Seasonality is a vague and often misunderstood term in marketing. Many marketers think of it simply as the different seasons, and what will drive the best opportunity for sales in winter as opposed to summer, but seasonality is far more complex than the four quarters of the year.
Any external influence that has an impact on consumer behaviour such as the time of day, day of the week, the weather, or even macro-level influences like the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ or the latest social media trends can be considered under the wider umbrella of seasonality.
The reason seasonality is so important in marketing is that it’s a great predictor of consumer habits. And while it’s essential marketers strategise for well-recognised seasonal events such as Christmas and Black Friday, it’s also just as important to plan for smaller seasonalities in marketing such as whether it’s a weekday or a weekend or it’s sunny or stormy.
These might seem fairly insignificant but can actually have as big an impact on KPIs as macro events.
So how can brands better plan for seasonalities to ensure that their marketing compliments seasonal influences and drives the best return on investment all year round?
Measure, Measure, Measure
Brand marketers might understand when their brand’s ‘peak season’ is, but what they often aren’t aware of is how much impact seasonality has as opposed to marketing campaigns when it comes to sales, downloads or whichever KPIs they want to measure.
Say for instance that a brand puts significant budget towards Christmas campaigns knowing that’s when its products fly off the shelves, if they reduced that budget, would their sales fall or is seasonality alone driving the uptake?
The only way to know for sure is to integrate technology that’s able to measure marketing incrementality as it happens across all campaigns and variables such as the weather or day of the week.
This will enable brands to truly understand if budgets are being spent to the best effect, and marketers will often be surprised to find that their advertising has less impact than they think.
Marketing Experiments Don’t Work When it Comes to Seasonality
The way marketers have typically measured incrementality to date is via experiments, whereby they pause activities across certain campaigns, channels or geographies before restarting them to identify the techniques and messages that have the greatest impact on KPIs.
The problem with this when it comes to seasonality is that marketers need to stop a campaign for a notable time period to determine any noteworthy differences. Given variables like the weather are constantly changing, it’s not possible to accurately assess their impact on revenue by stopping and starting campaigns.
What’s more, the data amassed from experimental marketing is not transferable data and what you measure during one particular experiment can’t then be applied to consumer behaviour generally. Instead of experimenting, marketers need to work with partners that can accurately measure results across all marketing without any need to stop and start.
Spending During Peak Seasons May Not be the Best Use of Budget
The biggest shopping days for UK brands are Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Prime Day. Advertisers have naturally followed this trend with their campaigns, with some brands spending as much as 40% of their annual budgets around these dates.
Yet our research has found that while the major shopping days yield substantial incremental sales and revenues, often these can be attributed to the dates themselves rather than results driven by ad campaigns.
In fact, on many campaigns we analysed across different industry sectors, the value of ad spend during these periods was lower than the incremental value during normal seasonality.
So advertising during peak seasonality does not always produce results and many brands are wasting spend on these days, which could be reinvested to help boost KPIs during periods of lower seasonality or against more micro-influences.
Many brands are therefore better limiting their advertising budgets to sit back and enjoy the incremental sales and revenues that come with peak periods.
That said, very few advertisers are willing to test this theory; going against the well-established stream of focusing advertising around ‘peak seasons’ is seen as too much of a risk, because of course reducing spend during Christmas or Black Friday could have a detrimental impact on sales and revenues, which could lead to some tough questions from senior management.
The only way for marketers to really know however is through effective measurement. Understanding seasonality and its impact on marketing is one of the most powerful forces in a brand’s performance, as seasonality tends to be the best performing channel for any advertiser.
By working with tech partners that are able to comprehensively measure the results brands are drawing from both campaigns and micro and macro seasonality events in seconds, marketers can know for sure whether they are spending to the best effect and revise budgets to generate the best outcomes 365 days a year.