With the holiday season approaching, many retailers are turning their attention toward meeting their year-end goals. For most e-commerce retailers and brands, the fourth quarter of the year is an extremely important time which can make up a majority of their annual revenue. In working with many different brands, we at Power Digital have found that the key to winning the holiday season and seeing success at the end of the year is creating an incredibly clear plan ahead of schedule.
As you look to get started in creating your holiday marketing plan, you’ll want to have one very important meeting first. Your marketing team needs to be in very close alignment with your executive leadership team to ensure there is consensus regarding a number of vital areas of your plan. Be sure the executive team understands and agrees with your goals and how you plan to get there.
You don’t want to put your plan in motion only to find out the executives have different objectives and expectations for your team. Consider discussing your budget, advertising spends, goal numbers, focal products for promotions, and how you intend to prepare any necessary systems for the increase in demand seen at the end of the year.
You will want to have this alignment meeting as early as possible in your holiday planning, August or September is a good goal. This initial alignment will help you craft your plan with confidence. All details of the plan should be finalized prior to the end of September with all stakeholders agreeing on the proposed course of action.
Building The Plan
Developing a plan for the last three or four months of the year can feel overwhelming at first, but it will greatly improve the likelihood of your success. Move through the creation of the plan in a logical order to make sure you don’t forget any necessary aspects that could influence your performance. Here is how we recommend getting started.
Evaluate Your Budgets
As summer draws to a close, take a look at how your advertising budgets and media spends have been pacing throughout the third quarter. Use this data to make any necessary adjustments and set specific budgets for September, October, November, and December. Doing this work now will help you capitalize on this busy time of year later.
After you have your budget made and your advertising spends set, be sure to continuously evaluate their accuracy. Making adjustments to your spends as you go will help improve your performance and monitoring your budget will mitigate any surprises later. Better to know if you are going over budget earlier than later so you can make cuts if absolutely necessary.
Create Your Content
Throughout the holiday season you will want to have a lot of diversity and some redundancy in your ad creatives. If you push the same content over and over again it will no longer draw the attention of your audience, but creating different content with familiar elements will keep your audience engaged and excited. For example, you won’t have just one or two Black Friday creatives, you’ll want to have at least five but probably closer to ten or so to test.
Start creating this content now and develop a large bank of holiday specific creative assets that you can use in new ways throughout the season. This will save you a ton of time later. Plus, you’ll be able to test the creatives as you go and rotate any underperformers out quickly if needed.
Prioritize Your Products
Do some analysis on your products and select which ones you will focus on during the holiday season. These should be some of your most profitable products that support the business goals and consumer demand. You may also want to consider which products are the most relevant to the holiday season. Once you have identified those products, make sure you have a solid inventory as the season begins to pick up and a plan for how to handle any sellouts.
Start Your Outreach
You want to begin driving brand awareness and top of funnel traffic up during a less competitive time of year. So start your big media push early, think mid to late September. This way, by the time the holidays come around you will already have a group of people in your sales funnel. You’ll have an advantage over your competitors who start later. Plus, waiting for the season to get closer often means paying higher premiums for advertising.
Finalize Your Promotions
Prior to October 1, you will want to finalize your holiday promotion calendar. The key to a successful promotion during the holiday season is ensuring that your messaging and offers are aligned and consistent across all channels. This includes your website, paid advertising, content, influencer marketing, all social media channels, email marketing and more. A holiday promotion calendar like this will help dictate that all of your strategies are working together.
As your finalize your promotions, be sure to include alternative content and backup plans in case certain promotions don’t produce the lift or engagement you would like to see. Having these contingencies in place now will help you to quickly rectify any unfavorable situation in the midst of the holiday season.
Establish Your Checkpoints
Make sure you have noted certain days or times to check in on how things are going. Your whole team should be aware of when these checkpoints are happening to ensure alignment across all members. At each point, identify the wins and losses so far and take the key learnings forward as you continue your holiday push.
The Holiday Calendar
While building your plan, it’s critical to map out the key dates of the holiday season. Below is a list of some of the key dates for most eCommerce brands.
- Wednesday, November 1 This is the unofficial kickoff for the holiday season. With Thanksgiving falling earlier in the month, you will want to make sure your ad spends and campaigns are up and running earlier as well. You will also want to update your website with holiday creatives around this time as well.
- Sunday, November 19 to Saturday, November 25 The week of Thanksgiving is when you want to have a huge media push. Create specific offers and promotions around the Thanksgiving holiday and make sure your customers know about them. This is the time that most consumers really start their holiday shopping.
- Friday, November 24 Black Friday. What started as a mall holiday has started trending digital more and more each year as shoppers flock to websites in order to avoid crowded malls. This will also queue up a retargeting pool for the next big day, Cyber Monday.
- Monday, November 27 Cyber Monday. A huge day for eCommerce sales. You will need to be prepared for increased traffic and demand on products, especially those you are promoting or have special offers on.
- Monday, December 11 Green Monday. Similar to Cyber Monday this is routinely one of the best days for online sales in December. Shoppers can still purchase in time for Christmas and Hanukkah starts the very next day. So you will want to take advantage of this by working in any promotions for last minute consumers.
- Friday, December 15 Free Shipping Day. The official event is on Friday the 15th, but consider advertising your own free shipping day to stand out from the crowd. You may even consider running the special for a few days to entice more last minute Christmas shoppers.
- Tuesday, December 26 This is the start of the post-holiday promotion period. You’ll want to run these promotions through New Year’s Eve and into the follow week. Take advantage of the opportunity that New Year’s Eve brings by showing products and creating marketing that fit a resolutions theme. Be sure to keep this period in your budget for the holiday season because many competitors will stop running their campaigns as they run out of money. As a result, we have found that cost-per-click can become cheaper and you may see broader reach.
A successful holiday may be vital to a successful year, but with a well-thought and clear plan you can breeze through this time of year while seeing incredible results. Alignment and consensus across your team and leadership will be necessary to achieve your goals, but once everyone is on the same page you will be unstoppable.