EMR Reveals the Best and Worst Marketing Tactics Ahead of Holiday 2023
As we head into the 2023 holiday season, budgets are tighter than ever, meaning we can expect consumers to remain thoughtful about where they spend their money. For retail brands, every advertising dollar matters. Our 2023 EMR Power Rankings provide a clear idea of channels that will provide more (or less) return than expected and, ultimately, drive conversions at smaller or optimized CPCs. We draw on real client performance data to produce our Power Rankings and reveal the data-driven secrets to winning the holidays.
Check out the full list of top and bottom performing media tactics in our Holiday EMR Power Rankings.
Why EMR Is Your Go-To Metric for Media Measurement
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) is a legacy metric that fails to capture the bigger picture. To holistically measure the full impact of a marketing program, Ovative created Enterprise Marketing Return (EMR). This single metric considers enterprise revenue, future customer value, incrementality, and profitability to drive powerful optimization decisions. Read on for our take on the tactics you should prioritize, test, and potentially pull back on based on their EMR.
Trends on the Rise for Holiday
Consumers are still prioritizing buying essentials like household goods, but we’ve noticed a trend of increased retail spend that we expect to continue. Shoppers just boosted retail sales for a fourth straight month, and July’s Prime Day was the biggest in history by revenue.1 Price-sensitive consumers are on the lookout for good deals and deep discounts that allow them to justify “little treats” like apparel and personal care products. We also expect to see a continued consumer focus on specific moments, meaning Holiday 2023 presents plenty of opportunities, both large and small.
Channel Takeaways for Holiday 2023
Here are a few tactics our clients are testing, investing in, and prioritizing for Holiday 2023.
Streaming Audio rose from its rank last year in our 2022 EMR Power Rankings and continues to be a very strong driver of reach. Although it does have an omnichannel presence, we continue to see strong success in using it to drive store performance. While consumption for the overall channel continues to be on the rise, podcasts stand out as the star medium. Consider testing into Streaming Audio ahead of Holiday 2023 and evaluating its ability to help you reach your audiences when and where they are listening.
Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs)
Google PLAs maintained their rank this year. This tactic offers a valuable opportunity to showcase your products with images and info before consumers even make it to your site, and we highly recommend testing the wide variety of ad formats available. One thing to keep in mind: with Performance Max (PMAX) campaigns spreading across the networks, we see potential for Google to shift spend to areas that drive strong immediate ROAS but a lower incrementality. To remedy this and take full advantage of the tactic, we highly recommend using Value-Based Bidding to assign added value to new customers to inform acquisition, aligning with stronger incrementality and EMR. More broadly, refresh your creative as early as possible and review last year’s trends to align spend against your biggest days. Your creative should be set with those big moment days in mind, as well.
Online Video (OLV)—Specifically, YouTube
A strong driver of store performance and an important first-touch channel in the path to purchase, YouTube continues to be the major point of growth in the online video space. Although it dropped slightly in this year’s Power Rankings, we see great potential for continued performance. We recommend leveraging ad units across the funnel along with Google’s targeting suite to blend awareness with a very actionable and engaging ad environment. You should also consider how you might combine multiple video tactics (looping in CTV, for example), to reach audiences everywhere they view content.
TikTok maintained its rank from last year and continues to prove itself as a valuable ad partner. While Meta remains the strongest platform in terms of incrementality and efficiency, the entertainment-driven app is gaining traction—in fact, we’ve measured a 2–5X incremental revenue on the platform for retail clients. Overall, we recommend diversifying your investment mix across platforms like TikTok, Meta, and Pinterest for maximum return. Retail advertisers should focus on conversion and lower funnel tactics while also investing in upper funnel/brand awareness and mid-funnel/consideration, which will ultimately drive incremental lower funnel performance impact. Your campaign objectives will always depend on your goals. But if you’re getting started on TikTok, we recommend setting up a campaign and sparking ads to build a footprint and continue growing your presence on the platform.
Below are a few tactics and subchannels we recommend scrutinizing for overspending. With the true value of these channels shown by EMR, you may find that your marketing dollars could be better used elsewhere!
Google Brand Search
Google Brand Search dropped in our rankings this year due to limited demand and its decrease in incrementality. The main takeaway for this tactic is that it isn’t a significant growth driver. You’ll find that organic search can pick up volume from spend decreases, as well. This is a great example of where SEO can bring in traffic when SEM isn’t as effective.
