Outsmart Your Competition for the Holidays

September 18, 2017

15.8% Increase Expected 2017 Holiday eCommerce Sales

If you want to out do your competition for the 2017 holiday eCommerce season, think of either outspending them or outsmarting them. You may need to even do both.

2017 Holiday Ecommerce Sales Season should see a 16% increase in sales.

At Visual String, we love spending an hour with Google. They have an excellent series of webinars that fit into a lunch break through their Academy on Air through Google Partners. You can see all their videos on their Youtube channel.

However, their last webinar, Audience Strategies for the Holiday Season, has us wondering whether their advice supports Google or their customers. (Spoiler alert: They support Google.)

To sum, the webinar discussed:

  • Expect Q4 advertising rates to rise 140% over normal quarters because of competition.
  • Good marketers know how to remarket as holiday traffic grows
  • Know your share of impressions and how to adjust.

Sound advice; however, it’s an overly simplistic message of “spend more when the competition rises”. 

Advertising spend is only part of the picture when looking at 2017 holiday eCommerce trends. Online marketing during periods of peak competition is also about planning and strategy.

There are periods when you need to spend. That is true. But the smart marketer is all about strategy.

When to Outspend Your Competition

We always prefer strategy over blind spending. Implementing strategy is cheaper in the long run and provides a better base of data that can drive future decisions. It’s smart. But, there is a place for automatic increases in spending.

Highly Competitive Markets

  • Overly competitive markets tend to have few keywords to help better refine your niche. The term “IPhone X”, for instance, will garner a lot of traffic this season no mater what your selling: repair services, cases, batteries, chairs, etc… If you’re selling either the phone, extras or a service, it’s a must use term. IPhone X advertisers, prepare to pay!
  • Competitive markets also tend towards high competition. Duh, right? But advertising success breads success with competition mimicking your keywords and pushing your ads down the page. Since Google rates ad quality by spend, you may need to automate your bids higher to gain better page rank. 

No Obvious Strategy

  • In a few cases, spending more may be the only strategy available. Consider cases of bad timing. Changes can happen fast during the 2017 holiday eCommerce season, so to remain relevant, you may increase budget just to stay in the game. Go back to our IPhone X example. Let’s say you did create a strategy, focus your keywords and begin working your plan when suddenly, Apple reports that the IPhone X explodes in your pocket. Now, you and everyone else rushes to market the Samsung 8. Competition soars.  It’s great to have a plan B, but internet change can happen in hours and it can be hard to know which plan B to strategize for. In cases like this, changing horses means increasing budget.
  • Unknown conversion patterns can also be a problem. A conversion pattern is knowing how customers enter your site and how they progress through your pages to become a sale. Knowing the pattern of your traffic means you had time to run cheaper tests when ad rates were lower.
  • Finally, marketers can also go into a markets where good information doesn’t yet exist. You can’t build a strategy when there is no information to strategize from. Your initial ads are basically just guesses. 

If you run into one of these issues, expect to either pay more or reduce your marketing. Neither are good options, in our view.

When to Outthink Your Competition

My mentors always said, “If you don’t have time to plan, then you’re planning to fail.” They’re right. They’re always right. Good marketing really goes back to good planning. And that means three critical ingredients:

  1. Time
  2. Knowledge
  3. Targets

Make Time to Plan

Building a good strategy really goes back to data. However, if you don’t schedule time upfront to collect that data through ad experiments or research before the 2017 holiday eCommerce season gets heated, then you won’t know how to effectively realign your campaign as your market changes.

Pad your schedule with enough time to experiment. We consider these two tasks critical:

  • Test ad assumptions with mini campaigns. Maybe you have a set of new keywords. Possibly you’re entering a new geographic market. When you have unknowns, run a set of cheap internet ads in small markets first to get the information that allows you to address the broader market.  
  • Use analytics to find your best performing ad times. If you know the best time of day to run ads or know the best part of your season to scale up, then you can save thousands on a campaign and still have great success.

Know Your Market, Know Your Keywords

You can easily outthink your market by knowing your customer better than your competition. This comes down to keyword use

The keyword in your ad should always exist in your landing page. If that landing page isn’t aligned to a specific set of keywords, then during periods of high competition, Google will rank competing ads higher when they are better aligned. Ad-to-Landing-Page alignment is a key component in ad quality and this matters when competition increases.

As said earlier, not having enough time to test may mean you rush into an ad program that costs more and does less.

Know Target Your CPA

If you’re on a budget, knowing your target CPA (or Cost Per Action) is critical. CPA is different from traditional AdWords which usually prices as a Cost Per Click or CPC. CPC generally means your bid amount floats up and down with competition.

CPA sets a top end price that is stable. You generally know how much you’re going to spend with a CPA formula. That’s great when budget really matters.

The CPA format doesn’t work when you don’t have enough time to run the ad before reaching your target budget. With CPA, you need to train Google’s algorithm on how best to place your ad. Otherwise, you’re campaign won’t be as effective.

It Always Pays to Have a Plan

Google AdWords is a great way to market your product or service this 2017 holiday eCommerce season. This is true when you need to market in a rush. It’s even more true when you have the time to put a strategy in place.

A strategy coupled with Google AdWords allows you to find more targeted niche keywords that are cheaper and have better competition, yet create plenty of quality clicks. That’s what you want and you get get their without padding your schedule and doing the hard work of experimentation.

Outsmarting your competition or out spending your competition? With time, outsmarting is always an option.

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