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Black Friday, Singles' Day, and Cyber Monday: 5 growth hacks for advertisers and publishers

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no longer limited to the USA. These e-commerce events have become established and now mark the start of holiday shopping worldwide. Singles’ Day is also becoming more widespread. With the following tips, advertisers and publishers can optimally prepare for the “discount battle” – and ensure increasing sales.

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Cyber Week: history, relevance, and sales 

Towards the end of the year, when Christmas shopping begins for many online buyers, three major events have become increasingly popular. The first is Singles’ Day, which is only just arriving in Europe. This “holiday” originates in China and takes place annually on 11/11. Originally intended as a day for young singles to attend parties and make friends, Singles’ Day is now China’s biggest online shopping day. Alibaba Group, for example, reported sales of USD 74.1 billion on 11/11/2020 – that’s three times more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in the US. In Europe, too, more and more online retailers are taking part in Singles’ Day and advertising numerous discount promotions.

shopping spree on Singles' Day: comparison of merchandise value and sales on major online sale days

The next big shopping event is Black Friday. It originated in the American retail sector and takes place on the Friday after Thanksgiving (which is the fourth Thursday in November). Many Americans take the day to go Christmas shopping, so many retailers offer special promotions and discounts. With the growth of e-commerce, Black Friday has also become an online event and spread beyond the USA. Today, the shopping event is so popular and lucrative that many stores organize an entire “Black Week” and entice shoppers with a range of daily offers and discounts.

Black Week is followed directly by Cyber Monday on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday was originally the online counterpart to Black Friday, which mainly takes place in brick-and-mortar stores. Although Black Friday is now also a strong sales driver in e-commerce, Cyber Monday in the USA is still ahead in terms of online sales. The shopping days around Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also often referred to as Cyber Week.According to a study by Sirius Campus, 2021 sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in Germany amounted to EUR 5.3 billion. Of this amount, 42 percent was generated by online mail-order companies, 37 percent by direct purchases from the manufacturer, and 21 percent by brick-and-mortar retailers. The top product categories during Cyber Week include fashion, electronics, and beauty.

Attention, advertisers! 5 pro tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

For advertisers, Cyber Week is one of the most crucial times of the year. It heralds the start of the holiday shopping season and offers the opportunity to significantly increase annual sales before year’s end. Follow these tips to be well-prepared:

1. Start planning early 

In August, or earlier, Advertisers should start preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. At this point, the marketing budget for Cyber Week and its distribution across the various channels should be set. In addition, their own online store should be tested and examined for optimization potential so that everything runs smoothly for customers: from product search to checkout. When it comes to planning specific campaigns, advertisers should definitely use the previous year’s figures as a basis for planning.

2. Partner management

Based on the figures from last year’s Cyber Week, and the previous months, advertisers can easily determine which publishers they have been able to work with most successfully. As soon as the promotions for the upcoming Cyber Week are scheduled, publishers should be informed about them so that they can prepare suitable content.

3. Target customers in the right places

In order to target promotions around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, advertisers need to know where – on which platforms and websites – their target audience can be found. A high-fashion magazine may be a glamorous environment, but that’s not where smart shoppers usually look for discounts and coupons.

4. Be honest

Some retailers like to raise their prices in the run-up to Cyber Week and then lower them to the original price during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, thus offering supposedly lucrative discounts. However, online shoppers quickly detect such window dressing. More and more users are using price monitoring tools to keep a close eye on developments.

5. Prepare for the rush

When Cyber Week finally arrives, all the business units involved must be prepared for the onslaught of visitors. Sufficient server capacity must be available so that the store can cope with the high traffic volumes. Customer service should be staffed up, and merchandise management and logistics should be attended to, as well. After Cyber Week, capacities for returns management should also be ramped up.

Get ready, publishers! 5 pro tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Cyber Week is an important time for publishers to further monetize their content by earning more commissions. Here’s what publishers should keep in mind:

1. Start planning early

In August, if possible, publishers should begin to plan the upcoming Cyber Week. First and foremost, this means content planning. Publishers should focus on creating content based on their SEO capabilities, or optimizing existing content, to increase their findability in search engines.