Linear TV fell in our Power Rankings this year. It’s used as an awareness-driving tactic, helping to deliver mass reach at scale (nationally or locally) and lead consumers to shop both in-store and online. But this fall, we will see the Writers Guild of America strike impact the production of primetime and late-night shows. We anticipate a rise in the importance (and CPMs) of live sports programming as a result. Overall, we recommend shifting spend to CTV, as it currently presents more opportunities for efficiency.
Bing Paid Search
Bing maintained its rank from last year. With the introduction of more intelligent AI tools, we saw Bing pick up added traffic, driving daily users to over 100 million. This is still far below Google’s 1 billion daily users, however. And like Google Brand Search, Bing Paid Search isn’t a significant growth driver. Overall, we recommend brands keep this tactic as a lower priority.
Affiliate Coupon is the one subchannel seeing strong year-over-year declines, leaving it once again near the bottom of our EMR Power Rankings. Coupon partners are becoming less reliable for strong performance due to consumers being prioritized in the Loyalty space. Loyalty partners provide the same content as Coupon partners with an added rewards angle. We’re observing consumers being attracted to receiving cashback through Affiliate Loyalty, rather than simply receiving a coupon code and no other incentives. If your brand consistently pushes out coupon codes, it is still important to stay active with these sites. We recommend layering in a Trademark Plus (TM+) partnership with your top coupon partner; this means that your coupon partner would bid on promotional search terms for the brand, making them easily searchable. We also recommend implementing Affiliate-exclusive codes with top coupon partners.
Affiliate Loyalty also dropped in our rankings this year because the space is becoming increasingly competitive. Most of the Loyalty revenue is being driven by the top 10 partners, leaving some of the smaller Loyalty partners struggling to maintain the performance they previously drove.
While it is important to still engage with your lower revenue-driving Loyalty partners, we recommend focusing your optimizations with your top partners. Rakuten Rewards and Capital One Shopping drive extremely strong revenue and traffic during holiday and non-holiday. To maximize this subchannel, consider strategically aligning cashback pulse-ups to your brand’s promotional schedule. Cashback can be used as an extra layer of support during the first day of a promotion, or it can be used during non-promotional periods to further incentivize conversion. If your network allows for it, consider providing higher cash back for new customers as well.
Finally, here are the tactics our clients are continuing to test and thoughtfully invest in based on EMR.
Although CTV fell several places in our Power Rankings, it has still driven revenue across online and store and has also been proven as a very strong acquisition tactic for new customers. This year, we saw new and massive streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ enter the advertising space. Although these partners are still finding their footing in terms of pricing and audience targeting, their new ad-supported tiers continue to illustrate the larger trend of booming CTV consumption and the rise of an advertising presence.
While Affiliate Influencer campaigns don’t typically result in strong revenue performance, they do offer an excellent opportunity to prioritize brand awareness and drive long-term impact and future customer value. We also see strong data that shows Upper Funnel influencer partners are driving consumers to convert through other channels. In light of this, Influencer retained it’s rank from last year.
If you’re testing Influencer as a tactic, we strongly recommend optimizing through competitive commission increases (up to 20% commission). Although this does not guarantee media, increasing commission further incentivizes influencers to link out to your brand’s content. For guaranteed media, you can invest in a flat-fee campaign, which may result in a lower ROAS but will still drive strong long-term brand awareness impact.
Retail Media—Specifically, Amazon
Retail Media rose notably in our rankings this year, thanks primarily to Amazon. The state of the economy has encouraged consumers to look to the price-matching retailer for the best deal. The release of Amazon Marketing Cloud provided added data visibility for advertisers running DSP (Amazon’s programmatic ad-buying platform). Add on even more inventory and unit types, and you’ve got a powerful tactic to take advantage of and continue testing this holiday season.
Ready to Hone Your Holiday 2023 Approach?
Whether you’ve already begun to implement some of our favorite underdog tactics or you’re still considering how to shift spend for the upcoming holiday season, we’re here to help. Our EMR Power Rankings provide insights into successfully utilizing marketing budgets ahead of Holiday 2023. Our experts are on hand to evaluate the EMR of each tactic you’re considering in relation to your business results, enabling you to create a bespoke and highly optimized media mix for the holiday season. Contact us today to learn more about how EMR can maximize your marketing investment.