Do you feel like the holiday season starts earlier every year? It’s only October and yet some of you have probably already received holiday catalogs in the mail or seen other holiday messages floating out there in the ether. Or, maybe you’re already thinking about when to take your holiday decor out of the attic?

Well, you’re not alone. Especially if you’re a retail marketer. In our holiday survey we found that 47% of marketers believe that the holiday season begins in October. And, even more importantly, planning for holiday advertising starts way earlier. Just when most of us are embarking on our summer vacations, in July (or before), 54% of companies with 500 or more employees have already started their holiday planning.

These insights and more are what we learned when we surveyed global e-retailers about how they plan to spend their holiday advertising budgets this year. The survey was done in partnership with OrionCKB, a direct response marketing agency and the results have been released in a new report titled 2016 E-Commerce Benchmark Report.

Diversification is Key

Most strikingly, we found that these advertisers believe that diversification of digital channels and ad types is critical to the success of their holiday advertising. They are not putting all of their presents in one sleigh so to speak. (Pardon the metaphor, we couldn’t resist.) While there are clearly frontrunners in terms of investment, budgets are funding a wide-range of ad types and solutions within these two channels.

Not surprisingly, search and social are taking the lion’s share of holiday investments and both Google and Facebook, dominant players in their respective channels, are the beneficiaries of the bulk of these investments. Google will garner 68% of the spend going to search which is up from 2015. And, more than half of social investments will go to Facebook, with 71% saying that this is an increase from last year.

As far as ad types go, the top two most important to holiday marketing are on Google. Search Keyword ads are important for 74% of those surveyed and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) for 61% of those surveyed. Beyond these two ad types, there was no clear winner amongst the other types signaling they are of equal importance.

Trimming the Tree with Video and Mobile?

So, where do video and mobile fit into the holiday story? While the importance of both is undeniable, only large companies rated video as very important to their holiday marketing, while only 26% of small and 24% of mid-sized companies said the same. It could be that these smaller companies feel they lack the resources to do video right and so they are putting their limited budgets into other efforts.

And, although mobile is what’s driving e-commerce growth, more than half of marketers surveyed said mobile app install ads and app engagement ads were less important in 2016 than last year. While mobile e-commerce is being perfected, marketers might feel their money is better spent in improving the check-out experience vs. in advertising.


Better Together: Search and Social

So, what does this all mean? While social continues to grow in importance, search is still the most important lever to pull for holiday advertising. Yet, the real key to success is diversification, investing in both search and social and in a variety of ad types in order to best engage your holiday shoppers across channels, wherever they spend their time.

At Kenshoo, we are strong proponents of the integration of search and social and we’ve seen the positive results from many clients who take the omnichannel approach. We know that social drives discovery, which leads to intent and search, which can ultimately lead to conversions. So don’t just focus on one area when tackling your 2016 holiday marketing plans — be sure to spread the joy far and wide!

Read the full 2016 E-Commerce Benchmark Report.


Happy (early) holidays!