Ian Boyden offers his top tips for e-commerce marketing managers to help you prepare your paid search campaigns to drive online sales this Christmas.

We may be about to start enjoying an Indian summer here in the UK, but for those of us working in marketing now is the time to be wrapping up our Christmas ad campaigns. Leave the Pimms on ice and pass the ribbons and bows, there’s work to be done!

Follow our handy tips to get your Christmas campaigns primed and fully optimised across desktop and mobile, as well as using social platforms to further disseminate your festive message. Don’t forget to schedule essential web development maintenance to ensure your site is in tip top condition in readiness for a flood of visits this festive season.

Six Seasonal Tips for Marketing Success This Christmas

Christmas – the high point of every retailer’s year. According to data shared by AdRoll in a recent webinar hosted by The Drum, many retailers see as much as 20% of their annual sales happen in the run up to Christmas, with a 30% increase in total sales for the UK market for the month of December alone. By 2017, AdRoll predicts that Christmas online sales could top more than £70 billion.

While the festive season may well be months away, now is the time to start planning in order to capitalise on getting in front of your audience and be top of mind when they start shopping this Christmas.

1. Plan early

The children may have only just returned to school, but that doesn’t mean that Christmas is not in the minds of parents. And if Mother and Father Christmas are already thinking about gift ideas, you need to be thinking about it too.

Preparation is key so make sure you get your offers, campaigns and creatives locked in early. If you have been forecasting ahead, planning your campaigns should be easy. If not, look at last year’s figures to work out a strategy for your 2016 campaigns, and consider starting a 12-month forecast so that you are better prepared for Christmas 2017.

Don’t just focus on Christmas. Make sure to capitalise on Black Friday and Cyber Monday too. This year, it is estimated that the last weeks of November will see a sales total of £4.3 billion. It’s important to make sure that you are advertising during these peak times, but also make sure your campaigns don’t drop off as Cyber Monday comes to a close – remember, there are still a few weeks until Christmas and people are still shopping.

2. Plan vital site maintenance

After putting so much time into planning your festive campaigns, the last thing you need is for your site to crash under the extra demand.

In 2015, the John Lewis website crashed on Black Friday, with customers unable to access the site for an hour. It was estimated the outage cost the retailer up to £2.8 million in lost revenue.

With two thirds of UK consumers saying that slow loading times are the number one reason they would abandon an online purchase you cannot afford to run a website that can’t cope. Work with your web development team to ensure your pages can handle the increased traffic.

3. Be creative with your creatives

In the run up to Christmas, consumers are bombarded with ad messages from all angles. Avoid ad fatigue by continually updating your ad creatives. It doesn’t need to be major changes – swap the colour palette, add in new images or buttons, and push new calls to action (CTA). The aim is to make the ad seem new to the customer, so that they will pay it more attention.

Spruce up your ads and your landing pages with festive imagery or designs, or even consider creating specific Christmas landing pages tailored to your seasonal campaigns. Be fun and make it interactive. This shows that you are in the festive spirit too.

Stress the importance of short term or once a year sales. Consider tactics such as 24-hour flash sales of two-for-one offers to entice and help people to complete the final purchase. Be very clear on what the deal is, when it expires, what are the terms, what is the code, etc…

Also re-emphasise your service offering. If you provide free shipping then shout about it – this could be a deal maker or breaker for some online consumers.

And finally, remember, a strong CTA is vital. Tell your customer what you want them to do – shop online today, visit our online store, buy now. A strong CTA can increase click-through rate by as much as 30%.

4. Don’t forget mobile

In the fourth quarter of 2015 more than half of all online sales were completed on a mobile device, with this only set to rise as consumer behaviour continues to change.

However, mobile is not only the conversion point for many purchases, it is a key driver in retail research. Many consumers now turn to their mobile while in store, to check competitor prices, or to find out more information about the product they are considering. So even if you have more foot traffic than online sales, your business could still benefit from a mobile presence. Even when your customer is in store they are using their devices to sway their purchasing decision so make sure they find your store or brand before they discover the competition.

5. Use social

Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are no longer just about brand awareness. They can now drive sales and measurable results for companies.

Make sure your messages are always on brand. Use the same key messaging that you are pushing in your text and display ads. Use high quality holiday images to grab your customer’s attention and encourage brand engagement. Above all, use these social platforms to drive visits to your site.

6. Get granular with your remarketing

Consumers love personalisation. Create personalised ads by segmenting your audience by the products or pages they viewed on your site. Alternatively, segment with discounts or special offers for those who have already purchased with you before.

Use dynamic remarketing in AdWords and the hard work of segmentation is done for you. Dynamic remarketing serves ads relevant to the customer based on their browser history. So if they were previously viewing the ladies’ handbags section of your site they will be served with an ad showing images of ladies’ handbags.

Dynamic remarketing helps keep your ads relevant, reduces ad fatigue, and enables you to attract and convert customers who maybe weren’t ready to purchase on their first visit to your site.

And remember to expand your cookie duration to capture anyone who has visited your site in the past 12 months. This will enable you to capture those who don’t regularly shop online.

Once you have your Christmas campaigns ready to roll all that’s left is to get ready for the January sales!

Want to drive more e-commerce business this Christmas? Discover how our PPC management services can help you maximise your return on investment and boost sales this festive season.

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About the author:

Ian has been working in advertising for the last five years, and now specialises in working with e-commerce brands such as Dunelm, Halfords Autocentres and Jones and Brantano. Ian loves to work with clients building their paid search strategies and delivering year on year growth in revenue. Outside of work, Ian is a keen musician playing in a band and enjoys playing golf and going to the gym.