Retailers tailor holiday paid social to Gen Z, with YouTube grabbing biggest spend – Marketing Dive

Retailers tailor holiday paid social to Gen Z, with YouTube grabbing biggest spend – Marketing Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart leads major retailers on paid social share of voice (SOV) ahead of the holidays, according to a BrandTotal analysis emailed to Marketing Dive. Breaking down SOV, defined as a percentage of sponsored impressions, Walmart commanded 23% of the market while Target held a close second spot at 21%.
  • Messages tended to be targeted at Gen Z, a cohort that’s more comfortable buying products through apps. About half (51%) of paid social ads catered to Gen Zers, a group BrandTotal places in the 18-24 age range. Only 16% of impressions centered on consumers 45 and older.
  • BrandTotal examined paid social campaigns from a dozen brands and thousands of ads running across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn for the period of Dec. 8-22. Fears of the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 did little to change strategies, speaking to how social tactics allow for greater flexibility as the pandemic remains an obstacle to brick-and-mortar operations.

Dive Insight:

Walmart landing as the social media front-runner among brick-and-mortars for the holidays isn’t surprising given that the company is the world’s largest traditional retailer. The BrandTotal findings still underpin how outreach strategies could be changing as the category tries to engage the next generation of shoppers, one that is more willing to buy products through services like YouTube and Instagram. Meanwhile, those platforms are rapidly expanding their commerce capabilities as the pandemic shifts more businesses online.

“Retailers are catering to the channel,” Alon Leibovich, CEO and co-founder of BrandTotal, said of social in a statement. “Gen Z is increasingly buying through social channels. Brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to activate shoppers in those environments, where they spend most of their time. The new variant hasn’t changed that strategy. They’re not suddenly targeting older shoppers, for example, to drive turnout amid omicron.”

Gen Z was a key focus among the 12 marketers analyzed, suggesting the age group has more purchasing power as its members enter adulthood and play larger roles as tastemakers. While Walmart topped total impressions, the brands most likely to send ads targeted at Gen Z were T.J. Maxx (69%), Nordstrom (68%) and Target (64%). Costco (1%), Gap (21%) and Dollar Tree (33%) were the least likely.

Potentially speaking to young shoppers’ platform preferences, YouTube received the highest ad budgets, making up 36% of retailers’ paid social impressions, followed by Facebook (25%), Twitter (21%) and Instagram (19%). Twitter beating Instagram is a point of interest given that the latter has historically been a more significant hub for fashion and apparel brands. But Twitter has recently upped its own commerce bets, including by running its first livestreamed shopping event with Walmart for the Cyber Week promotional window this year.

One notable absence in the BrandTotal research is TikTok, the preferred app among Gen Z and a trendsetter on the social commerce front. One of Walmart’s early experiments with livestreaming social commerce occurred on TikTok for the 2020 holidays. TikTok overtook Google as the most-visited website this year, according to a new Cloudflare analysis.


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