The ‘cyber five’: Prepping search strategies for peak retail

Randy Stark is sales engineer at ADARA.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, previously competitor sale days, now look set to emerge as one event – a giant ecommerce extravaganza – thanks to increased ecommerce uptake among consumers. The five days from the American Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday 26th November through to the following Cyber Monday are now dubbed the ‘Cyber Five’. This year, it will bring a host of new elements for search marketers to consider. 

Gleaning as much insight as possible into your potential customers and their new behaviours ahead of the event is an important new element of the typical prep that goes into seasonal search planning. Search marketers must be agile and able to respond to changes throughout the process in order to take advantage of new emerging behaviours.

Out with the old, in with the new

Simply recycling the insights from Black Friday last year is not going to work in 2020. With Covid-19 limiting in-store shopping, there has been a dramatic increase in digital retail. Newcomers to online shopping and those ready for some retail therapy after a tricky year will be added to the usual deal-hunters, who will be using multiple devices and channels to research and buy their items of choice. 

Search can be thought of as the road that takes people where they want to go – some people are new drivers, while others are speeding. This year, although our real roads may be quieter thanks to travel restrictions in tier three areas, web traffic will be high. In order to ensure that everyone gets the best possible search experience, the first step in 2020 planning must include updated analysis of new habits and desires among a much changed set of shoppers (or drivers, to extend the metaphor). Understanding the most recent shopping habits across demographics and customer segments can help with forecasting as well as ensuring communication is relevant to the end individual and that marketing is tailored to their interests. 

Adapt on the go

Despite the many automations that Google and other search providers continue to roll out, these five days are too crucial to simply set up campaigns and leave them to run. Marketers should ensure they have allocated resources during this period to gather data for rapid analysis which they can use to quickly react. For example, they should designate media budgets that can be adjusted up or down according to effectiveness, or even switched to other channels entirely. It’s possible that social media is the channel of choice this year, or that mobile is even stronger as a conversion channel than forecasts predicted. Budget should be managed flexibly and responsively according to which channels are performing best at any given time. If there’s a centralised media buying plan, then it’s even easier to lean into the elements that are working best. 

Marketers should also ensure they have analytics and reporting systems in place to monitor performance data in real time. Marketers need the ability to see and react to fast moving changes in demand on a daily basis. Search scripts or API based tools can be helpful here, with automated alerts as a complement.

Over-reliance on just automated bidding from either Google or a third party vendor should be avoided. These systems react to observed historical performance, so marketers could be underbidding in those moments of peak demand and then overbidding once it has subsided. One option is to install a hybrid campaign structure where manual bid campaigns can be used to react more quickly to real time trends. The automated and manual campaigns can both be set up in advance, and then be turned on and off based on real time performance.

Retailers should also ensure that their product feed is optimised. This is already standard best practice, but improving the quality of the data feed will reap rewards this season. This should be updated as close to real time as possible – with daily refreshes a bare minimum. Marketers should proactively create merchant promotions and set sale prices with effective dates. This must be supported by populating items with as many recommended product attributes as possible such as GTIN, MPN, brand, size, colour and postage cost.


The Cyber Five is a time for fast reaction and immediate gratification. As such, conversion numbers are usually at their peak during this time. However, the planning and insights that are outlined above will also set marketers up for long term success. 

The new consumer behaviours that have emerged this year are here to stay and so learning as much as possible about them now will inform campaigns for 2021. Agile paid search optimisation now can be used for analysis later down the line that can feed a robust organic search strategy, as well as improvements to on-site search. And if any further motivation was needed, the better that marketers do during Cyber Five, the more new customers they have to communicate with in future to drive loyalty, sales and long term value.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

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