2. Identify audience needs

Even if other sectors try to tempt publishers with higher commissions and sales, you should remember the needs of their core target group and produce appropriate content that can then be monetized. If you suddenly address completely different topics during Cyber Week simply to grab commissions, you will alienate your core audience and possibly lose revenue in the long run.

3. Pay attention to the sale dates of advertisers

Which promotions and discounts take place on which days? This varies from advertiser to advertiser. While some offer discounts and bargains throughout Black Week, others limit themselves exclusively to Black Friday, or the four days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Publishers should be aware of these schedules and plan their content accordingly.

4. Celebrate Cyber Week

Many online shoppers look forward to Cyber Week all year long. Publishers should fuel this anticipation on their social media channels in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Gift guides and discount lists are ideal content types for this time period.

5. Negotiate exclusive deals

In the run-up to Cyber Week, publishers should determine which advertisers they have been able to work with most successfully. It makes sense to contact these advertisers early on to exchange information about planned campaigns and content – in order to negotiate exclusive deals for your own audience.

Coupon Advertising: How to Succeed 

Coupon advertising is one of the oldest marketing channels still in use today. The triumph of digitalization has made it more relevant than ever. The importance of coupon portals for online shopping is demonstrated by the multi-million dollar acquisitions and investments that have taken place in recent years. For example, PayPal bought the American coupon platform Honey for USD 4 billion at the end of 2019. The global market leader in coupon advertising RetailMeNot was acquired by J2 Global for USD 420 million in 2020, and the Berlin-based coupon startup Lumaly received a seven-figure sum in a 2021 financing round.  

Online shoppers who use coupons spend 24% more money than users without coupons. So the question is not whether advertisers should do coupon advertising, but how best to go about it. 

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What is coupon advertising? 

Coupon advertising, or coupon marketing, is a marketing channel where (potential) customers are given discounts or rebates on their purchases. Most often, these discounts are a fixed amount of money or a percentage discount. But special coupons, like free shipping or an additional free product, are possible, too. Coupon marketing is a real all-rounder and, with the right strategy, is suitable for every industry – even in the B2B sector. 

Coupon advertising can be used to pursue various goals: 

The popularity of coupon marketing is steadily increasing, since more and more users are becoming so-called smart shoppers. Before they buy anything online, users look for coupon codes to save money on their purchases. 

What are the distribution channels for coupons? 

In digital marketing, coupon distribution often takes the form of e-mails to existing or new customers. Some retailers also operate their own coupon apps. Influencers in the B2C and B2B sectors also frequently offer coupon codes, and thus act as distributors. Coupon portals – which collect coupons from thousands of stores and receive commissions – are becoming increasingly popular. Customers can simply search for a brand or store, and then find all the current coupon promotions. Some of these portals are also community-based, which means that anyone can enter coupon codes. 

Coupon advertising overview: The 10 most popular coupon portals worldwide

What should advertisers look for in a publishing partner? 

When advertisers want to work with coupon portals, they are often spoilt for choice, because the range of offers is constantly increasing. The following factors can facilitate the selection of partners: 

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what our EXPERTS say
Ideally, a coupon campaign is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
Benjamin Boucher, Head of sales of digidip

Tips for successful coupon advertising 

1. Focus from search engine optimization 

This can happen in two ways: First, brands can dominate in search engine advertising. If users then search for “brand + coupon”, for example, they will receive ads for current coupon promotions directly on the store page. On the other hand, advertisers should maintain close relationships with publishers (coupon portals) that rank well in organic search. These are a good traffic supplier and multiplier for reaching even more people with coupon promotions. 

2. Cooperate with publishers 

Advertisers must take care to regularly update their content and provide the portals with up-to-date information. In addition, the conditions of the coupon should be clearly communicated. Nothing is more annoying than stumbling across expired coupons in the checkout process, or not being able to use coupons in the end because the conditions, such as a minimum order value, are not met. 

3. Don’t forget existing customers 

Coupon portals are ideal for attracting new customers, but coupon advertising also makes a lot of sense for existing customers. There are various seasonal occasions for issuing coupons: the user’s birthday, during the holidays, or as part of major events. Advertisers should use unique codes – coupon codes that can only be used once. This ensures that only their own user base can benefit from the special incentive. 

