The Step-by-Step Guide to E-commerce Advertising for the Holidays

Oct 27, 2015 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team
How to advertise during the holidays
Posted Oct 27, 2015 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team

The holidays are almost upon us and you’re all set for a marketing blitz. You’ve read our guide to holiday promotions and have a well-planned strategy for tackling the holiday traffic.

However, there’s one crucial component missing in your promotion strategy: advertising.

eCommerce advertising in the holidays is a mixed bag. On the one hand, shoppers are far less reluctant to spend big money. On the other hand, you’ll be competing with hundreds of eCommerce stores offering steep discounts.

How can you create an eCommerce advertising plan that actually works?

Read on to find out.

2015 Holiday Advertising Trends: What to Focus on, What to Skip?

Not all holiday advertising trends hold true across seasons. What may be in vogue in 2014 might suddenly find itself out of favor in 2015. This is particularly true for eCommerce stores where technology can rapidly change the holiday advertising landscape.

This is why it’s crucial that you take stock of current holiday advertising trends before you spend a single dollar buying ad space.

Keeping this in mind, here are the major holiday advertising trends you must know in 2015:

1. Mobile is more important than ever

If your eCommerce store doesn’t have a mobile-friendly website, you’re in for a rude shock this holiday season. According to Deloitte, nearly $1 trillion worth of retail sales (approximately 28% of all sales) were influenced by mobile searches in 2014. Research by Ipsos shows that 53% of all online shoppers used smartphones or tablets — up from 41% in 2014.

On top of that, Google has also started penalizing non-mobile friendly websites in SERPs.

This infographic from Google perfectly captures our multi-screen world:

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The takeaway: Invest in a mobile website — it’ll make a massive difference to your holiday returns. Ecwid, by the way, offers a mobile optimized store for all users.

2. Ad blockers are threatening your ad reach

2015 would go down as the year ad blocking became mainstream. While AdBlock has already been around for a while, this year, Apple added native ad blocking capabilities to iOS9 and OS X. This means that anyone who uses Apple products (that’s over 900M users worldwide) can block out your ads if they wanted to.

One report estimates that ad blocking grew by 41% globally in the last 12 months. Expect this number to go up in the coming few years.

The takeaway: Advertising will be increasingly less effective in the coming few years — if people can’t even see your ads, they can’t click on them. Consider investing in advertising that can’t easily be blocked (such as Facebook/Twitter in-feed ads).

3. Video influences purchase decisions

Video reach increased by 23.3% in 2015 — compared to just 3.1% increase in TYV viewing. For shoppers, video is a vital source of reviews, opinions and ratings. According to Ipsos, 80% of holiday shoppers in the US watched product reviews before buying. 45% also said that they prefer watching product videos from “experts”, while 68% would prefer watching reviews from “people like them”.

The takeaway: Invest in video content and consider advertising on YouTube — that’s where your audience is.

4. Brand loyalty is dead

There used to be a thing called “brand loyalty” for holiday shoppers. But not anymore.

According to Google, over 50% of respondents in a loyalty survey said that they were open to buying products from a new retailer. 41% actually purchased from a new retailer in 2014  a significant increase from 2013.

The takeaway: Brand loyalty is up for grabs. Capitalize on it by pursuing new customers aggressively. At the same time, make sure that your existing customers are rewarded for their loyalty, else you risk losing them to competitors.

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Creating an eCommerce Holiday Advertising Plan that Works

Keeping the above trends in mind, we can now start creating an eCommerce holiday advertising plan that actually works.
Follow these steps to put together your holiday advertising:

Step #1: Figure out your target platforms

When it comes to holiday advertising, not all platforms are built equally. Some businesses will see better returns by focusing on display ads, while some will see more sales by focusing on Facebook.

Your first order of business, therefore, should be to figure out your target platform.

For this, you’ll need to know three things:

1. Your existing expertise
The holiday season is crucial for your eCommerce store. Instead of experimenting with a new platform, try to focus on what you already know. For example, if you (or someone on your team) has a strong understanding of Facebook marketing, it’s better to prioritize FB ads than to play around with AdWords.

2. Your target audience
Where is your target audience already located? What sites does it frequent? What are its favorite apps?
Answers to these questions will play a crucial role in your holiday advertising strategy. If your audience is younger, you’ll see better returns by focusing on Instagram and YouTube. If it’s mostly women, your primary focus should be Pinterest and Facebook.

For a better understanding, take a look at the demographics of the world’s top social networks. Find a network that matches your audience profile and make it the fulcrum of your holiday advertising.

3. Your product-type
What kind of products do you sell? Do they solve a problem, or are they purely aspirational? Do they work as gifts, or would people buy them only when the need arises?

