Research Digest

How Did Q4 Perform? A Look Into Macro and CTV Ad Trends


  • In November 2023, total US retail sales grew 4.2% YoY. This was boosted by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, which grew 11% in November. 
  • The CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor revealed that commerce and online sales continued to outperform in-store spending, growing 26.27% YoY, and outpacing total retail sales in November 2023. 
  • MNTN Performance TV data shows advertisers in key holiday verticals spent more on campaigns in Q4 ‘23 vs. the year prior, which resulted in higher average return on ad spend (ROAS), as well as more conversions.
  • Among holiday advertisers on the MNTN platform, the most popular campaign objective was ROAS.

Performance marketing is a fast-growing strategy for CTV advertisers. To illustrate this, we measured how performance marketers fared during the most important time of the year: Q4. We tracked the industry trends and analyzed our own first-party MNTN Performance TV data, and we’re ready to share our holiday retrospective with you.

2023 Started With Uncertainty and Ended With a Boon

One macro trend that lasted most of 2023 was fluctuating consumer confidence levels, thanks to the double whammy of inflation and high interest rates. Spending slowed at the start of the year, but it regained momentum over summer as shoppers continued to spend (at the highest levels in two years), and surged again in December.

Turns out, three is a lucky number on Connected TV. Comscore’s latest research showed that when combining CTV with two or more other channels — three or more in all — a brand’s multi-channel campaign improved across brand lift, aided awareness, and most importantly, purchase intent.

“The 2023 holiday shopping season began with a lot of uncertainty, as consumers shifted their spending to services, while dealing with rising costs,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights. “The record online spending across Cyber Week, however, shows the impact that discounts can have on consumer demand, especially with quality products that drove a lot of impulse shopping.”

Bain and Company revealed that total US retail sales grew 4.2% YoY in November 2023. (This was boosted by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, which on their own grew 11% in November.) This growth fell short of November 2022’s 5.1% increase in sales, but compared to 2023 as a whole, it signaled an overall acceleration of spending as customer confidence continued to grow.

Nominal Year-Over-Year US Sales Growth

Two Takeaways: “Cyber Monday” and “Online Shopping”

Cyber Monday topped the Cyber Five in 2023, bringing in almost $3 billion more sales than Black Friday — suggesting that shoppers were willing to wait for those online deals rather than shop in-store early.

Traditional "Key Shopping Days" Online Sales (in billions)

Tracking how they shopped revealed two things: online retail proved more popular over in-store purchases across the Cyber Five — and for the first time, smartphone purchases outperformed spending on desktops.

Reported Thanksgiving Weekend Shoppers by Channel by Day (millions of shoppers)

An omnichannel presence is still important, though. While most Cyber Monday shopping was done via desktop purchases, smartphones and tablets followed closely behind. Something to note when building out any performance campaigns: keep all three channels in mind.

Average Order Size (Items) During Cyber Monday

How Performance Marketers Set Up Their Campaigns For Success on Connected TV

What’s an omnichannel holiday campaign without CTV? We looked at first-party data on MNTN Performance TV, which brought to life some of the trends we saw over Q4. Perhaps some food for thought as we head into the spring-holiday shopping season.

We identified advertisers with a heavy-focus on Q4 holiday shopping — think ecommerce and retail, fashion and apparel, and travel, among others. Among these key verticals, we found that return on ad spend (ROAS) was the top choice when setting up campaign objectives, with more than half of holiday advertisers optimizing their Performance TV efforts towards this goal. This illustrates two things: that these advertisers brought CTV into their performance marketing mix, and that they trust CTV to deliver conversions and revenue. 

We also charted how holiday-specific advertisers fared versus all advertisers. Notably, both fashion and apparel and home and garden verticals outperformed ROAS benchmarks in Q4 — with some not-so-common industries shaking things up: 

  • Arts and Entertainment: 38% higher than all MNTN advertisers
  • Business and Consumer Services: 34% higher than all MNTN advertisers
  • Sports: 33% higher than all MNTN advertisers

The  key takeaway is that, whether you consider yourself to be a traditional holiday advertiser or not, all advertisers can reap the rewards on Connected TV.

Put Your Money Where Your Month Is

We then took a closer look at the monthly ad spend in Q4 2023  versus Q4 2022 to see how advertisers have changed how they divvy up their dollars. MNTN Performance TV data revealed that in Q4 2023, advertisers’ heavied up in November to reap the most out of the Cyber Five shopping days (keeping the other months more or less at the same levels). When you compare this to Q4 2022, you can see that advertisers started slower in October and ramped up spend in November and December with the intent of not only cashing in on those major shopping events, but catching last-minute shoppers. 

Connected TV Ad Spend: Q4 2022 Versus Q4 2023 (By Month)

So which budget approach yielded better results? Overall ad spend was significantly higher in 2023 vs. the previous year, but still generated higher average ROAS — showing that increased investment was the right move. Not only that, every month of Q4 ‘23 saw more total conversion volume than their counterparts the year prior. 

When comparing only the 2023 months, November alone drove 80% more conversions versus October. Rule of thumb? While all three months are a peak revenue opportunity, allocating a larger proportion of your ad spend in November pays off. The old adage is true: you have to spend money to make money — but if you spend it at the right time, you can make even more. 

Spending Patterns Change, But Connected TV Remains a Constant

While Bain & Co’s holiday 2023 recap might have advertisers worried about what’s to come in 2024, it offers an important glimpse into how consumers are changing their spending patterns, and where they are prioritizing their hard-earned dollars. Thankfully, performance TV platforms like MNTN are helping advertisers keep track of these touchpoints to help make informed decisions as the seasonal shopping season ramps up in 2024.

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