Hands-on with Benjamin Boucher, Head of sales of digidip:
4 steps to a coupon strategy for advertisers  

As is so often the case in marketing, nothing works without the right strategy. Without planning and monitoring, coupon marketing can quickly become a bottomless pit. If you follow these steps, your coupon strategy is sure to be successful: 

In combination with clear campaign goals, individually-defined KPIs, and cooperation with the right publishers, coupons can be successfully integrated into your own marketing plan. With more and more smart shoppers among the customers, advertisers should seriously consider coupon marketing. Otherwise, the competition might get all the conversions.  

Hands-on Commerce Advertising: A new approach for advertisers‘ digital strategy

With Commerce Advertising, mrge introduces a new umbrella term to digital business. One of the key differences to other marketing terms is that advertising is aligned along the customer journey. How does this work? What exactly is Commerce Advertising? And how can advertisers, as well as publishers and consumers, benefit? Tobias Conrad, CCO of mrge, gives practical answers to these and many other questions.

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What exactly is Commerce Advertising? 

Tobias Conrad (TC): Commerce Advertising is a newly-coined term. For us, Commerce Advertising stands for all digital advertising formats that are placed within content, or adjacent to content, during purchase-relevant phases of the customer journey, formats that achieve a clearly measurable conversion. In a nutshell, we’re talking about Internet-based advertising measures from the area of e-commerce marketing. They help the advertisers sell their products or services digitally. The measures are placed at action-relevant touchpoints along the customer journey. There, they make an offer that leads to a clearly measurable conversion. Commerce Advertising thus maximizes revenues and ROI for advertisers and reduces branding costs. Advertisers reach their target groups sustainably and effectively, increase conversion, and also support brand awareness downstream. And publishers benefit because their content can be better monetized with these advertising formats. 

mrge_COO_Tobias Conrad
Tobias Conrad is CCO of mrge and an expert for Commerce Advertising

What is new about Commerce Advertising, what sets it apart? 

TC: In Commerce Advertising, we assume that the impulse to buy is not triggered only by the final point of contact. Instead, we see the entire customer journey – the sum of all experiences and touchpoints – as decisive for the purchase. This results in a holistic view of the customer journey, with the goal of seamlessly recording and covering all touchpoints. So we no longer expect the advertising format to achieve a conversion: We look at the user’s actual behavior. Until now, this viewpoint was missing from the conversation about advertising in digital marketing. However, we are convinced that this is the only way advertisers can actually reach their potential customers when and where they make their purchase decision.  

mrge hub customer journey: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, advocacy
In the customer journey, Commerce Advertising is primarily active during Consideration and Purchase

Accordingly, the measures used in Commerce Advertising are based on context, and placed natively within or close to the content – and in the environments – that the customer uses. If we look at the customer journey with the three phases of Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase, Commerce Advertising is primarily active during Consideration and Purchase. Both phases have shifted completely to the Internet as a result of progressive digitalization, rapid e-commerce growth, and increased demands for convenience and home delivery. First, users inform themselves at many different sources. Then, they buy. Advertisers can now model this path through their presence at all points of contact. Unlike other approaches to digital marketing, Commerce Advertising also maps the purchase triggers, such as coupons or price comparison sites. With Commerce Advertising, we provide the approaches and support the paradigm shift. 

What advertising formats does Commerce Advertising consist of?  

TC: In Commerce Advertising, the formats, such as banners or videos, play a subordinate role, are no longer the focus. We no longer take an inside-out approach and ask “Where can we place a banner?” but “How do our users behave, and at which points of the customer journey should we make them an offer?” 

The locations for an advertiser’s presence are decisive: product review and test pages, product and price comparison pages, coupon pages, cashback pages, Google Shopping, and, of course, commerce content. In these formats, advertisers create presence and achieve conversion through a logo or a banner, or simply through a link, as we see in affiliate marketing and commerce content.  

Do you have an example of when we encounter Commerce Advertising?  

