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  • November 7, 2019

4 Ways to Make Your Holiday Strategy Even Merrier This Year

illustration of gift packages If you’re an online retailer, Q4 ‘tis the season to be jolly. You’ve likely already started to prepare your strategy for making the holiday shopping season as successful as possible, which is great. Based on our experience working with a variety of online retailers over the years, we’re highlighting some best practices and effective optimization tips to make this year be the best one yet.

1. Start Early

Research has shown that over the last several years, consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier and earlier — So, it’s important to be in the consideration set as soon as possible. Though we’re still a few weeks out from Thanksgiving in the US, it’s not too early to launch a holiday landing page or start showcasing your holiday specials. You can even tease some of your Black Friday or Cyber Monday promos to build buzz and get people excited about upcoming deals. Consumers who visit the landing page on your site now represent a perfect audience to run remarketing ads to as Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach.

2. Make Your Most Loyal Customers Feel Special

Maximizing Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) is an important step in maximizing profits. So why not make your top customers feel special by giving them early access to Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals? This can easily be done through a segmented email campaign and via display and paid social advertising targeted to key custom audiences. By engaging these top customers early, you can focus the majority of your budget on attracting new customers during this busy season.

3. Get Your Paid Media Campaigns Ready to Go

There are a few important steps that you should take to make sure your paid search, display, social, and shopping campaigns are ready to go when the holidays arrive:

Raise budgets:
Search volume and demand naturally rises at this time of the year. Make sure your campaigns are ready to capture prime placement by increasing budgets now before the competition really heats up. In general, we recommend starting with a 10-15% increase in daily budget for each campaign in the weeks leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with larger increases after that.

Revise your ad copy:
Having your holiday ads written and ready to go is never a bad thing! Make sure you have 2-3 holiday-specific ad variations in each of your main ad groups that highlight your promotions and deals. You can use automated rules in Google, Bing, and Facebook to schedule a pause on your non-holiday ads and schedule your holiday ads to run on the date of your choosing so that no manual intervention is required.

Pro-Tip: Use labels to segment your holiday ads from your non-holiday ads to make scoping automated rules as easy as possible.

Think about ad extensions:
Success at this time of year is all about standing out from the crowd. We recommend freshening up your enhanced SiteLinks to feature holiday-specific messaging, and to make heavy use of promotion extensions in Google Ads. Get these set up now and use the scheduling feature to ensure that the promotion extensions turn on and off on the appropriate dates. Also, consider using Action Extensions in Bing Ads to bolster your CTA.

Load in audience lists now:
We highly recommend using audience lists and lookalikes of those audience lists to build awareness for your holiday promotions. We’ve seen it take up to 72 hours for audience lists to populate in the major ad platforms. Avoid scrambling two days before Black Friday. Load your lists in now so that they’re all populated and ready for use well in advance of when your holiday ads go live.

Inspire a sense of urgency:
Try to compel your customers to take action now. One way to do this is by using countdown ads in search, which will automatically increment with the amount of time remaining for a special promotion (i.e. ‘Just 4 hours left!’). You can also inspire a sense of urgency by noting that you are running low on stock for a particular item. The earlier you can get people to buy for the holidays, the more efficient your spend will be because data shows that CPCs increase as Christmas grows nearer, to account for those last-minute shoppers.

4. Get Your Website Ready

While ad campaigns and email blasts are important for getting traffic to the website to showcase holiday promos, your website is ultimately what will convert (or not) visitors into customers. Beyond simple updates to hero images and product shots, here are some other things to keep in mind:

Make sure your server is up to snuff:
With major increases in traffic, you risk major slowdowns in load time. This can kill your conversion rate. Make sure you have plenty of server capacity and the ability to scale up easily and quickly in response to traffic spikes.

Clearly communicate ‘last ship’ dates:
Consider posting a note in your header or anchored to the top of the website clearly communicating when your deals end, and even more importantly, what the last day is for a customer to place their order by to receive it in time for Christmas. This can inspire a sense of urgency and can help save you from customer service complaints!

Refrain from major site functionality changes:
This isn’t the time of year where you want to introduce new potential bugs or glitches to your site. We’d recommend issuing a code freeze by mid-November to make sure that the site is stable and error-free during prime shopping season.

Clearly articulate your value proposition:
Though this is something you should always be doing consistently, having a clear value proposition during the holiday season is absolutely crucial when it comes to differentiating your site from major retailers like Amazon. Make sure your website copy speaks to what makes your company different and better. You can also show what ‘great customer service’ means to your company by featuring videos and customer testimonials. If your brand also sells products on sites like Amazon, consider playing up the fact that your website is the “Official” site for the brand – This messaging resonates very well with customers!

By planning early and getting some of these tactics in place sooner rather than later, you can avoid the last-minute scramble that we’ve all experienced in the past at this time of the year all while improving performance. Happy holidays!

Illustration by Abby Lowenstein

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