Hello, my name is Travis. I work within the Paid Media team here at RocketMill, and during my time here I’ve had a lot of experience understanding the challenges that businesses can face when running seasonal activity like Black Friday – especially when they’re going up against big brands, with big budgets. That’s why today I wanted to talk to you about how we overcame giants to generate 96% more revenue on Black Friday.
About Regis & Supercuts
First, let me tell you a little bit about who our client is. We work with Regis and we work and their sister brand, Supercuts, as well, which are two names that you probably recognise due to their salon presence on many of our high streets. What we do is we manage the Paid Media campaigns for the ecommerce sides of their businesses. So their websites are for products within the hair and beauty industry with brands such as ghd, Loreal and Bed Head.
But before I get stuck into the Black Friday campaign that we ran, it makes sense for me to first talk about what our aim was for that campaign. It’s a relatively straightforward one. Our aim was to beat the revenue generated over the Black Friday period in 2016, whilst doing so at a more profitable rate – which is probably a brief we’ve all had at one time, let’s make more money and let’s be more profitable while we’re doing it!
It might seem a little bit simple and a little bit broad on the surface, but what I want to do is talk to you a little bit about why we set that goal for ourselves. That’s a story that pretty much starts in 2016 with the Black Friday campaigns that we ran for Regis in that year. What happened in 2016 is there were two challenges that presented themselves to us.
How we overcame the challenges
The first was that we were going up against really big names with really big budgets. This included household names like Amazon and ASOS, so really big companies that have a lot of money to spend and they would very much dominate the Google search network.
The second challenge that we were facing was that competition was particularly high on our best-selling products, so we weren’t going to be able to rely on the revenue generated from these over Black Friday.
When it came to 2017, what did we do differently in order to get around these challenges? There were two things that we knew we needed to do. We needed to find a way of competing with those big names without spending the same amount of money that they were, and we also needed to find a way to showcase our best-selling products, despite the fact that the competition was incredibly high there.
Restructuring the PLA campaigns
The first stage of doing that was with planning. If you read any article or blog post on Black Friday, it will tell you that planning is absolutely essential, and this is true for pretty much anything. It’s true for Black Friday. It’s true for any campaign that you’re running. The more you plan, the less surprises you’re going to get along the way. But we actually ended up taking this a few steps further. We started planning for Black Friday all the way back in January 2017, almost a whole year ahead of when the campaign was going to launch.
What we were doing is we were trying to find a way of dealing with that second issue, which was finding a way to showcase our best-selling products despite the fact that there was a lot of competition there. The way that we did this was with a complete restructure of our PLA campaigns. Everyone knows how important these campaigns are, especially if you’re an eCommerce business. What we knew that we needed to do was we needed to find a way to have completely granular control over what our products were doing in terms of how much they were spending and how profitable they would be.
The way that we did this is we created a PLA campaign for every single brand that was on the website, and it mirrored the way that the website was structured as well. This didn’t just mean that we were able to control our costs, by having a campaign for each brand – meaning that we could have campaign level budgets – but it also meant that we were able to tailor our bid prices for every single product. The reason this was so successful for us was because we were able to be incredibly reactive to the data that we were seeing in the account.
If, for example, we saw that this product was performing particularly well, it was incredibly easy for us to adjust our bids and increase them, maximising the profit that we were achieving there. At the same time, if we saw that this product was performing badly, again it was just as easy to reduce that cost and make the overall profitability of the account much higher.
The reason this was so effective for us is it meant that we could control our bidding based on three key factors, the first being how much that product was spending, the second being how competitive we wanted to be, and the most important factor of all is how much profit it was driving our business.
As a result, in terms of showcasing our hero brands, this gave us the complete control to be able to do this. By doing this all the way back in January of 2017, we then had almost a whole year to test that structure before Black Friday launched.
Standing out from the competition
Then the second challenge that we had to face was how we were going to compete with these giants within the industry. This is where our partnership with the team at Regis was absolutely essential. We really worked together, both the teams at RocketMill and with our client, to develop a strategy to allow us to be a really good contender over the Black Friday period, and we started to do this about eight weeks before the actual event.
In terms of how we did this, the first thing we looked at was the concept of running an early bird sale, which is by no means an original idea and everyone knows that Black Friday has become more than just a Friday now. Lots of business run it over a weekend, over a week, and a lot of businesses run it for anywhere up to 30 days.
What we decided here is that that takes a lot of the excitement away from what should be quite a fun event to take part in. We wanted to try and put that excitement back into the event, so we ended up settling for an early bird sale that ran for about a week. There were two things that we wanted to make sure we really nailed down with this sale, the first being we had to make sure that the users really trusted the promotion. We didn’t want any of our customers to think that by making a purchase in our early bird sale that they would then miss out on our offers that we launched on Black Friday. It had to be exactly an early bird sale, but the benefit was that they were getting a really good promotion, early.
That’s what the second thing was. We had to make that promotion worthwhile for our customers as well. We needed to create something that stopped them in their tracks and thought: “I need to get this sale now because it’s going to go out of stock and I won’t be able to get it on the actual day”.