TC: For example, if you’re looking for a running shoe: One way is that you see an ad, a banner, or a video, click it, and land in the store where you buy the shoe. That’s the classic, ad-oriented approach in digital marketing, for those who know what they want. But in fact, it’s often the case that you have a vaguer desire and a need like “My running shoes are worn out and I need new ones.” Then you get information from publishers who enjoy your trust, in the media, blogs, forums, social media, or from influencers. In the next step, you usually make a pre-selection. Then, in the next step, you look for the best price. This is where coupons, cashback, price comparison sites come into play. Finally, you buy the shoe of your choice. Advertisers can accompany all of these touchpoints – search with the search engine, information in publishing offers and social media, product comparison sites, and then price comparisons or discounts – through their presence.  

What does Commerce Advertising mean for advertisers in concrete terms?  

TC: The Commerce Advertising strategy leads to higher revenues. The measures and their results are measurable at every point. More and more advertisers want to reach their customers directly, summarized by the keyword D2C, Direct to Consumer. With Commerce Advertising tools, this is all the more possible, because the ad appears in an environment that interests the user anyway. So the probability is higher that they will click suitable advertising and achieve demonstrable performance. The advertiser can choose the exact channels to achieve their goal, usually a sale or a lead. Through Commerce Advertising, consumers are then taken directly to the store, or to another offer such a newsletter, a gated download, or registration for an event.  

With Commerce Advertising, advertisers set the impulses that are decisive for a purchase, so that a user who informs herself about various products and providers gets a trigger that leads her to their offer. By shaping the entire customer journey, advertisers hold the interest of potential customers much longer.  

And, of course, Commerce Advertising is designed to retain existing customers. Advertisers who make offers along the actual customer journey are more likely to close the deal than those who do not.  

And what are the challenges for advertisers?  

TC: Advertisers must adapt their marketing to the customer journey of their target groups. Marketing managers take a Commerce Advertising approach to data-driven marketing. They know which tools and technologies can be used along the customer journey, and how these interact and affect conversion. They can combine a variety of different tools: from affiliate links to presence in product comparison sites. They need to get to grips with the marketing channels and tools in order to optimally manage their activities and use them profitably.  

Commerce Advertising is located in the realm of e-commerce marketing, but also influences neighboring disciplines such as content marketing, couponing marketing and, of course, the advertiser’s pricing strategy.  

What is the history of Commerce Advertising, how did you come up with it?  

TC: Until now, the MarTech ecosystem had no term for advertising formats based on actual usage behavior and the digital customer journey. But we urgently needed one. Our experience over the past few years in all three mrge companies (digidip, shopping24, and Yieldkit) shows that advertisers’ and publishers’ revenues increase when they use an advertising format based on the user’s individual usage situation. This is a different perspective on digital advertising. And that’s why looked for a term to describe advertising that generates a conversion from the content or from the content environment. And Commerce Advertising expresses exactly that.  

You say the perspective is changing: How is the relationship between user, publisher, and advertiser defined now?  

TC: Planning under Commerce Advertising conditions focuses on people (the users) and their interests. The selected advertising format takes the user’s context into account. As a result, the ad is geared more precisely to the user’s interests – and this increases the likelihood that the user will click the ad. The advertising offer is received at the point in time when it is relevant to the user. This Commerce Advertising perspective delivers enormous benefits to all parties involved.  

Commerce Advertising: Publisher generates additional revenues with content, Advertiser can grow its business with relevant content, user can make better purchasing decisions

Where does Commerce Advertising stand in relation to affiliate marketing?  

TC: Affiliate marketing describes a way to bring publishers and advertisers together. However, the actual digital customer journey of a user interested in a product or, more generally, in a company, is much longer, and involves several touchpoints. Affiliate marketing does not extend far enough to cover all of them, but it remains an important tool within Commerce Advertising.  

And how does Commerce Advertising relate to commerce content?   

TC: Commerce content describes a strategy of publishers who make their own editorial offer with the aim of monetization. For example, they write product comparisons and place links to the stores or Amazon for the products discussed. Commerce Advertising goes beyond this and also includes ready-made pages on product comparisons and the like, which publishers can individualize and integrate into their offer. This gives publishers an additional option for placing a topic in their editorial environment.   

