How to Prepare Your Campaigns for the Holidays

Brett Fischer
October 11, 2021
The 2021 holiday shopping season is here and it’s time to start getting performance media campaigns prepared to capitalize on another season of strong demand. In this article we explore how to take enterprise-level business objectives and distill them into actionable advice within core ad platforms such as Facebook and Google, while also exploring emerging channels to expand your consumer touchpoints during this window of peak demand.

How to Prepare Your Campaigns for the Holidays

Black Friday shopping

With the fall season right on our doorstep, believe it or not, it’s already time to start thinking about how to get your performance-driven campaigns ready for the 2021 holiday shopping season. 2021 presents some uncertainty following the COVID-fueled online shopping craze of 2020, but likely doesn’t resemble anything pre-2020 either. So, what is the barometer on what to expect from online shopping and the corresponding revenue-driving performance media campaigns this holiday season?

Set goals & solidify shopping initiatives

First and foremost, ground yourself in business goals and gather details on special initiatives surrounding an explicit timeframe during the holiday season. Holiday shopping starts earlier every year, so establishing parameters for evaluating performance is key in this stage. Is the goal this holiday season to maximize total revenue dollars? Or maybe maximize profitability? Is there a goal on new customer acquisition? All these goals should ladder into where performance media dollars are allocated.

Second, identify any initiative that revolves around specific products or product collections. If there are new products or collections that will launch around the holiday season, we want to put in as much early leg work as possible to put them in the good graces of the likes of Google and Facebook, which heavily favor historical data.

Finally, consider whether the business expects to encounter any supply chain or delivery bottlenecks. Take any expected issues with certain products or collections into account, and exclude them from paid media support to best serve customers.

So, with all of that in mind, how do we take these high-level business objectives and disseminate them down into clear, actionable changes within ad platforms?

How to prepare

Facebook Ads

Facebook media buying in 2021 has certainly been different than any other year before it. The earth-shattering release of iOS 14 narrowed the vision of ad platforms such as Facebook, which now has limited visibility into post click and post view attribution. Or in simpler terms, Facebook now has difficulty measuring customers who view or click on your ad and then convert or interact with your website at a later time. Historically, this was Facebook’s bread and butter, changing media buying in 2021. A few tips to combat this head-on:

  • Ensure your Facebook Aggregated Event Management (AEM) is in order. Does your AEM priority list include all purchase and precursor actions (add to cart, initiate checkout, etc.) as a priority?
  • Solidify UTM tracking. Following the iOS 14 rollout, Facebook conversion data is often heavily modeled instead of actual. Establishing clear, easy-to-identify UTM parameters in your campaigns helps identify strong last-click purchase campaigns, audiences, and creative assets that serve as a good proxy for continuing to fund the channel through the holiday season.

Google Ads & Bing Ads

Be prepared to experience a rise in search demand and costs within paid search campaigns. Rising tides lift all ships, and even if you don’t run promotions or don’t think your brand fits the mold of a traditional holiday-driven buying cycle, the consumer purchasing mindset oftentimes trumps any deal within any category that may exist around the holiday season. Be prepared for an influx of both brand and category demand and the corresponding cost.

As a result, paid search campaigns should be given anywhere from 50%–70% headroom of their current levels. Along with increased demand, paid search costs-per-click (CPC) have been increasing throughout 2021 and will likely experience their usual holiday season inflation on top of that. You don’t want to leave revenue on the table because of limited budget throughout this window of demand.

Another core piece of any holiday shopping plan is the health of your shopping feed. Given the weight historical data and indexing is given to products within Google Shopping, it’s imperative these optimizations and health checks are completed before the start of Q4 if possible. Specific elements to address include:

  • Minimizing product disapprovals
  • Conducting keyword research to enrich product titles and descriptions with relevant, high-volume keywords
  • Adding any new products to the feed as soon as possible to begin historical data collection and indexation with Google
      • Pro tip: If the product isn’t available until a certain date, add it to your feed with an [availability_date] attribute that allows the product to index with Google, and give users an optimal experience of knowing when the product will launch

Don’t forget — be creative!

Don’t limit yourself to proven channels. Maybe there’s a chance for incremental budget throughout the holiday season that makes it possible to expand your channel mix to new channels that impact the customer journey or help capture the attention of new audiences. When it comes to holiday campaigns, expansion channels with huge potential include:

  • Google Discovery Shopping: Shopping ad units are a great extension of Google’s new Discovery format within Google’s Discovery network. This allows you to combine your products with Google’s premium owned inventory that can’t be accessed through other platforms. Low advertiser usage makes this channel an intriguing option to reach users through the clutter of traditional social channels.
  • YouTube TrueView for Shopping: YouTube Shopping also allows you to leverage shopping ad units with one of Google’s premier owned ad networks — in this case, YouTube. Pair shopping ads with the YouTube network to use as a unique prospecting channel centered on your products.
  • TikTok Ads: TikTok has been a booming platform for a few years now, and a great way to reach a younger customer base is through their emerging ad network. TikTok users spend almost as much time on TikTok these days as Instagram — this, combined with low advertiser utilization, makes this channel an intriguing alternative to Facebook and Instagram.

And don’t forget: Adding new channels isn’t the only way to expand campaigns. There’s also room to get creative within your existing channels, too.

  • Implement holiday-specific messaging in your search ad copy
  • Update any visual creative assets to be holiday focused, if possible, across Facebook, Google Smart Shopping, YouTube, Google Discovery, and Google Image Extensions
  • Test new ancillary fields with holiday or gifting-type messaging within your Google Shopping feed:
      • Product highlights or product details attributes within the Google Shopping feed are great places to test new gifting messages (i.e. “Gifts for Dad”

In summary

The 2021 holiday shopping season is knocking at the door, and thanks to the ongoing pandemic recovery, it’s sure to be different than any year prior. But there are ample opportunities for brands to meet and exceed goals this holiday season. All it takes is a little elbow grease to get existing channels into shape, while also considering new opportunities in additional channels to reach your holiday business goals.

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