5 Digital Marketing Trends and Tips for the 2023 Holiday Season

We’re quickly approaching Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the mad online shopping dash to the New Year. For many brands, this is the most important sales time of the year, and it isn’t too late to assess your 2023 holiday season digital marketing strategy. 

ADM has already provided its Black Friday and Cyber Monday tips for social, paid search, and programmatic advertising success this holiday season. In this blog, we’ll zoom out and look at 5 larger industry trends that you need to keep in mind as you tailor and assess Q4 strategy across platforms and channels. 

Economic Outlooks Push Shoppers Towards Deals 

Everyone loves a good deal, and great offers dominate holiday sales. But in recent years, economic concerns seem to be pushing users further into their deal-hunting. While inflation has slowed dramatically for consumers in 2023 compared to the 2022 holiday season, consumers still hold a generally grim impression of the economy—meaning they may remain sensitive to pricing concerns compared to previous years. Search trends show that consumers are looking for signs that prices will go back to normal. 

The Conference Board, which issues the monthly Consumer Confidence Index, is also projecting that consumers will spend less this holiday season. Because of this, we expect discounts are going to continue to play a huge role in buying behavior again this year. 

Tip: Aggressive promotions only matter if people can see them. Feature them prominently in your social ads and ensure relevant Google Ads campaigns have extensions in place to highlight offers like Free Shipping.

Paid Search Will Remain the Biggest Driver of Cyber Week Sales 

During last year’s Cyber Five period—the 5 days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday—paid search accounted for 29% of all online sales. That’s more than any other acquisition channel. Total search and direct traffic, together accounting for 65% of online sales, underscored the significance of comprehensive upper-funnel coverage leading up to this crucial time.

We expect this trend to continue this holiday season, though it’s important to note that many of those who are searching for your brand or visiting your site directly during the Cyber Five period likely had to be influenced to do so prior.

Tip: For holiday 2023, advertisers should absolutely have their branded and non-brand search campaigns optimized and supplied with the budget they need to capitalize on Black Friday and Cyber Monday traffic. But they should also strategically integrate upper-funnel tactics across other platforms, like social and programmatic, to ensure the success of these campaigns as well.

Online Shoppers Are Planning Their Gift Purchases Earlier

Social media and online shopping are tightly intertwined, and social shoppers see targeted ads year-round for items that they or their loved ones might like. That means that their holiday season decision-making is shifting earlier: According to Meta, users last year were more likely to report making their gifting decisions in early November compared to two years prior.

Some social users get an even earlier start: Pinterest users, for instance, are drastically more likely than non-users to report starting their shopping in October or earlier.  

Tip: It’s never too early to start your holiday sales push—in eCommerce, an effective ad strategy will be building your funnel year-round. Know your audience: Women, for instance, report deciding gifts for their family and friends much earlier than men do, and often well before Black Friday. So if it’s a gift that a woman may give to their significant other, it’s worth shifting your approach—awareness through purchase—earlier in the season. 

Generic Searches Put the Emphasis on Non-Brand Search

According to Google, last holiday season saw a substantial increase in the number of generic searches (“women’s pants”) compared to specific searches (“Levi’s jeans”). 

While it may not be easy to pinpoint why searches are trending in that direction, there are some Google functionality changes that may be fueling, and rewarding, that trend. The changing search engine results page (SERP) and the proliferation of Performance Max shopping ads have made Google more of a shopping resource, allowing users to see an array of item photos and prices when they enter a generic query.   

Tip: With this trend in mind, it will be valuable to bolster and prioritize your non-branded search keywords this holiday season, while also ensuring your Performance Max campaigns have the budget they need to drive new sales. 

New Google and Meta Ad Tools Will Shine

Both Google and Meta have important new automated campaign offerings that will receive a lot of investment this holiday season. 

Meta’s Advantage+ technology rolled out just before last holiday season and one of our clients compared its performance to “Facebook in the old days,” as in, before the fateful iOS updates. These campaigns put your products front and center, relying on the algorithms to determine which items in a product set to display to which users in your broad audience targeting. With a year of advertiser experience and algorithmic improvements, we expect users will be seeing a lot of these ads this season.

Google, meanwhile, has a new automated campaign format that’s set to replace Discovery campaigns. Demand Gen campaigns bring some (but not all!) of the principles from Performance Max to video ads. ADM’s early testing of these campaigns showed marked improvement over Discovery, with click-through rates improving by 45% and ROAS increasing by 11% for one client. Demand Gen is available for the first time this holiday season, and we’re as excited as anyone to see how it performs during the busiest sales months of the year.

Tip: These new automated campaign types, and the performance they bring, make this an exciting time in digital marketing. At ADM, we always embrace the newest technologies early to stay ahead of the curve, and we test these campaign types extensively to learn how we can use them to help our clients reach their growth goals. If you’re concerned about keeping up in a fast-moving landscape, don’t hesitate to reach out to our expert team to see how we may be able to assist.