In preparing for the holiday season it can be hard to know when to spend and when to save your advertising budget; when is it most competitive to spend, and when is the best opportunity for sales? To help you out, we’ve created the Holiday Advertising Series to walk you through each week of the holiday season and how to adjust your advertising strategy accordingly. From budgets to messaging, learn what to keep in mind this holiday season. To start off, we’ll hear from our Director of Advertising, Tony Morales:
To make sure we’re on the same page, I think it’s best to break down the holiday advertising season into four sections:
The first phase begins at the start of the fourth quarter, right at the beginning of October, and lasts until about mid-November, think the 14th. This six-week period I refer to as the pre-holiday shopping phase. In this part of the holiday season, we typically see more browsers than buyers.
What happens during the pre-holiday shopping phase, from an advertising perspective, is high clicks and potentially increased traffic on your products, but not a lot of conversion. This can be discouraging since high visibility and low sales isn’t great for PPC budgets, but unfortunately we do see a huge increase in browsing this time of the year. A big reason for browsing without conversion is the anticipation of holiday deals; your audience is prepping for Black Friday/Cyber Monday and searching for what products they want to buy on holiday discounts. Think of the pre-holiday shopping phase as research for the shopping phase.
However, we may see some disruption in our browsing phase this year. With the rampant global supply chain issues that we keep hearing about in the news, I would expect more shoppers to begin their shopping earlier than usual for 2021. In a typical shopping season we could expect a standard period of browsing, but after the pandemic, and with the newly-found convenience of online shopping, we may see buying start sooner than expected. With this in mind, I have a few recommendations.
Normally, I would say keep your PPC ads running business-as-usual. Don’t go crazy with bidding up or spending tons of money during this time, because your conversions will most likely not match your spend thanks to the browsing phase. I would recommend focusing the majority of your budget for this six-week pre-holiday shopping period on top-of-funnel search efforts. Focus on bringing awareness to your offering. Any type of programmatic display ad or video ad or continuous retargeting that you can do at this time is ideal. The goal for this is to plant seeds in shoppers’ minds that your product is a great option for the holiday.
If you have an influencer strategy, this is a good time to press hard on that. Unfortunately, with the recent IOS update giving users the option to opt out of retargeting, we have seen Facebook ad performance drop like a led balloon across all categories. Luckily, you can repurpose your social media spend towards influencers and Amazon DSP or some other equivalent programmatic advertising. An influencer strategy can also help build authority and consumer trust in your product as they figure out what to purchase for gifting.
In addition to focusing on top-of-funnel searches and building your awareness, you can look at opportunities to steal attention from your competitors. If you have a dominant competitor in the market, look at the metrics around keywords including their company name, product titles, or other branded searches to see if it makes sense to conquest those keywords. You don’t want to overspend during the pre-holiday shopping phase, but conquesting is an area that may make sense for your brand during the browsing period. Remember, this timeframe is about planting seeds for your target audience.
This pre-shopping phase is also a good time to ensure your listings, image stack, bullet points, and pricing are ready for the holidays. As consumers begin their research they need to get helpful information as quickly as possible from your listing, if not they will continue researching until they find something they understand better. While you may not see conversion metrics going up, you should still focus on convincing shoppers your product is the one they want when they are ready to buy.
To recap, for this six-week pre-holiday shopping/browsing phase, do much more aggressive spending on top-of-funnel awareness strategies (DSP, Programmatic, Display ads, Influencer, email) to plant seeds, and continue with business as usual for your ad spend on the rest of your search advertising. If you think your business will be affected by supply chain issues, then you can ratchet up all of your efforts, however under normal circumstances that would be a mistake. I would also advise to work on getting ahead of holiday inventory needs for next year.
The second phase for the holiday advertising season is the shopping phase. This will happen from mid-November through most of December (leading up to Christmas). During this phase it makes sense to increase budget toward bottom-of-funnel, conversion efforts and increase bids on PPC Campaigns. This will help shoppers who are looking for your product, or your category, find your offering during this competitive time. When intent to buy is high—like during the holiday shopping season—you want to do everything you can to show up at the top of the search.
The shopping phase is an important time to get serious. Starting with the week of November 15, each week going forward will be progressively bigger in terms of revenue generation, and this will last five consecutive weeks. The last week before Christmas will taper a little bit, but will still be a very strong week. It should land somewhere in the top six weeks for revenue for the year.
Within the shopping phase of the fourth-quarter holiday season, there is a micro phase that spans about seven days: Cyber Weekend. Amazon has quoted that 41% of holiday shopping purchases will happen in the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, but I like to tack on an extra day to the beginning and the end of the 5-day shopping event.
I focus on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through the Tuesday after cyber-Monday to ensure I take full advantage of the flood of shoppers.
With such a huge percentage of revenue coming in this holiday week it’s really important to be aggressive and get your promotion and advertising strategy right. We will outline more strategies for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday week in the next post of our Holiday Advertising series, coming next week.
Historically Amazon does a little more than half of their total ad revenue in the fourth quarter, with the vast majority of that coming in the six-week period between mid-November and Christmas. We have seen total revenue for our business follow the same trajectory.
The last week of the year typically dips considerably as shoppers have wrapped up holiday festivities. However, for brands selling in categories such as beauty, supplements, health and fitness, fashion, and anything that would revolve around the “new year new you” concept, the last week of the year is a great time to begin advertising to shoppers, particularly those shoppers who received gift cards for the holidays or have disposable shopping funds thanks to returned holiday gifts.
Interested in more expert strategy for advertising on marketplaces during the holidays? When you partner with Pattern you work with experienced advertisers who can tailor your advertising approach to your industry, category, and budget. Get in touch today.
Check out the rest our our Holiday Advertising Series:
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