2018 Holiday Season: 8 proven ad campaigns you can start today

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With the holiday season accounting for nearly 30% of annual purchases, it’s a time of intense competition between sellers for traffic and sales. One way to stay ahead of the game is through advertising.

Ideally, you should have started building your holiday season advertising funnel by mid-September.

But even if you’re late to the game, here are 8 proven ad campaigns that you can start today to get up to speed. And if you are already advertising, you’ll find some advanced audience segmentation ideas and creative suggestions to help you refine your strategy further.

Before we get started, let’s run through the 4 basics that are required for every ad campaign: audience, offer, creative and budget.

1. AUDIENCE: The people who will be seeing your ad

This can be divided into:

  • Cold – people who have had no interaction with your brand.
  • Warm – people who have had some interaction with your brand, but not recently.
  • Hot – people who have visited your site in the last 30 days.

Tip: Check the size of each audience when you are setting up your campaigns. For an ad to be effective, your audience size should be at least 1000 for retargeting (hot or warm audience) and 1 million for a cold audience.

2. OFFER: The ‘hook’ you will be using for your audience

This is usually a discount or an exclusive. It could be a store-wide sale, a coupon, a daily deal, a BOGO offer, tiered pricing, bundles or a number of other variations. Keep in mind that during the holiday season, buyers expect big discounts. You could consider starting on your cold audience without a discount and then retargeting them with a discount once they are in your funnel.

Tip: Plan your entire funnel when you set your discount. For instance if you set a 65% store-wide sale, you may not leave yourself the ability to offer VIP customers or cart abandoners a further discount of 10%. It would be better to set a 50% sale so you can further discount for specific audience segments later.

3. CREATIVE: The graphic and copy of your ad

This is what your audience sees. It needs to resonate with them on an emotional level.

  • Graphic: Designed graphics tend to perform better than simple product images. Simply adding a discount, coupon code or text like ‘Best Seller’ to your graphic could make all the difference to your conversion rate. This is especially true for Instagram where the captions are de-emphasised and often missed by buyers.

We have found that designed graphics can lead to an increase of up to 30% in ROAS (Return On Ad Spend).

simple product imagedesigned graphic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Copy: This should echo your graphic. If your graphic says ‘Best Seller’, your copy can emphasise that by mentioning that the products are selling out fast and that only limited quantities are available.

Tip: Use urgency, scarcity or FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in your copy for best results. Think “Limited Stock”, “Selling Out Fast”, “Sale Ending this Weekend” or “Today Only”.

Example:

🎄‘Tis the Season for Sales! 🎄

Last chance to get 50% OFF entire store. HURRY, sale ends at midnight! ⌛

ad copy emphasizing FOMO

4. BUDGET: How much you plan to spend on your campaign

Here are some general guidelines for setting the daily budget for your ad sets.

  • For high confidence audiences (hot audiences, past buyers etc.), start with 2-3x AOV (2 to 3 times your Average Order Value) as your daily budget and scale this up or down based on performance. During the peak BFCM week or the first 2 weeks of December, when you need to bid aggressively, you can increase this to 3-5x AOV daily.
  • For new or low confidence audiences (cold/warm), start with 1.5x-2X AOV (1.5 to 2 times your Average Order Value) as the daily budget.

Tip: Once Facebook has had a chance to optimize your ad’s performance and finish its learning phase (48-72 hours), you can increase the budget for ad sets that perform well and decrease the budget for the ad sets that don’t. We recommend changing the budget in increments of 15% to 20% every 8 to 24 hours.

Now that we’re done with the basics. Let’s dive into the 8 campaigns that you should run this holiday season.

 

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The Holiday Advertising Roadmap

Advertising for the holidays is quite different from running ads during the rest of the year. The ad costs and competition for qualified buyers is very high. Plus, there are multiple big shopping events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year.

We’ve broken the entire holiday season into 5 distinct phases to help you plan and better manage ad costs. Each phase represents a different challenge and we’ll discuss 1 or 2 campaign ideas per phase to address these challenges.

Now let’s dig deep into each of these 5 phases of advertising.

holiday advertising roadmap

Phase I (Nov 1 – Nov 15): Audience Warm-up & Pre-sales

The cost of advertising tends to start rising in early November, peaking during the Black Friday / Cyber Monday (BFCM) week. So what can we do to optimize our advertising spend during the holiday season?

