It’s November. And that means “Peak Sales Season” has started.
From Black Friday in November, right through to January’s new year sales – the holiday advertising season represents two full months of prime sales opportunities.
But with the rising cost of living and other economic pressures, consumers are expected to be more conservative with their spending this year. A recent survey of 302 consumers conducted by Gartner found:
- Only 9% plan to spend more this holiday season than they did in 2022.
- 28% plan to spend less over the holiday season this year.
- 63% plan to spend the same amount as last year.
This sentiment is echoed by a CNBC survey, which found that retailers are preparing for a “downbeat holiday spending season” in 2023, with many preparing for discount-heavy promotions targeting middle price-point items.
Reduced consumer spending inevitably drives up competition between advertisers. Everyone is vying for a piece of a slightly smaller pie. And as CPCs and other advertising costs soar during November and December, profit margins will be squeezed.
So having the right plan in place to optimise your seasonal ad campaigns to maximise conversions from the outset is more important than ever. With that in mind, we reached out to 50 Paid Media specialists to collect their tips on a range of holiday season advertising topics. The tips are organised into 10 main categories:
- Audiences & Targeting
- Discounts & Promotions
- GA4, Analytics, & Reporting
- Holiday Ad Copy, Assets, & Creative
- Key Events (Black Friday, Christmas etc)
- Landing Page Optimisation
- Paid Media Budget Forecasting
- Performance Max
- Paid Social Campaigns
- B2B Strategy
Meta Retail Peak Season Report 2023
In addition to implementing the tips below, excluding invalid traffic from your holiday season campaigns will also help to maximise sales during Q4.
After analysing more than 2.6 billion paid ad clicks for our 2024 Wasted Ad Spend Report, we identified a notable spike in Meta ’s invalid traffic rate during the months of October, November and December 2022, which has significant implications for marketers and retailers alike.
We outlined our key findings in a brief report along with what marketers can do to maximise their ad spend efficiency on Meta during Q4 2023.
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Audiences & Targeting
Use these tips to deliver relevant messages to specific groups of people who are most likely to convert during the holiday season. It’s all about striking the right balance. Your ad campaign’s audience targeting settings need to be just right – not too broad or too narrow.
There are many users out there who will only make a purchase when there’s a sale on, or when there is a significant deal to be had. Exclude these people from your general re-targeting so as not to waste any money throughout non-sale periods!
Use location microtargeting. Break down your location targeting into microtargets then adjust bids based on performance. Use neighborhood demographics, your sales data, and Google Ads performance data to optimise over time.
The best success I’ve seen when trying to reach a target audience does not come from the highest discounts or the best quality images. It comes from the ability to provide them with solutions to their problems. Try to define specific issues your product can solve. That’s where you will find your audience. You don’t need a “viral” moment. You need empathy.
Create retargeting ads to reactivate visitors who have shown interest in your products and services but have not completed a purchase. Remind them of the products/services they viewed and offer a special discount or incentive to encourage them to complete the purchase.
Enhance Black Friday and Christmas sales by segmenting audiences based on purchase history and preferences. Tailor ads to each group’s interests, maximising relevance and engagement. Utilise real-time analytics to optimise ad performance, ensuring higher conversions at lower costs. Customisation is key in the bustling holiday ad landscape.
When on a budget cap, stop promoting your offers to cold audiences, esp. during the Black Friday sale. Establish Your “UUO”, an Ultra-Unique Offering that’s:
a) different or better than your competition
b) different to what you have offered in the past
c) emphasise it’s a one-off & not to be repeated.
Promote the offer to strictly in-market or custom audience (based on your competitors’ visitors).
Discounts & Promotions
No matter how well structured your campaigns are, if your holiday deals and promotions aren’t competitive, your ads simply won’t convert – even when presented to the right audience. These tips will help ensure better market positioning for your top seasonal products.
Use Coupon Codes Wisely in Paid Search: If you’re using a coupon or promo code in your paid search campaigns, make sure it’s also available through other marketing channels. Reserve these special offers for new customers only, especially when targeting brand-specific keywords, and ensure they actually boost profitability or long-term new customer acquisition.
Design your promotions around the types of customers you are trying to attract. We know approximately 60% of revenue comes from existing customers during this season. So using promos that converts existing customers at a higher AOV i.e. spend £300 get free x, etc. Then, what promos are going to bring in ‘new customers’, these need to reduce the barrier to enter – 30% off x, or spend £100 get free x.
