2019 Holiday Season Marketing Guide
Last updated on October 26th, 2020
For many E-Commerce businesses, the holiday season is the prime opportunity to maximize sales throughout the year.
This guide is for anyone who finds themselves scrambling to get everything ready in time for the season.
In here, you’ll find everything from a handy calendar with the most important dates of the season, to examples and tips on messaging and advertising creatives.
The guide is divided into 4 parts, beginning with a preparation phase and ending with post-holiday sales and opportunities.
First, we’ll look at some holiday stats from 2018.
2018 Holiday Season Stats
In 2018, 60% of shoppers started shopping for the holidays before Thanksgiving (November 28th) – and spent an average of $1,685.
In short, people spend an increasing amount of time and money on online shopping during the holidays – with 2019 in good shape to be the biggest e-commerce holiday season so far.
Planning marketing efforts for the most important quarter of the year might seem like a daunting task – but hopefully, this guide can help you move things along.
Holiday Season Marketing Planning
Generally, you’d divide the holiday season marketing efforts into 4 phases;
- This is where you start planning and get your landing pages and creatives ready.
- Build Momentum
- A perfect time to kick off branding and acquisition campaigns with wider targeting
- Maximize Sales
- Peak holiday starts in the middle of November. Here, you want to do everything to maximize your sales.
- Post Christmas
- Focus on post-holiday sales and retention. A perfect time for upselling or cross-selling recently converted buyers.
- Focus on post-holiday sales and retention. A perfect time for upselling or cross-selling recently converted buyers.
With that said, let’s dive into the first part of this guide; preparations.
Phase 1 – Preparing for the holiday season
60% of holiday shoppers start their shopping before Thanksgiving (November 28th) – and they keep buying until the 3rd week of December.
As a marketer, November is the time when you want to get your ducks in a row.
According to Facebook data, the single biggest conversion peak of the year is Black Friday, which falls on the 29th of November in 2019.
Here are 3 key things to focus on in November;
- Prep your tracking and measurements
- Is your tracking properly installed to take advantage of retargeting possibilities?
- Are your landing pages read and is there a holiday version of them?
- Get your creatives ready
- Start building your audience
We’ll go through each point in order – but first, it’s always good practice to have a calendar – clearly marked with the most important dates of the Holiday Season.
Key dates for the 2019 holiday season:
And here’s a calendar for November and December, where you can plan out your own campaigns:
Prep Your Tech
Pixels and Retargeting
You’ll be driving a lot of traffic to your website during the Holiday season – and you want to take advantage of that by retargeting these visitors during and after the season.
With Match2One, you can easily retarget visitors with display ads and we’re happy to help you get set up with your pixel installation.
To get your Google retargeting set up, just follow this guide.
If you want to do Facebook-retargeting, you’ll need a pixel for that too. Here’s a guide on how to get started.
Most holiday advertising spend kicks off around Black Friday.
By starting your prospecting campaigns in October or early November, you’ll have enough time to build up an audience, which can then be retargeted with holiday offers once the season starts.
As a last-minute marketer, you’re pressed on time to get everything ready for the Holiday season.
Don’t go wild and do anything too crazy with your landing pages. Here are some true and tested tips that work well with stressed shoppers who’re looking for a good deal;
Time-sensitive offers create a sense of urgency
Everything is on sale on Black Friday – set up a count-down timer on your landing page to increase the sense of urgency with customers; “If I don’t buy this now – I won’t get another chance”
Focus on gift-giving
People’s priorities change during the Holidays. They’re no-longer primarily shopping for themselves but rather focusing on gifts for their close ones.
Get some Holiday-spirit in there!
The Holidays are festive times and seeing decorations makes people feel good. If you can recreate some holiday-spirit on your landing pages, you’re off to a good start!
Ads and Creatives
The holidays are different from the rest of the year because people buy primarily for other people, not themselves.
This is something that’s worth keeping in mind when building your holiday creatives.
For example, have a look at this data of most frequent gift purchases:
Why are gift cards so popular?
One way of thinking about it is this; you may buy three or four specific gifts for your immediate family, but what about all those aunts and uncles and cousins who expect a gift, but you have no idea what to get them? Chances are you’ll buy them a gift card.
As many people actively look for gift card offerings, it should be a tool at the front of your arsenal to reach holiday shoppers.
Other tips for holiday creatives
When designing your creatives, think about what people most appreciate when shopping for the holidays. This could be things like;
Free and quick shipping:
Limited-time discounts and offers:
Holiday-themed designs (get those Christmas trees in there):
Easy returns (No grandma, I don’t need another reindeer-sweater):
Gift wrapping options:
Once you’ve got your pixels set up, your landing pages built, and your creatives prepared – it’s time for the fun stuff; building an audience.
Phase 2 – Build Momentum
When shopping for the holidays, 51% of people enter a website or a physical store to buy something they’d already planned on buying.
Only 19% buy something completely unplanned – which means ideally you should start building your audience and do your prospecting before the holidays.
How do you do that? Keep reading to find out.
Holiday Audience Scaling Strategy (HASS)
For audience scaling, omnichannel is a good bet.
Simply put, the goal is to be seen as much as possible – to drive curiosity and website visitors that you can later retarget with specific holiday offers.
How to build an audience
Start with broad channels that automatically find your most relevant audiences.
A programmatic display campaign is a good starting point, where the goal is to gather enough data to build lookalike audiences based on:
- High-Value purchasers (Multiple-item or high-ticket customers)
Increase your budget with these lookalike audiences, still with the goal of prospecting, to get enough data to build custom audiences.
