Christmas in July: 4 ways to maximize your holiday ad budget
It's time to unwrap your holiday ad strategy! Columnist Andrew Waber's data-backed recommendations will help you prepare for the season and stay a step ahead of your competitors.
When it comes to advertising during the all-important holiday season, there isn’t such a thing as “planning too early.” The competitive environment has only grown more intense over the past several years, and large, innovative advertisers are increasingly using the summer months as the time to meticulously structure their larger holiday season strategy and associated tactics.
As an addendum to last year’s column on the subject, I want to highlight some data-backed recommendations to take to heart as you begin to scope and spec out your holiday ad strategy.
1. Focus your big pushes around weekends
The most noteworthy change to purchase behavior during the holiday season is the shift of the heaviest same-day purchase activity occurring on weekends (email registration required), rather than the weekday-centric trend seen during the rest of the year.
While weekdays still see substantial numbers of purchases during the holidays, this behavioral trend can help structure your overall campaign strategy going into the shopping season. As one basic example, you could test new or updated creative during the week to gauge customer affect, then amp up the budget and bids on the highest performers leading into the weekend to maximize results.
It’s also worth noting your historical campaign performance on weekends, and whether certain ad types or messages are already resonating more during certain days of the week.
2. Harness in-app insights to drive purchases
For companies with a substantial app user base, pairing your app with a mobile measurement partner (MMP) and/or a broader SDK (software development kit) solution has presented itself as a major lever for improving ad performance and optimizing budget allocations.
MMPs and SDKs can identify how users interact with your app and help you pinpoint and remove any hurdles that may lead them to abandon their shopping carts before making a purchase. For the holiday season, this ability to map in-app behavior to ad decision-making can help inform strategies around driving repeat purchasers, allowing you to quickly re-engage previous purchasers who have reopened the app, and retargeting them with related products based on what they just viewed.
Additionally, MMPs and SDKs can help spur newer customers to purchase by recognizing patterns in in-app behavior — for instance, understanding how a video product demo watched in-app is tied to subsequent purchase activity, allowing for automatic targeting and segmentation of high-value users going forward.
3. Don’t skimp on your bids
To the surprise of no one, the intense advertiser demand for inventory during the holiday season results in price increases across a wide variety of audiences. Looking at global Facebook advertising, Nanigans’ benchmark reports have observed the past three average Q4 CPMs jumping 40 percent, 48 percent and 24 percent on a quarter-over-quarter basis, respectively.
The flip side is that purchase rates rise by roughly 2X from non-holiday periods. This is what your ad strategy should be focused on — if you can bid high enough to get in front of users you know are valuable, the increase in purchase frequency should drive revenue that more than makes up for the increase in average CPM.
During the holiday season, it’s well worth having a plan and being aggressive in the face of expected price increases.
4. Proactively use retargeting to get ahead of competitors
With a lot of shoppers making a wider variety and a greater number of purchases over the holiday season as compared to the rest of the year, prospecting remains an incredibly valuable strategic pillar for marketers. However, shoppers who are already familiar with your brand and slate of offerings represent a great way to jump-start your holiday season sales.
For users you’ve already gone to the trouble of acquiring earlier in the year, re-engage early and often, ensuring that they’re continually engaged. Use data from a website pixel, MMP or SDK to reach out to lapsed users, such as those who haven’t opened your app in the last 30 days.
Try running re-engagement ads with fresh creative that highlights products they might not have seen yet. Or invite them to an exclusive sale or flash sale. Creating a sense of urgency is sometimes all it takes to drive a return visit.
All these tactical and strategic considerations revolve around leveraging your existing knowledge of your target audiences to stay ahead of your competitors. The nature of the holiday season requires marketers to be vigilant in how they allocate their resources. It’s a lucrative, but at the same time-expensive and cutthroat, time of year.
Knowing what your target customers respond to and putting yourself in a position to quickly leverage any applicable learnings, particularly through the use of an SDK/MMP or a website pixel, will help tremendously in intelligently allocating ad spend to maximize ROI.