This year’s online holiday shopping season will be one for the record books. Before we discuss how to get ready for the online shopping frenzy, let’s first highlight a few expectations to keep in mind.
- Most people say they’ll shop more online or exclusively online this year. It could be a rough holiday season for brick and mortar stores, but online retailers are in prime position to see a windfall. Prior to the pandemic, eCommerce was growing at 14% per year. That number could be as high as 28% for 2020 compared to 2019 (Business Wire). A recent survey conducted by Google shows that 72% of holiday shoppers plan to shop more online this season than last year. And 41% of Black Friday in-store shoppers say that they will stay online this year.
- Competition for online purchases will likely be fierce. Some brick and mortar retailers who also sell online were caught off guard by the pandemic (as we all were). Many weren’t ready to handle increased online shopping during initial lockdowns. Expect more retailers to have their online act together for the holiday shopping season.
- Online shopping will likely start earlier. The same Google study I referenced above also indicated that 69% of holiday shoppers will shop earlier this year to avoid items being out of stock. Doing the right things now will help ensure you get your fair share (or more) of this year’s increased online spend. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say. Taking the right steps now will likely save heartache and disappointment later, and allow you to be one of the retail winners this holiday season.
Ready to dominate the Cyber 5 this year?
Here are 5 tips to get you poised and ready for an amazing year.
1. Building Audiences NOW to Maximize Ad Budgets and Cut Through the Clutter Later.
It’s a certainty that ad costs will increase as holiday shopping kicks into high gear. Advertisers who’ve been sitting on the sidelines will go all-in with paid ad efforts trying to woo holiday shoppers. Not only will this drive up the cost of eCommerce advertising, it will also make cutting through the clutter and landing your message more difficult than usual. That’s why you need to start building audiences now.
In addition to closing sales and acquiring customers, now’s the time to build remarketing, email, SMS, and messenger lists. Costs are relatively low right now for advertising on channels like YouTube and the Google Display Network (GDN). Now is time to double down on your efforts to reach new shoppers at the top of the funnel. This will only get more expensive as the year rolls on. The good news is that you can continue to drive direct conversions while you build your lists.
With these lists properly built out, you can speak directly to your audience and deliver your holiday offers and promotions more affordably. Remarketing advertising is usually cheaper and more efficient than reaching cold audiences and the cost to deliver emails and SMS messages is negligible. For our clients, remarketing CPAs are often half to one-third the cost of cold traffic CPAs. If you build your audiences now, you’ll have the opportunity to shift more marketing dollars to your remarketing lists and away from more expensive targeting as ad costs rise.
2. Develop Compelling Offers that Support Your Brand
It’s easy to think short term during the holiday shopping buzz. It’s even necessary. That said, you can’t sacrifice long-term brand performance to squeeze a few extra percentage points of growth out of this year’s holiday shopping season.
Here are some things to consider as you plan out your holiday offers:
- People expect deals, offers, and “on-point” messaging. Shoppers expect something special during the holidays. Keeping your message or your offers exactly the same likely won’t be enough to maximize your results.
- What deals will motivate customers while protecting your brand? Going too deep on price cuts can result in a quick sales bonanza, but could train shoppers to wait for your next deal rather than paying full price. We have several clients who rarely discount. In those cases a simple 10% discount on certain products can feel like a big deal and won’t erode profits or hurt your brand perception. Bundling products can also be an easy way to discount a little without making it seem like you’re slashing prices. Plus, bundles can make gift buying easier. Bundles can often make for better gifts than a single product.
- Deals are important, but so is convenience. What about helping people achieve their ultimate goal - getting the right gift at the right time with little hassle? How about highlighting fast shipping or at least guaranteed shipping? Sometimes convenience outweighs saving a buck for certain shoppers.
- Deals that don’t involve discounting. What about free bonus gifts or mystery gifts? Our friends at Groove Life now offer a deeply discounted “mystery gift” ring as an upsell when you’re ordering your ring. This is a brilliant strategy any time, but especially during the holidays. A mystery ring could be a perfect stocking stuffer or gift for that hard-to-buy-for special someone.
3. Fill in the Gaps in Your Search and Shopping Approach
We audit hundreds of Google search ads accounts each year in addition to the accounts we manage on an ongoing basis. It’s very common for us to audit accounts that are doing fine on the surface, but missing serious opportunities when we dig a little deeper. It’s not uncommon to see Google search and shopping campaigns delivering a 300% ROAS or higher creating the illusion that all is well. Upon deeper examination, we often find several features, settings, targeting options, etc. that could allow for the same or better returns, but with much greater volume.
- Capitalize on free Google Shopping listings. Surfaces Across Google is a new program that allows for your product listings to appear in organic Google Shopping results on the Google Shopping tab, Google Images, Google Lens and more - for free. All you have to do to enable Surfaces Across Google is select a check box in your feed settings in Google Merchant Center. That’s just the first step though. You won’t get much visibility if your feed isn’t optimized. For more on feed optimization, check out our Ultimate Guide to Google Shopping Management.
