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4 Trends Drove Retailers’ Google Ad Spend +28% During Cyber Five 2019

Ellen Harvey

Cyber Five 2019 was a banner year for retailers on Google Ads. They increased spend 28% year over year during the Cyber Five period. Engagement also reached all-time highs with total clicks on Google Ads increasing 13% year over year during the same period.

The main driver of this growth was large, enterprise retailers who had the budgets to increase spend both before and during Cyber Five. In addition, a late Thanksgiving and a shorter shopping season led retailers to increase their budgets during the Cyber Five period.

In the first installment of our 2019 holiday data series, we’ll dive into how retailers performed on Google paid search and Google Shopping in the 10 days leading up to Cyber Five and Cyber Five itself. In our second installment we’ll explore December Google Ads performance and track how retailers engaged last-minute shoppers.

Enterprise Retailers Power Massive Jump in Cyber Five 2019 Spend

During the 2019 holiday season, enterprise retailers made a massive push in spend during Cyber Five. They increased Google paid search spend 113% year over year during this five-day period. They also increased spend in Google Shopping, which represented the majority of their Google Ads budgets, growing spend 30% during the same period year over year.

It’s interesting to note that these retailers increased spend for both channels before Cyber Five as well. With large budgets, enterprise retailers were able to maximize their exposure leading up to Cyber Five in order to engage shoppers early in their journeys and remain top-of-mind during the critical five-day period.

Mid Market Retailers Spend More Strategically 

Mid-market retailers, on the other hand, focused their budgets on both Google Shopping and paid search, only increasing their spend on a handful of days. This seems to be a strategic move to spend budget only on the most valuable shopping days and channels. Despite the decrease in spend, mid-market retailers were able to drive roughly the same average CPC as 2018 in Google Shopping. Rather than try to outspend their larger competitors, mid-market retailers seemed to focus spend on the days, times, channels, and audience segments that would drive the greatest returns for their business.

Mid-market retailers decreased their average CPC in paid search during Cyber Five and the days leading up to it. On average, paid search CPCs were 19% lower during this 15-day period in 2019 compared to 2018. This decrease allowed mid-market retailers to focus spend on Google Shopping which tends to engage lower-funnel shoppers who are likely to convert. The channel also has greater ad inventory than paid search, leading to more opportunities for mid-market retailers.

Google Ads is a mature and increasingly saturated platform, resulting in incrementally higher costs year over year. Retailers must make a shift to better understand their performance data in order to optimize for valuable customer interactions that result in positive business outcomes. Retailers who are able to do that can uncover pockets of opportunity, even during Cyber Five.

Cyber Five Shopping Peaked During Evenings

Shoppers are most active during the evening hours of Cyber Five. Average search impression share for retailers peaked between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Google Shopping. Paid search activity peaked slightly earlier between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

In terms of largest total impressions, the most active hour on paid search occurred at 7 p.m. on Cyber Monday. 8 p.m. on Cyber Monday captured the greatest total impressions of any hour on Google Shopping.

Retailers who have the budget to compete on the SERP during these high-traffic hours should consider dayparting their campaigns to ensure that appropriate spend goes to these valuable time periods. On the other hand, retailers with more limited budgets might consider targeting less competitive hours in order to increase efficiency and find the white space during a crowded Cyber Five.

Retailers Continue to Shift Spend to Mobile 

Mobile remains a critical and growing sales channel on Google Ads. This year mobile spend increased 38% year over year on Google Shopping during Cyber Five, more than any other device. Likewise, on paid search, mobile spend increased 31% year over year.

Enterprise retailers drove mobile growth in the days leading up to and during Cyber Five. Their mobile paid search budgets grew 73% year over-year. In Google Shopping, enterprise retailers increased mobile spend 37% year over year. 

Mid-market retailers also increased mobile spend in Google Shopping 8% year over year. In particular, they leveraged mobile Google Shopping ads on Thanksgiving and Cyber Sunday. This may be a strategy to engage shoppers on less competitive shopping days or build awareness leading up to the all-important Black Friday and Cyber Monday.