Add a backup payment method to your Google Ads account! Black Friday is the biggest day of the year for some advertisers – don’t let an issue with your primary payment method prevent you from showing ads to your highly engaged and purchase-ready customers!
Boost holiday season sales by creating diverse product bundles, including a mystery bundle with top products at a discount, and reveal bundle items gradually over the sale period to engage different customer segments and clear inventory.
Urgency marketing is a powerful tool when it comes to getting the most out of holiday marketing campaigns. By creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity with discounts and deals, brands can provoke FOMO encouraging customers to make purchasing decisions more quickly. When done well, urgency marketing can help drive sales and increase customer engagement during the holiday season.
GA4, Analytics, & Reporting
Setting up, double checking, and triple checking your conversion tracking is vital during the holiday retail season. Make sure everything is firing as it should, and conduct regular audits to ensure you don’t lose out on sales due to basic errors.
Explore various attribution windows in your Facebook campaigns. Head over to “Columns”, select “Attribution Settings” and All. This allows you to view separate columns for each attribution window (1/7/28-day click and 1-day view). By comparing data across these windows, you can gain deeper insights and spot anomalies. Evaluating campaigns becomes substantially more effective this way.
Submit real-time information about stock levels. To keep promotions up to date, during high-demand times like holidays, keeping track of stock levels for ads can be tricky. If your product is unavailable, Google won’t display ads. Special items add an extra challenge. To stay updated, use hourly updates and Google Content API for accurate reporting and information.
Every campaign has deeper insights than surface metrics. Move fast to dive into a richer blend of data— especially if your product has a longer sales cycle. Combine data from ads, CRM, GA4, & product. A comprehensive view will allow for quicker, more informed decisions. You don’t need a data team or BI tool. Tools like Coefficient empower any GTM practitioner to achieve this synthesis in a spreadsheet.
Holiday Ad Copy, Assets, & Creative
Once you’ve got your ad in front of the right audiences, you need to make sure your messaging resonates. AI tools can certainly help with this, but ultimately your decision making should be primarily data-driven based on historical performance from previous years.
If you’re not using generative AI to maximise creative and messaging testing, this is THE time that you should. Consider taking your messaging from last year and any competitor examples to expedite pulling insights on what worked and what didn’t by leveraging AI, and also use that tool to come up with ideas for new variations for this year. Keep in mind you’ll want to input context for this year.
Send emails and texts at odd intervals like 42 min past the hour so it has a better chance of coming through without being in a sea of thousands.
Although consumers are as cost conscious as ever, they are also obsessed with authenticity, so avoid the red lines, arrows and cross-outs. Find a way to engage and position your offer that highlights an authentic brand message. Let discounts or financial savings become the second tier of the promotion.
Product reviews are a key ingredient in the mix. Make sure to highlight positive ones and incentivise your previous customers to share their feedback and stories with your brand.
Create multiple video ads promoting your holiday sales offers. Be sure to include an option featuring models, another featuring product plus a few top reviews, and another with models + product combined. Keep text light with key features and benefits and include a call to action and a high visible impact offer. Track performance and then add more budget to best performing option.
Plan your campaigns well in advance. The competition is fierce during these times. If you want to stand out, consider creating interactive content like quizzes or calculators that will engage and capture first-party data more easily. The biggest opportunity is maximising your results after Black Friday with personalised nurturing sequences and remarketing.
Key Events (Black Friday, Christmas etc)
Want to know the best time to start your holiday ad campaigns and prepare for key dates in the calendar? The tips below will help your ads stand out on the most competitive days of the year.
As of Google Ads Editor v2.4 we can now defer uploads to the time or date of our choosing (use the dropdown just to the right of ‘Post’). It’s a timely update for the holiday season – especially when dealing with URLs that aren’t yet live. If you’ve ever posted ads on pause – planning to enable them once a page goes live – only to see them disapproved for ‘URL not working’. Here’s the solution!
Google’s bid strategies have evolved/improved over the years, we’re using more automated bid strategies such as Max Conversions/Value. These work brilliantly but can be a bit underwhelming when it comes to big events such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. With this in mind, we use Seasonality Adjustments to tell Google that we’re expecting an increase in conversion rates and the strategy adjusts accordingly.
Remember that Black Friday and the Christmas season don’t start at the end of November for advertisers. The weeks leading up to these days are fantastic for testing out creatives, and using a variety of different visuals, such as brand, product videos, and UGC ads to test what works best with your audience. This will also create amazing retargeting audiences to use during the holidays.
