A Digital Marketers Guide to the Holidays

Digital marketers, brace yourself, the holiday season is on its way! Although autumn is just a few weeks old, now is a pivotal time to outline your digital approach for the holidays. Nowadays, most consumers have shifted from the in-store holiday shopping madness to shopping from the comfort of their home or in front of their personal devices. In 2018, consumers spent over $120 billion during online holiday shopping (across 61 days 11/1/18 – 1/1/19), which was up 16.5% from 2017.


This blog post is designed as a guide to help digital marketers prepare their programs effectively and help capitalize on the increased seasonal consumer demand while maintaining performance goals. We’ll run through key tasks that all digital marketers should be checking-off prior to the holiday up-tick to ensure a well-rounded strategy and the best chance for success.

1. How Was Last Year’s Holiday Performance?

One good method of benchmarking and level-setting expectations is by reviewing last year’s performance to gauge how you should approach the program strategically this year. When reviewing last year’s performance, make sure you’re comparing days of the week and isolating pivotal days like Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Christmas Day. We know that these days act differently to other days throughout the year, so you should treat them like the special cases they are. Other questions you should be asking yourself to help make strategic decisions are:

  • What channels and campaign types worked well last year? Can we recreate this success?
    • Where did success fall short? Are there areas for improvement?
  • What was the best performing piece of creative?
  • Which promotions drove the highest results?
  • How did the competitive landscape look? Did we see an increase in pressure?


It’s essential to understand and leverage last year’s performance and data to help make informed decisions on this year’s approach. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it”; this can be applied to your digital marketing holiday strategy as well. Look for key areas that showed strong performance against your KPI last year and approach them in the same manner as the last holiday season.

2. Make Your RLSA and Check Them Twice

Just like Good Ole’ St. Nick, you need to make sure you’re building your audience lists to help set yourself up for success. If you already have an expansive list of audiences you’re remarketing – great! You’re a step ahead of most marketers. One thing you may want to consider is recycling last year’s holiday audience lists to see if you can garner the less frequent purchasers. However, be aware of any site or program changes over the last year that could’ve impacted those lists.

For readers that don’t have any remarketing lists from last year that remain open (or any at all for that matter), I recommend using the list of ideas below as thought starters. 

  • Recent Site Visitors
  • Engaged Visitors (What does your conversion funnel look like? What does 50% look like?)
  • Cart Abandoners
  • Converted Users
  • Logged in Members
  • Any Combination of the Above
  • Similar Audiences of Any List Above (Use with caution)

Once you have your RLSA strategy mapped out, you should begin building lists as soon as possible to allow the audience segments sufficient time to garner members.

3. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As mentioned, this time of year is great for e-commerce, but it’s also a very unique time in itself. Given this known variable, digital marketers should approach all campaigns with a different lens. If you have any campaigns with active ad schedules, ask yourself – do these ad schedules still set us up for success?

If you’re not sure, a good exercise is to analyze last year’s performance (especially on pivotal days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday) by the hour and date. See how your key campaigns performed throughout the hours of the day, and devise schedules that bid up during top-performing and key times of the day. Keep in mind you’re limited to how many windows of time you’d like to optimize against – so choose strategically.

4. When the Weather is Frightful, Make Your Creative Delightful

Ad copy is always an important part of any digital marketing campaign, and when the competition heats up on the search engine results page it becomes even more important when you’re fighting for the consumer’s attention and click. In order to gain the consumer’s attention, make your ad compelling. Do you have a unique selling position to leverage? What special promos are you running?

Creative should grab the audience’s attention, but also show the value your website is bringing by answering the searcher’s query. You can try to show the value that sets you apart from other advertisers by utilizing ad customizers.

If you’re running a promotion, try utilizing Countdown Ads and Promotion Extensions within your campaigns to give consumers a sense of urgency. If you also have the extra time, we recommend saving your holiday time for your family by applying labels and automated rules to these ads to schedule ads with coinciding promo periods.

One last strategy to consider would be to leverage a reactivation campaign with previous purchasers, and associating relevant and compelling ad copy to these audiences to attract repeat customers.

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Marc Apter

Marc Apter is a Sr. Digital Marketing Manager within QuanticMind Digital. He works directly with a wide variety of clients, optimizing their program through a combination of best practices and automation utilizing QuanticMind's machine learning-powered platform to meet their business goals. Since earning his B.S. in Marketing at West Virginia University, Marc has been working in the digital marketing landscape in both agency and in-house roles, supporting brands large and small.