action.
If a viewer sees a CTV ad on mobile or desktop, they won’t exit out of their stream to visit your site.
But if they’re watching on TV with their phone in-hand, they’re more likely to navigate to your page.
Track Every Cross-Device Journey
Connected TV advertising requires accurate cross-device measurement—shoppers aren’t converting on their TV screens after all.
SteelHouse uses Cross-Device Verified Visits, which is our proprietary technology that measures any user visits to your site following a completed in-view display of your ads, in a window of time defined by you. It’s fully integrated into Google Analytics, so you can measure and verify your performance using the leading 3rd party analytics platform as well.
How Cross-Device Verified Visits Works
User completes an ad (considered viewable by IAB standards) on a household device
User visits advertiser site on any household device within Verified Visit window
User converts within conversion window
Advertiser Success Stories
Successful Performance TV Holiday Campaigns
The holidays can be tough, but the right approach can make them a whole lot easier. Let’s take a look at how this top brand handled the holiday shopping season last year with Performance TV.
Mrs. Fields Cookies
As a leading gourmet cookie and gift retailer, Mrs. Fields typically sees major growth during the holiday season. After all, who wouldn’t want to be gifted freshly baked cookies? Even Santa loves them.
Their Holiday Approach
Mrs. Fields built up their retargeting audience pool ahead of the holidays with a Performance TV prospecting campaign. Their targeting strategy included finding new customers interested in sweets and desserts, frequent delivery-service users, and holiday shoppers and gift givers.
They then scaled up their retargeting efforts to capitalize on the high-quality, net-new traffic driven to their site by Performance TV—resulting in better ROAS performance even with an increased budget.
“Connected TV represented a big opportunity for us during last year’s holiday shopping season. It proved to be an effective strategy for us because we were not only able to generate strong returns with the Performance TV campaign, but it enhanced our retargeting as well.”
VP Marketing, Mrs. Fields Gifting and Licensing
October (Before Performance TV Prospecting)
Return On Ad Spends (ROAS)
November/December (After Performance TV)
Return On Ad Spends (ROAS)
Performance TV Prospecting
Return On Ad Spends (ROAS)
Cost Per Visit
The Lure of Connected TV Inventory
The Fall Will Likely Break Viewing Records on Connected TV
TV viewership traditionally rises in the fall and reaches its peak during the winter when everyone is stuck indoors. The pandemic has kept people indoors all year—and with flu season coinciding with the holiday shopping season you can expect indoor-hours to rival those of winter’s.
Meanwhile, traditional broadcast networks have moved their best content to streaming to join streaming-exclusive shows, and their premier fall lineups will also be available. Top quality content has made CTV’s inventory a huge advantage over other digital channels—you won’t be able to pair your ads with programming like this on social or YouTube.
Inventory Brings Viewers In, Targeting Brings Them To You
While the quality of programming inventory will attract droves of viewers, the real secret to Performance TV’s effectiveness is its audience-first targeting.
Its targeting isn’t based on programming, but rather the audience watching it. It’s completely programming-agnostic, meaning your ads find your audience regardless of what show they’re watching. For example, if you’re trying to target outdoor enthusiasts, you’ll reach them whether they’re watching Discovery’s Man Vs. Wild, or Bravo’s Top Chef.
How to Target Valuable Audiences
Go After These Actionable Holiday Audiences
You can follow every campaign best practice imaginable, but you won’t see success unless you’re targeting the right shoppers. We’ve assembled a list of recommendations and audiences found within the Oracle Data Cloud, which is fully integrated into Performance TV, that will give you the best shot at driving site traffic and conversions.
You’re going to want to create a large targeting pool in order to grab as many of those prospective holiday shoppers as possible, so tap into 3rd party audience data.
Target Valuable 3rd Party Audiences
Seasonal audiences should be a priority, and this year you should consider “stay-at-home” targeting as well. Search for these audiences in Performance TV’s audience builder, and add them to your campaigns.
Black Friday & Cyber Monday Shoppers
Search Terms: Black Friday, Cyber Monday
You need to get your ads in front of users who have historically been active during the major shopping events, whether it’s in-store or online.
Black Friday & Cyber Monday Online Spenders
Search Terms: Black Friday, Cyber Monday Online Spenders
Online shoppers are projected to spend big this year, and with this segment traditionally spending 2X the average on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it will be valuable.
