How to Ecommerce - your Q4 guide

As we barrel into Q4 and the really important holidays (we’re talking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, of course) the AUSAM team thought it would be appropriate cover off on some ecommerce pointers. While many of these things are staples for any ecommerce plan, we’ve also got some season-specific tips to help you make the most of your holiday budget. So without further ado:

1. If it’s too good to be true

The massive influx of budget and demand for digital ad inventory during the holidays, many times, is also accompanied by an influx in fraud. Q4 is a wonderful time to be extra vigilant about inventory and audience quality. Be sure you have your fraud vendor of choice in place – with both a pre-bid solution and post-campaign monitoring – and also that you are asking questions about suspicious patterns. Did your CTR triple overnight? That might be good news, but first see if it’s suspicious. Are all the clicks coming from one website, inventory source or placement, happening during weird hours, getting to your site and bouncing right away? These could all be signs of fraud.

2. Early bird gets the worm

Most people are done with the bulk of their holiday shopping before December. Not only do we know this from years of running ecomm campaigns, but if you’re finding this hard to believe here’s a study from September claiming 14% of the US has already started holiday shopping and more than 1MM of us are finished. Finished. When planning for Q4 you should prioritize your budgets for October and November and maintain a smaller presence in December. Those who are still shopping in late December are most likely looking for ideas and inspiration for hard-to-buy-for giftees. Which brings us to our next point…

3. Be inspirational

In the mad frenzy to get banners, vertical videos, instagram shots and newsfeed ads in front of your audience don’t lose the importance of content and context. Holiday shopping is not regular ecommerce where you’re talking to your best costumers and trying to win trial away from your competitors. During the holidays most of us are trying to figure out what in the world we should be getting family, friends, co-workers, secret Santa pulls, teachers, neighbors, etc. A big component of holiday shopping is getting context right (think gift guides, top 10 lists, consumer reviews, etc.) and also content. Make sure when you get consumers onsite you are answering their questions, surfacing reviews and showcasing your most popular products. These can be important in helping a user convert. Speaking of helping users convert...

4. Give them a little something

Offers are incredibly important during holiday season. Make sure to incorporate offer messaging in your creative, onsite and throughout the shopping journey. Even if it’s something as simple as free shipping. Things that reduce “risk” when buying gifts (free shipping/returns, size guides, live chat support onsite, etc.) can play a big role in your holiday commerce success.

5. Stop chasing people

And because your site will likely be seeing a large number of visitors who are shopping for others, you’ll want to limit remarketing efforts during this time. Holiday time is a prime opportunity to grow new customers and site visitors. If you are heavily funding your remarketing budget you are spending most of your time and money missing the opportunity to funnel new prospects to your site. For the remarketing you are doing make sure you have good controls in place so you’re not wasting budget.

6. Get to know the newbies

Be smart and make sure you have a way to capture new visitors for future marketing efforts. Things like encouraging users to create a wishlist, share their carts with others or sign up to be notified when items are back in stock are a great way to capture emails so you can communicate with these customers into the new year. Even better; add a little toggle button to the checkout process for “this is a gift” to learn who is shopping for themselves and who is shopping for others (so you can segment and speak to them accordingly going forward).

7. Don't jump the gun

Make sure you’re refreshing creative often and that your creative makes sense. In the same study we linked to in tip #2, many users said they were annoyed with holiday messaging that started too early or that wouldn’t go away. You should be running fall messaging until closer to Thanksgiving, with Christmas messaging starting after that. You can still highlight offers and be content aligned early in the quarter – but don’t break out the Santa ads before we’ve had turkey.  Holidays are also a great time to use native and visual formats to showcase your site and products beautifully while avoiding cluttered ads that look like a store closing banner.

8. Attention to detail

With the urgency around holiday shopping and ease of switching between competitors, the stakes can be higher than ever. Guard your house by keeping a close watch on site performance. Make sure everything is loading quickly, displaying correctly on all screens and that you’re SEO is strong. You’ll want to bid aggressively on your branded search terms to stave off competition and make sure you’re there when users are asking for you by name. It’s also important to ensure your product feed/catalogue are constantly updated. No one wants to click through a Google Shopping Ad for a sold-out product. Everything for your site should be happening in real time and monitored closely. Adding one second of load time to your mobile site can cause users to bounce and find what they want elsewhere.

9. Get your attribution game tight

And while we owe you a full post on this topic alone - we can’t give out tips for ecomm without talking about attribution. Since purchase cycles tend to shorten dramatically during holidays make sure you ask yourself if that 30 or 14-day look-back window actually makes sense. Do you want to buy media for someone to make a purchase 30 days from now? Instead of doing last touch attribution see if your ad server has an option to split credit for a conversion among multiple sources. This will give you a more realistic picture of performance and discourage media waste. Another thing worth looking into is time-decay attribution (that is, giving less credit to vendors who take longer to get the user to purchase. A lot of ad servers have these and other attribution settings built-in. See which ones may make the most sense for you.

Happy shopping,

Team AUSAM