Shopping patterns have evolved considerably in recent years. Changes in consumer preferences, supply chain fluctuations, surging inflation, and the threat of a recession are shaping how consumers spend. Thus, it’s vital for brands to formulate comprehensive holiday game plans. While B2C businesses have for many years centered their efforts around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the emphasis now is on creating all-encompassing holiday plans that kick off long before these two key dates.

With many consumers initiating their festive shopping sooner than they have previously, we at (un)Common Logic advise our clients to consider the following when designing a paid media approach to the holiday season:

  • Your business strategy as you decide on products and what offer
  • Resource planning for busy periods: web developers, customer service, marketing, logistics
  • The entire marketing ecosystem to get the word out: SEO, email, paid media, etc.
  • Your audience and what they value

Let’s dig into the details!

Digital Marketer’s Guide to Developing a Holiday Marketing Strategy

In our years of experience navigating the vast eCommerce landscape, we’ve struck gold. Our PPC experts, battle-hardened from countless campaigns, have honed in on foolproof guidelines. These aren’t just suggestions — they’re our proven playbook for conquering Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entire holiday onslaught. 

Step 1: Identifying the Right Products

The first step in putting together your Black Friday marketing strategy (or any cyber sale strategy) is to determine which products to include in the sale. First, look at your product sales up to this point in the year and then at your annual revenue goal: where is there a gap in meeting your goals which might be closed by creating a special deal?

Then look at your products themselves. Are there any product categories you want to push or inventory considerations to be made? Is there a loss leader you want to use to drive more orders? Do you want a site-wide offer, a specific product line, or an offer on a select product? Is there a low-performing product that might be lifted with a good deal? Conversely, could a good deal on an already high-performing product take you across the goal line?

In light of recent economic shifts, including the undeniable impact of inflation on consumer buying behaviors this Q4, it’s imperative to be nimble and strategic. Given that experts are predicting this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales might not be as robust as in previous years, and coupled with changing purchasing power, it’s all the more critical to make the most of the holiday shopping season. Start early; initiate your offers in the weeks preceding these hallmark days. Consider rolling out tiered discounts on specific product categories weekly, luring customers back to capitalize on the freshest deal. And based on how these tactics fare, don’t shy away from extending your offers beyond the traditional promotional window. Adaptation is the name of the game this year.

  • First pro tip: when our clients extend an offer, we always include ad copy value propositions centered around “Cyber Deal Extended!…” to help maximize consumer purchase behavior.
  • Second pro tip: Most consumers check the shipping cost, speed, and return windows/policies before purchasing; consider messaging such as free shipping over $XXX order size, guaranteed delivery by X date, or show shoppers extended holiday return windows to entice the consumer to buy.
  • Third pro tip: when our clients isolate a specific product for cyber promotion, we recommend adding an offer for the remaining products. This helps prevent user friction within the buying cycle. For example, 20% off a specific product + free shipping on all remaining products. As a result, not only will consumers of alternative products feel a similar excitement to save, but you may also be surprised at the amount of cross-selling opportunities.

Step 2: Determining the Right Offers & Timing

After selecting the product(s) to include in your promotional offer, the next step is figuring out what the offer should be. To do this, look at your product margins and ask:

  • How much can we discount from the regular sales price and still make a profit?
  • Does the discount/profit amount change based on volume?
  • Is it worth losing profit on one product to get a lift from overall sales (i.e., a loss-leader strategy)?
  • What is important to our customers? As mentioned above, discounted or free shipping and extended return policies are increasingly important and becoming expected by consumers. But will free shipping alone be enough to generate the sales needed to hit your performance goals?
  • What promotional offers have previously run, and what were the performance results? Were there any differences in offer performance by channel/media type?
  • What are you anticipating from competitors? What paid media promotional offers have they done in the past, and what are they offering today vs. your current offers?

Once you have the answer to the questions above, you can create a strategic paid media promotional offer calendar that is compelling to your customers and your company.

Strategically structure and time your promotional offers to support your goals while allowing for flexibility if and when needed. To do this, consider the following:

  • Use the key insights from past sales to understand what offers you can leverage to drive the performance needed to reach your performance marketing goals. For example, if new customer acquisition is a goal, what offers in the past have successfully increased new customers? If revenue is the goal, what past offers drove a high average order value (AOV) or enough of an increase in order volume to offset a decline in AOV?
  • The longer the offer is in place, the more potential orders, but there is something to be said for the excitement of a limited-time sale, possibly at a deeper discount.
  • Plan the start and stop dates in relation to the major sales days during the holiday period: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other well-known sales dates. Would your product benefit from the overall traffic increase during those times, or would it be better to stand out from the crowd with a pre-holiday sale? How about making your sale last after the holiday – how much additional revenue could you pick up if your sale is extended?
  • In this unpredictable marketplace, it’s essential to stick with what works, especially in Q4. We’ve seen companies gamble with untested offers during this pivotal time, often with undesirable results. Instead, trial these new promotions earlier in the year, collecting valuable feedback. Come the holiday season, rely on that data to implement tried-and-true strategies, minimizing risks and maximizing potential.
  • At this point, you should clearly understand who your target audience will be for each offer and what they value. Then, using this information, build in the additional details like how and where you can reach this audience, what channels to push, and what ad formats are needed for a successful paid media holiday strategy.

Step 3: Creating a Solid Backup Plan

A successful holiday marketing strategy hinges on your teams’ ability to pivot quickly if performance is not as expected. For this to be possible, you need a backup plan. The best way to create this is to brainstorm with your team some if-then scenarios and plan for them ahead of time.

