The holiday season — which is how Americans refer to the shopping period from Black Friday until New Year’s Eve — is rapidly approaching, and for marketers, it's a battleground of epic proportions. The days of simply decking out your website with a festive banner and expecting holiday sales to roll in are long gone.
Competition is fierce, especially during mega-events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday (BFCM) and the festive season. Standing out is no longer an option — it's a necessity.
As the countdown to the holiday shopping frenzy begins, it's important to have your marketing strategy finely tuned and ready to roll.
Black Friday, the first major shopping event, is less than two months away, but savvy shoppers have already started scouring the digital aisles for their perfect gifts. That also means you can’t wait until a few weeks before Christmas to release holiday gift guides or push festive promotions; you need to do that now.
In this high-stakes game, optimising your paid media marketing can be a great tool in your arsenal to help your business thrive during the holidays.
A Snapshot of Holiday Shopping
Before we dive into the details of paid media marketing, let's take a moment to appreciate the colossal scale of the holiday shopping season.
In recent years, holiday shopping has undergone a dramatic transformation. Previously, it was characterised by shoppers visiting bustling brick-and-mortar stores, but now, an ever-increasing number of shoppers are turning to digital outlets for convenient buying.
Just take a look at these statistics:
The key takeaway here is that holiday shopping is no longer confined to a specific date on the calendar or going to a specific store. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are only the kickoff. Holiday shopping is a dynamic, months-long event through various channels that requires meticulous planning and strategic execution.
Merely promoting your product or service isn't enough; you need to stand out, engage your audience effectively, and use the power of paid media marketing to earn your share of holiday sales. You need to target customers effectively.
What Do Customers Expect During the Holiday Season?
Customers have specific expectations from retailers during the festive season that can significantly influence their buying decisions. To capture their attention and drive sales, it's crucial to understand and meet these expectations.
Of course, there are more specific things people expect when they shop:
- Discounts and promotions: Shoppers are on the lookout for enticing discounts and promotions that go beyond the norm. They expect holiday deals that provide real savings they can’t get at other times of the year.
- Accessibility: Customers turn to various channels to find discounts and deals, including retailer websites, social media and email newsletters. Your marketing strategy should encompass all channels your customers use to ensure you reach your target audience where they spend their time.
- Product availability: Shoppers want assurance that the products they desire will be in stock. Adequate inventory management is important to prevent customer disappointment due to out-of-stock items. That can also mean checking in with your suppliers to know that they have enough stock available.
- Rewards for loyalty: Customers who form part of your loyalty program will expect to get even better deals. Be prepared to have special offers just for them and consider giving loyal customers early access to deals.
- Early bird deals: November is not just about BFCM; it's also when customers seek early deals for household essentials and the impending festive season so you need to offer promotions that cater to these needs.
Why Paid Media Marketing is Perfect for the Holidays
The shopping journey starts with an internet search for 44% of consumers, even if they end up buying in-store. The next places customers tend to search is online stores and online marketplaces. All of these are digital channels. If people search online channels first, then it shows there is an opportunity to reach your target market through paid ads.
When you use paid media, you can personalise the targeting process. By understanding your customers' preferences and behaviours, you can create highly targeted ads that resonate with them, and push products or services tailored to their needs and wants which significantly increases conversion rates.
Additionally, paid media marketing allows you to drive traffic to your website with a simple click. This immediate visibility is crucial during the holiday rush when consumers are actively searching for deals and gift ideas.
Another benefit of paid ads is that paid media platforms provide robust tracking and analytics tools, so you can monitor customer movements, identify which ads are most effective and make data-driven adjustments in real time. This agility is invaluable when competition is fierce.
Using Paid Media Marketing Effectively for Holiday Sales
To thrive during the holiday season, you need to employ various marketing strategies, with paid media being one of them. There are several options available for you, and you might choose one or several, depending on your marketing campaign.
Streaming platforms — like Amazon, Hulu and Netflix — have surged in popularity, making it a valuable channel for holiday campaigns. If you target viewers based on their content preferences, you can easily reach the right audience that may find your products valuable.
For example, Aldi buys slots on streaming platforms (and traditional TV) for their Christmas campaign. Viewers who watch Christmas or holiday movies then get shown the advert. In 2022, Aldi’s Christmas campaign featured Kevin the Carrot (a character they have used before) in an advert based on the movie Home Alone.
Programmatic Audio Advertising
If you want to extend your reach to listeners on radio and music streaming platforms like Spotify, then programmatic audio is the way to go. It's an effective method to engage with an audience that tunes in during the holidays.
Coca-Cola, for example, has an iconic song called Holidays Are Coming that targets any listeners creating or playing a holiday playlist. The song and campaign ensured their festive message resonated with those enjoying seasonal tunes and successfully tapped into the nostalgia associated with Coca-Cola during the holidays.
