As the holiday season quickly approaches, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers gear up for some of the biggest revenue months of the year. If it seems like the holidays happen sooner and sooner every year—that’s because they do.
In recent years, brick-and-mortar stores have started extending Black Friday hours well before and after the Friday following Thanksgiving. More and more retailers are joining this growing trend, pushing the envelope even further for door-busting deals. It’s not uncommon for stores to release Black Friday preview sales with deep discounts on big-ticket items for the whole month of November.
When it comes to online-only retailers, the trends are no different. Consumers expect huge Black Friday deals that last through the holidays, and even another huge day of shopping on Cyber Monday. All of this, coupled with good shipping rates, has shoppers flocking to online sales more than ever.
Regardless of whether sales are in-store on online-only, or maybe a mix of both, the holidays are a make-or-break time for many retailers. Shouldn’t their Pay-Per-Click strategy reflect that?
Analyze last year’s data
While a lot can be learned from lists and tips about optimizing a PPC campaign for the holidays, nothing will teach you more about building the right PPC holiday campaign than your own data. If you ran AdWords during the holiday season last year then you have a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.
Take some time to dive into last year’s data and see what you discover. Look for trends in click-through rates and conversions – did certain times of the day encourage more interaction than others? Are there certain ads that performed really well over others?
When you can spot trends in your data that lead to holiday success, you’ll have a better time at replicating it this time around. Even more valuable than spotting success is being able to see where things fell short. This gives you a priceless look into what simply wasn’t working, allowing you to better allocate your budget for the 2016 season.
Get realistic about your budget
Analyzing your data from the previous holiday season will help you get real about your ad spend budget. You might not be able to find exactly what went wrong with your campaign this time last year. Your ad copy included the right messages and calls-to-action, the ad schedule reflected when shoppers were on your site the most, and so on. What could have possibly been the issue?
More often than not, budget holds retailers back from reaching their full potential in AdWords. When you can’t pay to play in an ever-growing market, you can’t possibly expect the sales to come pouring in. E-commerce retailers have to buckle down for increased ad spend during the holidays. Coming to terms with this early on allows you to better plan your holiday advertising budget. Advertisers can use tools like Keyword Planner to understand current trends in keywords searches and cost-per-click rates in their vertical.
For retailers without a large budget, success in a PPC holiday campaign is still possible. It might just take a little creativity and some realistic expectations. For local retailers, this is where a well-optimized local campaign is your best bet. You can reach people near you with the right location settings and a willingness to optimize often and where necessary.
Understand your market
After you have the data and a solid holiday budget for ad spend, it’s a good idea to put some research into understanding your market. Too many retailers make the mistake of going with what they know and expecting it to be the same every year. Consumers continue to evolve, and so do their shopping habits.
With the market on the uptick, 41% of consumers are planning on spending more money on gifts than they did in 2015. Given all of that extra money, consumers are turning to cross-device purchases to get their holiday shopping done. Growing trends in consumer behavior suggest that an increasing number of shoppers will research a product on their mobile devices, take a trip to the store to see it in person, and then convert later online.
This is where understanding your market is more important than ever. When you know how, where, and when your customers shop, you can build a holiday campaign that reflects that. While it’s a good idea to rely on last year’s data for important campaign decisions this year, you want to make sure you research your target consumer every year. Understanding how shoppers are changing allows you to keep up with a growing market, capitalizing on opportunities you find along the way.
Start early, optimize often
The holiday shopping season is longer than it has ever been. There’s no more waiting until Thanksgiving is over to get into the Christmas spirit. Holiday shopping promotions are being advertised as early as September! Even if you wait until the beginning of November, you’ve waited too long.
This is not to say that you need to run a holiday campaign this long, you should have just been thinking about the strategy for quite some time before the holidays actually roll around. Use your data and what you’ve learned about holiday consumer trends to build a campaign early. There’s no doubt that you’ll be busy with other aspects of your business during the holiday season.
When you have a good campaign built and ready to go, you can turn it on when it best suits your business. Just make sure that you have ample time to optimize. More often than not, you’ll need to make adjustments along the way to ensure you’re getting the most out of the campaign.
Look for the gifts in your data
AdWords campaigns always begin and end with data – your holiday campaigns should be no different. Building a seemingly perfect campaign means nothing if you’re not regularly digging through the data to find hidden opportunities.
You might discover that this year, consumers respond really well to promotions in the headlines of your ad copy. This is where you can use AdWords features like customized text ads to add pricing parameters, promotion length, and more to ads where relevant. This allows you to specify which ad groups get certain promotional text based on the keywords searched.
Taking the time to find these opportunities in the early stages of your holiday campaigns can actually save you time later. Using customized text ads saves you from having to manually create search ads every time you have a new promotion to run. You can also use things like bid multipliers to bid up for certain days and times that work best—reducing the time you need to spend adjusting bids in AdWords.
While building the best PPC holiday campaign is about using the right ads, keywords, and campaign settings, it's also about putting what you know, and what you’ve discovered, into practice. Shoppers don’t behave the same way they did 20 years ago. Advanced technology, online shopping, and longer holiday sales has shoppers expecting the best deals at exactly the time and place they’re looking for them.