5 Trends and Tips For Brands & Advertisers This Holiday Shopping Season

5 Trends and Tips For Brands & Advertisers This Holiday Shopping Season

Consumers are excited and Santa is out of quarantine: it’s time to plan for Holidays 2021! Brands and advertisers, below are the five trends and tips predicted for holiday shopping 2021. Here’s everything you need to know to make this your most successful holiday shopping season yet. BTW: download our onsheet at the bottom of the page!

1. Expect High Spend from Shoppers

The 2020 holiday season performed better than expectations, according to eMarketer‘s numbers. Total retail spending was up 6.5% to $1.064 trillion. Cyber Monday was the heaviest online spending day in history, pulling in $10.78 billion. That’s great news for this year.

This year will bring an even higher level of spend thanks to optimism, reunions with family and friends, and renewed travel. Vaccination rates across the U.S. are about 50%. Many are also returning to work. After a spike in layoffs and unemployment during the pandemic crisis, the unemployment rate is dropping again – which means more are comfortable spending money. As a result, now is the ideal time to make some modifications to your store. If you own a business and are searching for ways to attract more clients, consider using a music streaming service like Cloud Cover Music, which can be played on CloudBox or other similar devices.

The Stats:

  • The 2020 US holiday season surpassed $1 trillion in sales – a 6.5% increase (eMarketer).
  • Cyber Monday 2020 was the heaviest online spending day in history, pulling in $10.78 billion (eMarketer).
  • In June 2021, the national U.S. unemployment rate was at 5.9 percent (Statista)

2. Count on Heavy Ecommerce Holiday Shopping

Last year proved that consumers were just as – if not more – willing to spend money online while shopping for the holidays. Even with the ability to shop in-store this year, ecommerce will continue to grow, and forecasts predict record-breaking ecommerce sales this holiday season. That being said, it is still important to ensure that your physical store still looks inviting to customers who prefer to do their shopping in person. For example, why not invest in a new sign to tempt customers into your store? There are lots of fantastic sign making companies out there nowadays that can help you to create a sign that stands out from the crowd, but if you are looking for a houston sign company, then National Signs could be a fantastic option. Of course, there are other steps that retailers can take to improve their premises so do be sure to look into some of these if you want to maximise the potential of your physical store.

Retail ecommerce sales are projected to make up 18.9% of total holiday retail sales, up from 17.5% last year according to eMarketer. Thanksgiving Day ecommerce sales are expected to hit a whopping $6.21 billion, per eMarketer forecasts. (For reference, Thanksgiving Day ecommerce sales reached $4.13 billion just two years ago in 2019.) And as we mentioned, Cyber Monday was the heaviest online spending day in history, rising 15.6% to $10.78 billion. This continued through the end of the year, especially online, driving a dramatic 47% increase in ecommerce sales during the traditional holiday season, according to Facebook.

The Stats:

  • There was a 47% increase in ecommerce sales during the traditional holiday season in 2020 (Facebook via Adweek).
  • Cyber Monday 2020 was the heaviest online spending day in history, rising 17,5% and pulling in $10.78 billion (eMarketer).
  • Retail ecommerce sales are projected to make up 18.9% of total holiday retail sales, up from 17.5% last year (eMarketer)
  • Apparel/accessories will be the fastest-growing retail ecommerce category this year, as the subsiding pandemic unleashes pent-up demand for clothing, at 18.9% growth (eMarketer).
  • This year, Thanksgiving Day ecommerce sales are expected to hit a whopping $6.21 billion (eMarketer).
santa holiday shopping in a mask 2021 trends advertisers and tips

3. An Earlier Start to Holiday Shopping is Predicted

That’s right. The combination of pent up demand, higher ecommerce activity, and shifting sale dates from big retailers mean holiday shopping will likely start earlier this year (like last year).