As your omnichannel strategy brings in increasingly relevant visitors and customers, start preparing retargeting lists in these channels;
- Display (programmatic retargeting)
- Email (Still one of the highest converting and cheapest channels)
By filling up your retargeting pool in Q3, and simultaneously preparing your creatives and offerings for the holidays – you should be able to enter Q4 with everything you need for a successful holiday season.
Now it’s time to get some results!
Phase 3 – Maximize Sales
With the exception of Halloween and Singles Day (11/11) – the official holiday season kicks off with the Black Friday week.
Remember the three major conversion peaks of the holiday season and plan your advertising efforts accordingly:
Conversion rates start to drop off around the 16th of December, with last Standard Post shipping day being the 18th of December (for the US) and last Express Shipping day the 20th of December.
Start your full-on holiday season advertising efforts one week before Black Friday to get the most bang for your buck.
General Holiday Season Advertising Strategies
Hopefully, by mid-November, you’ve gathered enough prospecting data to take advantage of significantly cheaper retargeting campaigns.
As a rule, throughout Q4, you should focus on your best audiences;
- Purchasers: pixel + email
- Email subscribers
- Engagement audiences
- High-Value based lookalike audiences
To best reach these audiences, keep these strategies in mind:
Black Monday marks the beginning of Black Week.
Keep your advertising fresh throughout the week by expanding your range of discounted products gradually as the week progresses, ending with a site-wide discount on Black Friday.
Another thing to try is a break from tradition, where you start with a larger discount between Monday and Wednesday in order to clear your stock before CPA’s pick towards the end of the week.
Black Friday Marketing Strategies
Remember, Black Friday is the top converting day of the entire holiday season.
In 2019 it also falls right after the last payday before Christmas, which means a lot of people will be doing the bulk of their holiday shopping during this day.
By now, all your campaigns should be up and running, and your bids maximized.
2019’s Black Friday is also an excellent opportunity to gather data for 2020’s Black Friday – collect those emails!
Priorities shift in December.
Work slows down and people start thinking about holiday plans.
While they might still buy things for themselves during Black Week and Cyber Monday – December is primarily about gifting.
According to Google, 67% of holiday shoppers still have shopping to do heading into the last week before Christmas.
Things to try in your December campaigns:
• Gift wrap offers
• Free express shipping
• Gift cards
Closer to Christmas, things like discounts matter less, whereas logistics becomes a major factor in purchasing decisions.
In fact, according to Facebook data, 96% of Us internet users say free shipping affects their purchasing decisions.
Last Shipping Day (18th to 20th of December)
To maximize sales leading up to Last Shipping Day, it can be a useful strategy to create a sense of urgency around these dates.
Here’s an example of a banner taking advantage of both urgency and free shipping:
After Last Shipping Day
In the US, the 20th of December is the last day you can get Express Shipping in time for Christmas.
The stragglers who haven’t yet finished their holiday shopping will either hit the streets or look for digital goods.
This is where the power of gift cards really comes into play.
With 67% of holiday shoppers still not done with their shopping in the last week leading up to Christmas, you’re potentially leaving a lot of money on the table if you’re not offering gift cards.
“E-Commerce brands should focus on digital gifts like gift cards or downloads to extend the Christmas season past Last Shipping Day”
Campaigns with discounted digital gift cards is an excellent way to capture those last undecided’s who’d otherwise have to brave the cold and go looking for gifts offline (ugh).
Post-Christmas Advertising Strategies
Advertising prices see a sharp decline from the 25th of December, which gives the savvy marketer a great opportunity to get some final end-of-year sales.
Flush with a crisp $20 from grandma and needing a break from family – people sneak off to a quiet corner to do some post-Christmas shopping.
This brings us to the last phase of the holiday season – Post-Holiday sales.
Phase 4 – Post-Holiday Sales
Generally, your post-season audience can be divided into two segments;
- Those who bought something from you
- Those who DIDN’T buy anything from you
There are different strategies and opportunities for both of these segments.
People who didn’t buy
Let your retargeting bucket do its thing.
If you’ve set your pixels, you should now have a pool of people who almost made a purchase but never made it all the way there.
Some might, for instance, have seen something that would suit themselves, but wasn’t quite right as a gift.
As they’ve recently been paid and have time on their hands while being off from work – this is an excellent opportunity to remind them of what they missed.
According to Facebook, 46% of shoppers shop in January to take advantage of holiday sales.
“Fire off a retargeting campaign with a discounted offer labeled as an end-of-year sale, to take advantage of falling advertising prices.”
People who already bought something from you
Imagine someone bought an iPad from you during Cyber Monday.
Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity to upsell them with an offer for an extra charger or a nice cover?
Accessories are generally high-margin, low-cost items – perfectly suited to take advantage of the cheap advertising prices in January.
But it doesn’t have to stop there. And shouldn’t stop there.
“To keep feeding the flywheel, try to engage all those new customers you collected during the holiday season with incentivized offers to help expand your business.”
Examples of this could be:
Email campaigns where you ask for reviews in exchange for a gift card.
Here’s an excellent guide on review emails.
Messenger campaigns where you show the exceptional level of your customer service.
User-Generated content for social media
By having these mechanics in place you’ll enter the year stronger on all fronts – which makes for an even more successful 2020 season!
For many retailers and eCommerce stores, the holiday season is the biggest sales event of the year.
Yes, advertising costs go up – but so do the opportunities.
With good planning and a robust retargeting strategy, you can keep costs down while making sure you only engage your most relevant audience, who’s most likely to make a purchase.
Remember; the race isn’t lost even if you’re a last-minute marketer.
What are your best holiday marketing tips? Leave a comment below!