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Last-Minute E-Commerce Checklist for Holiday

Lauren Frankel

Holiday 2018 is on track to deliver another strong season of retail sales. U.S. online holiday sales are expected to reach $199.99 billion in November and December, an YoY increase of about 15.5%. Numbers like that make all retailers keen to snag the biggest slice of holiday pie within their reach.

Once the holiday season kicks off, our jobs as e-commerce marketers are never quite finished. The prospect of surging traffic and sales keeps us alert for ways to capitalize on the biggest shopping season of the year.

If you’re making last-minute adjustments and wondering what else to do to get your campaigns into tip-top shape, we’ve got you covered. Tie a big bow around your holiday tactics and check these items off your list.

1. Revisit Last Year’s Performance

Use the past to help you predict future performance over holiday. First, work out timing for your campaign adjustments. Start by reviewing daily YoY trends to see when volume has ramped up in the past. When impression and click volume started creeping up last year—say, the week before Halloween—assume the same timing for this year. Plan to have your holiday adjustments in place by that time.

When impression and click volume started creeping up last year—say, the week before Halloween—assume the same timing for this year.

Next, pinpoint top performers. Review conversions from last year to identify your best sellers, as chances are good that similar products, brands, and categories will perform well again. Make sure those top performers are broken out and bid up. Don’t forget to give high margin items an extra bid boost for greater visibility.

If you’re running out of room in the budget, consider breaking out your top products into a separate campaign. This helps make sure that sufficient budget is allocated to your strong performers to get them full visibility throughout the holiday season. And speaking of budget….

2. Budget Wisely for Holiday

Allocating budget throughout holiday season can feel overwhelming, but it becomes much more manageable if you focus on the big shopping days.

Notice that two big shopping days fall in November. Be sure to reserve ample spend during the shopping bonanza at the tail end of the month.

You know the spike in volume is coming on the well-known shopping days: Thanksgiving (increasingly), Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday. (Green Monday might not hold true if you are in a B2B industry, however.) Prepare for the extra volume and make sure you don’t outspend yourself by capping your budget for these busy days. Here is when they fall in 2018:

Thanksgiving: Nov. 22
Black Friday: Nov. 23
Cyber Monday: Nov. 26
Green Monday: Dec. 10

Notice that three big shopping days fall in November. You’ll want to reserve ample spend during the shopping bonanza at the tail end of the month.

3. Promote in Google Merchant Center

If you’re not already using Google Merchant Center to maximize orders and revenue, holiday is a great time to start. Google Merchant Promotions help boost click-throughs and entice shoppers with deals straight from Google Shopping. Plus, they are free to implement!

Merchant Promotions help boost click-throughs and entice shoppers with deals straight from Google Shopping.

If you’re new to these promotions, you’ll need to fill out an interest form before you can set them up. Plan for one to two days for your approval to process (may be a little longer with an uptick in interest leading up to holiday). Once you’re approved, check out this step-by-step guide to setting up Merchant Promotions.

If you’re already up and running on promotions, you’ll want to focus on minimizing disapprovals for holiday. Items can be disapproved for reasons such as inconsistent pricing, invalid GTINs, broken URLs, and other issues you can find noted in the Diagnostics tab within Google Merchant Center.

In some cases, you can manually request re-review of disapproved products within Google Merchant Center. Otherwise, you’ll want to upload a corrected product feed, and Google will analyze the prior disapprovals to see if the issue was resolved.

4. Retarget Past and Potential Purchasers

If you’re using Customer Match and RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads), you’ve got the perfect tools to get your products in front of a warm audience over holiday.

Ratchet up bid adjustments for RLSA audiences to consistently engage shoppers who have visited your site or taken actions there as they continue their holiday shopping.

Reactivate past seasonal shoppers with Customer Match. Segment customers who purchased within the past two years during holiday, add those email addresses into AdWords, and increase your bid adjustments to hit members of that audience with Shopping ads.

Shoppers do a LOT of research to buy gifts for friends and family. Make sure they don’t learn about a product on your site, but purchase it elsewhere, by staying top-of-mind with RLSA. Ratchet up your bid adjustments for RLSA audiences to consistently engage shoppers who have visited your site or taken actions there as they continue their holiday shopping.

For more ways to leverage remarketing tools in Google Shopping, check out advanced segmentation ideas for Customer Match audiences and  ways to enhance holiday marketing ROI well beyond December.

Want a more in-depth study of Customer Match and RLSAs? Check out our e-book, Customer Match & RLSA for Google Shopping: The Ultimate Guide.

5. Change Negatives to Positives

An unexpected place to get a holiday boost is in your negative keyword list. Maybe you have some branded search terms you’ve designated as negative keywords to keep costs down or a very broad term that wasn’t operating at an efficient rate. This is a smart decision during other times in the year, but holiday presents an opportunity to earn high ROI on certain queries.

Consider giving these search terms a chance to convert by removing them from your negative keyword list. If they start blowing the budget, you can always put them back in the negative keyword list.

6. Rethink Efficiency Targets

Be less efficient. Bet you didn’t think you’d ever hear that kind of marketing advice. Well here’s what we mean: If there is any time to prioritize revenue over campaign efficiency, holiday is that time.

To reap the rewards of increased holiday traffic, you may need to spend more and reduce efficiency for larger returns.

To maximize revenue during holiday, consider bumping down your efficiency targets. Here’s the logic: Competition is very stiff, and cost-per-click and cost-per-order will increase, while ROAS decreases. By running campaigns at lower efficiency, you’ll spend more, but the increased volume should compensate by delivering more revenue.

For instance, if you’re operating at 10:1 ROAS, you’ll make $10,000 in revenue from $1,000 in spend. If you drop ROAS to 5:1, you make $20,000 in revenue from $4,000 in spend (instead of $20,000 in revenue from $2,000 in spend at 10:1 ROAS).

To reap the rewards of increased holiday traffic, you may need to be willing to spend more and reduce efficiency for larger returns.

As a final note, pay close attention to your shipping deadlines so you can maximize holiday orders through the very last minute. Be sure to scale back your bidding as soon as holiday ends, as demand scales back immediately.

Holiday is the time to close out the year with big wins in e-commerce. Stay tuned to our blog for more insights and tips to keep your game running strong throughout the holiday season.

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