Consumers are eager to shop and eager to celebrate. Retailers like Gap are predicting “customer exuberance” for back-to-school shopping, and the sentiment will likely carry over to the holidays. And while the traditional holiday period normally begins in late November or early December, last year Amazon postponed Prime Day to October, leading other retailers to introduce coinciding, earlier promotional events. Criteo found that one-quarter of U.S. consumers research purchases one month before their Black Friday buys. In fact, 30% of consumers will try a new online store because of early holiday deals, well ahead of Black Friday. A Facebook survey found that nearly half of shoppers started holiday shopping before-and often in place of-in-store doorbusters on Black Friday in 2020.

All this means that brands and advertisers should start connecting with both loyal and new customers across digital and mobile channels now, and offer deals and incentives to start holiday shopping early. In order to attract new customers, lead generation is critical.

The Stats:

  • 30% of consumers will try a new online store because of early holiday deals, well ahead of Black Friday (Criteo via Mediapost, 2021).
  • On average, U.S. consumers start researching Black Friday deals 14 days prior, as they look for discounts and to avoid sellouts for products such as video games and toys (Criteo via Mediapost, 2021).
  • One-quarter of consumers research purchases one month before their Black Friday buys (Criteo via Mediapost, 2021).
  • Nearly half of shoppers started holiday shopping before-and often in place of-in-store doorbusters on Black Friday in 2020 (Facebook via Adweek).

4. Maximize an Omnichannel Approach for Holiday Shopping Success

“Click and collect” grew vastly in popularity last year for its safety in the midst of a pandemic, but consumers have grown accustomed to its convenience. Who wants to wait in a line at 4am for a sale when they can order from their home and pick up from their car? Especially since retailers proved over the last year that they can duplicate much of the in-store experiences digitally by offering the same discounts online.​​

More and more, consumers are blending the best of online and in-store to create their ideal hybrid shopping experience. Shoppers are discovering products on their phone, researching online at their desktop, checking out products in store etc. They then return to online sites to buy, and so on because of which it’s extremely crucial to make use of a responsive web design. Firms like Hooked Marketing could help with regards to designing a website that is user-friendly.

It’s essential to create convenient, frictionless, omnichannel offerings. Advertisers need to reach consumers at the point of research and purchase across all devices. In the US, omnichannel shopping has grown by 50% since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Nielson.

The Stats:

  • There has been 1.3X growth in mobile purchasing, globally, for the holiday season since 2018. (Facebook)
  • Adobe found that over half of digital Christmas revenue in 2020 came from smartphones (Adobe via Adweek)
  • US shoppers spent $72.46 billion via click and collect last year, a 106.9% growth rate over 2019 (eMarketer).
  • Click and collect will account for 9.9% of all retail ecommerce sales this year (eMarketer).
  • Over 150 million people will make at least one purchase via click and collect this year in the US (eMarketer).
  • In the US, omnichannel shopping has grown by 50% since the beginning of the pandemic (Nielson via Facebook).

5. Help Holiday Shoppers With Online Discovery + Context

Half of all shoppers polled by Facebook experienced some difficulty knowing what to buy for others, while 63% of global shoppers surveyed enjoyed discovering items they weren’t actively looking for. Call it Discovery Commerce, online discovery, point of intent, content marketing – the point is the same: consumers want a bit of help when it comes to shopping, and there’s no shame in that.

Creating digital ads – discovery aides – that help shoppers determine what to buy based on what they are likely to love (thanks to context clues and audience groups, for example) is crucial to success. Maximizing contextual targeting and context-driven optimization will ensure your ads and content find your target shoppers. Make your consumers’ holiday shopping job easier. Don’t just meet them at their needs; anticipate them.

The Stats:

  • 63% of global shoppers surveyed enjoyed discovering items they weren’t actively looking for. * (Facebook)
  • Half of all shoppers polled experienced some difficulty knowing what to buy for others, highlighting the need for discovery aides-especially during the holidays (Facebook).

Read more: 3 Tips to Keep Your Campaigns Safe With Bidtellect & IAS Thanks to Context Control, Brand Safety

Brands and advertisers, we hope these 2021 holiday shopping trends and tips help you feel ready – it’s going to be a great year! For more tips, check out our creative best practices: the naughty and nice list.

