Holiday Marketing Ecommerce Strategy: How to Set a Foundation of Profit & ‘Peace’

by Common Thread Collective Collaborator

Sep. 23 2019

As I sit here in shorts and a t-shirt, watching an 80º California summer day melt into a 75º California night, I feel only one thing

The anxiety that I am already behind.

For many of us, the 20 days from November 29th to December 19th (USPS’ last day to ship for guaranteed Christmas delivery) represent 50% or more of our total annual revenue.

With those days now looming…

What you are about to enter encompasses everything you’ll need to set a foundation for the biggest holiday season in your brand’s history:

  1. The Macro Holiday Trends: Industry-Wide Data
  2. The One Trend that Really F*cking Matters
  3. The Micro Holiday Trends: Your Data, Your Plan

This extensive holiday strategy includes research from over $50M in advertising spend, $200M in revenue, and average ROAS lifts 2X.

It also features original contributions from some of the world’s leading DTC brands and growth experts.

But more than anything, I hope it contains peace.

Peace from the fear, anxiety, and visions of missed deadlines. Peace that comes from not going at it alone. Peace in knowing that you’ve not only planned well but executed to perfection.

To help, we’ve created a Holiday Marketing Ecommerce Strategy Bundle that includes…
  • 50-Point Holiday Checklist
  • Holiday Fuel Profit Template
  • Holiday Budget Planning Calculator

Get the holiday bundle

Week-by-week on the Common Thread Collective blog, we’ll be releasing in-depth breakdowns, just like this one, on how to execute each step in your master plan.

1. Holiday Trends (Macro): Costs, Conversion Rates, and Email

Let’s start with the big picture — the three most important ecommerce macro trends shaping Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM)…

  1. Ad costs
  2. Conversion rates
  3. Holiday email marketing

Those three interlock, so the thing we want to understand is how industry-wide data can help shape your BFCM strategy.

Nik Sharma, Founder of Sharma Brands

Nick Sharma

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are animals of their own species. You can never assume that your Excel sheet projections will match up with your BFCM sales if they’re based on sales or growth numbers leading up to it.

Most brands leverage the fact that everyone is looking for a discount, but the smarter ones make sure AOV stays high throughout the sale.

While macro trends will give you indicators on what you should be discounting and for how much, micro trends give you better insights into the distribution channels of where you should offer those discounts and with how much spend.

Nate Checketts, CEO and Co-Founder of Rhone

Nate Checketts

We try to stay generally aware of macro trends by staying in touch with brands we like, respect, and have a similar audience. But we prioritize and focus on our own internal company data as the lead for determining any promotional activity and then adjust based on the market reaction.

For example, before Amazon’s second Prime Day, we read articles about a general lift for all ecomm attributed to Amazon customers opening their wallets. We decided to run a 15%-off + free 2-day shipping promotion and were blown away by the results.

Each year after, there have been more and more retailers dipping into the trend. This year, our offer fell flat. So, we pivoted on day three and offered last minute surplus inventory. Positive results similar to our first campaign followed.

You have to go in with your best strategy and then be ready to react to the market, which is always hard to predict and based on many variables.

Social Ads for the Holidays: Facebook & Beyond

Popular wisdom goes something like this: “Acquisition costs are rising. Cost-Per-Click (CPC) is exploding. Cost-Per-1000-Impressions (CPMs) will never be the same.”

(Not so subtle subtext: the golden era of DTC is over. Paid social can no longer scale a brand. Thanks for playing. Bye.)

In part, that’s true. But, it’s far from the whole story…

Online Ad Costs Are Rising (Or, Are They?)

Our own data at CTC paints a similar portrait to the wider narrative: throughout 2017 to 2018, CPMs rose month-over-month.

Naturally, over BFCM, they spike:

However, at the start of 2019, something crazy happened…

Ad costs (gasp!) went down. And not just by a little:

Ad costs have decreased

When we pulled this data, we initially thought it was a mistake.

How could there be more advertisers and fiercer competition… yet a reduction in cost?

Kurt Elster, Founder of Ethercycle & Host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast

