4 Pitfalls to Avoid Heading Into the Holidays

Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but the holidays are here again. I know all of our brands and teams have been planning already for months and are now just fine-tuning their plans for success. The National Retail Federation is forecasting the largest growth year since 2011, with 4.1 percent growth. Shop.org is forecasting digital to growing 8 to 11 percent given the growth of mobile and online shopping as a consumer behavior. This is a massive opportunity for retailers. So now that the plans are set and the consumers are ready to buy, I wanted to provide four pitfalls that seem to occur every year and offer some thoughts on how to best avoid them or deal with them as they occur.

1. Budget Planning

No advertiser has unlimited dollars. Once the budget is set, you need to understand how spend will be allocated. It is critical that your brand’s ads are being shown during peak shopping and buying times. Google puts out a very helpful calendar here that shows these key dates.


Too often we see brands have their campaigns hit budget caps that during the regular part of the year they would never come close to hitting, but during holiday those bets are off. Review all your budgets to ensure that the budget is aligned to consumer demand. We’ve also experienced a huge spike in volume that was all part of a client’s strategy, but Google flagged it for fraud and the account was offline for several hours. This is a case similar to using your credit card when traveling. If you are planning for really big spikes, I’d encourage you to contact your search representative ahead of time to let them know the plans.

2. Issue Escalation Plan

Murphy’s law here – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Even if it is your first holiday experience, you have probably heard horror stories from others. The site goes down, the Wi-Fi at your Grandmother’s house goes down, or any other number of crazy things will happen. When this issue happens, what will you do? What is the phone tree to escalate issues? How will the team communicate throughout the day? Who is “on call” at 2 a.m. when an issue occurs? Thinking through the potential issues you and the team might face and planning ahead is key. As my dad taught me, “Proper planning prevents poor performance.”

3. Promotions/Inventory

You think you know what will sell, you think you know what people want, but it is really hard to tell as the day goes on. For example, if it’s running out of a size, or a promotion needs to change, how will this information be managed? What keywords or campaigns need to be paused to stop spending on these items? What ad copy needs to be changed to reflect only current offers? I find mapping the campaign structure to category or labeling specific offers is key to making this process much more responsive as things change.

4. Mobile

This one is probably the most difficult. Many brands still struggle with the true value of mobile to their business. Here’s what we do know: mobile is between 10 to 20 percent of retailers’ traffic today. This holiday season you would expect the shopping behavior to be very mobile, as showrooming and quick transactions occur. The consumer barometer tool from Google can be one tool to help you understand how consumers interact with the mobile channel to make purchase decisions. Don’t ignore the value of mobile this holiday whatever you do.

Overall, this holiday will be a great one in the digital space. The keys to success will be planning, and rapid reaction to the unplanned items that pop up. Be nimble and enjoy this time because it really is one of the best times of the year to be in search marketing.

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