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We Asked IT: Your Digital Safety Guide

We Asked IT: Your Digital Safety Guide

‘Tis the season for Holiday Joy and reinvigorated email scam attempts. Here are a few tips from IT to avoid falling into a trap and inadvertently sending scammers personal information or even compromising Bidtellect itself. Almost all attacks are thwarted by simply applying a little dose of intuition and logic. If it doesn’t make sense, you should question it before providing any information. This holiday season many scams will be going around, so just as you would protect your home from the non-santas trying to get in your home with Verisure Smart Alarms, you will need to be vigilant about what is going on inside your cyber bubble.

Email Phishing

Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals send an email that appears to be from a legitimate company and ask you to provide sensitive information.

Always think twice before clicking the links in emails:

The people who are sending phishing emails have to be clever email marketers to get the user to engage. They often do this by preying on your emotions. You should be generally reluctant to download any attachments or click any links, no matter how innocuous they seem or who appears to have sent them. If you are going to download an attachment or click a link in an email, be sure you know who it is from and that the email was not spoofed. If our google email account puts an email in your spam folder but it looks like it is from someone legitimate, you should definitely be suspect of spoofing. There is usually a reason Google’s Spam Logic moved it to spam. If you are unsure, please reach out to IT for assistance. We can help you check the email headers to sniff out any spoofing. The scammer/phishers goal is to find ways to wreak havoc inside the company infrastructure, including propagating malware, turning the systems into botnets, stealing private company information and most often stealing corporate banking information for the purpose of taking money.

Consider the Source:

As a standard rule, we should never email anyone within Bidtellect, both to and from, a non @bidtellect.com email account. Our Google Email accounts have security measures in place to help avoid spam and spoofing but there are ways around everything. From an IT security point of view, private emails should never be used for any business communications unless explicitly directed to do so by the receiving executive. And even then it should be communicated in person or by another trusted and secure method prior to sending an email.

Sometimes “spoofers” will send an email that looks to be from a legitimate address, but when you press reply, the email recipient is no longer the legitimate email address. Example: Email from charlotte@bidtellect.com arrives, you hit reply and then the TO field is scammer@abc.com. Google spam usually catches these as the names do not match. It seems like a silly scam, but it is easily overlooked. Usually the goal of spoofing is to gain access to banking information or trick an employee into sending payment to an illegitimate source.

So what can you do?

First, scrutinize the address it says it came from and the text of any URLs it contains to weed out theboss@apple.com from theboss@app1e.com. If the source is legit, but the text is out of character, ask yourself, “Would my boss really send me this email?” Again, if something feels weird about an email that someone you know sends, especially if it has a request in it, bear in mind there’s a distinct possibility they’ve been hacked. Reach out to them separately and ask if they sent you an email.

Types of Email Phishing

Phishing scams vary widely in terms of their complexity, the quality of the forgery, and the attacker’s objective. Several distinct types of phishing have emerged.

Deceptive Phishing:

These are the most common types of email scams. The sender will attempt to mimic or clone an official Company or Vendor that we do business with. An example would be an email from someone that is pretending to be a Paypal Employee asking for sensitive information and provides a link in the body of the email. The Link text may display as “paypal.com/123123” but when you highlight the link or click on it you are redirected to a fake website such as “friendpalpay.com/123456“. The fake site may even look just like a real web page and request you to fill out digital forms that send your information to not so good people.

Spear Phishing:

Phishing attacks directed at specific individuals, roles, or organizations are referred to as “spear phishing”. Since these attacks are so pointed, attackers may go to great lengths to gather specific personal or institutional information in the hope of making the attack more believable and increasing the likelihood of its success. The best defense against spear phishing is to carefully, securely discard information (i.e., using a cross-cut shredder) that could be used in such an attack. Further, be aware of data that may be relatively easily obtainable (e.g., your title at work, your favorite places, or where you bank), and think before acting on seemingly random requests via email or phone. Having an email encryption solution similar to pgp telefoon kopen can keep your email data secure from unwanted phishing links.

