Christmas shopping season came early for digital marketers in 2015, literally, with seasonal spending happening earlier in November than in previous years.

The star performers in terms of growth were Product Listing Ads (PLAs), where spend was up 111 per cent, and mobile search, which surged 91 per cent.

While more money is shifting into mobility, mobile publishers still have some distance to go on the revenue front — mobile acounted for nearly one third of paid search conversions but only one fifth of sales revenue.

The figures are contained in the recently released 2015 Online Retail Seasonal Report from Kenshoo.

According to the authors, “Last year, we saw an uptick in activity earlier in the season with retailers boosting ad spend leading up to Thanksgiving. Across the key dates, mobile started to play a larger role and shopping campaigns witnessed significant gains. In 2015, mobile search and mobile PLAs continued to gain more share and grow in importance across the US.

This year’s report also examined the differences in performance between brand and non-brand keywords and delved into the data behind device types and average order value.

Search trends

When the researchers drilled down specifically into search budgets, the day-by-day results for the period tracked closely to 2014 with a few exceptions.

Daily paid search spend by year: Kenshoo
Daily paid search spend by year: Kenshoo

Search ad spending for Black Friday this year almost caught up with Cyber Monday spending from last year. Another notable deviation occurred after Cyber Monday this year, as retailers didn’t back off key date spending bumps as much as years past.

The authors argue that this could signify a more sustained seasonal push in paid search and other channels, rather than just a series of single-day spikes across the span of a month or so.

Among the other takeouts from the study into the Christmas Shopping Season:

  • Mobile continues to gain share over desktop search across key metrics, but still has some catching up to do when it comes to conversions and revenue;
  • Brand keywords drive the highest share of conversions and revenue, but it’s PLAs that account for the largest baskets with the highest order values from shoppers;
  • Social formats that are tailored toward retailers, such as DPA, helped increase orders (and order amounts) via social and pushed up sales revenue significantly during the season.

Most importantly, though, increased ad spending seems to translated directly into better sales. “Total US search advertiser sales revenue was up 15 per cent from last year, while in the UK search revenue surged 35 per cent year-on-year. Growth in revenue from US advertisers was squarely due to an increased volume of conversions, as average order size remained almost exactly the same,” according to the report.

Digital Intelligence Unit

Kenshoo is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members contribute their expertise and insights to Which-50 for the benefit of our senior executive audience. Membership fees apply


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