Consumers are looking for industry disruptors during key shopping events like Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Singles Day. Put your best foot forward and have an agile media plan at the ready to maximise your voice with the aim of creating awareness and buzz.
Use an abandoned cart recovery strategy. Black Friday, Christmas, and Cyber Monday are prime times for cart abandonment. Send personalised email reminders to users who’ve abandoned their carts, offering exclusive discounts or time-sensitive offers to entice them to complete their purchase.
Don’t ignore the opportunity January represents for growing LTV – consumers will shift to resolutions, self-gifting and back towards brands that are familiar to them. By this point you’ll know which products were the most popular over the sale period – weave this into creative strategy for the start of the year. Think of it as the perfect time to gain some final sales from those most loyal to you.
Maximise Black Friday & Christmas ROI with AI-driven martech. These tools offer real-time personalisation, analysing customer behaviour to serve up tailored recommendations. Martech automates this, boosting digital engagement without stretching resources. This holiday season, let AI and martech be your secret weapons for standout campaigns and increased sales.
Landing Page Optimisation
Landing pages with low conversion rates are a huge contributor to performance marketing inefficiency. Use these tips to maximise your returns from the traffic that reaches your site.
When developing your “gift guides” for holiday shopping, be sure to not call it a “gift guide.” People don’t type in “gift guides” when they search. They search for “gift ideas for Dad” or “Christmas gifts for Mom.” As such, name this section on your website “Gift Ideas.” This will create stronger landing page relevancy which will increase Quality Score and results in lower CPCs.
The most important thing for any landing page is to ensure the offer is set up for a seamless UX journey from the ad. Test the landing page UX with software including Hotjar and ask actual customers to test for you. This will improve conversion rates and quality scores.
Streamline Your Content: Ensure that your landing page content is clear, concise, and directly relevant to your offer. Eliminate any unnecessary text or distractions.
Ensure the messaging on your landing page is to the point and specific to what problem you’re solving. Instead of talking about the features that your platform offers, talk about what problem your platform is solving. This, with a simple CTA will work wonders.
Paid Media Budget Forecasting
When you have a firm grasp of your past numbers from previous years, you can invest X amount into holiday PPC campaigns and reasonably expect Y to come out at the bottom. So here are a few things to keep in mind over the coming weeks.
Typically large advertisers blow their budget before Christmas and New Year. This means if you budget appropriately, you can take massive advantage of lower CPMs into the first few weeks of January. Every year, we see a massive spike in leads during these times because there is less competition. Plan appropriately!
When it comes to budget forecasting for Peak Season Q4 always start with historical data. If not available, take a closer look at the market or even category shifts. Allocate flexible budgets (+10-20% of what was originally forecasted) that give the freedom to ad platforms to spend wherever applicable based on real-time performance and evidence. Underspend in low season to overspend in high season.
During Black Friday and Christmas, consumer behaviours shift unpredictably. Marketers should shift from fixed budgets to dynamic allocation, adjusting spend based on real-time insights. Segment by acquisition sources and creative themes, and continually refine strategies. This agile approach ensures campaigns are responsive, effective, and ready to capture peak sales opportunities.
Make sure you are planning for what Black Friday looks like in your region. In the US for example there is very little interest in Black Friday until the week itself, whereas in the UK the combined search volume in the few weeks before is actually greater than in the week of Black Friday itself.
Peak moments through the season dominate our attention but don’t ignore surrounding opportunities. Demand shifted early last year, especially towards the week before Cyber Week.
1) Use learnings and trends to identify opportunity
2) Determine a seasonal strategy beyond BAU, such as investing in gifting
3) Analyse, segment and target loyal customers to maximise AOV
Don’t wait till the big day to start spending, many consumers are in-market or browsing before then. Ramp up spend in the weeks before to bring new traffic to site and make sure you have an effective retargeting strategy to engage this new pool of potential customers.
When planning for the peak season, allocate your budget wisely. In the 15/20 days leading up to the peak, focus on Awareness and Consideration campaigns. This widens your audience and enhances the effectiveness of Conversion campaigns, especially Retargeting, during the sales period. Engage with your customer base early to expand and inform for better results.
Paid media forecasting is crucial. Try to shift the budget from peak BFCM moments to a more early momentum. Try to capture an identified, potential customer as early as possible with an exclusive offering or insights in what to expect. As a result, the KPI shifts from revenue to identified potential customer (opt-in). Try to take the same approach for acquiring new clients to acquiring opt-ins.
