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Holiday Marketing In October? You Better Believe it

  • Written by  Scott Gifis, AdRoll

0aaaScott Gifis AdRollRetailers often bring in as much as 30% of their total sales during the holiday season. With so much revenue on the line, this massive opportunity puts an equally massive amount of pressure on ambitious online businesses. Not only do they have to balance finding new shoppers, omnichannel campaigns, and optimizing on past successes — they also have to provide personalized and seamless customer experiences. Easy enough, right?

If you’ve already started thinking about all of this, congratulations! You’re a few steps ahead of most online businesses. One of the biggest misconceptions about holiday marketing is that it starts right before Black Friday. Nope. That’s too late.

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In fact, 40% of U.S. consumers plan to begin their holiday shopping before November, and a whopping 20% plan to start before October even begins. The only way to ensure you’re capturing the most sales possible is getting a head start.

Below are a few takeaways from a recent study on holiday spend and performance metrics from last year, based on data from 35,000 advertisers and billions of shopper profiles. Use these insights to get ahead of the game and alleviate future headaches this holiday season.

  • Don’t start any later than October. Campaigns that start in October see a 7% increase in impressions, a 12% decrease in average cost-per-click (CPC) and a 20% decrease in average cost-per-impression (CPM) compared to other holiday months. 

    These stats prove that by starting early, you'll be able to reach both new and existing customers with strategic holiday messaging at a lower cost, which will positively impact your total ROI. From choosing your promotions to designing your ads, planning should have already started to make sure your brand is front and center when people start shopping.
  • While we’ve learned that October is the best time to start running your campaigns, engagement is highest in November and December. Last season, advertisers saw a 9% increase in click-through-rate (CTR) in November, and a 15% increase in CTR in December. This means during these months where consumers are more engaged, your brand needs more meaningful, engaging content and a clear understanding of your customer’s journeys.  

    Luckily there are several solutions on the market to connect these dots for you. Data and attribution tools can help you figure out the perfect combination of messaging and channels needed to keep your sales and revenue funnel full without annoying your shoppers with irrelevant content.
  • Last year, mobile accounted for 50% of purchases from July 1 through December 25, followed by desktops at 39% and tablets at 11%. Mobile also accounted for a 63% cheaper CPC when compared to desktop.

    This makes sense when you consider the lifestyle of today’s most active shoppers, who are looking for great deals on their daily commute, between meetings, and everywhere in between. Make sure you don’t miss out on these mobile shoppers. Ensure your holiday strategy includes mobile ad units and is flexible to work across screens, platforms and channels.
  • To take advantage of this large majority of mobile shoppers, marketers must ensure they have a presence on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, AdRoll customers saw a 400% increase in CTR on Instagram when compared to their display campaigns, and a 54% increase in CTR on Facebook.    

    Aside from hot cocoa, caroling and time with friends and family, there’s one other thing many consumers look forward to when it comes to the holidays: a good sale! 

    Last year, shoppers in the U.S. spent $5 billion in online sales and UK shoppers spent £1.4bn; 11% more than the previous year. With so many online shoppers comparing deals and bargains, you need to consider your pricing carefully. Make sure you strike the right balance between value and return on investment, and then let shoppers know about your holiday pricing across every marketing channel.

If you haven’t learned by now, your online strategy should be everywhere your customers go. While display and social ads go a very long way, don’t forget to reach out to customers in their email inbox.

Email is a valuable way to connect with the right shoppers. Working adults spend over six hours a day checking email, and there are three times more emails than social media accounts. Email users spend 17% more on digital purchases, and average a 3,800% ROI.

All in all, these study findings prove what we as marketers and advertisers know in theory, but sometimes don’t have the tools and strategies in place to execute. You’ll need a clear message and call to action, and coordinated efforts with your display, social and email ads to boost sales this holiday season. And don’t forget to start early!


As President of AdRoll, Scott Gifis is responsible for moving the company towards their mission of empowering ambitious brands to grow their business, regardless of budget, resources, or marketing experience. Gifis has a proven track record of outperforming aggressive business growth expectations, often in hyper competitive or uncertain markets, and a passion for building and leading world-class teams. As an industry veteran, Gifis has worked in tech/adtech for nearly 20 years. Prior to joining AdRoll, he served as Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Business Development at OpinionLab. Before OpinionLab, he was Vice President, Mid-Markets and Publisher Marketplace at Criteo, where under his leadership, he launched and scaled Criteo's North American Mid-Market business. Gifis serves as a board member for several early and mid-stage technology companies as well as several education nonprofits. He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.

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