  • For example, what if your product sells out before the offer ends? Will you complete the offer early, substitute a similar product, or change the offer altogether?
  • What if a competitor matches your offer or rolls out a similar offer? Would you shift to an alternative promotion, and if so, what would it be?
  • What if the offer isn’t driving the desired performance results? Do you have an alternative offer ready, and at what point do you make the shift?

Step 4: Finding the Right Resources

Once you have the offer’s strategic pieces (product, discount, timeframe, alternatives) in place, the next step is to figure out logistics. Who and what is needed for the offer to be successful? No one wants to be the store whose site crashes because it can’t handle all the extra Black Friday and Cyber Monday traffic! So, thoughtful collaboration well in advance with key stakeholders across departments will ensure a plan is in place and the proper resources are available to make the offer a success, especially during peak periods.

  • Does your web developer have what they need if the site crashes or if you need to rotate offers?
  • Does your team have a plan for how to merchandise the product pages?
  • Is your marketing team ready to track sales, evaluate trends, and pivot to capitalize on changes?
  • Do you need additional customer service staff during this time?
  • Can your logistics staff handle the additional demand for order fulfillment?
  • Have you discussed budget scenarios? For example, if performance is strong, does the performance marketing team have the approval to increase spending to capture additional sales?

Step 5: Develop the Offer Creatives

When crafting your offer’s creatives, timing is everything. Provide your design team with the specs early, allowing ample room for necessary revisions and internal sign-offs. And don’t neglect the backup offer assets; having them prepared in advance ensures agility should a swift change in direction be required. Stay ahead, stay prepared.

Remember the final assets also have to be approved by the channel(s) you’ve selected to run your offer so you need to include time for their review process(es) as well. For example, the Facebook review process can take as long as three business days and during the holiday period those timelines can extend.

We recommend uploading no later than two days before launch – do not expect that you can upload ads the same day your offer begins, as they may not run. We also recommend uploading backup offers with the main offer so you can act quickly if needed.

Step 6: Time to Get Tactical

Who’s your audience and what’s the most effective way to reach them? Even a limited-time offer will benefit from a multi-pronged approach.

Let’s start with search engine optimization. Consider the following:

  • Prime the pump in advance for your offer by publishing a gift guide beforehand. This will provide relevant content to users and might increase ranking signals. How else might your content help point buyers toward your offer?
  • Refresh your existing holiday content. If you have existing content related to the holidays, consider updating with new products, imagery, and messaging. If you need to create new content, get it out there early to allow for it to begin to rank ahead of the holiday rush.
  • Confirm that your local profiles are updated and current if you have brick and mortar locations.
  • Hold off on any major site redesigns or migrations during the holiday period.

Next, think about how to leverage your social media presence. Highlight top products in your posts ahead of your offers, ensure the product catalogs are optimized, and take the time to thoughtfully curate your shop by creating different collections of products to make shopping a breeze.

Don’t forget to leverage product tags on the content your team is posting, as product tags help drive users from discovery to transaction seamlessly. If you’re posting on Instagram, for example, follow their guide to add product tags to make it as easy as possible for users to go from scrolling to buying.

illustration of how to include product tags in instagram

Every digital marketing effort’s success depends upon conversions. How can you increase your conversion rate? How are you planning to merchandise your page? This is a key factor that we have seen firsthand heavily impact CVR. What landing page or banner modifications can you experiment with to streamline your user experience?

Plan in coordination with other marketing efforts, as well. Do you have a subscriber email list? Include email marketing to build excitement and drive additional traffic to your offer. Have you built the funnel throughout the rest of the year?

Step 7: Consider What’s Different About Paid Efforts for Black Friday vs. the Rest of the Year

Make sure you are using all the available levers to drive performance and factor these considerations into your paid media tactics.

  • Are there new keywords to add or paused keywords to enable in the account that performed well last year? Will you include keywords such as discount, sale, coupon, or code? Remember: competition increases this time of year so be prepared for fluctuations in CPC.
  • Get your Google Merchant Center product feed fully optimized. Add promotion/sales, shipping, and return and refund information directly to your product listings. Add additional lifestyle images to the feed if available.
  • Additionally, it’s important to consider available bidding strategies – there are a variety of options available, so know what you are currently using and have a plan that takes into account the sudden surge in conversions during your peak cyber period offer.
    • When you’re using Maximize conversion value without a Target CPA set, Google will aim to spend your budget to maximize conversion value for your campaigns
    • When you’re using Maximize conversion value with a Target ROAS set, Google will help get as much conversion value as possible at the target ROAS
    • Seasonality adjustments are an advanced tool that can be used to inform Smart Bidding of expected changes in conversion rates for future events like promotions or sales
      • Seasonality adjustments are currently available for Search, Shopping, and Display campaigns and are only compatible with Target ROASTarget CPA bid strategies, and Performance Max campaigns
      • Note: Use seasonality adjustments only if you expect major changes to conversion rates, because Smart Bidding already manages seasonal events. Seasonal adjustments are ideal for short events of 1—7 days. They may not work as well if you use them for extended periods (more than 14 days at a time)

Remember, the surge in holiday traffic isn’t just a fleeting opportunity—it’s a goldmine for retargeting. Capture this audience and keep them engaged well beyond the festive season, even rolling into next year’s remarketing campaigns. If strategized effectively, the dividends of your holiday promotions won’t just be a short-term spike; they can catalyze sustained growth long into the future. Plan smart, reap long-term.

Contact us to learn more about the (un)Common Logic approach to digital marketing, including our cyber offer best practices, how to keep growing using paid media, and more.

Want to know more? Read about how to write more effective PPC ad copy, how we used paid media to increase revenue by 33% in less than one year for an ecommerce client, or check out this case study of a new luxury ecommerce company or our results over nine years for this ecommerce client.