Holiday Shoppers By Vertical
Search Term: Black Friday (Your vertical here)
You can search for users who have historically purchased products from your specific vertical. So whether you’re an outdoor or apparel brand, there’s an audience for you.
Top Holiday Spenders
Search Term: Top Holiday Spenders
People are spending record amounts online this year, so be sure you’re going after users with deep pockets.
Search Terms: Video Games, Platforms and Consoles, Nintendo, Xbox
The gaming industry is booming and offers outlets to people stuck inside—if your offering aligns with these types of shoppers, they could be good to target.
Search Terms: Exercise & Fitness, Exercise Equipment, Gyms & Sports Clubs
Shoppers are trying to avoid the dreaded “Quarantine-15” weight gain during lockdown. Fitness shoppers won’t be waiting for their New Year’s Resolutions to buy.
Combine Everything with In-Market “And” Statements
You want to ensure you're maximizing your reach when trying to drive new users to your site. Add as many audience segments as possible, and then combine them with an in-market “and” statement. This will net plenty of shoppers who are actively seeking to buy this holiday season.
Holiday Creative Tips
Build Creative That Prompts Action
Whether you’re running Performance TV ads, or display creative with web retargeting or Audience Extension, ‘tis the season for compelling creative that prompts users to take action.
- Viewers can’t click to convert on their TVs, so include a visual and audible call to action to get them to your site.
- Keep your logo and URL persistent throughout to tap into the ad channel’s direct-response nature.
- If you only have one video for your holiday campaign, change up your Audience Extension display ads more frequently to avoid creative fatigue and highlight key shopping days.
- Call out the specific shopping event your ad is tied to. If it’s a special promo for Cyber Monday, let your audience know.
- Ensure your offer is front and center, and any promo codes are included in every scene of your ad.
- Keep it festive with holiday imagery and tap into people’s excitement around this time of year.
- Q4 is extremely competitive, so be sure you’re utilizing any ad elements that catch the eye—video and animation will do the trick.
Tips for the COVID-19 Era
The pandemic has resulted in a wide range of challenges for advertisers to solve, but there are steps you can take to prepare your campaigns and creative in Q4.
Keep Shipping Top of Mind
This year has been marred with logistics issues, and shoppers will be wary of getting gifts on time. If you’re not struggling with supply or delivery problems, integrate that into your creative message so shoppers will feel confident enough to convert.
Promote Gift Cards
Promoting your gift card options can pay dividends; it can sidestep any shipping concerns, while also giving last-minute shoppers a chance to convert without worrying about not having a gift ready for the holiday.
Recreate Window Shopping
Brick and mortar retail has suffered as window shoppers and in-store browsers have been in short supply. Recreate that experience through your creative; feature a wide assortment of your product catalog to make shoppers aware of what you have on offer.
Video Alternatives to Live Action
Filming video content has been a challenge for everyone, from Hollywood studios to advertisers. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders can disrupt live video shoots, but there are other ways to create compelling video ads and get them live on Connected TV.
User Generated Content
Do you have fans sharing their love of your brand on social media? Use those to create video ads that showcase customers evangelizing your brand.
You don’t need actors to tell your brand’s story—put together a visually interesting ad by combining product imagery and animated ad copy to grab user attention.
Get creative with your product offering and find fun ways to show them off. Stop motion animation is not only visually interesting, it makes your products the focus.
Important Dates to Remember for 2020
2020 Holiday Marketing Calendar
Now that we’ve covered how to make the most of this year’s opportunity, let’s take a look at when. Here’s every important date you need to know.
December - January
- Black Friday
- Small Business Saturday
- Cyber Monday + Cyber Week
- Free Shipping Day
- Green Monday
- Super Saturday
- Christmas Eve
- Post-Christmas Sale
Trend Snapshot: 2019
2019 Holidays: By the Numbers
With the surge in ecommerce in 2020, we expect this year’s performance data to eclipse 2019’s and for the trends below to play out on a much grander scale. Combined with advertisers driving more site visits and conversions with Connected TV, this holiday season is poised to be huge.
Let’s take a look at how consumers shopped online last year using data pulled from the SteelHouse network. Keep these trends in mind for your strategies this year.
Trend Snapshot: Q4 Overall
Month after month, key site metrics moved up as the shopping season wore on. The data indicates opportunity rises as time moves forward; there’s little incentive for advertisers to take their foot off the gas until the new year.
