With each consecutive holiday season, more people spend more money online. Old approaches fall by the wayside and new ones emerge. This year's no different. To gauge what might be in store this year, ClickZ asked big brains in search, creative and media to describe their vision for the season.
Fredrick Marckini, CEO of iProspect, sees bigger budgets and more thinking ahead. Jeff Benjamin, interactive creative director of Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, expects a rash of new mini-experiences of the sort that have proliferated online this year. mOne North America CEO John Montgomery says an inventory crunch is inevitable.
::Fredrick Marckini :: CEO of iProspect::
What's different this season from previous ones?
Conversion rates and traffic are increasing early. The thing we're most pleased with is that clients jumped on the bandwagon with natural SEO. A lot of them are early with the key holiday terms. There's a bare minimum 45-day lead time from the day the optimization is complete before you see [results].
We're seeing them commit to paid inclusion like they never have before. We're seeing a greater emphasis on Yahoo's paid inclusion product. The thing with paid inclusion is that while it's immediate and instantly measurable, that doesn't mean it doesn't take time to get it right. You still have landing page and creative page testing. The good news is a lot of the online retailers in our client base are hopping on that and aggressively pushing that channel. Hopefully by the time the holidays are here we'll have optimal paid inclusion.
Are budgets bigger this season?
They're growing, but they're growing smartly. We're waiting to see what happens to bid prices. We're anticipating some upward pressure to bids. That's going to be an advantage to brands that are working with technology to raise and lower their bids. The guy that's doing paid search manually could find himself very quickly un-optimized. The people with historical data are going to be bidding harder and higher during the witching hours. Some people are going to be blown off the first page and not understand why their volume dropped off.
The thing that is maybe quite a significant development this year is the number of times anecdotally I've heard clients say we're going to go dark on TV to increase funding for search. I think that's a mistake. Everything we've learned has shown that offline drives search.
How about local?
A lot of retailers doing geo-targeting testing: running campaigns where they are having segregated campaigns, targeting geographies where they have stores. We're testing isolated markets to see if we can increase foot traffic, because a lot of the data are showing that people are converting in stores.
I think you're going to see a rise next year in checkout questions at cash registers with questions like, "Did you research online before buying?" The problem is that search marketing is still treated like direct response marketing. People are spending only to the extent that they can prove a conversion on the Web sites.
::Jeff Benjamin :: interactive creative director at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky::
What creative trends are coming this season?
I think this year for online was different than past years. We saw a lot of work where smaller experiences are meant to build buzz. Almost at the beginning of the year we saw that Wedding Crashers trailer. [Then came] The Ring's DVD release, where you send the trailer to a friend and it'll dial their phone.
We're not working on anything specific for the holiday season, but that's a trend you'll see across the board during the holidays.
Another thing you're going to see is brands coming up with creative ways where they figure out, based on what you've bought before, things you'll be into or your friends will be into -- knowing what's the right gift for your friend. That's kind of what the Internet's all about.
Seeing anything new in wireless?
I think we're going to see some ideas break into the mobile area. It may be you will be able to buy people ringtones.
::John Montgomery :: CEO of mOne North America::
What holiday strategies are you seeing and deploying?
Content is becoming unbelievably important. I think the focus on content and what's happened with the iPod video will create a tipping point in the usage of TV and media's usage of TV podcasts.
What's happened with the iPod Video isn't technologically a surprise, but [is emblematic] of a rush to content online.
Our parent WPP bought a meaningful stake in Harvey & Bob Weinstein's TWC. Certainly product placement would be a big part of it. But I think in the long term, having access to some of the content that's created [is key]. Mindshare has a division for content and entertainment.
It's going to tip the medium across to video. We've been talking about video and IPTV and any kind of video content on mobile devices.
What about consumer-generated media (CGM)?
We're buying in blogs, we're buying in podcasts. We're using all the new media. In those new media, the consumer generated media forms have taken off properly. That's not a holiday phenomenon; it started six months ago.
A year ago, we were saying to our clients, 'come on, we must try this new stuff', but they were perhaps a little bit cautious. This year they're putting huge pressure on us. There's this innovator's glow of trying new things. We're finding this in the consumer packaged goods area. Our CPG clients are tackling the medium in a big way.
Do you anticipate an inventory crunch?
I think there will be an inventory problem, particularly in the video area. We're coming up to a high buying period. The trend toward the medium has been so great that perhaps the medium hasn't caught up yet.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.