Solution:

i) Fill the top of the funnel with as many new potential buyers (cold audiences) as we can early on in the holiday season. Re-engaging them with retargeting ads later will be cheaper than targeting cold audiences later in the season.

ii) Re-engage past visitors and buyers (all hot and warm audiences) before the holidays, and reinforce brand recognition and recall.

Tip:  Use a mix of transactional ads (geared towards immediate sales with creatives highlighting discounts or urgency) and brand building ads (establishing brand recall with best sellers, new arrivals, customer reviews, blog posts). Pre-established brand awareness combined with effective creatives helps boost the click through rate during the retargeting phase of the funnel.

Campaigns: For this phase, we recommend the following 2 campaigns:

CAMPAIGN 1: Broad Reach

TYPE OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE BUDGET
Conversion Ad Purchase* Cold:
(a) 1% lookalike of your VIP buyers
(b) Audience based on behavior, interests and demographics**
1.5-2.5 times your AOV (Average Order Value)

*Sellers sometimes use Add-to-cart (ATC) as the objective as it is cheaper, but we recommend Purchase as using ATC results in Facebook optimizing for people who add to cart, but may not always purchase.

**Make multiple ad sets of different audiences to test efficacy of each audience. For example, you could have different ad sets for age ranges 18-24, 25-35, 36-45.

Example:

Take the time to choose a special gift for your loved one 💝

💕Our best-sellers are running out fast – don’t settle for second best!
Shop now!! 💕

broad reach targeting

Tip 1: Make sure you include at least 10 products for a carousel ad.

 

CAMPAIGN 2: Existing Customers

TYPE OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE BUDGET
Catalog Sales Purchase Retargeting :

(a) Hot & warm (pixel audience for the past  180 days)
(b) All past buyers*
2-3 times your AOV (Average Order Value)

*Your pixel only has data for the past 6 months. Upload a file with all your past buyers and retarget them now.

Tip: If you are running a new discount, you could consider removing purchasers in the last 7 days to avoid returns.

Example:

Beat the queues and get an early start on your Holiday purchases 🎄

🐥 For our valued customers only – use coupon EARLYBIRD for 30% off your entire purchase! Offer ends Friday!!

retargeting catalogs

Phase II (Nov 16 – Nov 21): Pre-BFCM Week

The cost of advertising is now rising fast. Our aim this week is to continue to grow the top of our funnel with new customers, and to start pushing sales to our existing customers and VIP segments.

Solution:

Segment your audiences based on the category of products that they have viewed or purchased from previously, and personalize the creative for each audience segment. For instance, a jewelry shop could have separate audiences for buyers of rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces.

You could also give your VIP customers (or all past customers) early access to the same offer that you plan on giving during BFCM week.

CAMPAIGN 1: Category-based targeting

Prep needed:

  • Select your 3-5 top categories.
  • Make separate audiences of people who viewed any product in each of these categories e.g. make 1 audience of people who saw any product from your ‘Ring’ collection and an separate audience for people who saw any product belonging to your  ‘Necklace’ collection.
  • Make separate 1% lookalike audiences for each of these category-visited audiences.
TYPE OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE BUDGET
Catalog Sales Purchase 2 ad sets per category*:

(a) Visitors who visited the category in the last 180 days

(b) 1% lookalike of the above.

1.5-2  times your AOV

*If you are promoting 3 categories, you’ll have 6 ad sets.

Example (creative targeting audience who viewed the ‘ring’ category in a shop):

🤐 Shhh…we won’t tell her that you got these stunning rings at 40% OFF!!

Use coupon FAB40 at checkout.

category based targeting

CAMPAIGN 2: VIPs (or all existing customers) get BFCM deals a week early. The idea here is to thank your buyers for their loyalty and reward them with exclusive early discounts.

Prep needed: Make an audience of all your past buyers or VIP buyers.

TYPE OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE BUDGET CREATIVE
Catalog sales Purchase All past buyers 2  times your AOV Designed Catalog

Tip: Emphasise that this is your best BFCM deal and add urgency around availability

Bonus Tip: Communicating the same deal via email and other channels will help reinforce the message and push up the Click Through Rate (CTR).

Example:

💖A special treat for our special customers. Exclusive 50% OFF coupon XCPFV just for you. 💖

Enjoy before stock runs out!!

loyalty & rewards targeting

Example 2:

Lucky Brand works this in through their email marketing, sending in a special email to their VIP customers.

Lucky Brand - Special VIP discount

 

Phase III (Nov 22 – Nov 26): BFCM Week

Ad costs have reached their peak. The main challenge now is to compete for impressions, clicks and conversions while keeping your ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) profitable.

