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For retailers, it seems like the holiday shopping season starts earlier every year. If you’re an e-commerce retailer, that means it’s time to start thinking through your holiday advertising strategy.

There are a variety of tricks you can use to reach the right customer base and give them an online shopping experience that will not only win you their business now, but for months and years to come.

1. Get back to basics

As with any online advertising campaign, you need to understand what makes your business unique to effectively market yourself to potential customers.

What’s your unique selling point? Price? Convenience? Range of products? Emotional appeal? Warranty?

People can usually find what you’re selling somewhere else with a quick search and a few clicks so you have know what makes your company worth buying from and focus on that selling point.

Your unique selling point may not work for everyone, but during the holiday season, there are enough buyers that you can focus your advertising on what makes your business or products special. To do that, it pays to pull out your buyer personas and try to figure out who your target customers are, what they’re looking for and how to effectively target them.

For example, if your selling point for your watches is price, you’re going to target a very different group of keywords on paid search than if you are trying to sell Rolexes.

It might sound simple, but taking the time to get back to the basics and figure out who you’re targeting and why they’re buying can pay off big dividends—especially during the competitive holiday season.

2. Personalize your messaging

Given the size of the holiday shopping market, it can be hard to figure out how to stand out from the competition. Even if you know your buyer personas and what they want, it can still be tricky to figure out how to win a sale from them.

This is where personalization comes in handy.

The more specific you can make your target audience and the messaging you use with them, the more likely you are to get their business. For example, check out the following ads for the search “christmas gifts” (above).

If you’re like many of us, the reason you search for “christmas gifts” is because you are looking for gift ideas. You aren’t the cleverest or most creative person in the world, so you’re struggling to find the perfect gift for someone.

With that in mind, which headline seems personalized to that pain point? “Gift Ideas | 2018 Christmas Gifts –” or “2018 Uncommon Christmas Gifts | Hate Boring Gifts? Us Too”?

Odds are, you’re a lot more likely to go with the latter. It might not be what everyone is looking for, but if you’re looking for clever, unique gift ideas, you’re a lot more likely to go with the ad that seems personalized to your needs.

YouTube's TrueView for Action

3. Put together some video ads

As the holiday shopping frenzy builds and advertising competition rises to match it, you can’t just run any old ads and hope for the best. You need ads that earn your customers’ attention, ads that they actually enjoy seeing.

The best way to do this is with high-quality, entertaining video ads.

Unfortunately, trying to force potential customers to pay attention to you with a video is a recipe for failure. During the holidays, most people have so many demands for their attention and money that adding a new advertisement to the mix is more likely to frustrate them than win their business.

But, if you can earn their attention instead of demanding it, your business becomes a welcome, enjoyable relief. As a result, potential customers are a lot more likely to buy from you—both now and in the future.

The easiest way to turn an attention-earning ad into a sales-generating ad is using YouTube’s TrueView for Action campaigns. These are almost exactly like a normal TrueView ad, but TrueView for Action ads give you the ability to add a “Buy Now” or “Shop Now” button to your video.

Here are a few ways to get the most out of TrueView for action campaigns:

  • Hook them quicklyAs with most video ads, you only have 5 seconds before people have the option to skip your ad, so start with a bang!
  • Make full use of audio. Even on mobile, lots of people still listen to ads with sound. Make sure that your audio evokes the right emotions from the get-go.
  • Target the right audiences. As mentioned above, targeting the right people is critically important to the success of your holiday shopping campaigns. TrueView for Action is no exception.
  • Keep the pacing fast. If you want to earn their attention, you need to keep things moving. No likes a slow commercial.
  • Use tight framing and bright colors. Tight framing and bright colors are exciting to the eyes, so people are lot more likely to pay attention.

The best video ads earn a customer’s attention by creating a fun, engaging experience, but they should still ultimately make people want to buy your products. You want to evoke a positive emotion and then tie that emotion to what you’re selling. Do that and people will be looking for that “Buy Now” button.

GTIN bar code

4. Keep a close eye on your product feeds

There’s nothing more devastating than missing out on sales because of problems in your product feed. While it might not be the most exciting thing in the world, taking the time to keep your feeds organized, functional and running well pays off big time during holiday season.

It can be easy to let small errors build up in your account throughout the year, but leaving these problems in your feed during the holidays is like ordering inventory for a physical store and then forgetting to put it out on the shelf.

For the next few months, you’ll want to be extra careful with your feed to avoid warnings, product disapprovals and especially product feed suspensions. Make sure that your content is honest and fits the requirements of the advertising platform you are using. A missing GTIN can mean thousands in lost revenue.

Smart shopping

5. Take advantage of Smart Shopping

Google’s introduction of Smart Shopping this year offers a variety of interesting opportunities for holiday advertisers. It’ll be interesting to see how these campaigns pan out this year, but it looks like they will be a good way to boost the performance of your holiday campaigns.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Start early. Smart Shopping campaigns take at least 15 days to hit their stride, so it’s better to get them started well in advance of big shopping periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Review long-term performance. Along the same lines as the last point, the earlier you start using Smart Shopping campaigns, the more time you will have to evaluate their effectiveness. Sometimes, it takes a while to really get a feel for a new type of campaign, so give yourself time to figure things out before Black Friday.
  • Get to know your levers. Your budget and ROAS settings are the only real levers you have much control over, so pay attention to how changing these setting affects your results.
  • Don’t be afraid to increase your budget. The great thing about the holidays is the increased demand, but if you aren’t increasing your budget in response to that demand, you can miss out on some real opportunities.

If you start now, Smart Shopping campaigns have the potential to be a real game changer for many ecommerce businesses. The usefulness of these campaigns, of course, will depend on the specific products you’re selling, but if you haven’t looked into Smart Shopping before, now is a great time to start.

The final trick?

Holiday advertising might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The trick is to understand who you are targeting, the best way to reach them and how to earn their attention.