Executive Fraud:

These phishing attacks (usually spear phishing) are directed specifically at executive officers or other high-profile targets within a business, government, or other organization. To protect against cyber attacks and data breaches, the use of MDR for small business is proving popular in a range of sectors as more and more businesses are looking to prevent this kind of thing from damaging their operations and reputation. Scammers typically target the financial departments by either pretending to be an Executive asking the Finance Team to provide information or the reverse where they pretend to be the Finance Team asking the Executive for information.

General Web Security Reminders

Verify a Site’s Security:

It’s natural to be a little wary about supplying sensitive financial information online. As long as you are on a secure website, however, you shouldn’t run into any trouble. Before submitting any information, make sure the site’s URL begins with “https” and there should be a closed lock icon near the address bar. Check for the site’s security certificate as well. If you get a message stating a certain website may contain malicious files, do not open the website. Never download files from suspicious emails or websites. Even search engines may show certain links which may lead users to a phishing webpage which offers low cost products. If the user makes purchases at such a website, the credit card details will be accessed by cybercriminals.

Keep Your Browser Up to Date:

Security patches are released for popular browsers all the time. They are released in response to the security loopholes that phishers and other hackers inevitably discover and exploit. If you typically ignore messages about updating your browsers, stop. The minute an update is available, download and install it. Chrome and most browsers automatically download and install security patches unless you have disabled it. If you own a business, get a professional to check the DNS Security to safeguard your business from internet threats. This is very important because malware, ransomware, phishing, and other scams use DNS servers to look up and connect to infrastructure for cyber attacks.

Be Wary of Popups:

Pop-up windows often masquerade as legitimate components of a website. All too often, though, they are phishing attempts. Many popular browsers allow you to block pop-ups; you can allow them on a case-by-case basis. If one manages to slip through the cracks, don’t click on the “cancel” button; such buttons often lead to phishing sites. Instead, click the small “x” in the upper corner of the window.

Never Give Out Personal Information:

As a general rule, you should never share personal or financially sensitive information over the Internet. This rule spans all the way back to the days of America Online, when users had to be warned constantly due to the success of early phishing scams. When in doubt, go visit the main website of the company in question, get their number and give them a call. Most of the phishing emails will direct you to pages where entries for financial or personal information are required. An Internet user should never make confidential entries through the links provided in the emails. Never send an email with sensitive information to anyone. Make it a habit to check the address of the website. A secure website always starts with “https”.

Reputable organizations will never use email to request that you reply with your password, full Social Security number, or confidential personal or business information. Be suspicious of any email message that asks you to enter or verify personal or business information, through a website or by replying to the message itself. Never reply to or click the links in such a message. If you think the message may be legitimate, go directly to the company’s website (i.e., type the real URL into your browser) or contact the company to see if you really do need to take the action described in the email message.

Remember: the best security against fishy phishing or scam attempts is always

1. common sense and

2. your intuition.

When in doubt, just double check!

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thanks to AdmantX and IAS so you can understand user behavior without jeopardizing privacy

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Advanced Optimization

capabilities like Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO).

Ask [b]+studio: Top Tips for Tip Top Holiday Creative

Ask [b]+studio: Top Tips for Tip Top Holiday Creative

It’s time. You have the content. Your holiday offers are lined up. You’re ready to go live with your platform of choice. You want to distribute your content in a way that doesn’t feel like ads. You want images and copy that feel like a story, that engage users and invite them to your sites.

We asked Bidtellect’s in-house creative services team their mandatory tips to get your creatives on the nice list. Remember, no matter how great your platform’s placement and optimization capabilities, bad creative will kill engagement faster than you can say “naughty list.”

Remember also that it’s a process – a circle of refreshing copy and images. Make creative recommendations throughout campaigns to optimize performance. “Going live” is just the beginning.

Listen to the experts and remember these tips for your images, copy, and assets to distribute your content meaningfully – and you’ll surpass all your KPI goals!

YOU GOT THIS!

1. It’s the Happiest Time of Year – Keep it Positive!

“Keep it positive! Use positive adjectives in headlines coupled with happy images to increase CTR. Cold, monotone creatives do not bring joy. Bonus: add puns or rhymes to make it even more…puntastic.”

