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Your 2017 Holiday Win List for Paid Search and Media

A few weeks ago, we hosted a webinar that dove into important aspects of paid search and digital media planning necessary to execute for the quickly approaching holiday season. In the webinar, which is available on demand, we elaborated on a few key areas of management, including how to build an effective holiday calendar, ways to target audiences using cutting-edge methods, and how to use digital to drive in-store purchases. Here, we’ll briefly touch on some of the points covered within these topics; for a more extensive discussion of these and other strategic areas of focus you should watch the webinar.

Building an effective holiday calendar

Each holiday period’s scheduling is a little different than the last due to the nature of the shifting number of days between Thanksgiving, when holiday shopping demand traditionally begins in earnest, and Christmas.

Thus, variables like the number of Mondays (when online shopping tends to pick up relative to other days of the week) and what day of the week a final shipping cutoff might occur are always changing from year to year. There are, however, some overarching trends that can help inform holiday planning.

For example, while Cyber Monday is still the largest online sales day of the holiday season, Black Friday is the fastest growing, as shoppers are increasingly logging on instead of lining up for Black Friday deals.

Paid Search Sales Growth Y/Y

This means your digital strategy needs to account for increased demand ahead of Cyber Monday. Particularly in the areas of display advertising, video, and paid social, brands should be planning the breakdown of spend between remarketing and prospecting well ahead of Thanksgiving. One popular strategy is to consider prospecting more aggressively ahead of the holidays — to retargeting to those users once holiday shopping starts in earnest.

Finally, be sure to look at your historical holiday performance overall but also by category/channel/device/etc., so that you can create this year’s holiday plan with any desired improvements and with your brand’s nuances in mind.

Cutting-edge audience targeting methods

Marketers have more audience levers available now than ever before across the different digital marketing channels, and sound holiday strategy requires a smart plan on how to use these audiences effectively.

If you read Merkle’s blog last holiday season, you know that we advocate for creating Google Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) specifically for holiday shoppers. Because these lists don’t backfill at all, advertisers have to create lists ahead of the days that they’re intended to capture users.

Along with creating lists during this year’s holiday season, consider what CRM data you can leverage to re-engage customers that have purchased from you in the past during the holiday season. These lists can easily be pushed to both paid social and display channels for targeting or look-alike modeling, or used in the same fashion on Google through RLSA.

Hopefully you planned ahead last year and have these lists to call on this year. If not, certainly consider building out holiday-focused lists ahead of Thanksgiving, or collect this first-party data within your CRM system this year for use next year.

In paid social and display media, it’s key to implement platform pixels and begin building audiences well ahead of the holidays, as well as to consider extending audience duration. One advertiser found that 55 percent of Cyber Weekend sales had a first touch prior to Thanksgiving, so it’s important to ensure that remarketing efforts during the holidays are reaching users who may have clicked far in advance.

Cumulative Cyber Weekend Adjust Sales

Use digital to drive in-store purchases

It’s no secret that shoppers often look online before heading to a brick-and-mortar location for purchases, so advertisers with physical store locations need to be thinking about how digital can help increase store foot traffic.

That means taking advantage of local-focused ad units such as Google Local Inventory Ads (LIA), which give searchers information on when a product is available at a nearby store location. These ad units have grown significantly as a share of brick-and-mortar advertisers’ traffic over the past couple of years.

LIA Google Shopping Click Share

Obviously, a large part of the value of local units like LIAs is observed in-store, so it’s crucial that brands deploying them seek to measure the offline impact of their online ad units. Tracking and modelling these conversions can have a significant effect on the observed ROI of digital marketing efforts, and will help marketers more effectively allocate spend given the expected offline value of different channels.

Potential Results

These are just some of the important observations we shared in Merkle’s recent holiday webinar. For the full discussion of tips and tricks you need to know heading into this holiday season, watch the webinar today. Also, keep checking out the Merkle blog as we continue sharing valuable insights in the lead up to the biggest shopping season of the year.