How to Prepare an Online Store for the Holiday Season
Every autumn, the high season begins in retail. It is important for any online store to enter the season as prepared as possible so as not to miss an opportunity to reach its audience.
For example, according to the Statista service, the 4th quarter accounted for 28% to 35% (depending on the niche) of all annual sales in 2019.
This year, given the repercussions of the COVID-19 virus and resulting lockdown, it is especially important for businesses to prepare fully for the high season. The pandemic has accelerated the transition from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce by about five years, according to IBM. Two years ago, online shopping accounted for just under 14% of all retail sales — a figure which was predicted to reach just under 20% in 2021. In the span of nearly two years of the global pandemic, shoppers have become much more inclined to purchase online than ever before. Your main goal during the high season is to inform your target audience about your offer as fully, accurately and attractively as possible.
In this article, we will tell you what you should pay special attention to when preparing for the hot season, what preventive actions will help you avoid losing targeted traffic, and also how to best prepare advertising campaigns for the sales season.
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The Beginning of the Season
When it comes to the sales of most market goods, the peak season is in December. This can be clearly seen in the Google Trends chart, for example one of the “gift” products.
However, traffic growth begins in the first half of November.
This means that by the first half of November, stores should already be ready for an increase in demand. Also in November, an important event takes place — Black Friday. In 2021, it is November 26th. Contrary to the name, sales and clearance events for most online stores don’t just take place on Friday. Rather, they start on Friday, are active for the proceeding Saturday and Sunday, and smoothly turn into Cyber Monday—the next reason for sales.
The process of preparing for the start of the sales season can be divided into several points:
- You regularly track potential problems and are ready to promptly solve them (for example, the product will not run out in the midst of the high season; the product feed has been successfully approved and all products in it are admitted to impressions).
- You make the most of all the available tools for holding promotions and effectively inform the audience about existing discounts and special offers both from the site and from advertisements.
- Your current and planned ad campaigns are ready for increased demand. You have found the optimal e-commerce PPC strategy for the high season and adjusted your budgets to meet those expectations.
Further in the article, we will analyze each point and elucidate what you should pay special attention to.
The worst thing that can happen to an ad during the high season is that no one will see it. We will describe in this section how to prepare advertising campaigns and what you should pay attention to from the side of a product feed.
During the preparation period and in the high season itself, you should track errors and product rejections in your Merchant Center and in Google Ads accounts. Make sure that all of your products are eligible for impressions, check the status of your products regularly so that you can quickly make the necessary adjustments and fix the situation.
In your Merchant Center account, check the diagnostics section regularly. Keep track of errors both at the product level, as well as on the side of the feed and the account as a whole.
Stay ahead of the curve and take your online business to new heights — read our article on e-commerce statistics to learn invaluable insights that will benefit sellers of all levels.
During the high season, it is more important than ever to convey information about your promotion to users quickly and accurately. It is also particularly important to be able to differentiate your merchandise ad from the competition. In this section, we will discuss the tools that can help with this.
On the Website
If your online store is located on one of the e-commerce platforms, you have the opportunity to take advantage of many additional extensions and applications that will help you increase your purchase conversion rate. We recommend paying special attention to the following:
- Discounted gamified widgets. For example, a wheel of fortune or a lottery. With its help, you can give users a promotional code for an additional discount in the online store.
- Tools that increase the average check (upsell). Think about how you can increase your average check. Offer your product enhancements at the right time before making a purchase.
- Cross-sale tools. Offer your customers related products that they might find useful. Think about which products are best to combine, run tests and use the best solutions.
- Bundle sale tools. Offer to a buyer a set of matching products, a discount on the set will make it an even more attractive choice.
Discover 13 examples of marketing campaigns to grow your website conversions.
On Side of Shopping Ads
Here you have the opportunity to use special extensions, add-ons, and automatic bars to make your product ad more informative and more attractive in comparison to competitors.
- Promo action. This is a special tool that connects to your Merchant Center account. With its help, you can place information about the availability of a special offer in the ad itself. This offer can include a discount (of monetary value or a percentage off), a gift, or free shipping.
The link marked in the ad opens a window with the details of the promotion and a promo code that customers can apply to their purchase in your store.
- Product rating. It is additionally connected to the Merchant Center. It is important to note that depending on how you collect reviews on the products on the website and whether you collect them at all, the time frame for the solution is highly variable. To understand how quickly the extension can be connected in your case, read our article on Google Product Ratings.
- Offer discounts. Shopping ads have automatic elements that appear in the ad in response to a price reduction on an item. All you have to do is simply lower the value of the [price] attribute. A “price drop” box will appear in your product ad, and the old price will be shown below the new one.
Google does not publish the exact criteria by which an automatic item will appear, but it usually shows up when the price is reduced by 20% or more.
- Additionally, use the [sale_price] attribute. This is the second way to lower the price of goods. In this case, you can specify a new price in the discounted price attribute, and the value of the main attribute [price] will remain unchanged. In this case, a “Sale” box will appear in your ad, the old price will be crossed out and the new price will be indicated next to it.
Preparation of Advertising Campaigns
Increased demand should result in increased traffic to your ad campaigns. It’s important that your ad campaigns have a budget to cover the increased traffic. So check the budget limits for all your ad campaigns and make sure that your campaigns have the ability to earn more by reaching as many potential buyers as possible
If you have products that you want to actively sell during the sales period, it is advisable to place these products in a separate advertising campaign. To do this, 1-2 weeks before the start of sales, create a new campaign and transfer the necessary products there. At the level of strategy settings, set more loyal conditions. Remember, the higher the tROAS value you set, the less the strategy will focus on maximizing sales. Your task during the sales period is to reach as many interested potential buyers as possible and to collect as many sales as possible.
If you do not plan to focus on any specific products, but want to actively sell all products, it still makes sense to put the most popular products in a separate campaign in order to be able to regulate the volume of traffic for them separately.
Remember, high season is not a time for radical experimentation. This is a great time to scale up something that already has proven results.
We also remind you that during this period it is important to additionally refer to the database of your existing customers. This is your loyal audience, which, with the right level of information, is much more inclined to choose you again, rather than your competitors. Set up an email newsletter with information about hot offers, launch a remarketing campaign to an audience of your customers, show them unique offers.
We hope this article will help you find new tools and strengthen your presence in the market during a period of high demand. Visit our eCommerce PPC library and find more valuable guides and our cases.
If you have any questions, write them below in the comments or use the special form to send a question if it contains confidential information.
Performance Marketing Specialist. Working with PPC since 2016. Specializes in Google & Microsoft paid traffic for eCommerce & B2B projects. In love with analysis. When not launching effective Ad campaigns, she is reading up on the latest in eCommerce and data tracking last trends.