Industry Insights

Retargeting Strategies to Boost Conversions This Holiday Season

Victoria Fryer

By Victoria Fryer

November 29, 2019

BigCommerce, ecommerce, Strategy

The chances of converting a shopper on their first visit to your eCommerce site are relatively low. Actually — it’s very low. 
A 2018 study reported that only 17% of customers actually intend to make a purchase on their first visit to a brand’s website. They could instead be looking for a specific piece of information, researching your product pricing and promotions, or just browsing for ideas.
The holiday gift-giving season adds a further layer of complexity to the shopping journey. As consumers browse for unique gift ideas and the best holiday deals, it’s up to you to make sure they don’t forget about you once they’ve clicked into their next online destination.
Retargeting is one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind with consumers who have interacted with your site. 

Why Retargeting Should be Part of Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy

As we’ve already established, customers rarely purchase a product on their first visit to an online shop. But when it comes to finding the perfect gift at the right price, they might do even more “window-shopping” than usual. 
According to a 2017 report from Deloitte, 65% of consumers said they’d likely spend between one to two hours researching holiday deals, while another 25% estimated three to five hours of research before making a purchase.
The ease of comparing product details and prices makes shopping online attractive to consumers who want to do their research. And, even for those consumers who prefer to make their final purchases in-store, you can bet that a large percentage of them will begin their research by browsing online.
A sound retargeting strategy, calibrated specifically for the holiday season, can help make sure your brand doesn’t get lost among the ever-deepening sea of competitors fighting to make holiday sales. 

4 Ways to Optimize Your Retargeting Campaigns for the Holidays

Great marketing and advertising are built on a bedrock of understanding consumer behavior. 
Think about how shoppers may engage differently with your online store during the holiday season. They might, for instance, be: 

  • Looking for gifts in a product category unfamiliar to them,

  • Comparing prices and product specs across a broader range of stores, or

  • Seeking inspiration for some of their toughest gift recipients.

The competition for every purchase is fierce. We’ll go through a few ways that you can amplify the impact of your retargeting campaigns to ensure your highest revenues this holiday season. You can also use this handy retargeting matrix framework to help flesh out your plan.

1. Leverage dynamic retargeting to increase relevancy. 

There’s one very simple way to structure a retargeting campaign: create an ad, then serve it to anyone who visits your site but doesn't make a purchase. Unfortunately, the simple way is sometimes not the most effective — or the most cost-efficient, once all the numbers are in. 
Dynamic retargeting zeroes in on the actions each shopper actually took while visiting your site, like what products they viewed and if they added any of them to their shopping cart.
Take an example of a shopper looking at women’s diamond bracelets. A dynamic retargeting ad could feature images of any bracelets they viewed on that visit, plus other similar products. This will likely yield a higher conversion rate because it’s more relevant to its target audience. 
In this Harvard Business Review article espousing the benefits of relevance over brand loyalty, the authors write, “A key component of becoming a living business is conveying exactly the right message, experience, or offer to customers in exactly the right context.” 

2. Use Facebook and Instagram to your advantage.

If you want someone to hear your message, one of the best ways is to be in the same room with them. As of 2018, Americans spend an average of 64 minutes per day between Facebook and Instagram. 
Dynamic ads on Facebook and Instagram work similarly to any other dynamic retargeting by tailoring them specifically to each shopper’s unique needs. And showing up in a shopper’s social feed has an added advantage. 
Social media sites are typically consumed in downtime, so you’re not just finding them where they are… you’re finding them when they’re available. 
One word of caution: social channels, especially Instagram, are widely consumed on mobile devices. Make sure that if you leverage these channels to drive traffic to your store, that your store is mobile-optimized to handle everything from browsing to checkout. 

3. Re-engage last year’s holiday shoppers. 

One of the great things about the holiday shopping season is that your potential audience can grow exponentially. Eleven months out of the year, shoppers without small children may never consider purchasing playroom decor or footed pajamas, but that may be just what they need to check off their holiday gift list. 
The holidays can be a great time to dust off last year’s data and target some branded ads toward shoppers who bought from your store last season. 

4. Invest in festive creative. 

You don’t have to go overboard, but using some holiday-specific creative in your ads can help you stand out among the crowd. Even just a slight tweak to your color palettes can help evoke the feeling of the season without straying too far away from your brand. Just make sure to switch it back out for the new year.

5. Avoid oversaturation. 

When retargeting shoppers with ads about your business and products, there’s a fine line to walk between “helpful reminder” and “ubiquitous annoyance.” But you can fine-tune your settings to make sure you stay on the former side — and avoid your potential customer base switching on an ad blocker. 
Set a frequency cap on how many times in a determined time period that an ad will be served to a tagged user. recommends around 17–20 ads per person, per month, but that may vary based on industry, seasonality, and other factors.
You’ll also want to exclude visitors who have already converted. You don’t necessarily have to take them out of the retargeting campaign altogether, but you don’t want to serve ads that are specific to a product they’ve already purchased. 

6. Always be optimizing. 

No digital ad strategy should be treated as a set-it-and-forget-it campaign. You — or someone data-savvy on your team — should consistently check in on results. If campaigns aren’t performing as well as you’d like, try adjusting the messaging, creative, channel, or budget, to name a few. 

7. Don’t stop short.

Every shopper knows that some of the best deals happen just after Christmas — and some sources have dubbed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day “Cyber Week II” to draw attention to its impact on revenue. 
Staying competitive at the very end of the holiday game may well mean offering some deep discounts, but the added opportunity can be worth it. Take the last week of the year into account in your holiday strategy, and you could see a significant return.

A Word of Caution

When it comes to holiday shopping, consumers often purchase things that they don’t typically want or need. Such is the nature of gift-giving and, while it seems obvious to say it, it’s important to factor that into your digital strategy. 
After the holidays, retargeting everyone who bought a set of tools may be a waste of money. That makes it even more important to optimize your strategy and audience segmentation in the new year.

Executive Summary

Retargeting shoppers over the holiday season is a great way to keep your brand top-of-mind and remind them of the products they viewed on your eCommerce site. Here are a few of the key takeaways:

  • Tailoring ads to their intended targets by using dynamic ads, as well as leveraging channels like Facebook and Instagram, can heighten your brand’s visibility and provide an opportunity for personalization.

  • Targeting shoppers that haven’t engaged with your brand since last holiday season can be used as a way to remind them of the gift-giving potential you offer.

  • Don’t shy away from holiday-themed creative, if appropriate for your category and target audience.

  • Never stop optimizing your campaigns, and watch out for oversaturation — you don’t want potential customers to get annoyed with your brand before even having a chance to purchase.

Keep your ads  running through “Cyber Week II” — and consider adding some extra discounts and promotions. That’s what shoppers will be looking for! 

Victoria Fryer

Victoria Fryer

Victoria Fryer is a content marketing manager at BigCommerce, an open SaaS eCommerce platform providing differentiated commerce experiences for growing businesses. With more than ten years of writing experience, she enjoys making words work across industries — including prior experience in cybersecurity and higher education. She lives and works in Austin, Texas.

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