Solution:

Run your best offers using catalogs and retarget all the pixel audience that you’ve worked hard to warm up during the last 3-4 weeks. Make sure you emphasise your offer in the creative.

Increase your budget to 3 to 4 times your usual retargeting budget. If you have any leftover budget, use this to target your past purchasers and your best performing cold audiences.

CAMPAIGN 1: Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs)

TYPE OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE BUDGET
Catalog Sales (DPA) Purchase Pixel visitors in the last 180 days 3-5 times your AOV

Example:

🎁Have we got a treat for you! Grab your faves now at 65% OFF.

Store-wide sale, no restrictions!!

Rush, offer ends Nov 26th, 11:59pm 🏃‍🏃

dynamic product ads

 

CAMPAIGN 2: Catalog Ad

TYPE OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE BUDGET
Conversion Ad Purchase Adset 1: Past purchasers

Adset 2: Best performing cold audience

4-5 times your AOV

Example:

Are you ready for the biggest sale of the year? 😲

65% OFF entire store, no restrictions!!

Rush, offer ends Nov 26th, 11:59pm 🏃‍🏃

catalog ad

Phase IV (Dec 1 – Dec 12): 12 days of Christmas

This is the busiest time of the year for online stores as buyers try to complete their purchases by the 15th of December for guaranteed delivery of their packages by Christmas.

This is the time to cash in on the traffic you’ve been building during the previous 3 phases. The problem? Buyers are being bombarded by deals, each more extravagant than the last. How do you compete without compromising on profitability?

Solution:

Try running a Deal of the Day. Choose one product to discount heavily every day, and have a lesser discount on other items. Use the heavily discounted product as bait to drive traffic to your store. Even if you don’t make a profit on this one item, try and make up for it by using product recommendations and other up-sell techniques to increase the final order value.

Campaign: Run a series of Daily Deals on popular items for the first 12 days of December. Once your customer visits your store, try to up-sell with more profitable products. You can limit the number of items available under the offer (offer valid for first 50 order only) to manage costs.

Tip: Try a different creative for every day’s deal to minimize ad fatigue.

CAMPAIGN 1: Daily Deal series

TYPE OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE BUDGET
Conversion Ad Purchase 1 new ad set daily, targeting:

(a) Pixel visitors – ALL

(b) Past buyers

(c) Best performing cold audiences
Run each ad set for a single day. The following day, set a new ad set emphasising the next day’s deal*.

4-5 times your AOV

*Make sure you also promote that day’s deal through organic social media posts, email marketing, and any other channel like messenger that you use to communicate with your customers.

Example 1:

🙉 Unheard of deals – 80% OFF our most popular items!!

Don’t wait, shop now 🛍️

daily deal series 1

Example 2:

😮Yes, you saw that right! Get 75% OFF on our most popular items!
New deals everyday, don’t miss out!! 📅

daily deal series 2

Tip: Use the carousel ad format so you can lead with the highly discounted deal and follow up with lesser deals.

Phase V (Dec 13 – Dec 20): The last leg

By the 13th of December, online shopping enters its last phase and the main concern of shoppers now is making sure that they receive their package in time for Christmas.

Solution:

Calculate the last day by which you can ship to ensure timely delivery (make sure you account for delayed shipping times due to the holiday rush), and communicate this clearly to buyers. If you offer expedited shipping to extend the buying period, make sure you include that in your messaging.

Finally, double down on retargeting and then allocate any left-over budget to cold audiences.

CAMPAIGN 1: Emphasise the last shipping dates and push the discounts

TYPE OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE BUDGET
Conversion Ad Purchase 3 ad sets:

(a) Pixel visitors – ALL

(b) Best performing cold audiences

(c) Past buyers

4-5 times your AOV

 

Tip: Consider offering free expedited shipping as an added incentive for last minute shoppers.

Example:

😟Left your shopping to the last minute?

Don’t worry, be merry – enjoy FREE 2-day shipping on all purchases above $100 🎅🏻 🎉

ad pushing discounts and emphasizing shipping dates

Jingle all the way

This might seem overwhelming or hard to follow, but take a deep breath, read the article a couple of times, make some notes and you’ll feel completely in control of your holiday marketing.

And if you still have any doubts or questions about how to relate these campaigns to your store, drop me a note in the comment section below and I’ll be happy to help.

Wish you a merry and profitable holiday season!