If you think the 2020 holiday season will be business as usual for your digital marketing efforts, think again. COVID-19 and its effects have complicated an already insane time of year for marketers by creating all kinds of uncertainty around e-commerce and consumer behavior trends. Early data predicts that almost 75% of holiday shoppers plan to do more of their holiday shopping and browsing online this year which means competition for ad space will be fierce. People are shopping earlier, buying differently, and celebrating in unique ways this year. Are you prepared?

If not, it’s time to make a plan and get those holiday advertising campaigns up and running as soon as possible. First, we’ll discuss why you should start earlier than usual and then we’ll offer five ways to ensure you have the most successful holiday season yet.

Your holiday advertising needs to start now.

If you haven’t started planning or executing your holiday advertising campaigns, you need to start today. With a quarter of consumers already done (yes, done) with their holiday shopping, you can’t afford to wait another day to roll out those holiday promotions.

In a year where nothing has felt comfortable, people are craving the warm fuzzy feelings only the holidays can bring. Because of this, people have embraced the holiday spirit earlier than ever.

Panic buying, or FOMO, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when there’s a fear of scarcity and another big reason why consumers are shopping earlier this year. We all remember the bare shelves at the grocery stores during the peak of the global shutdown, right? To avoid missing out on this year’s hot ticket items, consumers are starting their shopping earlier than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted holiday shopping by driving uncertainty around shipping times. Consumers are traumatized by the excessive shipping delays we experienced earlier in the year (and some are still experiencing) and aren’t taking chances this holiday season. To ensure packages arrive on time, holiday shoppers are putting orders in well ahead of schedule.

Getting ads out quickly is only half the battle. If you’re not putting out quality content, you won’t generate the right kind of traffic. Let’s take a look at four key ways to create the best holiday ads possible.

1. Plan, plan, and plan some more.

Before you launch any marketing campaign, you have to lay out a clear plan complete with goals, targets, and key strategies to get you there. Here are some factors to consider when planning your holiday advertising campaigns:

  • Audience. Determining your target audience is always the first step to any marketing strategy. Knowing which bracket of the population you are trying to reach is going to shape your marketing strategy more than anything else. Your audience can be divided along a myriad of lines including age, gender, geographic location, interests, income level, etc. and determines the platform you use and the tone of your messaging. Once you nail down who your audience is, building a marketing strategy will be much easier.
  • Consumer behavior. Along the same lines as audience, understanding consumer behavior, and how it relates to your business specifically, is going to be crucial. And, surprise surprise, 2020 has thrown us a few curveballs when it comes to consumer behavior. For a more indepth look at how COVID has changed the way consumers spend their money, check out our blog post “How COVID-19 Is Changing Ecommerce This Holiday Season.”
  • Metrics. Determine which metrics you are going to use to measure your success rate. Are you looking to drive traffic, increase revenue, add email subscribers, or boost overall brand awareness? These metrics are called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and are going to help keep your advertising campaigns on track.
  • Historical data. Typically, data from past marketing campaigns serves as the rutter for future marketing efforts by giving you insight into what worked and what didn’t. Although you won’t be able to rely as heavily on it this year, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Take a look at your holiday campaigns from the last couple of years, but remember that so much has changed in 2020 and it needs its own special treatment.

2. Create relevant content.

As tempting as it may be to copy and paste advertising content from last year, don’t. That’s never a good idea, but it’s especially important to avoid this year. The holidays are going to look drastically different for most people this year due to COVID, so using old content will come across as irrelevant at best and tone deaf at worst.

Whether you address the pandemic directly or not, your ads should be sensitive to the current situation. Scenes of giant family gatherings exchanging perfectly wrapped packages won’t strike a chord with the average audience this year. Instead, focus on the new normal and how people can still enjoy the magic of the season despite all the changes.

Other relevant themes to include in your messaging include: small/local businesses, working from home, celebrating from afar, self-gifting, pets, teachers, first responders, nostalgia, health and safety, and keeping traditions alive virtually.

3. Don’t set it and forget it.

No matter how confident you are in your planning and content creation, you should track the performance of your advertising on a regular basis to make sure it’s doing what you want it to do. If you don’t, you run the risk of wasting precious time and resources running ads that are falling flat.

  • It’s important to stay agile and ready to make adjustments if needed. Here are three things to keep an eye on:
  • Engagement. Who are you reaching? Is it your targeted audience?
  • Open rate. For email campaigns, are your emails being opened? If not, they might be getting filtered out by email algorithms.
  • Conversion rates. Are your ads generating leads and sales? Are they moving the needle on your KPIs?

4. Shake things up.

As we’ve discussed, 2020 is the year to take everything you know about digital marketing and add a heaping tablespoon of salt. Just because something has worked in the past, doesn’t mean it will work this year; and if something has failed in the past, don’t be afraid to give it another go. Here are three ways you can branch out:

  • New channels. People are on their phones more than ever so if you haven’t explored social media marketing or email marketing in the past, this year is a good time to give it a try. Keep in mind where you are most likely to reach your targeted audience but don’t be afraid to venture into new territories.
  • New audience. Speaking of audience, when was the last time you tried reaching a different audience? Remember, consumer behavior is all over the board these days so marketing to a less conventional audience might end up paying off big time.
  • New messaging. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut with your messaging, this is a great year to spice it up. Don’t be afraid to break from your traditional tone, especially if you’re exploring different audiences. People are looking for human connection so if your tone has been all work and no play in the past, try introducing a more casual tone this holiday season.

If you want to start capturing those early sales, generating critical user data, and enjoying the holiday season with friends and family, get your holiday advertising campaigns in place before it gets any busier.