– Yeni Gordillo, Sr. Creative Marketing Manager

2. Save the Copy for…Your Copy

“Remember: no copy on images. While it’s great to push a holiday offer or discount, you don’t want your images mimicking a banner ad. Banner blindness is real. The goal is for your content to blend in with the content in the feed. Instead, use an image of a person enjoying your product or offer. And one more time for the people in the back: NO copy on images.”

– Missy Steiner, VP of Marketing 

3. Refresh Your Creative Constantly

Switch up your creatives! Better yet: rotate based on event, as you count down to Black Friday or that big holiday sale or new holiday release. 

4. Keep the Holidays Front of Mind

‘Tis the season: remember to include at least one holiday reference in the image or copy, or you’ll risk seeming out of the loop (as well as suffering poor engagement). 

Use the concept of “gift guides.” Offer helpful, valuable tips and create content that’s great to drive to. Think: find the perfect gift for “X” which doubles as calling out the targeted demographic, but in a fun, holiday way. Be a holiday thought leader!

– Shannon Malley, Creative Marketing Coordinator

5. Which Images Perform Best?

Photographs perform better than animated images. Always.

On that note, children, pets, and people in images perform best. Smile!

 Go solo: if using images with products, one solo “feature” product performs better than a group. 

6. And finally…

“Don’t make me say it. Don’t make me say it. CHECK YOUR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR. Misspelled words and grammar errors (unless it’s a common colloquial phrase) are a bad look. P.S. “Your” is possessive, while “you’re” is a contraction for “you are.” Apostrophe before an “s” indicates a possessive noun; drop the apostrophe for plural, i.e. Happy Holidays!

– Charlotte Otremba, Sr. Manager Marketing and Communications

What is [b]+studio?

[b]+studio is Bidtellect’s award-winning Creative Services Team. They are expert storytellers that have a deep understanding of best-performing images and copy and can help create your custom content assets. By using [b]+studio, expect to see your campaign meet KPIs above benchmarks in CTR, Engagement Score, Conversions and more! Learn more here.

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5 Steps to Engaging Creatives this Holiday Season

5 Steps to Engaging Creatives this Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, one thing on most retailers’ minds is how to get their products in front of gift-givers. How do they set themselves apart in such a competitive space? How can then cater to customers’ needs? The obvious answer is seeing what they are moving towards and adapting to that, for instance, with so many people shopping online, brick-and-mortar stores need to ensure that they can also match up with this type of technology by looking into implementing equipment like EFTPOS Terminal machines to help with payments from a variety of sources, e.g. QR codes, contactless, mobile payments, etc. Customers want to feel excited about what they are buying, and they do not want to wait around, especially if they have to hit the pavement and buy physically.

As more and more brands rely on content distribution to earn trust and loyalty, I wanted to provide some of the top creative Native best practices that are not only trending but are also driving results for brands.

Retail is Booming

In case you missed it, the 2019 holiday season is supposed to be record-breaking. eMarketer predicts it to be the first-ever trillion-dollar holiday season! Much of this increase is being driven by online sales provided by firms that offer on-time delivery (perhaps such firms take the help of software applications provided by Real Innovation Group and its likes). Since customers have been getting a taste of fast delivery services like one-day delivery or next-day delivery, online sales have been growing and becoming the more sought-after choice during the holidays.

According to several studies, millions of people are now opting to do their holiday shopping on sites like NoveltyStreet.com where there are plenty of badass things to buy for every member of the family. However, this doesn’t mean retailers can just sit back and wait for the shoppers to flock to them. In some ways, it’s now harder for retailers to grab a shopper’s attention, with fewer physical marketing opportunities to tempt people with. The key, therefore, to serving up a successful holiday strategy, according to experts and trends documented by eMarketer, is sponsored, branded, or native advertising, which offer the highest-value for advertisers and is easiest to monetize for retailers.

From Q1 to Q3, we saw a 443% jump in Bidtellect’s retail space in just one year. 443%. Consumers rely on brands more and more often to get informed, for inspiration, and for valuable content. This shift to Native proves that shoppers are more likely to click on a “Top 5 Gifts Your Dad Will Love” versus “Sock Sale.” Content sells.

