You Can’t Spell Christmas Without CSS

Read Time: 6 mins     

The end of the decade is in sight and as the rest of the country avidly watches this year’s Christmas adverts, ecommerce businesses across the country are gearing up for what’s expected to be another sizable Q4 (despite the 2019 Brexit will-they-won’t-they and the December election). 

For marketers, the most wonderful time of the year is also the busiest – we’re managing more data, more products and more customers than ever. In fact, some recent research shows that more people are planning to take part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, leading to an estimated total spend of £7 billion (an increase of over 55% from last years’ £4.5 billion). 

If this wasn’t enough, there’s also the double-edged sword of Black Friday falling after payday this year. Although this sounds more exciting for marketers at first, it also means that sales could potentially be “stolen” from Christmas campaigns, putting a lot more pressure on a concentrated few days rather than the whole holiday period. Perhaps more so than ever this year, Black Friday will underline the success of a brand’s Q4 and, consequently, the success of the entire year.

Each year, we have to ask ourselves the same questions: how do we handle the competition when an ever-growing number of contenders are launching deals? How do we manage rising costs thanks to heightened competition? And how do we utilise our marketing channels to their maximum capacity to drive the results that will define success for the year?

All of these different pressures can add up, leading to one very busy marketing manager.

Whilst we can’t help with everything in a single blog post, what we can offer is some marketer-to-marketer advice on your Shopping campaigns. 

Shopping has been around for a long time, and the NMPi team has been helping retailers since its birth. So, with the introduction of biddable media’s youngest child – Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) – we can use our years of expertise to help you make the most of this channel this winter.

CSS operates in much the same way as Shopping campaigns, with vendors bidding to show their ads in the top five positions of the Shopping window. Techniques to improve Shopping campaigns are numerous and varied, so we’ve focused on two pivotal aspects of Shopping activity to help you increase your chances of listing above your competitors: budgets and feeds.


First of all, if you’re not, make sure you’re using a CSS! Delivering your Shopping campaigns through a CSS provider means a 20% gain in efficiency, all of which results in the holy grail for paid media campaigns – better performance for less. Your budget will go further, which is particularly important as an Adthena report earlier this year showed that Google Shopping makes up approximately 82% of total search budgets, making this an important channel to capitalise on and to assign spend.

Additionally, increases in competition and elevated spends over peak retail season result in inflated CPCs, making it tricky to drive performance without overspending. According to recent research, bid prices in the apparel vertical in Great Britain grew by 16.7% over November and December of last year. With these soaring costs and rising numbers of rivals trying to stake their claim in the market, it’s important to allocate budget effectively to maximise performance over peak times. Additional investment / CPA increases can help to address this and drive further results. 


Whilst you can pump spend into campaigns to drive performance, results will be underwhelming if they’re not accompanied by effective, granular targeting geared towards accelerating sales. Unlike PPC, it’s not possible to bid on keywords with Shopping campaigns or have as much control over products that are shown in the SERP. We have to rely on Google’s algorithm, which often prioritises price as the deciding factor for the product that wins the auction and is displayed. Ensuring that your feed set up is as detailed as possible enables you to influence which products you want to push to potential customers.

As brands promote their holiday stock, a quick way to prioritise these items is to insert the sale/seasonal name into the feed titles. For example, ‘reindeer jumper’ becomes ‘Christmas reindeer jumper’. This allows you to guide your campaign decisions based on seasonal key search terms. 

You can repeat this process across bestsellers, higher-margin products, new season releases, and other items you want to push throughout the year too. 

Successful strategies this season will incorporate performance data into their feeds to automatically optimise activity. Within the feed, there are five available custom label columns, and this can be populated with information that will enable Shopping campaigns to generate revenue, including metrics like AOV, ROAS and bestselling/sale items, which can all be used as a base for campaign decisions. If you’re able to push margin data into the feed, third-party Shopping partners using tools such as SA360 (like NMPi), can utilise this to maximise revenue – visibility of margins offers insights into which items can be pushed harder. 

On top of this, the feed data used for Shopping activity can also be employed when delivering cross-channel campaigns. Centralising your data, and using the same signals across multiple channels, can help with campaign decisions and drive optimum performance. Too often, retailers silo their data, resulting in poorer performance. If a user clicks through a Shopping ad for a brand’s bestseller, this information can be pushed back into the feed to make sure the next time the user is browsing, they are served a Display or Social creative based on their previous decision, streamlining the user journey. Other important signals to take into account include top performers, high priority and higher-margin items, seasonal products and price comparison.

Overall, the best campaigns this winter will be the ones that implement a combination of well-optimised feeds and carefully decided budgets, anticipating the rise in competition as well as pushing specific products. Picking your battles is key; there’s little use in pushing products that aren’t going to sell. Making sure that detailed feed labels are applied, and data is centralised, enables smarter bidding decisions when promoting items, and encourages a more cost-effective approach across all marketing channels.

Success over the holiday season is ever more intricate, requiring meticulously planned campaigns that both foreshadow and respond to user behaviour. Using previous performance data, and analysing YoY trends, enables you to estimate the expected outcomes of the coming year. NMPi’s 2018 analysis below shows key retailing dates and their impact on clicks and conversion rates.

With multiple dates to circle in the diary, it’s no wonder that the holiday season is the most frenzied time of the year for marketers. And with Shopping competition higher than ever this year, it is vital to give yourself the edge by being granular, using your data and optimising your feed.

To find out more about our thoughts of the retail sector, you can explore our deep-dive report on the State of Advertising.

To get in touch about how NMPi can support your Shopping and other feed-based activity, please send an email to [email protected].

NMPinteractive Workshops launched for Industry Partners

NMPi, by Incubeta, are excited to announce the kick-off of our latest workshop series, NMPinteractive. Hosted in our new Old Street office, these active learning sessions give our partners first-hand experience in the services we provide and how to use our solutions to benefit advertisers’ strategy. 

According to our very own Learning and Development Director, Caitriona Bennett,  “Active learning thinks not just about the content of a session but how it will be best absorbed. It requires participants to think deeply and to apply new concepts in meaningful activities. By applying this method we help our partners increase content knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.”

In our first session, we offered our partners at Awin the chance to step into the shoes of a digital marketing manager. Each team was asked to create a “2020 performance strategy” for a top UK brand. Before they got started, the NMPi team gave them an in-depth training session on Paid Search, Paid Social, Display and CSS, focusing on how each solution can be used to its full potential and create the greatest impact on brand performance.  

After just a half-day’s workshop, NMPi were impressed with the innovative strategies produced by Awin, leaving the Awin team with a full understanding of how NMPi services can be used to their full extent. 

“NMPi hosted both an engaging and insightful workshop for us this month, to enhance not just our knowledge, but our partnership as a Network & Agency. The presentations were extremely valuable for our Client Services team, and to finish off the day – playing the role as a Digital Marketing Manager was very exciting!” – Sapna Basi, Awin Global Account Manager

This workshop was the first of many innovative training sessions that we will be delivering to our partners. If you are interested in learning how to get your team involved in an NMPinteractive workshop,  please get in touch with our partnerships team. 

If you’d like a glance into life at the Incubeta office, check out our Facebook album for an office tour!