Staying Competitive In PPC: Learning From Black Friday’s Most Popular Offers

The five-day Black Friday weekend from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday provided an insightful glimpse into how retailers are running their PPC strategies for the holidays. Particularly interesting are the variety of offer types run by retailers, ranging from the expected free shipping to 2-in-1 offers which include two offers in the same ad.

Since shoppers were expecting to see a retailer’s best deals during that weekend, we wanted to see just how far retailers were willing to go to get the sale.

Using search engine results data gathered by Lighthouse (a partnership between The Search Monitor and comScore) between November 28 and December 2, 2013, on paid ads, we identified the five most common offers as follows:

1. Free Shipping. The offer of Free Shipping, with no minimum spend requirement mentioned, was the most popular offer run by retailers, showing up in 38% of all ads. Shoppers have come to expect free shipping during the holidays, so it was no surprised that this offer would be in the Top 5. It’s important to note that these ads could have brought users to a website that required a minimum spend to receive the free shipping offer, but the ads did not include this language.

2. Sale or Deal. The next most popular offer used by retailers was to include the word “sale.” This appeared in 34% of all PPC ads during Black Friday weekend.  With the Sale offer coming in behind Free Shipping, it was clear that retailers still believe that free shipping provides more perceived value than discounting the price of an item.

3. Free Shipping with Minimum Purchase. After offering a sale, the next most common offer was “Free Shipping” where the retailer included a minimum purchase amount in the ad copy. This more specific, more “forthcoming” version of the Free Shipping offer mentioned above appeared in just 12% of ads. It is obvious that more retailers prefer to omit the requirements of an offer in their ad copy than to display them.

We dug a bit deeper into this offer type to see how the minimum purchase amount differed across retail verticals. The Books, Wholesale, Beauty and Baby verticals averaged the lowest minimum spend requirements, typically between $25 and $50. The Household and Apparel verticals saw the most fluctuation, ranging anywhere from $20 to $125. The other verticals analyzed — Entertainment, Automotive, Party Supplies, Gifts and Floral, Sports and Fitness, Office Supplies, Pharmacy and Hobbies — generally asked for minimum purchases between $49 and $99. Having information like this is essential to ensure that retailers’ ads remain competitive.

4. Free Gift.  Would you click on an ad that promised you a free gift with purchase? A very small handful of retailers (7%, to be exact) employed this offer strategy during the Black Friday weekend. One could argue that the relatively low usage of this offer type represents an opportunity to stand out from other retailers. The real proof, however, will be in the clicks and cost data associated with this approach.

5. 2 Offers in 1 Ad. Rounding out the top five PPC offers run during Black Friday weekend was the offer of both free shipping and a stated dollar discount on the order. Retailers only used this very generous “2-in-1″ offer in just 6% of all weekend ads. Another interesting study could look at which retailers employ this tactic and what click-through rates they receive.

Lighthouse Offers Black Friday 2013

The competitive search marketing data above illustrates the importance of keeping a close eye on both your industry and specific competitors. Only when you know where you stand can you identify how to remain competitive and steal share from another retailer.

How did your PPC offers compare to these findings and how did they perform? Now that you know the most common offers used, how do you plan to change your strategy for the rest of the season?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the Black Friday offers and keep an eye out for an update of this chart in January 2014 from The Search Monitor.