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As summer transitions gracefully into fall, the holiday shopping season suddenly looms large in the minds of marketers and business owners across the country. There’s a lot of uncertainty on the horizon for eCommerce sellers this year thanks to the Delta variant, supply chain challenges and the government winding down pandemic-era support programs like expanded unemployment benefits. What’s more, major players like Amazon and WalMart won’t pull back their advertising positions like they did last year. These factors set the stage for an ultra-competitive ecommerce environment where more sellers fight to attract fewer buyers. Under these circumstances, sellers must finalize their eCommerce strategies now or risk falling behind when November rolls around.
While 2020 was a record-breaking holiday season for just about everyone, I don’t anticipate the 2021 season being the same. Cost-per-click (CPC) prices are already higher year-over-year and will likely only increase the closer we get to Thanksgiving and Black Friday. That means sellers should expect to spend more this year to attract the same traffic levels as last year. Sellers should also consider adding new tricks to their eCommerce repertoire to improve their competitive position. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Entering a hyper-competitive holiday season without a plan of attack is an invitation for disaster. You risk losing money, you could miss out on meaningful opportunities and worst of all, your results could suffer. With so much on the line, it’s critical to take a hard look at your previous holiday results to search for areas of improvement.
Your strategy’s success will rest on the goals you’ve set. Many businesses look for annual revenue growth first, which is understandable. However, there could be other valuable objectives that will continue bringing returns even after we ring in the New Year. For example, you may want to reduce inventory, allowing you to spend less of your advertising budget while increasing warehouse space and boosting profits. Another smart play is to pursue new customer acquisitions — even if they’re not profitable now — to grow customer lifetime value in 2022 and beyond.
As you develop goals for your business, use the SMART system (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) to make sure they align with your strategic improvement opportunities.
Novice marketers often make the mistake of dividing their ad spend arbitrarily between channels when they should be strategically allocating that money based on the goals they want to achieve. For example, Facebook is an excellent prospecting tool, but it’s not as effective at driving sales. By contrast, Google Ads do a great job capturing demand but are less effective at targeting customers who’ve never heard of your brand. Ideally, you’ll emphasize your spending on channels that best support your goals while minimizing spending on channels that don’t.
You can begin shifting your perspective here by dividing your audience into three distinct groups: current customers, people in search of the product you sell and people who are unfamiliar with your brand. Your strategy and goals should dictate which of these audiences you want to prioritize, which, in turn, will tell you how best to spend your budget to support your holiday strategy.
For example, suppose your goal is to increase seasonal revenue. In that case, you’ll maximize spending on Microsoft and Google ads to capture existing demand while targeting current customers through email and loyalty programs. If you want to pursue new acquisitions instead, you’ll focus on social media brand-building campaigns and capturing search traffic. Regardless of your chosen objective, knowing that every channel targets the market differently will help build a more focused strategy.
Another common mistake marketers make is to portion their ad spending evenly in October, November and December, which doesn’t take consumer behavior into account. eCommerce Buyers typically begin researching and window shopping in October and early November before starting to actively purchase during the high-traffic days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday — known colloquially as the “Turkey Five.”
Ideally, your ad spending should mirror this consumer behavior, beginning small on October 1 and steadily increasing with 80% of your total spending happening in the two weeks before and after Thanksgiving, then decreasing until Christmas.
Once new customers arrive at your website, you need to pull out all the stops convincing them to spend as much as possible. One way to do this is by offering a gift when a buyer reaches a purchase threshold or creating limited edition holiday bundles that combine similar products or your most popular product paired with something new. These strategies encourage visitors to spend more while giving them something of value in return. They’re also effective methods of raising revenue without adding discounts.
If this year’s holiday shopping season is as competitive as we expect it to be, marketers will need to remain flexible with their goals and spending throughout the fourth quarter. For example, if a strategy isn’t working, you need to move quickly to plan B. Conversely, you should also have the capability to invest more heavily into successful strategies. It may also be necessary to increase spending if you’re running behind on your objectives. You’ll need to stay engaged with your ad accounts throughout the holidays so you can pivot if necessary and put yourself in the best position to find success.
Current customers are often the largest revenue source for businesses during major shopping periods, so it’s in your best interest to find more people just like them. Both Facebook and Google offer tools that allow you to target previous purchasers with ad campaigns. Facebook also allows you to create lookalike audiences that mimic your email lists or other customer data points. Both these options are easy ways to target committed buyers and to prospect for similar buyers.
While there’s no way to know for certain what the upcoming holiday season will bring, sellers who enter the fourth quarter with a well-thought-out strategy have the best chance for success. Hopefully, you can use these tips to supercharge your plan and enter the upcoming months with renewed confidence.
Matt Meeker is an omni-channel growth strategist at Logical Position, an Inc. 500 company headquartered in Oregon with offices nationwide. The agency offers full-service PPC management, SEO, and website design solutions for businesses large and small, and was ranked as the third best place to work in America by Inc. Magazine.

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