34% of advertisers’ total yearly revenue was generated in Q4.
Both consumers and advertisers kicked into high gear, with key metrics and ad spend all jumping more than 20%.
Revenue surged 36% higher MoM, due in large part to Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
While growth slowed vs. previous months, December’s site visit, conversion, and revenue numbers were highest.
Advertisers did well to match each month’s opportunity with increased spend, except for December where it dropped 17% vs. November.
Trend Snapshot: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Week
The two week stretch from November 25th to December 8th is the biggest shopping event of the year. And while Black Friday and Cyber Monday may get all the headlines, it was Thanksgiving Day that really stood out.
Average Order Value
Shoppers didn’t wait for Black Friday to start spending big. Thanksgiving Day’s average order value was 31% higher than the two week average, and eclipsed the more popular shopping events.
Unsurprisingly, Black Friday was top for revenue during the two week stretch, with Cyber Monday not far behind. Thanksgiving Day beat the shopping period’s average revenue by 28%, and if Black Friday and Cyber Monday are excluded, it beat it by 76%.
Site Visits & Conversions
Cyber Week was top for both site visits and conversions, but saw a drop in average order value. This indicates shoppers buy big as soon as they can, then go hunting for smaller purchases as time goes on.
Key Takeaways from 2019
The 2019 holiday shopping season was a major success for advertisers, and the data suggests there are opportunities to seize this year.
Ad Budgets Were Exhausted
Despite December generating the highest number of conversions, revenue, and site traffic, ad spend dropped 17%. Advertisers exhausted their budgets during the Black Friday and Cyber Week stretch and weren't able to maintain them to take advantage of increased consumer activity.
There’s Untapped Opportunity in December
It’s important to reserve or add budget for the final stretch of the shopping season. Improved shipping times and logistics have made shoppers comfortable buying at the last minute. And while shipping times may prove to be an issue this year due to COVID-19, it's likely this behavior will still continue.
Thanksgiving Day Is a Top-3 Shopping Event
Shoppers aren’t waiting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday anymore—they’re shopping right from the Thanksgiving dinner table and they’re spending big. Ensure your campaigns are ready to take advantage by featuring big-ticket items since Thanksgiving Day’s average order value is highest.
Don’t Stop at Christmas
With gift cards in hand, shoppers shift from gift-giving to shopping for themselves pretty quick. Have campaigns ready to launch immediately after Christmas with a self-shopping message to drive end-of-year performance and claim your share of gift-card spending.
Key Findings & Recommendations
2020 Holiday Marketing Guide: Summary
2020 has seen immense change for both advertisers and consumers alike. While we can examine 2019’s trends for possible opportunities, 2020 presents a unique scenario that requires an ambitious approach. Here’s a summary of the things you need to remember in order to make this a very merry holiday shopping season.
Q4 was big business for advertisers, with the three month stretch generating 34% of the year’s revenue.
Ad spend dropped 17% in December despite peak levels of site visits, revenue, and conversions, suggesting advertisers are missing an opportunity to compete.
Connected TV in 2020
2020 has seen advertisers flock to Connected TV in the wake of the pandemic; after a 12% decrease in CTV ad spend at the outset of the pandemic, it jumped 106%.
SteelHouse Performance TV campaigns have delivered strong averages on ROAS (4.36X), site visit rate (1.87%), cost per completed view ($0.04), and cost per site visit ($4.60).
Start prospecting campaigns as early as September, and ramp them up in October and November to ensure you’re at the top of shoppers’ consideration set.
Keep budgets strong all the way until the new year—there are a lot of conversions and revenue up for grabs late in the shopping season, so you need to stay competitive.
SteelHouse Performance TV turns CTV into a performance ad channel.
Leverage Performance TV for performance, prospecting, and retargeting on CTV to ensure you’re driving qualified site traffic and conversions.
COVID-19 and a surge in ecommerce can make shipping delays a concern for shoppers; highlight on-time delivery or gift card options to allay those fears.
Recreate window-shopping and in-store browsing with creative that recreates those experiences and shows off the breadth of your catalog.
Video ads perform better—especially on Performance TV. Find alternative ways to produce video ads to ensure you tap into that opportunity.
Make Connected TV Your Priority
This holiday shopping season’s biggest opportunity is on Connected TV—discover how SteelHouse Performance TV can help you make the most of it.