- Unleash Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs). Dynamic Search Ads allow you to harness Google’s machine learning to run Google search ads for all of your product catalogs without requiring a super detailed build out of keywords and ad groups. This can be a pretty easy step to really increasing your Google search ad volume.
- Highlight promotional pricing. If you are running discounts for the holidays, you can take advantage of promotional pricing both in Google Search ads and Shopping ads. For Google Search ads, you need to run promotion extensions that allow for your sales details to show under your existing Search ads. For Shopping, you can use the “sales price” field. This will allow Google to highlight that your price has dropped and your item is on sale. This is a powerful visualization that increases clicks on your listings and helps increase sales.
- Leverage the new Google Shopping feed fields. Google recently released three new Shopping feed fields that can help make your products more visible and more attractive to shoppers. These fields provide additional information to Google that can influence when they show your products. These fields also add some selling power to your listings. You can read more about these three fields in the following Google help articles: Product Highlights, Sales Price Annotation, Product Details.
- Ready your bid strategy. Get ready to bid more aggressively. As competition heats up, bid levels required to reach customers also go up. One simple way to get your bids ready is to use a bid automation strategy like target return on ad spend (target ROAS). As conversion rates increase during holiday shopping, using a bid strategy like target ROAS will allow Google to bid more aggressively and still reach your ROAS goals.
4. Implement a Four-Pronged Remarketing Structure
Another shortcoming we often see when auditing Google Search Ads accounts is under-developed remarketing campaign structures. Most eCommerce brands are engaged in remarketing, but very few are getting the most from it. One of the first steps you can take is to make sure you are running remarketing ads in all of the channels that make sense for your brand. Here are the four channels we recommend for remarketing for most eCommerce brands.
- Discovery & Gmail ads. Discovery ads show up as a Display ad on YouTube, Gmail, and in the Google Discover feed (on your mobile Google app). These ads really command attention and show up in placements where your competitors probably aren’t advertising. Gmail ads look like emails in the Gmail app or on Gmail for desktop. We often see Discovery and Gmail ads perform 30-50% better than standard display ads.
- YouTube Marketing. We recommend two campaign types for remarketing video ads on YouTube. The first is Trueview for Action that allows you to bid on a target CPA basis. The other is Trueview for Shopping which allows you to run pre-roll YouTube in-stream video ads with corresponding Google Shopping ads appearing next to your video ad. TrueView for Shopping is run on a cost per view (CPV) basis.
- Google Display Network (GDN). GDN is what most people think of when they think remarketing on Google. We recommend Google dynamic remarketing where Google uses your product feed to build custom ads tailored to your shoppers. With Google dynamic remarketing, shoppers see ads featuring the actual products people looked at on your website. We also recommend responsive ads where you give Google a few headlines, descriptions, and images and they will mix and match to create a great ad. Responsive ads are preferred to static ads and allow for more placement opportunities and more visibility.
- Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs). It’s very common for shoppers to see an ad for you, visit your site, not purchase, and then forget your name. Enter RLSAs. This allows you to target search ads or shopping ads to remarketing lists. If a previous site visitor is back on Google searching for products like yours, you definitely want your ad to show for them. RLSAs help you do that.
5. Get YouTube Top of Funnel Efforts Dialed in Now
We have a lot of merchants who come to us because they’ve had success on Facebook and they want to diversify into YouTube traffic. We’re a top spender on YouTube ads for agencies our size, so our reputation precedes us a bit. We’ve found that if a company can successfully run video ads to cold audiences on Facebook, then YouTube ads will most likely be a good fit too, BUT - the platform is quite different. The structure and length of video ads that work on YouTube are quite different from video ads on Facebook that work. It often takes a few weeks to a few months to dial in your YouTube marketing performance. It’s much easier to find the right combinations of winning audiences, videos, and landing pages BEFORE holiday shopping reaches its peak.
Here are a few tips:
- Run trueview for action ads. This allows you to bid on a tCPA basis so that Google will optimize for conversions.
- Build a viewed video audience and a remarketing audience. I know I mentioned this above, but it’s really critical that you capture both video video audiences and site remarketing audiences.
- Capitalize on increased inventory. I got my start with video marketing running TV ads. TV inventory is based on time. Each prime time show or live sporting event only has so many available slots in it. YouTube inventory is based on users. The more users, the more inventory. Since the start of the pandemic, viewership is up on YouTube for TV screens by 80%. This increased viewership has kept YouTube ad costs down a bit. Your ability to reach your ideal audience is better now than ever before.
- Start with Custom Intent. One of the great differentiators between YouTube and other online platforms is the ability to understand user intent. Now, you can target YouTube ads based on what someone has recently searched for on Google. You can also target someone based on what they are searching for and watching on YouTube at the moment. Reaching the right shopper at the right time is easy on YouTube.
There’s no time like the present. Take action now to get the absolute most you can out of this year’s holiday shopping season.
Need more help getting ready? The team at OMG is happy to review your current campaign setup via a free strategy session. Or check out a few of our guides and resources to help you get ready to crush the holidays.