This is why creatives are so important. They are the gateway to a retail product; they are the invitation to and a representation of the brand. This is more often than not, why companies hire a PR firm to handle all of their media presence, including social media and creatives for the website as well as other digital channels. From a heartwarming image to a compelling headline, our top creative practices for the holidays will ensure that customers will want to engage with you first!

Content distribution starts with the right creative. Simple as that.

Headlines

The first (and arguably best) way to catch a shopper’s eye? The headline.

Remember to provide value, solve a problem from holiday shopping stress, educate the consumer, and use listacles to imply a quick and informative read. If you have a special offer or a promo code, now is the time to inform your prospective shoppers.

Ask questions! Be punny! Invite readers without shouting at them. Anything too pushy or blatant will deter readers. Keep it short and sweet (no more than 60 characters) and in title case.

Bottom line: engage, educate and entertain.

Images

Actually, the image is probably the first and best visual cue – so don’t slack here! Images that feature people or animals are more relatable and draw more of an emotional response. And if you have been thinking about utilizing cinemagraphs, now is the time to test it out.

Think lifestyle, authentic, people in the moment and in the holiday spirit. Do not include text to images – otherwise you’re entering display territory!

Bottom line: be emotional, authentic.

Description

This is the copy under the headline – it gives a little extra information about what your product or content offers! Remember to include value-driven, relevant copy that is consistent with the message in your headline.

And (this should go without saying) the description should be longer than your headline. It’s a slight explanation if you will. Establish the connection, create a conflict, and your call-to-action (KPI) is the solution.

Bottom line: call-to-action, consistent with the headline

Video

Consumers are engaging with Native video – and not just autoplay. Bidtellect saw a 143% increase in completion rate of in-feed, click-to-play videos in one year, proving that consumers do engage. The most successful videos are those that convey a clear message immediately.

Long videos that require time (and sound) from the viewer will not work. Keep the videos short and sweet, with a clear message that’s conveyed with or without sound and use subtitles or text.

Bottom line: clear message without sound

Testing

Don’t forget to utilize optimization strategies! Test out different creatives combinations and personalization tactics based on your KPIs for maximum engagement. It is essential to use a platform that will optimize to your KPIs to find your sweet spot.

Bottom line: optimization is key

Missy Steiner is the Vice President of Marketing at Bidtellect.

She’s hoping for Phish tickets as a gift this year!!

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How to Make the Switch to Test Automation

How to Make the Switch to Test Automation

It’s happening! Either you’ve finally convinced your IT service provider in Lincoln (or the ones in your area) that it’s time to use automation in testing, or they’ve come to you with a mandate to automate testing. Hopefully, you’ve laid the groundwork that automation isn’t a panacea, manual testing isn’t going away, headcount isn’t going to go down, and feature throughput isn’t going to skyrocket. If you haven’t, you need to set the expectations. Either way, it’s an exciting and scary time, especially if your experience with automation is little or none. So now what?

You can ask for help

You could be correct if you believe you can set up and use automated testing on your own. However, you’re probably dead incorrect. Can you develop automation knowledge at home? Have you taken a gd&t course that may help you with regard to a specific interpretation of the test automation language? Yes. Have you got the time? Years! Probably not. You need assistance, and that might be challenging for some people, especially if you’ve established a strong reputation as a testing expert. You will need to hire either a full-time automation specialist or a project manager from a third-party vendor, similar to Business Technology Architects, who can assist you with all the project needs in order to get the best return on investment and likelihood of success in a reasonable amount of time. YOU AREN’T AN EXPERT unless you’re an automation specialist! Put your ego to the side and find the right help.

If I’m not an expert, how can I get the right help?

Excellent question! You may not be an automation expert, but you can figure out what your automation expert needs to bring to the table. Read blogs about automation, especially if they’re by automation engineers. You probably know people (either directly or indirectly) with whom you can have conversations about automation and what to look for, especially “red flags.” Get with your team and find out what you need (and don’t need) automation to do for you.

