Woman shopping online with a credit card

#12DaysofStrategy: My holiday sales aren’t where I want them. How do I fix this?

We are almost half-way through December and the Christmas shopping season is well under way. The digital marketing strategy for the festive period has been implemented and we will now begin to see indicators of whether it is paying off… or not.

We all hope that analysing trends and lessons from previous years and developing new, clever ideas to reach shoppers in a different way will maximise sales. However, people are unpredictable and consumer behaviour changes all the time. Therefore, it is rare that campaigns go exactly the way they were planned, and in some cases, sales may be behind where we want them to be. If this is the case, do not panic; the holiday shopping period is not over. It is time to delve down into the details of the campaigns to identify exactly what is working, and what is not.

Devices

The changes in the way consumers use devices in their path to conversion has been a topic of discussion across the industry for the last couple of years, both in the way we use different devices, and using multiple devices in the user journey.

The ability to modify bids for desktop, tablet, and mobile separately on AdWords was not available this time last year. Therefore reviewing performance across devices on a continual basis is incredibly important, and could make a significant difference to campaigns. Do not only consider last click data when making bid adjustments. If possible, have a look at other attribution models to see if any devices are having an influence earlier on the path to conversion.

Demographics and Audience Data

Improvements in audience data and targeting by age and gender has been a focus of Google over the past year, most likely due to Facebook having this readily available for advertisers to use. With these features on paid search, not only are we able to target users based on their search intent, but we can overlay this targeting to hone in on the consumer most likely to convert.

If you do not have many audience lists or demographics applied to your campaigns, set them up as bid only. Let the data build up on the lists over the coming days and weeks, then apply some bid modifiers to bid up where performance is stronger than the average, and bid down where performance is weaker.
If you have been taking full advantage of these features, whether you are using bid modifiers, or have split out campaigns based on audience lists or demographics, review the data over the past couple of weeks. You will most likely see different trends from last year, or even the past few months, then adjust the bid modifiers where appropriate.

Facebook & Instagram Campaign Structure

It is often tempting to set up paid social campaigns and let them run. However, if you are not seeing performance where you would like it to be, demographics and devices are good places to start. This will provide insight into ages, genders, or devices to exclude from targeting due to poor performance, as well as indicate those which are driving the results so far.

The granularity of campaigns on Facebook can depend on spend limits, with minimum advert set budgets specified by Facebook. However, if you do have some budget to play with, explore the option of splitting your advert sets out further by device or demographics. Take a look at the data you have so far, and break out the advert sets by whichever segment sees the largest variances in performance. This more granular structure will allow poorer performing audience segments to be identified more easily in order to channel more spend into the top performing areas.

Time of Day Bidding

With a couple of weeks of data for December, this is the perfect time to review the time of day and day of week bid modifiers applied to paid search campaigns. Ensure all campaigns have hour of day segments applied, then bid up or down based on the performance of the campaigns at the different times.
For Facebook, if activity is limited by the budget and lifetime budgets are being used, advertisers have the ability to turn activity off by hour. Segment the performance stats for advert sets by hour and day to identify if any hours can be turned off due to poorer performance. This will allow budget to be channelled into top performing times of the day.

Google Shopping Structure

The middle of the holiday season is not the time to make any major changes to the structure of shopping campaigns; however there may be some adjustments which can help to improve top line performance. Drill down into each product group, and break out both the products which are driving sales and those which are spending the most. This will allow bids to be adjusted at a more granular level. Decrease bids on the products which are spending a lot, but not generating the desired return. Increase bids on the products which are performing well, but do have impression share maximised.

Paid Search Keywords

It is the task which many of us want to put off, however search query reports for paid search are key to ensuring budgets are being spent as efficiently as possible. Make sure all the irrelevant search queries are excluded from campaigns. Pull these reports on a regular basis as there are always new queries. Add any search terms which are driving sales through non-exact campaigns into the account as exact match. This will allow you to keep an eye on these keywords, and manipulate bids on them specifically.

Paid Search Ad Group Granularity

For paid search campaigns, review the keywords in each ad group to make sure they are all closely related. If there are any which are not, split them out into a new ad group and amend the ads where possible to contain the keyword. This is to ensure that your ads are as relevant as possible to the search terms they appear for, which will help improve quality score. As a guide, we recommend a maximum of five keywords per ad group. If there are any more than this, the ad group will likely benefit from being split out.

Ad Copy Messaging

It is not only ad relevance in paid search which is important; users also need to be served appropriate messaging, and this applies across all digital marketing activity. It is easy to fall into the trap of running with ad copy which is familiar to us as advertisers. It may have performed the best in the past, but on-going testing is crucial to a successful campaign. Often, we are limited by both promotional messaging and character limits, therefore testing does not need to be anything drastic, and during peak sales times it should not be. Test one section of the ad, whether it is the headline in paid search ads, the image in Facebook ads, or the call to actions. Make sure the unique selling points which differentiate you from competitors are highlighted.

If you have some tests up and running already, now is the time to review the results. Think carefully about which metrics are most important to your goals, then pause the ad variation which is lower performing, and set up a new test for the coming weeks. If you do not have any tests running, get some set-up. The ad variation feature released earlier this year in AdWords is a great way to do this quickly without having to create lots of new ads. It allows advertisers to simply find and replace in ads. If you are nervous about testing the unknown over such an important sales period, the tool allows tests to be run across a proportion of impressions, so set the test to only run on 20% of impressions for example.
Hopefully, some of these tips will be useful for improving performance of both paid search and paid social campaigns over the festive sales period.

Before starting to look deeper into your accounts, remind yourself of the goals of the different campaigns over the holiday period and think about the KPIs which are most important to each aspect of the activity. If you want to see more tips on how to run online Shopping campaigns, then please check out How Holistic Marketing Can Support The Festive Season

Stay tuned to more from our 12 Days of Christmas Strategy blog series.