With the rise of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, Super Saturday, and Boxing Day, the definition of “the holiday advertising push” has expanded substantially. While these retail days have helped distribute the holiday rush across a longer period of time, they’ve also made campaign planning far more complex.

Adding to this, the rise of digital channels like mobile and social media have provided immense new holiday opportunities for marketers. Just last year, mobile accounted for 50.3% of all e-commerce traffic, surpassing desktop traffic for the first time ever. Knowing this, it shouldn’t be a surprise that 38% of shoppers now say they will not return to a retailer’s website if it’s not mobile optimized.

It’s clear that the digital holiday landscape has become more complex, but where there is complexity, there is opportunity.

Here are three key takeaways we pulled from this year’s Ultimate Holiday Guide for Retailers.

 

Starting early stretches your budget

E-commerce retailers who think ahead can benefit enormously from the digital opportunities that are being opened up to them.

To understand how digital marketers can improve their digital holiday campaigns, our research team did an analysis of over 1.2 billion digital profiles to see where some opportunities could be hidden. After diving into the data, we noticed some trends that surprised us and some that reaffirmed longheld beliefs.

adroll holiday cpm chart

For instance, did you know that the average number of ad impressions served on a monthly basis actually begins to decrease as we move from October into the final few weeks of the year. If you couple this with the fact that CPCs and CPMs are lower during the summer and fall months, then it’s easy to see that starting your campaigns early is a great way to get your brand in front of the customers you care about the most—with much less interference from competitors.

Of course, these trends change constantly, which is why we made a calendar that tracks CPMs, CPCs, and Impressions week over week. You can download it here for free.

 

Testing your pages is step one

Have you ever walked into a store because of the beautiful display in the window? Or, conversely, have you ever left a store because it’s messy, disorganized, and you can’t find the checkout? As digital marketers, it’s easy to forget that online stores act as a physical representation of our brand. As such, we need to treat our digital store with the same love and attention that we would treat a physical storefront. Visitors will “walk into” your store if there is a beautiful layout in the same way they’ll “walk out” if your website is cluttered and difficult to navigate.

Creating a consistent sales funnel takes a lot of trial and error, but it’s well worth the effort. Understandably, the last thing you want to do is test your user experience in the midst of the chaotic holiday season. This is why it’s vital to start optimizing now.

In writing our e-book, Retail’s Ultimate Guide to Holiday Planning, we partnered with the e-commerce platform Selz, who highlighted some key features that a lot of e-commerce retailers tend to neglect.

 

Selz suggests optimizing the following aspects of your retail pages:

Clear product descriptions
Tell your users exactly what they’re going to get when they purchase your product. Include relevant information on sizing, material, tech specs, etc. It’s completely encouraged to use a little marketing charm when writing your product description, but don’t leave out the facts.

Multiple images
Use more than one image to display your product. Of course it depends on what you’re selling, but showing a real person using, wearing, or displaying your image will always convert better than just a bare product. Try to vary the angles and scenarios you show your product in.

User reviews
These are paramount to your sales—adding them to your site can improve conversions by 161%. Giving the user a straightforward star rating and allowing them to read other user reviews, even if those reviews are poor, greatly increases the user’s trust in your brand. If you’re using Selz, you can actually install the Yotpo app into your store to do this seamlessly.

FAQs
These should be tailored to your products. If you’re selling apparel, it’s helpful to provide sizing information, like whether it runs small or large. If you’re selling an event, your users may need some additional information before they commit to buying. The easiest way to build your FAQ page is to take real questions from real customers on your support side and use those to guide you.

Buy buttons
This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: buy buttons are easily the most important thing on your retail page. That means having easy-to-find buttons with solid CTAs. There are common CTAs that you can use on your buy buttons, like “buy now,” “learn more,” or “view product,” but there’s no proven button copy that works for everyone. That’s why it’s imperative to test your site and gather data before you’re pushing for holiday sales. Run some A/B tests first to figure out what button text works; then you can start experimenting with color, size, position, and more.

 

There’s a lot more you can do of course, so we recommend taking a look at the full chapter of the e-book here.

 

Word-of-mouth at scale

Once you’ve optimized your retail pages and your digital “storefront”, it’s time to attract customers through the door. Most marketers know that word-of-mouth is the most effective way to attract customers, but it seems very hard to do at scale.

The digital version of word-of-mouth referrals is influencer marketing. It’s no secret that influencer marketing works and works very well. In fact, according to AdWeek, for every dollar brands spend on influencer marketing, they can see $6.50 in return.

A lot of digital marketers would like to do influencer marketing but aren’t sure how to start. The best way to start an influencer marketing campaign is by using micro-influencers. Micro-influencers have smaller followings than big-name influencers, but when used correctly they can bring just as much ROI.

Because micro-influencers are still trying to grow their following, they’re willing to work with brands at a far cheaper price. To learn more about leveraging influencer marketing we teamed up with the marketing team at Bitly who wrote an entire chapter on the subject for our Ultimate Guide To Holiday Planning.

What we learned was that working with multiple micro-influencers often has a higher impact than working with just one mega influencer. A recent study showed that one influencer sharing your post can lead to a 31.8% increase in social shares, while five influencers sharing your content can quadruple the number of social shares.

One example of a successful influencer campaign that Bitly highlighted was with the watch brand Original Grain. Here’s an excerpt of what they had to say:

 

“Smaller brands can work with influencers, too. Watch brand Original Grain often features photos of their watches taken by different photographers. For the holidays, the brand showcased a watch with Christmas decorations around it.

Caitlin and Dani, the bloggers who took the picture, have around 10 thousand followers—meaning the brand still got into that crossover audience without spending budget on paid ads. You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to work with influencers. Micro-influencers with up to 10 thousand followers still reach a big audience and create a ripple effect among their fans.”

 

This is just one of the five examples that Bitly covered in their chapter. The other brands they covered included Hallmark, Starbucks, Old Navy, and Amazon.

 

Takeaways

Regardless of a company’s size or digital marketing budget, it’s clear that the holidays are an incredibly important opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked. As competition increases year after year, it’s important to stay ahead of competitors by testing new tactics and strategies.

The real key to creating a successful holiday campaign is starting sooner rather than later. Not only planning early, which most marketers already do, but starting early in your prospecting, testing, and overall relationship building. Clearly you don’t want to be testing new ideas in the middle of the holiday season when the consequences can make or break your revenue goals.

Using the lower CPM months that we spoke about earlier to test and refine your marketing strategies is really one of the best bets you can make to prep ahead of time. If you’d like to see all the CPM trends, feel free to download the entire Holiday Calendar here.

And, if this article has been at all helpful, be sure to check out the entire Holiday Planning Guide, which includes email templates for reaching out to influencers, CPM trend graphs for lowering digital spend costs, suggestions on sourcing user-generated content to boost traffic and much, much more.

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