The 2021 holiday season is set up to be yet another challenge for brands looking to grow profitably. Unpredictable shopping habits and behaviors, the ever-present dangers of another pandemic wave, and the volatility of a market that soared unexpectedly last year will make this shopping season a time of ecommerce instability. The brands that don’t proactively anticipate roadblocks or face challenges head-on will be left in the digital dust.

But your brand doesn’t have to walk blindly into this holiday shopping season. With the right omnichannel strategy, your brand can crush your competition to have a profitable holiday season this year. Use these tips for Amazon, paid search ads, social media, website optimization, and more to not just achieve but exceed your holiday goals this year.

Tips for Getting Started

1. Determine your goals for the holiday season. Are you willing to sacrifice return in order to scale your year-over-year revenue? Are you experiencing inventory issues this year or did you experience them last year in a way that might impact YoY growth?

2. Start testing and planning early, and start discussing budgets now! Finalize campaign structures by October to be ready to fully leverage automation. CPCs are expected to continue to climb over Q4, so take that into consideration when determining budgets for October through December.

3. Increase prospecting and retargeting spend. Capitalize on increased traffic and stay top-of-mind throughout the holiday season by increasing your targeting spend to reach gift-givers who shop around.

4. Build up your remarketing lists for Cyber 5 shopping by running brand awareness strategies starting in late Q3 or early Q4 (or even earlier). During the busiest shopping season of the year, remarketing is a must. Only 4% of website visitors are ready to make a purchase, meaning that 96% of website visitors haven’t decided if they want to buy from you yet. Ensure your brand is top of mind during the purchase decision process.

5. Run Black Friday promotions earlier and longer. Black Friday saw a huge spike last year that carried through Cyber 5 weekend, compared to previous years when Cyber Monday saw the biggest spikes. This shift occurred as most shoppers shopped online instead of in-store over Black Friday weekend due to pandemic concerns and restrictions. Last year’s trend of shoppers buying gifts earlier to avoid shipping delays will continue into this year. Offering a promotion before the Cyber 5 can entice them to purchase from your brand over your competitor.

Pushing Shoppers Toward a Purchase

6. Provide personalized recommendations to shoppers. Many sites utilize recommendation sections like “You May Also Like” or “Customers Also Shopped For” on their product pages. If you don’t use this feature already, be sure to enable it before the holidays to boost your AOV for each order. Already using this functionality? Consider modifying the language to match the intent of the user by relabeling these sections as “Additional Gift Options,” “One For You, One For Them,” or the like.

7. Use countdown timers to give users an extra psychological FOMO push. Countdown timers could apply to a specific sale (like during Cyber Monday) or could be related to shipping cut-offs for guaranteed holiday arrival.

8. Make updates to your creative and copy focus on the seasonality of the holidays and gift-giving. This includes updates to your Amazon Store, Posts, and DSP. (For example, “The perfect gift for her this holiday season” or “Keep your pond protected from cold weather.”)

9. Focus on quick delivery times, free shipping, and/or BOPIS. Make sure to call out shipping details in your ad copy. Customers are always looking to get their gifts in time for the holidays, and they haven’t forgotten about the shipping delays from the height of the pandemic.

10. Emphasize your product availability/inventory with time-sensitive copy to encourage shoppers to make a purchase.

Bonus Tip: 52% of shoppers say that at least half of their purchases are influenced by convenience. Consider creating a gift guide to make this hectic time of year easier on your consumer. They serve as a great way to drive interest and site traffic.

Reaching Your Audience Across Marketplaces

11. Ensure you have strong inventory at Amazon before Cyber 5 and throughout the holiday season. Consider using FBM or direct fulfillment as a backup method.

12. Utilize Posts to grow brand followers and increase brand awareness. Regularly create Posts to highlight key products throughout the season.

13. Consider how consumers will use your products for the holidays. For example, if you sell noisemakers, include creative on your product detail page (PDP) and in your ads showing people celebrating the new year with your product.

14. Leverage Home Depot’s holiday-specific banners. These ads have flat rates for the period rather than the usual daily and monthly budgets and can take over an entire category page. If you do not take advantage of a holiday-period banner, your banner ads may be cut off completely for a competitor who does.

Perfecting Your Product Feeds

15. Make sure the data in your live product feed stays up-to-date if you’re expecting lots of changes to price and availability during holiday seasonality. If you’re updating product information on your site, update the feed to refresh item data in the Merchant Centers and Catalogs. Utilize the Product Data Alerts feature in the Google Merchant Center to get alerts if something unexpected happens and a certain percentage of products are removed.

16. Use feed-powered Free Listings to get a full picture of how your feed data is impacting the entire Google Shopping landscape (i.e. Shopping Ads and Free Listings). This feature introduced in mid-2020 allows you to add custom tagging to each item’s value to track Free Listings performance in Google Analytics. Don’t forget to also use the attribute to pass non-custom tagging product URLs.

17. Get the most out of your promotions by using a promotions feed to submit them ahead of time. You can utilize the Promotion Effective Date attribute to have Google test your promotion before it goes live and the promotion display date to indicate when you actually want it to be shown in ads. This will help reduce any lag time in your promotion being approved by Google after going live.

18. Add custom labels to the seasonal products that you want to target aggressively in Shopping Ads to drum up more early holiday sales.

Bonus Tip: 87% of consumers say that a discount offer will most strongly motivate them to complete a digital purchase, followed closely by a loyalty program offer. Consider including a special offer and giving loyalty members first dibs.

Optimizing for Conversions

19. Start early. Optimize your pages ahead of time for products that are more likely to be given as gifts. Don’t wait until December to write your holiday-specific informational content. Submit your page to Google Search Console at least one month prior to your sale. Don’t replatform during your peak seasonality (or right before it)! Start any targeted backlink projects in Q3 to build backlinks to your seasonal page(s).

20. Use a load testing tool to find out how your website’s performance may be impacted by the strain of higher-than-normal traffic during Q4 seasonality.

21. Make sure your website’s content and functionality are easy to understand for new customers, as many holiday shoppers will be first-time visitors to your site.

22. If you have any seasonal pages, don’t delete them and create a new page every year. Keep the same page, update it, and reuse it with an evergreen URL (i.e. /cyber-friday-sale). Make sure any dedicated pages you create for email marketing are tied into your current navigation or redirected to the most relevant page once the event ends.

23. Ensure links to products are up-to-date in any content that you’re reusing from past years. Include promotional dates in case your content shows up prior to the beginning of your sale. Include “COMING SOON” until the sale is live. Also be sure to put expiration dates (including the year!) on all of your seasonal sales.