For Digital Ad Success, Check Your Holiday Prep List Twice

November 4, 2022

by Jeff Pearlman

Most people haven’t even planned their Thanksgiving menu yet, but … we bet you’ve got a whole campaign for Black Friday and Cyber Monday mapped to achieve digital ad success.

Forget the turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. 

You’ve designed a menu of dynamic ads, Instagram reels and tightly targeted social campaigns designed to fill your audience’s plate with deals, not meals. 

But just like the inevitable comfort-food coma you get post-dinner, don’t let your campaign get tired after those big events are over. 

The ramp-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday is like organized chaos. It’s easy to fixate on those two days and forget that the rest of the holiday season is still a massive opportunity to make a final push and close out the last quarter of the year successfully. If you’ve been too focused on those two days, don’t worry. Here are four strategies and a checklist of what you should prioritize to make the most of the holiday rush. 

How the Holidays Change the Digital Marketing Landscape 

E-commerce retailers like you expect — and rely on — the boost of traffic that comes around the holidays. With this boost in traffic comes a few key considerations. You can run all the promos you want, but if your website, logistics and competitive research is behind, you’ll be hard pressed to find digital ad success. 

Website Structure 

First: make sure your servers are prepared for an influx of traffic. Every digital marketer’s nightmare is the website crashing at a key moment. 

Next, ensure your ads, promotions, landing pages, and gift guides are all updated, accurate and functional across devices. 

If you aren’t tightening up your website, your competitors are. And a sliver of a second of loading time can cost you sales. 

Shipping and Logistics

For consumers, the holiday rush starts on Black Friday and lasts until December 25th. 

Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, you can’t sell right up until you close on Christmas Eve. For online retailers, logistics, processing and shipping mean your cut-off is sooner. Check with your logistics teams before even thinking about running special deals on any inventory. Make sure your facilities and partners have the bandwidth to process and ship your orders. The last thing you want is to be the company that can’t fulfill orders on time. 

The Competitive Landscape

In December, people are in a mindset that encourages spending. And every e-commerce brand is working toward the same goal: capturing those dollars. 

This leads to a very competitive environment. Throughout the year, your strategies don’t necessarily have to go head-to-head with your competition. But during the holiday season, everyone is pulling out all the stops to achieve digital ad success. And with potential customers in the mood to shop, they may be open to brands they don’t typically consider, especially if they are shopping for others and not themselves. 

With up-to-date information on what the digital marketing landscape looks like this time of year, you can focus on the strategic moves that will make your holiday season a success.

4 Strategies for Digital Ad Success During the Holidays 

A successful large-scale campaign doesn’t take shape overnight, but there are four strategies that will make your planned promotions a success:

Leverage Your Recent Sale Data 

One of the best things about the holiday season is the immediate impact you can have using data. 

If you plan ahead and pay attention to the sales on Black Friday through Cyber Monday, you can leverage those learnings instantly. Collect data around factors like:

  • Audience segmentation 
  • Ad formats 
  • New customer purchases vs. repeat purchases 

Use this data to inform your second wave of promotions, campaigns and sales over the remainder of the holiday season.  All of the data about creative asset formats and ad types can help you optimize the technical aspects of your campaign, while the data about new and existing customers can enable you to deploy personalized campaigns that build brand loyalty after the holiday season has come and gone. 

Get Creative With Retargeting 

With all that new data to play with, don’t forget about your remarketing audience. The purchasers who are already interested in your brand are the low-hanging fruit of the holiday season. Make sure you are targeting them with ads and serving personalized content. 

But there’s a way to identify new audiences to retarget. If you have segments with high click-through rates but no purchase data, consider using this list as a retargeting audience. You can make a few assumptions — this audience is already aware, so don’t use your precious holiday ad spend on top-of-funnel awareness campaigns for this group. Instead, create an ad set that focuses on the key values of your brand and drives them from consideration to purchase. 

Review and Revise Your Full-Funnel Creative Strategy

There’s a reason creative strategy is always mentioned in articles about digital ad success. It’s because without bespoke creative assets, your advertising is starting at a disadvantage. The holiday season is an excellent time to review and refresh your campaign assets. 

Using the data you collected over the year, and over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday rush, curate and update your full-funnel creative and messaging strategy. This time of year, consider the mindset of your consumers at every stage:

  • Awareness: Why should this person pay attention? Are they giving a gift or shopping for themselves?
  • Interest: What problem/pain does my brand solve? What’s the value, to either them OR the gift recipient?
  • Consideration: What’s the barrier preventing this customer from making a purchase? How can we use messaging and creative to get them past it?
  • Repeat purchase: How do we drive continued interest? What do prior purchases tell us about future interest and consideration? 

Asking yourself specific questions about each phase and audience can help you narrowly target your creative to reach customers through the noise of the busy holiday season. 

Set Up a Measurement Plan 

The holiday season is a gold mine of customer data. It’s important to lay the framework for your future campaigns by thinking ahead and planning a data strategy. 

Identify the data you want to collect and how it fits into your current analytic strategy. Consider: 

  • The first- and zero-party data you collect directly from your customers 
  • The data from the platforms where your ad spend originates 
  • Purchase data from Shopify or your e-commerce backend 
  • Historical data from previous holiday seasons, adjusted or weighted to count for differences if necessary 

All of this data can be used to measure the effectiveness of your holiday campaigns through a blended attribution model that gives more insight into the efficacy of your programs.  

The Checklist to Help You Wrap It up With a Bow

Whether you’ve spent months preparing or it’s a mad dash to catch up before you put up that OOO to enjoy Thanksgiving, your campaigns can always benefit from a double-check. Ask yourself the following questions to see how prepared you are:

  • Have you identified the brand values and their alignment with audience segments?
  • What are your offers? 
  • What’s your targeting strategy? 
  • Have you vetted your current data for additional targeting opportunities? 
  • Are your creative assets and copy in production?
  • Have you identified areas to personalize for existing or assumed retargeting audiences? 
  • Have you built a measurement process to accurately measure the success of your campaigns? 

If you can fly through the above questions, you are set and ready to go. But if not, you’ve likely identified a sticking point where you can improve using our strategies above to tailor your creative and copy, measuring plans or audience targeting. There’s still time to get ahead this holiday season.

About the author: Jeff is an analytical and creative Digital Strategist with 9+ years of Social Media, Influencer and Content Marketing experience with various brands like Jaguar, Land Rover, Lenovo, Motorola, Ulta Beauty, Malin & Goetz, Teleflora, b New York and Raaka Chocolate – to name a few. He started his career as a copywriter, penning copy for an online sports company where he found his work featured on the back covers of national publications and featured on ESPN Radio. He currently resides in Seattle where he likes to spend as much time outside as possible with his wife and three kids, one of which is a dog.

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