For my company and my team, we wanted:

  • Robust, low-maintenance tests that concentrated on the most critical parts of our systems.
  • Automated tests that would relieve testers of the tedious and time consuming tests.
  • An automation engineer that:
    • Shared our quality and testing philosophies.
    • Understood our automation goals.
    • Had done it at least once before.
    • Had done it more than once and in different ways, OR
    • Had done it once and wanted to approach it differently this time.
    • Had a proven track record mentoring testers in automation.
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Are you asking the right questions?

To find the right candidate, you need to ask the right questions. Or do you? How do you get candidates to REVEAL what you want to know without directly asking? I like to use “Describe”, “Explain” or “Tell” requests rather than asking questions outright:

  • Explain the primary reason for automated tests.
  • Describe the benefits and pitfalls of automation.
  • Tell us about an automation achievement that stands out in your mind.
  • Explain what you would do differently if you had to do that project now.
  • Explain how you determine which tools to use.
  • Describe your plan for developing automated tests.
  • Explain the automation pyramid (if they haven’t yet mentioned it).
  • Explain how you would introduce manual testers to automation.
  • Describe your mentoring approach and how you will get testers excited about automation.

Miracles require a lot of work and preparation

So you’ve done your research, talked to your peers, defined your needs with your team, posted the position, interviewed the candidates and you found and hired the perfect candidate.

Congratulations! You’re home free!

Not exactly.

Hate to break it to you, but automated tests don’t just happen. And even if you manage to find someone that’s familiar with your vertical, she/he won’t be familiar with your specific products and code. You need to onboard them, just like any other tester, AND onboard them just like any other developer. Then you need to work with them to develop a strategy, decide what work needs to be done first, investigate tools and approaches, do a Proof of Concept, and then, after that, the work really begins!

At this point it’s worth mentioning again that YOU AREN’T THE EXPERT! They are. So you still need to keep your ego out of it. You need to be realistic…and then some…with timelines and milestones. You’re not getting a fully developed testing framework and 100% code coverage in phase 1. Or even by phase 5. Or even if you purchase an existing automation solution (because no matter how “universal” the “kit”, you’re still gonna need to customize it for your “ride”). You need to organize things based on your company’s and your team’s needs. Start with useful tests that eliminate pain points. Evaluate the “Return on Investment (ROI)” for your proposed automation efforts and determine which will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Always encourage and weigh the possibilities of solving tactical problems with strategic solutions, especially if the added effort is marginal.

Protect your investment

Whether you hire a permanent automation engineer, or a consultant, you MUST give them the time to get the work done. The automation engineer is NOT a sprint test resource at this stage, and, in my opinion, shouldn’t ever be considered as such. The job is to create, maintain and update the framework for automated tests, not test sprint features. The framework will never get to be a solid and useful tool if your automation engineer is constantly pulled away to test sprint work. Do that, and you’ll not only not have a testing framework, but you’ll lose the automation engineer to a company that lets them do what they do best: build automation frameworks. And you may lose some of your best testing experience if your manual testers, once excited about getting the drudge testing out of the way so they can do some really good exploratory stuff, are a year in, with no solid framework, still doing the mind-numbing testing, and with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t ignore your testers!

Your testers are your expertise in testing your systems. Leverage that experience and use it to propel the automation forward. They complement the automation, because they know which tests should be automated (and which shouldn’t). The automation engineer mentors them in how to use the framework to create automated tests. If they don’t have what they need in the framework, they inform the automation engineer and she/he develops what they need. As their experience grows, they can get deeper into framework to learn how its structured, and how to expand upon it.

Evaluate

Remember that ROIs can change with business changes and, subsequently, what gives the biggest bang for your buck will change. Do not be surprised if your first few forays aren’t as successful as you want or need them to be. Be the hitchhiker of the galaxy and DON’T
PANIC! Your initial test framework architecture didn’t work? Learn, pivot and change (also easier to do with a small, tactical goal than a sprawling effort). You WILL SUCCEED if you persevere. You’ll look back and see that progress has been made, the framework is sorting out and stabilizing, your team is contributing tests for automation, and your ROI is now focused on more strategic goals than tactical ones.

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