5 Insights From The 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

by Bradley Klein
on April 8, 2020

We’ve heard from a lot of social media marketers that the past holiday season was fairly volatile in terms of results. Several of them made New Year’s resolutions to be better prepared for the holidays in 2020. We’ve found that knowing where you’ve been helps guide you to where you want to go. With that, here are our top five learnings from the 2019 holiday shopping season, as it applies to social media advertising.

Advertisers who run ads long before the holiday season tend to out-perform advertisers who only turn their ads on for the holidays.

#1: Have your holiday promotion strategy ready well ahead of time

Roughly 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2019 holiday forecast. Further, a full 19% are “early bird” shoppers who started in September or earlier. That means almost half of your potential audience could no longer be in-market for your holiday promotions by the time Black Friday arrives. You don’t have to have your Black Friday promotions running all month in November, but you should have some ads running to capture these early holiday shoppers. 

On that topic, make sure your promotional calendar for Q4 is ready at least a month in advance and that all of your creative for each promotion is ready several weeks before going live. Scrambling to get some creative up and running often leads to lower quality ads and poorer performance. By getting all of your promotional material ahead of time, your ads can be approved by the platform, your targeting strategy has time to be refined, and your stress level will hopefully be lower. 


#2: Know what motivates your customers to purchase

A promotion is only as good as the consumers it motivates to purchase. Each business is different in the products and services it sells but there are some high-level truths that can be applied across the board. Here are the top three influential factors for consumers, based on Google Shopping data: 

  • Lowest price for item
  • Free shipping
  • Sale / discount / promo (percentage or $ off)


#3: Make sure your site is set up for a quick checkout process

With all of the options to shop online, make sure your site makes it easy for the consumer to purchase quickly. If it does not, your potential customers will likely go find something similar and purchase from another site. Here are the top website issues that send your potential customers running for the hills, based on our agency’s internal data from Google Analytics.

Long Load Times

Attention span on social media platforms are short. If your site takes more than three seconds to load, consumers are going to leave and go back to reading their News Feed. 

Difficult Checkout Process

You have done all the hard work to get the consumer to initiate a checkout just to have them abandon the process. So close, yet so far. Keep the checkout process simple with as few questions as possible and transparent with no hidden fees, especially about shipping costs.

Not Mobile Friendly

This seems obvious in 2020 but we have seen several sites where the product pages are optimized for mobile but the checkout pages are designed for a desktop experience. Keep the content/noise on your site to a minimum and provide a clear path to checkout for your customers. 

#4: Prepare for a lot of competition for your ad space online

Every year, Facebook warns advertisers that CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) is going to increase around Black Friday and not come back down until after the New Year. While you can’t control how many other advertisers are competing for the same consumers you are, you can control your ad strategy going into the holiday season. 

Mid-October to mid-November is the sweet spot for maximizing your ROAS. Take advantage of early holiday shoppers and build brand equity going into the holiday season. If you do not want to put out a promotion in this time frame, you can build excitement and anticipation so that when you do release your big promotion, you have a leg up on your competition. 


#5: Utilize the months prior to test, test, and retest

How do you know what ad creative, copy, and promotions resonate best with your target audiences? Test! On Facebook, Dynamic Creative and Split Tests are great for A/B testing these variables. In addition to the A/B test, make sure you analyze all of the breakdown data such as age, gender, platform, and geographic location. What works best for 18-35 year old males in Texas may not be the same as 45-54 year old females in Minnesota.

Plus, all of the major social media platforms report that advertisers who run ads long before the holiday season tend to out-perform advertisers who only turn their ads on for the holidays. The platform builds historical data on who your best customers are and optimizes your ads. 

These insights are not limited to the holiday season. Apply them ahead of any big promotions or sales initiatives to ensure your social media ad campaigns perform at their best. 

If you are looking for social media ad help, we are always available to assist. Accelerated Digital Media partners with businesses to drive long-term, sustainable growth. Our Facebook Blueprint Certified team has been working in social media marketing since it first debuted. We provide deep insight into best practices, recommended strategies, & upcoming beta tests.

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