Programmatic Video Advertising
Programmatic video offers various ad formats, including display ads, screens, and carousel ads, to capture the attention of your audience during the holidays. These adverts can be found on traditional advertising platforms, streaming platforms, social media and websites.
For Christmas 2019, Macy's created a heartwarming programmatic video campaign titled "Santa Girl." The video featured a young girl's sweet holiday journey and dream to be Santa. It was displayed as a pre-roll ad on YouTube and across various websites. The emotional storytelling resonated with viewers, driving engagement and increased brand affinity during the holiday season.
Retargeting banners are a tried-and-true strategy to re-engage potential customers who have visited your website but didn't make a purchase. During the holidays, they can be particularly effective in reminding shoppers about your products or promotions, especially if they already showed interest.
For example, Ryanair uses all the big holidays shopping events to retarget people who looked at flights. These banners display personalised offers and flight details, encouraging users who had previously visited Ryanair's website to complete their bookings for the holiday season.
Paid Search Advertising
Paid search, often associated with Google Ads, remains a critical component of holiday marketing strategies. These ads will be displayed to shoppers when they search for certain keywords like “Black Friday deals” or “Christmas gift guide,” depending on which keywords you choose to focus on.
Tesco, for instance, uses paid search advertising on Google to capture local holiday shoppers. They bid on keywords related to Christmas groceries, meal preparation and festive essentials. Tesco's campaign prominently features their grocery delivery service, emphasising convenience and freshness during the festive season, which may be a differentiating factor for some consumers.
Plan to Increase Holiday Sales
The holiday season is a prime opportunity for your business to increase sales and engage your audience. To ensure your paid media marketing efforts yield the best results during this festive period, you need to plan your campaign.
Consider the Marketing Funnel
Understanding where your customers are in the marketing funnel is crucial for holiday campaigns. Tailor your paid marketing campaigns to align with their stage of the buyer's journey; this could mean creating several ads. For instance, top-of-funnel ads may focus on brand awareness and discovery through emotion-evoking content, while bottom-of-funnel ads can emphasise conversions and promotions through personalised suggestions or retargeting.
For instance, if you are a clothing retailer you could run top-of-funnel ads showcasing your holiday collection to create awareness. As the season progresses, you can transition to bottom-of-funnel ads highlighting limited-time discounts to encourage purchases.
Tap Into First Party Data
Leverage the power of first-party data to personalise your holiday campaigns as it enhances engagement and improves conversion rates. Use information you've collected from previous interactions with customers to create custom segments and deliver tailored ad experiences through retargeting or bidding on popular keywords.
Do Beta Testing
Beta testing allows you to fine-tune your messaging, visuals and targeting strategies based on what appeals to customers and enables your marketing goals. Before launching your full-scale holiday campaigns, conduct beta testing to evaluate ad performance and identify areas for improvement.
For example, a retailer could test several versions of a BFCM ad on a small subset of their audience to assess engagement and conversion rates. Based on the results, they can make the necessary adjustments to optimise the ad for the full campaign.
Ensure Ads are Clickable
Make sure your ads are designed for maximum clickability and that they link to the relevant page whether it's clicking through to your website, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a gift guide or making a purchase. Customers will get frustrated if the ad doesn’t take them to the right place and that can increase your bounce rate. Check every link frequently during your holiday campaign.
Use High-Quality Visuals and Audio
During the holiday season, competition for attention is fierce, making it worthwhile to invest in high-quality visuals and audio that make your ads stand out. Crisp images, vibrant colours and compelling audio can capture the viewer's attention and leave a lasting impression that leads to greater brand awareness or conversions.
Create a Sense of Urgency
Instil a sense of urgency in your holiday ads to motivate action. Highlight limited-time offers, countdowns to key shopping days and exclusive promotions that encourage customers to make decisions quickly.
For instance, a travel agency runs an ad campaign promoting holiday getaways. They include a countdown timer showing the hours left to book at discounted rates which encourages viewers to act promptly to secure their vacations.
While creating a sense of urgency can yield results, it’s important to deliver if customers make a purchase. A sense of urgency should not result in stock availability issues as that can upset customers and cost you the sale.
Get Proper Tracking in Place
Accurate tracking is essential for measuring the effectiveness of your holiday campaigns. You can use UTM parameters to tag your URLs, allowing you to monitor the performance of specific ads, keywords and channels. This detailed tracking data can inform your optimisation efforts and may highlight the keywords or channels that are worth investing in more.
During the holiday season, you want to maximise your campaign's impact and achieve better results than other times of the year. To do so, you need to have a well thought-out campaign that includes paid media marketing.
Remember that the success of your holiday campaigns not only depends on the chosen strategy but also on the creativity, messaging and timing of your ads. Continuously monitor and optimise your campaigns based on real-time data and consumer feedback to ensure your brand remains top-of-mind and captures the spirit of the season.