The end of 2019 is in sight, but that means we need to get through the chaos of the holiday season. While your audiences, media plans, creative, and messaging are all locked and ready to go, you can still optimize campaigns for performance using context at the point of activation.
With this in mind, we’re unveiling hidden holiday trends and context insights we’ve discovered using Contextual Intelligence. We recently shared these insights in a webinar that you can watch here if you want additional information. In the meantime, read on to find out:
When holiday content starts to trend online
What the 3 main shopping missions are during this season
The top categories of gifts that people are searching for
How to take advantage of the unpredictable content cycle
Let’s start by revealing when the holiday season really kicks off—a crucial insight to ensure your campaign timing is aligned with online engagement. As consumers, we know the holiday season seems to start earlier every year, with store decor often getting festive right after Halloween. But as marketers, what we’re focused on is identifying when content about the holiday season starts to trend—that is, when are people engaging with holiday content online.
The graph that follows tells us that this happens at the start of November (just after Halloween, funnily enough!). Interest in holiday content accelerates through November but really ramps up at the halfway point. This interest lasts until the week before Christmas—dropping off around December 20.
Key takeaway: When activating your holiday campaigns, take into account when relevant content is in play and attracting interest online. Ensure your brand message surrounds relevant holiday content during this period for the most impact.
When it comes to what consumers are interested in during the holiday season, it’s best to keep it simple. Consumers are trying to achieve 3 key missions during the holiday period: they’re trying to figure out what gifts to buy, where to spend the day, and what to cook or eat.
Our advice is to not think about these trends in relation to your individual vertical but more so from the consumer’s point of view. These trends don’t just relate to CPG or retail verticals. They relate to every advertiser and can help you determine what to align with.
Consumers clearly have decisive needs during the holiday period that will be fulfilled mostly offline. They will likely buy gifts in-store (although online will play a role here, too), and travel and spend the season with family and friends in person. But these decisions will be based on the research and content they’ve engaged with online.
Key takeaway: Be more open in your branding and advertising—don’t get overly swept up in ensuring inventory is appearing on pages that relate directly to your industry vertical. Instead, consider it an opportunity to make sure your brand is getting the most exposure as consumers move along their holiday journeys. This will help you connect with your audience in the right moments that are fitting for your brand.
Speaking of gift giving, let’s dive into the top-trending gift ideas for 2019. As you can see, there really is no clear trend here. There are so many different areas that consumers are looking at for the perfect gift that it’s almost impossible to focus on the top 2 or 3 categories.
Key takeaway: Again, don’t worry so much about your traditional vertical. Think more about tapping into the mind-set and emotions of the consumer. Consider that your audience is floating around many different categories, searching for that perfect gift. If you focus only on environments that are directly related to your industry vertical, you’ll likely miss out on some key moments to engage audiences with your advertising.
So, you may be a technology company that sells smartphones, but your customers aren’t only looking for these items. They’re also looking for toys, fitness apparel, books, furniture, fashion, and so on. They’re constantly moving around different categories and pages online. This is an opportunity to stop focusing on traditional areas where you would advertise and focus on the content and environments that are trending. These trending areas will have new, potentially high-value audiences that can lead to incremental reach.
The holiday season is prime time for big life moments, specifically popping the question. While that’s interesting in itself, this insight speaks to a larger opportunity for capitalizing on unpredictable content cycles. Engagement rings are the #1 trending product within the fashion and jewelry category during the holiday season.
Furthermore, the graph that follows reveals that content focused on “planning the perfect proposal” picks up notable momentum toward the end of November, and while it gains through mid-December, it’s clearly unpredictable.
There’s a spike in interest in late November, but then it rapidly declines, suggesting that the research goes offline. When it picks up again in December, it’s likely that shoppers are farther along in their journeys. They could be back online looking for inspiration for where to propose, ideas for dates, or advice on shopping for the right ring.
The important thing to note here is how targeting this trend works with context compared to traditional audience segments.
Context immediately puts you in the moment with audiences who are showcasing high intent—that is, reading and engaging with relevant content online. Using traditional audience segments would require advertisers to build segments of people who have shown previous interest, collected through either cookies or 3rd party data. The challenge with that is marriage proposals are, for the most part, only planned once. So that online history for a consumer as a jewelry intender or engagement-ring shopper is likely nonexistent.
Key takeaway: With context, previous habits and internet history are redundant. Context allows advertisers to capitalize on, and accommodate for, content trends as they happen. Especially for these unpredictable content cycles, context is the only way to ensure your campaigns are appearing in the random moments of high intent and engagement.
Looking beyond the contextual data and insights, Mastercard’s real-time transaction data reveals some interesting insights into where people are spending their money and what the big product categories are this season. While average ticket sizes are higher in-store, the holiday season is more important for e-commerce sales and accounts for more of the annual spend across most product categories.
While you’re finalizing campaign plans or making last-minute adjustments, check out Mastercard’s holiday audiences and insights.
The holiday season is as unpredictable as they come, with no shortage of content trends and news cycles to take advantage of. No doubt you have your campaigns already buttoned up, but there’s still opportunity to capitalize on key moments with context.
Context can be switched on at any time and deliver results, especially if you opt to use a solution like Oracle Predicts—which helps you capture high-value inventory before the competition does, drives greater scale and engagement, and allows you to optimize in real time.
To get started, try these seasonal Oracle Predicts segments to ensure your campaign is in the moment and engaging relevant audiences all throughout the holidays:
All Things New Year
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Cold and Flu Season
Check out our seasonal segment guide for more information and segments.