The results of this were really good. Just looking in terms of traffic, we saw that the week that we ran the early bird sale compared to the year before, saw an 82% increase in website sessions, so just in terms of traffic we had a lot more coming through than the year before.
In terms of how we made those promotions worthwhile, we did this with our product offers, because this is where we knew in terms of competing with giants, we needed to offer something that no one else was doing. We had our standard Black Friday sale and started with pages that users could go to, they could see what brands were on offer and they could make their purchases there, but we knew that we could offer something more.
The way that we did that was with product bundles like these two here. What this meant was grouping products that were related to each other together and then offering a huge amount of saving on them, encouraging users to make a purchase. This wasn’t just good for our users because they were saving a bunch of cash on premium products, like ghd straighteners and hair dryers, but it was also a really good thing for us to do because no one else was doing it and it gave us a really good selling point.
Crafting powerful ad copy
In particular, it gave us really powerful language to use in our ad copy, and our ad copy is where we really sort of finalised our Black Friday campaign in 2017. This is an area that we learned a lot about in 2016 as well, so it wasn’t just challenges that presented themselves the year before, there was also opportunity as well. As marketers, we do a lot of testing, and a lot of our testing we do on the ad copy variations that we’re running.
Last year what we had seen was that ad copy that has a high monetary value in it, of how much a customer can save at our website, was getting a really good level of engagement. So, when we were working on these promotion offers with Regis, we knew that having something as high as £100 off would work really well for us when we put these ads against our competitors, especially at the top of the search page. In terms of rounding off the whole activity, this meant that we were able to showcase what we had on offer and then users were going to come our site rather than the other giants that were advertising in that space.
A summary of the strategy
In terms of summing up the activity that we ran, the first thing that we did is we learned from 2016. We analysed our data, we analysed what our competitors were doing, and we understood the challenges that we were going to face. We then took a look at our campaign structure and how we could upgrade it, giving us a more granular control over our products and what we were spending there. This meant that when it came to promoting our best-selling products against our competitors we had complete control while we were doing that.
We then worked alongside our client to beat the competition, developing a strategy that made us do something different, and a large portion of that was developing worthwhile promotions that no one else had. We then put those promotions in front of people with really powerful ad copy.
So that was what we did, and how did we do? Before I tell you about the results, let me first remind you about what our aims were. We wanted to increase the amount of revenue that we made compared to the year before and we wanted to be doing that at a far more profitable rate. Well, we ended up generating 96% more revenue than the previous year, which was almost double the amount of revenue that we made, so we absolutely smashed the first part of that goal, which was really good to see.
But not only that. Our campaigns were 461% more profitable, which is an absolutely huge increase on the previous year. As marketers, there really nothing more satisfying than seeing the amount of revenue you’re making increasing at the same time that your profit is increasing.
But the success stories don’t really stop there. Actually, when we analysed the performance against 2016, we actually realised that we’d spent half as much money. So, we doubled the amount that we made and we spent less to do it, we spent half as much to do it, and as a result were 461% more profitable.
This obviously … We’re really happy with this. We’re really proud of this. Our client is really happy about this as well. But what’s really great to see is that the campaign has generated a lot of recognition and we’re been nominated for one of the UK Biddable Media Awards this year. So it gives us something that we can be really proud of, but also it gives our client really good recognition as well.
Key lessons for other campaigns
What are the key take homes from this? What lessons can we learn so that all of our campaigns over the rest of the year have the potential to be nominated for an award?
The first thing is that you have to learn from your data, whether you’ve got a year’s worth of data or two years, or maybe it’s only three months. You need to understand what the data is telling you and understand, more importantly, what the challenges are that you’re going to face. The earlier you know what your challenges are, the quicker you can react to them.
You need to ensure the structural integrity of your campaigns as well. This isn’t just important for events like Black Friday and Christmas. This is just best practise. You need to be able to make sure that you’ve got control over what happens in the account based on the KPIs that you’ve set out with your client.
But perhaps the most important of all of the take homes is you need to plan. The earlier your planning, the less surprises you’re going to have when you’re actually running the account. We took this to the extreme and planned almost a whole year in advance and look at the results that we got from our efforts.
Also, don’t be afraid to go up against the giants. Whether you’re an industry leader yourself or whether you’re in a start-up company, this isn’t something that you should shirk away from as a challenge. It can be done, and it can be as simple as being different. That’s a really cliché thing to say in a marketing meeting, but I’m not talking about being outrageous or doing anything silly here. I’m literally just saying do a promotion that no one else is doing. You’ll be seen and it will make a difference.
But by far the most important take home from all of this activity has been to work with your client. No one knows their business better than your client does. They know its strengths and they know its weaknesses, and that’s a resource that you really can’t afford to not use. So, when it comes to running campaigns like Black Friday, if you and your client are putting your heads together to develop a strategy you’ve got far more chance of succeeding. Thank you.