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With retailers like Walmart and Target announcing they’ll be closed on Black Friday this year, it’s clear holiday shopping in 2020 will differ dramatically from just a few months ago. On top of that, Amazon has delayed Prime Day to take place on October 13-14, poised to capture significant holiday traffic this year — as if brands needed more competition.

Thankfully, some traditional wisdom about holiday digital ad campaigns still holds true. Namely, you want to start early. You also want to use a test-and-learn approach in which your digital holiday campaigns remain a work in progress until the very end. For a deeper dive on how to whip your entire digital marketing strategy into shape, check out our DIY marketing audit handbook. But for the secrets to winning this year’s holiday season through digital ad campaigns, read on now:

Clean Up Old Audiences

For starters, you’ll want to make sure your ads are targeting the right audiences. That means a little cleanup to ensure your demographics and audiences are set up correctly. This way, ads will display on the right channels for each one. Also, be sure to group your ads by customer journey stage to further guarantee each segment sees the right ad at the right time. In addition, you’ll want to make sure your holiday ads use location and geofencing as well as target specific devices and have accurate keyword targeting.

You can help your campaigns reach the right customers by combining online and in-store data. That helps brands capitalize on consumer behavior through both channels in what is likely to be an unpredictable holiday shopping season.

Another good way to ensure you’re targeting the right consumers is to target customers who purchased from your brand during prior holiday periods. This is a great tactic to help cut through the noise on social channels this time of year. You can easily do this with Facebook Custom Audiences. Even if you haven’t run holiday promotions on Facebook and Instagram in the past, you can still tweak this strategy by targeting your own prior customers. 

For more information on building out your customer journey:

How to Build a Customer Journey Map [TEMPLATE]

Use Advanced Targeting Techniques

You’ll want to make sure you’re taking advantage of other advanced targeting techniques, including retargeting.

This tactic helps advertisers reach consumers who already interacted with their websites or apps. Make note: This can easily go wrong — especially during the holiday season — as most of us have likely been targeted with ads for products we’ve already purchased. (You can prevent this by defining a stopping point for your audiences — or, on Facebook specifically, by using the platform’s analytics tool, Pixel.)

When done correctly, retargeting helps advertisers extend their paid search efforts beyond a single exposure and reminds shoppers about products and deals while they are still in gift-buying mode.

Advertisers can further enhance their remarketing efforts by adding promotional text to the display ads they buy through the Google Display Network, which shows ads on more than two million websites, videos, and apps. That means the subsequent ads holiday shoppers see can include messaging with even more enticing offers.

Holiday advertisers can also tap into ad extensions through which Google displays additional business information within a given ad unit, such as a URL or a store rating. The additional information can be useful to help sway shoppers.

A similar feature in product discovery service Google Shopping is called Merchant Promotions. This allows advertisers to add information about special offers to help distinguish their listings from competing offers and help shoppers decide where to buy. 

For more information on maximizing retargeting efforts:

Dynamic Retargeting Best Practices

Divide Campaigns…

And, of course, you’ll want to make sure your digital ad campaigns zero in on the right elements.

…by products

Retailers can use Google Shopping campaigns to push both online and in-store inventory by simply sharing product data and creating a campaign via Google Ads. Google uses this information to create shopping ads on the search engine and around the web, featuring photos, prices, and store names. As a result, the ads give users a better sense of what advertisers are selling before consumers click, yielding more qualified leads. Most importantly, they feature this information directly in search engine results pages (SERPs), which can be a powerful motivation to convert. Keep in mind that your offers will appear next to your competitors’, so price your items accordingly and stay away from using generic imagery.

Furthermore, Facebook makes it easy to promote the right products to the right users through Facebook Dynamic Ads — even if your brand sells hundreds or even thousands of products. That’s because Facebook Dynamic Ads allows users to create a single product catalog and campaign. Then, when Facebook users express interest in an item from that catalog, the platform generates a relevant ad on mobile, tablet, and desktop. The platform claims this yields relevant offers to users based on their behaviors and interests. It also means advertisers don’t have to configure individual ads for each product. 

…by affinities

Another key to reaching the right shoppers is focusing on customer affinities or consumers’ emotional connections.

With affinity audiences on Google, advertisers can reach shoppers based on their lifestyles, passions, and habits. Before classifying users in a given affinity audience, Google qualifies their interest in the topic, allowing advertisers to be sure they’re reaching the consumers who are most interested in their products or services. This functionality is available across search, display, video, and email campaigns.

Similarly, Facebook offers targeting via Core Audiences to help advertisers zero in on the right customers. It offers a number of targeting options, including interests and hobbies, as well as behaviors like past purchases and device usage.

…by intent

 Finally, you’ll want to include customer intent to further match the right messaging to the right person.

On Google, custom audiences allow advertisers to set up custom intent audience types to target users who have certain interests or purchase intentions or who have searched for specific terms on Google properties.

Another way to reach prospects is on the Google Display Network through custom intent audiences. Here, Google uses keywords and URLs provided by advertisers to create an audience of in-market customers who want to buy a related product or service.

Meanwhile, Facebook offers dynamic ads with two targeting options: dynamic ads for retargeting users who have shown interest in products on a brand’s website or app; and dynamic ads for broad audiences who have not yet visited a website but may have previously shown interest in related products or services.

Tap Into Text Ad Customizers and Local Inventory Ads

To further ensure you’re reaching the right consumers this holiday season, we recommend text ad customizers within Google Shopping campaigns. This feature allows users to update ad copy in real time based on location, device, and time of day or week. During the holidays, that messaging can be tweaked to remind shoppers of looming deadlines to create a sense of urgency to actually buy.

Another solid tactic for holiday shopping is local inventory ads, which display nearby locations that have a given product in stock. This functionality is available through both Google and Facebook.

The Final Stretch

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. And while consumer behavior will undoubtedly be less predictable this holiday season, we can be fairly certain shopping will experience a boost in Q4. 

When exactly that happens and how it shakes out remains to be seen. However, thanks to digital advertising platforms, brands can intuit a lot about what customers want at the moment and cater their messaging and placements accordingly. The brands that prep their digital ad campaigns now will be best poised to end this memorable year on a good note.

For more information on ad personalization:

How Small Businesses Can Use Ad Personalization

Stephanie Abe
Author

Steph is the Community Marketing Manager at AdRoll. A relationship-builder, she’s behind the Growth Guerilla Collective (GGC); the community for D2C marketers. Before AdRoll, Steph ran Customer Marketing at a B2B SaaS company in San Francisco. She is passionate about customer-centric marketing.