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Pathmatics Blog
Holiday Advertising |


Cyber Monday Recap

December 18 2015 by Jordan Kramer


You’re not the only one opening up your pocketbook this holiday season.  Major retailers are turning their dollars to digital to grab your attention, and your dollars, online.  While traditional means of mailers, TV and radio spots are still effective, the most forward-thinking retailers are taking advantage of a digital economy—and it’s paying off. 
Nearly 50% of shoppers plan to shop for gifts online this holiday season. Add this to an estimated $79.4B pot of expected ecommerce sales and retailers have a lot to fight for. What digital strategies did the top advertisers employ to drive sales?  We explore the who, what, why, when and how of Cyber Monday.


This year, Cyber Monday blew the top off predictions surpassing $3B in total digital sales. According to ComScore, Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Target and Best Buy led as the most visited retail properties on desktop and mobile.  With Amazon and eBay being notorious shopping sites and Walmart pushing low prices all season long, Best Buy and Target put a strong focus on desktop ads.  Both retailers have historically been in the top ranks of most visited sites during the shopping weekend; however, in 2015, both spent significantly more on digital than the year prior - enough to even break their website.  Kohl’s, GAP and Home Depot also all more than doubled their desktop spend YOY going into Black Friday & Cyber Monday. 

We are taking an in-depth look at the strategies behind 5 advertisers whose US desktop impression share each more than doubled from their daily average in November.  Those advertisers are Target, Kohl's, Best Buy, GAP Inc., and Home Depot.

What are they running? 

Target released 20% more unique creatives during the month of November compared to last year and ran an unprecedented 15% off promotion during Cyber Monday.  Buying 100% directly on youtube.com (Target's top site), the retailer released several homepage banner ads leading into the shopping holidays.

The 970x250 HTML5 ad below was first seen on 11/26 and last seen on 11/27 directing shoppers to a Black Friday page within their website promoting deals.
Continuing into Cyber Monday, Target released another short-lived creative on 11/29 and pulled it on 11/30. The 970x250 HTML5 banner ad directed consumers to a ‘doll’ query page on their website.


How are they buying? 

Kohl’s—one of the top spenders during the month of November—nearly tripled desktop spend from 2014 investing over $15M for the month.  89% was spent in the last 10 days of the month to heavily push Black Friday & Cyber Monday ads, with 83% of impressions purchased direct. Following a direct trend, Target purchased 73% of desktop impressions direct—double from last year during the month of November.  Brands are zeroing in on specific sites and spending more money to ensure they reach the audience they prefer during a holiday rush.

Where are they buying? 

Best Buy ran ads on an average of 877 sites per day during the month of November, up from 650 per day from 2014. GAP Inc. upped ads on nearly 50% more sites per day compared to last year. This demonstrates that while direct purchase channels were popular, programmatic buys are still present—even getting more long tailed. 
Yahoo.com, aol.com and youtube.com were all the top sites this year amongst Target, Kohl's, Best Buy, GAP Inc., and Home Depot. Below is the breakdown of impression share per site during the month of November:
Target's strategy on YouTube paid off as the retailer was the popular site's top advertiser for the month of November.  Kohl's ran similar homepage banner ads on Yahoo.com giving them the upper hand.

When are they buying? 

The top days for impression share spike was Thanksgiving (day before Black Friday) and the 30th (day before Cyber Monday). Below is a breakdown of total US desktop impression share spanning Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday.

Who is winning?

In 2016, retailers can re-think hitting top sites like youtube.com, who only sold 36% of impressions direct during the month of November. Verizon, youtube.com’s 2nd largest advertiser during the month of November, spent a fraction of what Target did using Google AdX + AdSense to run 300x250 display ads on video pages, while still retaining 41% of impression share compared to Target. On the other hand, Yahoo.com sold 66% of impressions direct in October 2015 and 84% of impressions direct in November.  
Overall, many of the same big players are still involved and the rankings haven’t changed in a couple years. The interesting point is that digital spend is increasing by the biggest players realizing how important it is to adapt to consumer's behaviors.  With so many top advertisers increasing desktop spend by so much, it will be interesting to see what happens going forward, and across different channels.  Competitive intelligence will continue to be crucial to gauge activity online, monitor spend and to identify the most efficient partners and paths to reach your desired audience.
Source: Pathmatics US Desktop data, 11/1/14-11/30/15 and 11/1/15-11/30/15. All logos, trademarks and copyrights property of their respective owners.

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About Author
Jordan Kramer

An out-of-the-box thinker with a love for disruptive ideas, Jordan's background spans PR and events for the wedding & hospitality industry in Los Angeles and Scottsdale and also launching one of America's most unique food trucks. She jumped from the food start-up scene to the tech start-up scene in 2013 to join one of the most unique companies in ad tech. Jordan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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