The Pre-Holiday Planning Guide You Can’t Afford To Miss

By Carrie Albright | @Albright_C | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

Although you may still be recovering from your banner Back to School year, I regret to inform you that it’s not time to relax just yet. That’s right, it’s time to prep for your 2015 Holiday Season!


Any seasoned ecommerce vet will tell you that if you’re not ready by September, you’re already getting left behind. Although we’re midway into September, I’m going to give you a few easy tips to verify that you’re on your way to a successful holiday season. There are all sorts of oldie-but-goodie posts about how to prepare for the Nov-Dec madness, but as times and technology change, you deserve an update.


Where to begin? There are 3 major points to review:


  • Your year-over-year performance
  • Your retargeting capabilities & strategy
  • The new stuff that you can afford to miss out on (at least, not during the ‘high season’ for retailers)


Year Over Year


Your initial step in preparing for the coming year is to look back. Begin this process with seeing how interest in your brand or your products grows over the season. Using Google Trends, we can see that both of these sample gift ideas see a peak in the pre-holiday season.


Holiday Trends


After examining industry trends, parse through your own data and experiences:


  • Which dates saw a surge in impressions (meaning the searches were occurring)?


Impression Volume


  • What days saw a boost in CTR (meaning your ads or products resonated most with your shoppers)?




  • When were your sales most cost-effective (meaning you effectively connected shoppers to a relevant product with a competitive price)?




Be sure to look at your own data as well as industry-wide numbers to ensure you’re taking advantage of your strong suits as well as what your competitors are doing.


This leads us to the topic of budget allocation. When looking at last year’s data, it’s important to identify what your budget choices were based upon. It’s easy to look at volume and say “We beat the previous year’s ROI by 15%” or “Conversion rate was up 10% YoY,” but until you identify how you utilized your budget, you’ve still got work to do.


One way to evaluate the success of your budget allocation is to look at your Lost Impression Share due to budget restrictions.


Lost IS (Budget)


In the industry for this particular client, we try to stay at 85% Impression Share or above. This Google data shows that we hit this mark throughout the majority of our holiday season. We can also see that on the most competitive days of the year, we held our own. For the coming year, we’ll continue to do the same, as well as making sure that on our top performing days, budget isn’t a factor.


That’s right, I said it: Open those floodgates, people.


The last thing you want is to lose precious sales because you were afraid to turn on the ad spend.


We’ve seen shoppers getting more and more aggressive in the purchase cycle, with Thanksgiving Day more than a 50% increase in shoppers year over year. This client saw more than double the Thanksgiving Day purchases between 2013 and 2014.


The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to open up budgets if you’re seeing the results come in.


You should also be revisiting the success of your promotions. What language performed best in your ad copy?


Reviewing your top messaging may entail working with your merchandising department on the promotions for the 2015 holiday season, or simply changing what you tell which customers.


Ad customizers are a perfect opportunity to work with a seasonal crowd. By showing the countdown to 1) begin saving with an upcoming holiday promotion 2) hurry before a sale ends or 3) the arrival of the gift-giving date, ad customizers (automated or manual) give you clear results.




The first question is if returning visitors actually produce better sales volume and average order value. To do this, I’d recommend looking at your Google Analytics data, which can break it down quite simply:


GA Returning


The data above shows that both average order value and conversion rate are improved for returning shoppers. And more than that, the paid search piece of our traffic outpaces the average visitors’ sales, another nod to the desperate need for remarketing.


Have you taken advantage of Remarketing segments for shopping? By targeting your visitors based on how far into the shopping process they traveled, you can identify the barrier to checkout. Do you lose shoppers when they have the chance to return to add just a few more items and then never complete a purchase? Do you find that your billing and shipping forms only get partially completed? Depending on what lost your shoppers, you can identify if there’s a need to improve the checkout process or simply lure them back to the site to continue their purchase.


Dynamic Remarketing is the darling of the e-comm retargeting world, as you have the opportunity to show previous shoppers items they have yet to finish purchasing, or perhaps items that complement the product they’ve just bought.




Although optimizing upon what’s worked best for you in the past is the first step, and improving how you market your existing customer base is step two, there’s so much more out there.


Paid search and digital marketing channels have continued to develop in the past many years and 2015 was no different.


Facebook – Multi-product ads are the new favorite for showing various relevant products to your customers & similar audiences. If you’re an ecomm client and aren’t versed in the many options for Facebook, do so now.


Twitter – Advertising on Twitter has gotten so much easier in the past few years, with customizable target audiences and new ad options. Although entire blog posts have been dedicated to the subject, I’ll just leave you with my top two reference articles.


Instagram – Although Instagram is still new, there are some pretty amazing opportunities to use Instagram ads and also remarketing to your Instagram followers.


Pinterest – At long last Pinterest is available for the advertising. Although there are fewer case studies revealing the true impact of Promoted Pins, we’ve got lots of tips to help you through the process. Now that the wait to be whitelisted has expired, we expect many of our e-commerce PPC buddies to start rolling out the success stories! As a pre-holiday strategy, your first step in Pinterest ads is getting started right now.


Gmail ads – Formerly Gmail Sponsored Promotions, these ads slide right into one’s Gmail Inbox and are capable of marketing to users based on contextual targets, referring addresses, and overall email content. If you’re on the fence about using Gmail ads, the holiday season is prime time to create a trial run. Because you can continually remarket to all those who’ve visited your site, Gmail ads offer the opportunity for more customized advertising as well as additional sales.


And when in doubt, focus on retargeting and prospecting platforms to give your marketing an extra boost.


Although these are just the bones of the holiday strategy you should be embarking upon, we’ll continue to roll out many more guides on how to set up and execute a strategy that would make this year your best yet!