2019 Holiday Season Marketing Guide

Last updated on October 29th, 2019

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.

When people start and finish their holiday shopping

U.S. E-commerce sales increased by 19% for the Thanksgiving Weekend from 2017 to 2018. 

E-commerce sales during thanksgiving weekend

In 2018, 60% of consumers spent more than 50% of holiday shopping online. 

Percentage of consumers that do their holiday shopping online

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;

The 4 phases of holiday season marketing planning
  1. Preparations
    • This is where you start planning and get your landing pages and creatives ready.
  2. Build Momentum
    • A perfect time to kick off branding and acquisition campaigns with wider targeting
  3. Maximize Sales
    • Peak holiday starts in the middle of November. Here, you want to do everything to maximize your sales.
  4. Post Christmas
    • 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.

Online conversion peaks during the holiday season
Black Friday is the biggest conversion event of the year

Here are 3 key things to focus on in November;

  1. 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?
  2. Get your creatives ready
  3. 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:

Key holiday season dates
Key dates for the 2019 holiday season

And here’s a calendar for November and December, where you can plan out your own campaigns:

Marketing calendar for November
Marketing Calendar for December

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. 

Retargeting statistics
Retargeting statistics

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.

Landing Pages

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”

Black Friday countdown banner
Count-down timers are a great way to create a sense of urgency

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. 

Holiday themed banner
Gift-giving messages work great during the holidays

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!

Christmas Themed Landing Page
A cozy Christmas-themed landing page

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:

Most frequent gift purchases
Gift cards are the most frequently bought types of gifts – but is it something you’re offering in your store? 

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.

Gift card banner
Does your store offer gift cards? Maybe it should!

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:

Free shipping banner

Limited-time discounts and offers:

Black friday 50% off banner

Holiday-themed designs (get those Christmas trees in there):

christmas themed banner

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. 

diagram showing how people shop for the holidays in physical stores or online
51% of people buy something they were already planning 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. 

Best quality leads for lookalike audiences
Divide your website visitor’s behavior into segments for high-quality lookalike audiences

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:

  • Purchasers
  • High-Value purchasers (Multiple-item or high-ticket customers)

Based on the conversion data you get from your programmatic campaigns, start building lookalike audiences with Google and Social channels

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;

  1. Display (programmatic retargeting)
  2. Email (Still one of the highest converting and cheapest channels)
  3. Search
  4. Social

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:

Black Friday is the biggest conversion peak of the season.

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:

Advertising strategies for peak holiday season
Peak Holiday advertising strategies

Black Week

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!

December Marketing

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.

How many people says free shipping affects their purchasing decisions
96% say free shipping affects their purchase 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).

25% off gift certificate banner
Canva offers a variety of gift certificate templates.

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.

In fact, 86% of people shopping after Christmas week searched for holiday-related shopping online.

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

How many people shop for sales in January

“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.

A banner for cell phone accessories
 Post-Christmas is a perfect time to promote those high-margin accessories.

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.

A banner asking people to leave a review
Send your customers a friendly email asking for reviews.

Messenger campaigns where you show the exceptional level of your customer service.

A messenger bot conversation
Messenger bots – the best thing since sliced bread.

Refer-a-friend programs

Refer a friend banner
Happy customers is an excellent opportunity to get MORE customers!

User-Generated content for social media

Shop from our Instagram banner from nakd.com
Ask customers to create their own content with your products.

By having these mechanics in place you’ll enter the year stronger on all fronts – which makes for an even more successful 2020 season!

Conclusion

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!

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Ola Rask

Ola Rask

Head of Operations at Match2One - with a passion for engaging and well-designed content.

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Akash says:

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