The US online spending this year’s holiday season (Nov – Dec) was at its peak with Americans spending $35 billion (Nov 1 to Dec 26, 2011). This figure has gone up from $30 billion from last year by 15% and the biggest online sale day this year was the Cyber Monday where $1 billion was spent only on online shopping.
With some careful analysis of the online sales trends during the holiday seasons from last few years, you – as an online marketer – can plot plans for your campaigns to reap maximum profit during these two months. In fact, unless your main income comes from advertising (private ads, AdSense or other networks) , chances are you make more money in November-December than all the other months put together.
Holiday Shopping Season in the US
While most part of November and December every year is considered to be the holiday season, it all starts with the Thanksgiving Day shopping spree (which actually commence a couple of weeks before the actual TG day itself).
The following are the main shopping days in November and December of every year that online marketers tap into in order to boost their sales and earnings.
- Thanksgiving day: 4th Thursday of November for which the marketing steam builds up from November first week itself. The two week period before Thanksgiving is a very good time to market generic consumables, gifts etc (only behind Christmas sales)
- Black Friday: The Friday following the TG day is known as the Black Friday whereby the official Holiday Shopping season kicks off and culminates in the Christmas – New Year sales. Black Friday is a good time to sell online services, software etc
- Cyber Monday: The Monday following the Black Friday – Best day to market online & digital products along with the Black Friday
- Thanksgiving Weekend: The period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is very good for surplus and discounted sales for any type of products
- Green Monday: A term coined by eBay based on high sales and this day falls on the Second Monday of December. Excellent day to kick start the Christmas campaign as it falls roughly 10 to 12 days before Christmas. Historically most of the online Christmas sales seems to happen on Green Monday
- Free Shipping Day: Free Shipping Day occurs more than once a year but the one that falls in the middle of December seems to attract a lot of online buyers. Free Shipping Day in December guarantees the free delivery of the purchased good before Christmas – Good for driving your free shipping campaigns
- Christmas: No explanation needed here, I think. Christmas shopping starts two-three weeks prior to Christmas and for the online part, it peaks probably around the Free shipping day or nearby days
On top of the above days, the weekend days just before Christmas witness massive sales but not as much for online sales mainly because the on time delivery worries.
How to Time Your Campaigns?
Well, I am still learning the tricks of the game when it comes to the online marketing during the festive season, but I am getting better there. The following are some of the tricks that might help you.
Ad spot purchases
The pricing of fixed price ad spots might go up during the holiday season due to high demand. Hence if you are planning for the Black Friday or Green Monday sales, consider purchasing the spots 20-25 days in advance. You can add specific creatives later.
When it comes to PPC campaigns for Christmas or Thanksgiving online sales, try to tap into those days 12-15 days prior to the event. During those days the Pay per click should be relatively less and you can afford to run more ads. The PPC campaigns on Cyber Monday, Black Friday etc can be very expensive. Of course, if you have no budget constraints, you may very well buy expensive but highly converting traffic.
The holiday season content preparation is very important. You need to plan and prepare your website/blog content in October itself a way that it targets specific shopping scenarios. For example, there is no point in adding Black Friday sales related posts on that day but you should act a little earlier. In addition, never underestimate your old content – i.e. similar content from the last season. Chances are you still get some sales driven by those content hits. Just analyze your traffic stats for specific posts and try to dynamically insert relevant ads.
Specific Ads and its lifetime
During the holiday season, you end up having so many creatives or ad variants that even keep changing overnight. Keep track of all your ads on a daily basis and do not forget to add proper expiry dates. Information related to deal expiry, free shipping etc need to be carefully managed during this period so as to create a sense of urgency among the potential buyers.
Some of the products that worked year along for you may not just work during the holiday season. For example, campaigns on financial products, loans etc may not exactly work during this season as they used in the past. You may want to divert your campaign budget to other useful and seasonal products during this season.
You might want to remember what worked best for you in the past during the same season and even store those landing pages and creatives to modify and redeploy during the current year and season. Since many of the past campaign success cannot be tracked in one place, keep taking some notes or record numbers in an Excel sheet that may be handy for the future.
I know that I am writing this post a bit too late for the current year. Perhaps it may be useful for you in the coming years or the tips discussed here might just work for other minor shopping seasons as well.
Good luck with your online campaigns!