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As digital advertisers and marketers focus on achieving growth in 2024, don’t forget to thoroughly evaluate your 2023 Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) performance. Missing the mark on these increasingly important annual shopping events can make or break your year. 

Adobe Analytics reported a record $9.8 billion in Black Friday online sales, up 7.5% from 2022, and Cyber Monday tallied $12.4 billion, a 9.6% increase from 2022, not accounting for inflation. Cyber Week, the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, accounted for $38 billion in online sales. Did your BFCM campaign mirror this growth?

Regardless of your answer, evaluating your campaign’s true impact toward achieving your business goals deserves close scrutiny. Simply comparing year-over-year performance in a vacuum is misleading given the litany of decisions that influence outcomes. 

Read on for three key signs that your campaign fell flat and what to do to ensure success—and your next promotion—in 2024.

1. No Profit to Show for All That Hard Work

No company wants their BFCM digital advertising campaign to be a loss leader. Should go without saying, right? But that’s exactly what can happen when your digital advertising partner engages in a “revenue at all costs” strategy and doesn’t account for margins.

Sales and promotions form the basis of BFCM, and a company trying to break-through the noise without an enticing offer is bound to fail. Consumers reported that on average, 55% of their “Thanksgiving weekend” purchases were specifically driven by sales and promotions, up from 52% in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation.

Employ an experiment-led strategy accounting for your business goals to both compete and avoid being sucked into a discount vortex. Prior to BFCM, determine what incentives resonate with your target customers and how to best leverage these while still enabling your target margins.

For example, both new and existing customers of one of our apparel e-commerce clients showed reluctance to purchase at price points below the default $50 free shipping threshold. We tested offering free shipping to anyone who created an account, based on previously acquired insights on the higher lifetime value of account holders. Results showed an approximately 9% increase in profit, 166% increase in accounts created, and lifts across revenue and conversion rate. With these findings, the client can make better informed decisions on how to bundle free shipping and discounts while still hitting margin goals.

2. Failed to Acquire New Customers

The attractive (and ideally profitable) sales and promotions that distinguish BFCM present an ideal annual opportunity to attract and acquire new customers. For a Cro Metrics direct-to-consumer retail e-commerce client, 43% of Cyber Week 2023 purchases sourced to digital advertising came from first-time customers.

Yes, still maximize opportunity from your existing customers—in particular, use email, SMS, and ad retargeting to drive more value from these legacy audiences. But that doesn’t mean pull the plug on prospecting.

Planning and investment in a full funnel ad strategy is key to turn BFCM into a new customer acquisition field day. Don’t assume prospects will think of you themselves, and don’t wait too late to begin cultivating purchase interest. Leverage a full-funnel digital advertising approach to build a healthy pipeline of primed prospects and increase value from existing customers alike. For your dedicated BFCM campaign, begin building momentum at least one month out, ensuring budget is allotted to increasing awareness of your products and brand; then retarget and convert during Cyber Week.

Your planning shouldn’t stop after the initial point of purchase. Develop a data-informed lifecycle marketing strategy to transform these first-time buyers into lifelong customers and brand advocates. To learn more, my colleague Melanie wrote on this very subject.

3. Burnt a Bucket of Media Spend on a “Hot” New Platform with Underwhelming ROAS

We humans—and I include advertisers and marketers in that grouping—are notorious for chasing “the next big thing” or trend. Of the last five apps you downloaded, how many do you still use?

With the rapid creative destruction in digital advertising, new platforms, campaign types, and placement options appear all the time. Many of which offer tremendous opportunity… for certain brands that resonate with certain audiences. But there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to advertising. And with costs continuing to increase, advertisers and marketers must make data-informed decisions when allocating spend—rather than being distracted by the latest trend.

Choose the right channel for your company and target audience. Review your recent results by placement to determine the ideal mix to hit your BFCM campaign goals. Of course, this only works when you can trust your reporting source of truth. For instance, when analyzing results for a client in our proprietary insights platform Iris, Meta Ads claimed it sourced $20,000 in sales. Shopify said it was $90. Having your attribution and reporting buttoned up is a must.

Often, it’s not the “hot” new platform that’s most appropriate to directly deliver sales come Cyber Week. Microsoft Ads, for instance, resonates with certain demographics. For one of our e-commerce clients with whom this was our first Cyber Week, we increased revenue from Microsoft Ads by 27% year-over-year while maintaining an 8.1X ROAS.

Cro Metrics and our client are unlikely to get a write-up in leading industry publications for our Microsoft Ads results. But we weren’t seeking accolades. We sought to help our client reach their goals with a successful BFCM campaign, and that’s exactly what we did.

Seeking a Strategic Growth Partner for 2024 Success

Still reeling from BFCM and a lackluster 2023? Did any of these three common signs that your campaign missed the mark hit home? If so, please let me know. Cro Metrics takes a data-backed and personalized approach to understanding your business and helping reach your goals.