How are you expanding Commerce Advertising? What’s next?    

TC: Commerce Advertising as an umbrella term is understood and increasingly used by publishers and advertisers alike. We are now working to establish this user-focused view in digital marketing.  

With mrge, our goal is to make our Commerce Advertising suite the world’s most profitable connection between advertisers and publishers. It provides advertisers with everything they need to scale efficiently, improve performance, and increase sales. And publishers get all the monetization tools they need to generate additional revenue – while adding value for their users. 

Crash Course on “Direct to Consumer”: How Brands Can Become Independent of Large Sales Platforms with D2C

To reach a large target group with their products and services, many providers use large sales platforms with their huge reach and customer bases. However, more and more brands prefer to use direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales – and market developments confirm this. In fact, both variants have their advantages and disadvantages, and both sales forms can also complement each other successfully. In the following expert article, we present market figures, benchmarks and a decision-maker checklist with pros and cons.

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Key facts: “Direct to consumer” market development 

Direct to consumer (D2C for short) refers to a marketing and sales strategy in which manufacturers approach their end customers directly – without intermediaries or platforms. As a rule, suppliers take on all tasks: from production, marketing, and sales, to customer relationship management.The D2C approach is currently becoming increasingly relevant for product suppliers. For example, around 60 percent of US Americans have already ordered directly from a manufacturer at least once. Sales generated by D2C companies in the US rose from just under USD 77 billion in 2019 to a forecast USD 151 billion in 2022 – and predictions for 2023 are currently approaching USD 175 billion. Currently, most D2C brands are in the fashion sector. A particularly prominent example is Nike. Since 2017, the sporting goods manufacturer has been successfully relying on direct sales.

Best practice: Nike’s success story

Nike ended its collaboration with wholesalers such as Macy’s and Urban Outfitters and also did not continue its partnership with Amazon. Instead, the company focused on expanding its own e-commerce strategy. In doing so, Nike invested primarily in new key technologies. In 2018, Nike bought the data analytics company Zodiac as well as Invertex, an Israeli start-up that develops scan-to-fit solutions, with the aim of better understanding its own customers and providing them with better advice. In order to best meet its own requirements for operating an online store, Nike used its own technical e-commerce solutions. The quarterly figures show that this strategy is working: Nike recently increased its D2C sales by 15 percent.

Decision-maker checklist: sales platform vs. D2C

When product suppliers are faced with the choice between sales platforms and direct to consumer, various factors come into play: Are they already working with a wholesaler and want to set up a D2C business in parallel, or are they still at the very beginning of their sales activities? What resources do they have in terms of people, time, and finances? Manufacturers should carefully weigh the advantages and challenges of direct sales:

The 4 biggest benefits of the D2C approach for brands:

But customers can also benefit from the D2C model. Through closer contact with the brand, they can be part of a community and have their suggestions and problems heard more quickly. In addition, many manufacturers pass on the lower costs to their customers, for example, through lower prices, free shipping, or special coupon promotions.

D2C’s 4 biggest challenges and barriers to entry

For all the benefits that the D2C approach offers, no one should underestimate the challenges:

The 3 biggest advantages of sales platforms

Established shopping portals are the most convenient way for end users to shop online. They offer many conveniences:

These advantages mean that merchants on sales platforms can expect better conversion rates, which often outweighs the higher commission payments.

Own your customer

Especially in the start-up phase of a business, wholesalers and sales platforms are the easiest way to quickly reach a broad target group. But platforms keep a lot of important data for analysis and optimization to themselves. But if retailers want to turn casual buyers into existing customers, forge closer customer relationships, and increase awareness of their own brand, a D2C business should be the goal. In this way, manufacturers manage their own customers, data, customer journey, and brand presentation. Through relevant advertising formats in the vicinity of purchase-related content (e.g. product tests and comparisons, unboxing videos, guides), potential buyers can be led directly to a retail store. Manufacturers can thus free themselves from dependence on large platforms – and generate more direct sales.

The Commerce Content Playbook