These are important questions to answer. You’ll find that products that solve problems do better with contextual advertising (AdWords), while aspirational, “fun” products do better on social media.

For example, products in certain categories (such as lifestyle, décor, food, etc.) do great on Pinterest, while business gifts see far more success on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Step #2: Gather your advertising assets

So you have your list of target advertising platforms and a thorough understanding of your audience and product.

But before you can spend a gazillion dollars on ads, take some time to gather your holiday-themed assets.

At the very least, this should include the following:

1. Holiday-themed landing pages
Your audience expects to be greeted with pumpkins and zombies on Halloween, not the same dull blue-gray landing page you’ve been using the last six months.

Same with Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year.

For example, BackCountry.com updated its home page to reflect the holiday theme:

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Do this before you spend a single dime on advertising: build a bunch of landing pages with different holiday themes. Refer to this list of holidays to understand what to focus on:

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2. Holiday-themed logos and brand elements
Similar to landing pages, a holiday-themed logo and website design can do a lot to give your brand that “holiday vibe”. Work with your designers to come up with a Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas version of your logo. It won’t change your results overnight, but it’ll give your brand just that slight push to make the most of the season.

For example, take a look at the holiday-themed logos for some of the internet’s top retailers:

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3. CTAs, banners, ad copy and other creatives
Finally, work with your designers and writers to put together a list of holiday-focused Calls to Action (CTA) and ad copy. This should focus on the “deal” and use urgency to compel action (such as “50% discount ending soon!”, or “Last day to get Black Friday discount!”).

For instance, if you’re offering 40% discounts on Christmas, you want to have banners, CTAs and copy saying so much before the actual holiday starts.

Starbucks goes all out with this tactic. Not only does it create holiday-themed offers, it even introduces new drinks and cups just in time for Christmas:

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Try gathering all these creatives before the holidays start — it’ll save you a lot of running around when the shopping season finally hits.

Step #3: Plan your ad spend

It’s not enough to throw money at Facebook or Google — you also have to carefully plan your ad campaigns for maximum impact.
Follow these guidelines to plan your ad spend:

1. Start spending early
According to Ipsos, 48% of holiday shoppers said that they wrapped up most of their holiday shopping before Cyber Monday (30th November). This is up from 40% in 2013.

The lesson? More and more consumers are shopping early. Yet, most eCommerce stores continue to hold off on advertising until Black Friday rolls around.

This is a big opportunity for the enterprising store owner. Start your advertising early and you can capture the audience your competitors won’t even begin to target until late November!

2. Optimize ad spend around major holidays
Take a look at this chart from Social Code:

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This graph clearly shows how Facebook CPMs spike around Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

However, as we noted above, more and more shoppers are wrapping up their shopping much before Cyber Monday.

This means that if you spread your ad budget throughout the holiday season instead of just the major holidays, you’ll pay lower CPMs and have much less competition — a big win for the cash-strapped eCommerce store.

3. Focus on mobile
Legendary Kleiner Perkins analyst Mary Meeker’s 2015 “Internet Trends Report” highlights a key stat: Americans spend 24% of their time on mobile devices, yet only 8% of ad dollars go into mobile.

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For eCommerce stores, this is a big opportunity. Despite the importance of mobile, many store owners still haven’t transitioned their advertising to this medium.

Try to go mobile-first with your holiday advertising — you just might find lower CPMs and competition.

Step #4: Track and test

The final step — and arguably the most important — is to track your results and test landing pages, CTAs and ad copy to optimize conversions.

This involves:

1. Setting up ad tracking
Do this before you spend any money on advertising. You can either use tracking tools provided by the ad platform (such as the FB tracking pixel), or use a third-party tool such as AdTrackz, AdMinder, or LinkTrack.

2. Testing landing pages and creatives
For best results, it’s important to test landing pages, offers, coupons and CTAs. Use a tool such as Optimizely or VWO to conduct tests. You can also use Unbounce and LeadPages to test different landing page layouts and CTAs.

3. Using analytics software
This step is crucial — without a competent analytics software, you’ll have no idea what visitors actually do once they land on your site.

Despite its learning curve, you can’t go wrong with Google Analytics. For better audience insight, give KISSMetrics or Mixpanel a spin.

Closing Words…

Holiday eCommerce advertising is a tough nut to crack. It’s very easy to go overboard and overshoot your ad budget just to keep up with competitors. It’s also easy to be too conservative and not make enough of the shopping season.

Follow the step-by-step plan above and you’ll have a solid foundation for creating a winning eCommerce advertising campaign for the holidays.

About The Author
Lina is a content creator at Ecwid. She writes to inspire and educate readers on all things commerce. She loves to travel and runs marathons.

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