Winter is Coming: How to Prepare for Holiday 2015

Last month, I had the luxury of taking a trip to Croatia. I traveled from the country’s capital down the coast to Dubrovinik, where I devoted half a day to a Game of Thrones tour. I got to see the site of the Battle of Blackwater and look down on the inspiration of King’s Landing in the 90-degree heat, all while reminding myself that “winter is coming.”

This mantra wasn’t just a tactic to stay mentally cool because despite being unplugged from work, you can’t always escape the little reminders. The thought of December quickly creeping up means that impending holiday shopping season is about to take center stage for retail advertisers. Last year, I shared four key action items for search marketers heading into Q4, but so much has already changed in less than a year that I wanted to provide some updated suggestions for areas to invest as you prepare for this year’s seasonal push.

Shopping Campaigns and Dynamic Product Ads

I kicked off last year’s tips with product advertising – still an important and relevant topic – but beyond the go-to of Google Shopping, there are other ways you can put your product feed to work. Within search, consider the fact that 52 percent of retail searchers on the Yahoo Bing Network are unique to Bing, with a calculated market share of 29 percent. And what better way to capture the attention of these searchers than with the prominent Product Ads? Additionally, the transition to Bing Shopping Campaigns is made easier for those running on Google by allowing you to import your campaign structures.

This year, expand your product-specific advertising efforts into social with Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads. The latest enhancements will enable more targeted up-sell and cross-sell opportunities so you can show complementary products to past purchasers. Additionally, advertisers will be able to extend reach into the Facebook Audience Network, opening up ways to engage across the mobile app ecosystem.

Mobile and Cross-Device

Speaking of mobile, it also made my list in 2014, and it’s no surprise it’s here again. Amazon reported that “nearly 60 percent of Amazon.com customers shopped using a mobile device this [past] holiday,” noting that mobile shopping particularly gained momentum toward the end of the season.

My organization, Kenshoo, found that mobile devices (phones and tablets) accounted for 48 percent of clicks on ads and 28 percent of conversions across global retail paid search advertising last season. As mobile continues its march deeper into consumer shopping habits, marketers must ensure coverage from an advertising perspective and make the conversion process easier; expect the conversions attributed to mobile to be on the rise as retailers refine this process for shoppers.

Remember, too, that mobile is only one component in the path to purchase so be sure to invest in cross-device tracking and attribution strategies and feed your learnings back into your optimization decisions.

Emerging Channels and Formats

New advertising options may give you an advantage during a period of amplified competition. A few options to consider include buy buttons, Instagram Ads, and Yahoo Gemini.

Buy Buttons have emerged on the likes of Pinterest, Twitter, and Google, among others. As mobile and social commerce continue to grow, the prevalence of the buy button is a natural next step. This new option could entice shoppers, particularly in environments such as Pinterest where consumers are more overtly expressing passions, and ultimately give retailers who activate them an edge.

Instagram recently announced its advertising offering, as well. With calls-to-action such as “Shop Now” and the highly visual nature of the ads, retailers may be able to better captivate new audiences and drive them to action. Success will hinge on being able to integrate seamlessly into the Instagram stream, so if you decide to test this format, invest in developing and testing your creative.

Finally, Gemini’s focus on mobile could offer new avenues for advertisers to connect via these devices, and the emphasis on native could prove to be highly engaging – again, if executed wisely – given the natural integration of this format.

Above All, Put the Customer First

No matter your media mix this holiday season, make sure you go customer-first. Inform your strategies with data to hit shoppers at the right time with the right message, and with compelling creative. Focus on the ways you can personalize the experience. And remember, start building the buzz soon to gain momentum into the season to get both your loyalists and new customers aware and excited about what you have to offer.

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