3 Easy Steps To Success For Holiday eCommerce

By Amanda West-Bookwalter | @Amanda_WestBook | Senior Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing

For November’s series we’re diving into the exciting world of the holiday season. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and Boxing Day (for our non-American friends) all approaching quickly we’re sharing our favorite tips & tricks for strong holiday-PPC results. Carrie dived into the exciting world of holiday ad copy earlier this week, Sam discussed how to make your holiday landing pages a blast, Kayla helped plan your budgets, and Eric went over how you can make your Facebook advertising efforts a little more festive. Today, for our final installment in this series, we’ll talk about how to make sure you’re ready to make the most out of the biggest sales days of the season.

This Holiday season will be all about making the biggest days work for you, and making the absolute most out of the traffic available on these days. If you screw up Cyber Monday, you’ll be hard pressed to make up that lost revenue anywhere else this season. So, follow these three easy steps to make the most of this season!

What are the “biggest days” anyway?

The anticipated top spending days for online holiday sales this year are November 27th & 28th, December 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, and 18th. Out of those days, the biggest will likely be Cyber Monday (December 2nd). However, you should already be in the thick of things right now. Shoppers started their holiday shopping before Halloween this year, and advertisers were right there with them. I know I walked into the Dollar Tree in early October and saw some Christmas decorations!

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 8.01.45 AM


What should be done to make the most of these days?

This is what you all came here to read about! First of all, make sure you read the other posts in the series this week. I’ve linked them all above the article! What they cover for how to prep for this holiday season that I won’t cover: optimizing your landing pages for conversion rates, optimizing your Facebook ads, setting appropriate budgets, and holiday remarketing on the Display Network.

The 3 Easy Steps To Success For Holiday eCommerce:

  1. Utilize Remarketing for Search

I can barely stand how awesome this product is. It allows you to target audiences based around who has or hasn’t visited whatever page of your site that you want. Hopefully you’ve got your site coded with your universal remarketing tag, so you can build out audiences in AdWords based on URL now. If that’s the case, you should be able to see estimated audience sizes for Google Search based on audiences you’ve already built out. I’ve found when I create new audiences based on URLs, the estimates for audience size are at least there by the next day. 

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 8.15.03 AM

So, what’s this mean for you and these colossal online shopping days? Think about your product you’re selling this holiday season. Think about all the super generic terms you could use to describe them or that people could be searching for that could possibly result in a sale for you. You’d never bid on those keywords because they’re so crazy competitive and likely to have low CTR and low conversion rates, right? Well, with remarketing for search, you can pre-qualify your audience and actually use these crazy keywords!

Keyword Lists

I’m assuming since you’re reading this that you sell stuff people would buy for the holidays on your site. You would probably say people searching for Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers could potentially be interested in your products. Your keyword list could look something like this in your holiday remarketing for search campaign:

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 8.31.49 AM

If you pre-qualify your audience for this campaign to be people who have visited your site, you could see great results. They’re already familiar with your brand, so if they hated you before and you make it clear in the ad who you are, they’ll likely choose not to click. But if they were semi-interested before, and choose to click over again, they’re way more likely to buy.

Audience Strategy

If you’re familiar with remarketing, then you’re familiar with all the awesome custom combinations you can make to target specific people. The most popular option for this is targeting people who have put something in your cart and not actually purchased it. Also, with this awesome product, you can target multiple audiences and use the bid modification system to change your CPCs for each. It would look like this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 8.58.30 AM

Here, I am saying that I want to show ads to all people who have visited my site, and I’ve set my CPCs to be appropriate for that size/quality of audience. However, if people have put something in the cart and not purchased it, I consider them more valuable and there’s obviously less of them, so I want to bid an additional 40% to my max CPC.

You’re probably familiar with best practices for remarketing ad copy, but if you’re not, and even if you are–make sure to check out Carrie’s series post this week for how to make the most of it!

The big win here is that you can use all the cool features and quality audience that comes with remarketing, but target them when they’re actively searching for products to buy instead of just tooling around on the internet.

2.  Use Special Offers & Shout Them From The Rooftop

A big part of being competitive and getting the conversion rates you want this season will be centered around giving special offers.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 9.26.09 AM


These survey results show that last year, people really took advantage of sales offered. With so many people taking advantage, you’ll be the stand-out for all the wrong reasons if you don’t have special offers this season.

One of the most important deals to offer this season will be free shipping. 1 in 5 said on a Google Consumer Survey from July 2013 that Free Shipping would be the deciding factor in their online holiday purchases for 2013. In 2012, Free Shipping Day was just behind Black Friday in terms of sales generated. If you don’t already offer free shipping, you should think of way to offer it as a special deal, at least at a specified dollar amount in terms of total order cost.

You should also plan out your ads to showcase these offers and specials. Get a list together of specials and offers being ran and create ad copy for them now. You should use automated rules to enable and pause the ads.

Let’s say your ad is for “20% Off The Whole Site” and it should run Nov. 26th until Nov. 29th. Select the ad(s), and then select “automate”. An enabling rule will look like this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 9.44.35 AM


A pausing rule will look like this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 9.47.18 AM


Read more about getting your site and landing pages ready for the holidays with Sam’s series post this week, but make sure you land these offer/promotional ads on a page that matches. If your landing page doesn’t follow-through with the offer/promotion, it’s a good chance they’ll think it was a scam, get frustrated, and bounce.

3.   Perform An Ad review

Surely you’ll be making custom holiday ads that are just killer. But, keep in mind something that a lot of people don’t realize is having a test where one ad is really not matching up to the competition could be a lot of lost opportunity for you. This is especially true for these enormous days!

Here’s an example. There are two ads in this ad group, and the settings for ad rotation is “rotate evenly indefinitely”.


Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 10.19.06 AM

You can see that by having a test where one ad was a little worse than the other, sales were lost. If the top ad had gotten the bottom ad’s 21,093 impressions, it would have resulted in 365 clicks instead of 341 clicks. While only 24 clicks may have been lost, if those impressions had been sent to the other ad, it would have resulted in 10 sales instead of the 6 sales the losing ad got with those impressions. Sure, that’s only 4 sales, but that’s just one ad group over a limited time range in the non-peak holiday season. Imagine what this would look like in multiple ad groups during the peak seasonal time. That can add up to LOTS of money lost.

The key takeaway with this step is to do an ad review and make sure you’re running with your best ads only. This isn’t really the time to be testing ads. Use what works, and incorporate those promotional and offer ads with that. If you do test anything during this time period, make sure you’re super quick to call these tests!