These tips will help when reviewing your PMax settings, automation goals, exclusions, product filtering, and audience signals. PMax is very much the future of PPC, and learning how to master it is critical to success in today’s digital advertising landscape.
Splitting up your PMax campaign into a ‘branded’ and ‘non branded’ campaign allows you to ensure that your business isn’t just appearing across branded terms and reaching new customers. Set up negatives on the non branded PMax to ensure you’re not just reaching existing, but new customers in the higher stages of the funnel.
When it comes to your Performance Max campaigns, if you are running a site-wide sale, we recommend running a separate asset group within your evergreen campaign. Use your promotional images and ad copy in the new asset group that will run along your evergreen asset groups to prevent disruption. Pair with GMC promotions, account level promotion extensions, and don’t forget to include seasonality adjustments.
When monitoring Performance Max campaigns throughout November into Cyber 5, remove any tROAS or tCPA targets and set the daily budget to something you are comfortable with to allow the fluctuations in volume reach its max potential. Once Cyber 5 is over, keep the tROAS/tCPA targets off until the efficiency starts trending down before reapplying targets.
Our Performance Max advice:
1. Products in sale or those that have to be pushed (ideally via feed manager and custom label). Price is key, check your price competitiveness.
2. Make use of the feed columns to show the period of your offer, and the Sale VS Original price.
3. Feed optimisation for the products that go in sale, think of adding Black Friday Sale or Stunt or Limited Offer to the title.
In the ever-evolving world of technology, AI is here to stay, and cookies are taking a back seat. So, it’s crucial for us to inform the Google algorithm about who our audience really is. This means we’ve got to share our audience’s details through carefully curated 1st party data. It’s like giving Google the VIP pass to understand our customers better, all through smartly uploaded customer lists.
Paid Social Campaigns
Are your paid social channels performing as well as they could be? Use these tips to boost authentic ad engagement and reduce your cost-per-acquisition across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and more.
Stop obsessing over your ROAS for a second and spend the 2-3 weeks before your offer launches weighting as much of your budget as you can to TOF, finding new pockets of buyers, and pulling them into your pixels/mailing lists. Do not let your offer be the first time someone sees your business. Lay the foundations first.
“Spy” on your competitors and draw inspiration from their ads. Most major paid platforms now offer a feature allowing you to search and view the ads that any company is running on them. Simply search for: Facebook/Meta Ad Library, Google Ads Transparency Center, LinkedIn Ad Library and you’ll be ready to gather inspiration.
If you are afraid that your cost could go up because of competition, consider bid capping instead of reducing your budget. This will ensure you will get the most of your money while staying on target.
Generating qualified leads through will always be challenging. There is no secret formula that will instantly 10x your revenue. But following the advice below will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that limit conversions and waste budget.
Let’s talk LinkedIn targeting. Sure, snagging a CEO or VP sounds awesome. But remember, those at the top are swamped. It’s often the go-getters, the ones making waves, who are on the lookout for fresh solutions. They spot the new, valuable products and bubble them up to the decision-makers. So when targeting, keep an eye on those movers and shakers in aligned roles between the top tiers.
When running targeted ABM/Outbound campaigns, use the power of your network. Are you connected to any contacts in your target companies list? Can they introduce you to the ICP? Ask your CEO, Execs and other key folks in your company to do the same. You’ll be surprised by what you find.
Use ABM marketing to target high-value accounts and create personalised campaigns that address their pain points. Showcase how your products or services can benefit their business with success stories.
Lunio’s 2024 Wasted Ad Spend Report
Our Wasted Ad Spend Report was created by analysing billions of paid ad clicks from thousands of Lunio customers. This helped us expose the extent of the invalid traffic (IVT) problem across different industries, regions, ad channels, and more.
IAS specialise in verifying programmatic media buying, and their data enabled us to dive even deeper into global paid traffic trends affecting advertisers. And data provided by Scope3, the world’s largest database of digital advertising emission factors, allowed us to gain a unique understanding of the environmental impact of IVT and the digital ad industry more broadly. Expect to learn:
- Average IVT rates across all major ad platforms
- IVT rates by industry, region, and company size
- Lost revenue opportunities due to IVT for 2023 & 2024
- Top 3 concerns affecting performance marketers in 2023
- Strategies to minimise wasted ad spend across all channels
- How to reduce your paid media carbon emissions
- And lots more!
Eliminate Fake Traffic From Paid Campaigns
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