If you’ve been following along with all our content around 2020 holiday marketing planning (which you should be!) you’ll be familiar with our posts about recapping your 2019 holiday campaign, reviewing your budget, and performing a Q1 year-over year comparison. As a quick recap, we discussed:

  • How to perform a recap of your goals and overall strategy for the 2019 holiday. This includes constructing a scorecard for understanding of how much you spent, where it was spent, how each dollar performed in a particular tactic, and how it translated into media performance and sales metrics. 
  • Strategies for looking at each channel’s budget (Google, Facebook, etc) to determine if you either under or overspent in a given channel using metrics available within each platform.
  • Evaluating the extended effects of your 2019 holiday strategy by comparing your 2020 Q1 results to the previous year. These numbers can help determine if you just shifted existing demand, or grew your customer base.

The business landscape has changed since we started our series on this topic, and it would be a mistake not to acknowledge it. We’ve put our heads together and developed several pieces of new content around COVID-19 (whether to stop your advertising, suggestions on marketing actions to take) but the reality is that your holiday marketing plans have probably changed a bit since January. Some ecommerce businesses are doing really well, but many brick and mortar locations have struggled to shift their in-store sales online. There has been a slight shift back to in-store sales starting in July as more businesses have opened up. Your specific challenges may be unique, but use these principles as a starting point.

To begin planning what advertising will be required this holiday we need to set tangible goals. In 2020 that might mean a return to pre-COVID sales levels. We recommend taking the holiday sales numbers from the last year and comparing them to the previous non-holiday monthly average. Then take that percentage increase and apply it to whatever you’re seeing in average monthly sales right now. That still represents a push from where your sales have currently been but is likely more realistic given the current state of the market.

Be sure to also be thoughtful about which of your products or services makes the most sense to focus on. In the past you may have used holiday marketing to promote discounts on your most expensive products, but in 2020 does that still make sense? The point is to take extra care in determining what your offer will be to achieve your sales goals given what we know about changes in consumer habits this year.

Define Channels To Use

Let’s start with an example: You’re focusing on some new product offerings and expect to need a larger investment in awareness. The target audience is 18-24 and you typically invest in social media for the first touch, leading to display retargeting, search, and other tactics for mid/low-funnel lead generation.

What is the best way to use advertising dollars to reach your sales goals? Determining channel strategy will go a long way towards understanding your budget requirements. You likely have a core set of advertising platforms you use (ex. Google and Facebook/Instagram) but now might be the right time to consider adding new channels to the mix. If you want to extend your advertising to a slightly younger demographic let’s discuss adding Snapchat and TikTok. Does your audience love podcasts? Those actually aren’t that hard to sponsor. Have you been putting off influencers?  It’s time to act.

Have a serious discussion about what channels could be used to reach your audience, convey the right message and get people excited. Once that is completed it’s time to determine where each channel fits, the creative requirements and budget.

Full-Funnel Holiday Marketing Planning

Here’s another scenario: You need to generate $1M in revenue this holiday and have decided that your lowest price point items (a collection of kids building sets that sells for $49 regularly and offers upsell opportunities into other products) will be your main focus in ads marked down 25%. You can realistically expect $400,000 in organic and direct channel sales and another $150,000 in email and affiliate channels, leaving a gap of $450,000. 

Average conversion rates for new site visitors: 1%

Assuming no changes to the metrics above you would need to drive a little over 1.2M new site visitors to achieve your goal. This should be the worst-case scenario.

Within this ROI model there are some levers you can potentially pull that will affect your new site visitor goal. How can you increase the conversion rate for new visitors? Is your site capable of up/cross-selling to improve average order value or do you need to build out a new email workflow or evaluate new marketing automation tools to add to your store?

Budgeting By Channel

In this scenario, a channel budget might look something like what we’ve outlined below. Built-in assumptions include a $100,000 marketing budget and a requirement to assemble a full-funnel campaign with significant investment at each step of the way. Clicks are estimated for each platform based on “historical” performance of your campaigns. We’re also anticipating a lift in conversion rate to account for the gap between our worst-case performance scenario and expected optimization activities on your site.

Top Funnel

Instagram Reach Video Campaign $30,000 ~150,000 clicks

YouTube TrueView $10,000 ~70,000 clicks

Display Ads $10,000 ~150,000 clicks

Mid Funnel

Instagram Video Retargeting Campaign $10,000 ~100,000 clicks

Display Retargeting $10,000 ~ 230,000 clicks

Bottom Funnel

Instagram Page/Post Engagers Retargeting Campaign $10,000 ~100,000 clicks

Google Search $20,000 ~30,000 clicks

Now, these are all projections and as marketers, we KNOW that nothing ever goes perfectly to plan. You may run into one of these example situations:

Scenarios For Budget Change

You come into work on Monday after the second week of the campaign and find that your Instagram ads (which had been performing right on target) have started to drop in CTR, meaning that our site visit projections are off now. Let’s try shifting some budget to YouTube while we work on new ad variations and a new test audience to evaluate how we can increase CTR again.

Lower funnel efforts are not scaling as expected due to lighter than anticipated search volumes. What do you do? Don’t panic. If you’re finding that paid search and other mid/bottom-funnel efforts are not driving sales we likely have a leak in the funnel (ie a weak point where our top-funnel audience is dropping off). Cut top-funnel campaign spends while you work through finding leaks with your analytics team to identify what steps can be taken to lead more potential customers down-funnel, then crank it back up.

Ad campaigns, especially during the holiday season, are not static. Your team should be game planning potential outcomes and have a plan in place for how to react if performance varies from projections..

Measuring Success

At this stage of your holiday marketing planning process you’ve now determined goals, a budget for holiday 2020, and the strategy by channel to achieve it. In our previous post talking about scorecards and recapping performance we talk through the basics of holiday scorecards and link to templates you could use to develop your own. It’s time to finalize your scorecard for this upcoming holiday campaign. Based on the channel strategy and budgets what metrics might you need to be tracking? Will you need a scorecard that shows spend, impressions, clicks, and sales by source?

If that’s a far cry from where you’ve been in the past, now is the time to get moving! Everything we discussed above won’t provide much value if you don’t put the effort in to measure success and gather data during the campaign. Feeling overwhelmed? Reach out to your friends at Gemini, we can help fill in any gaps you’re struggling with.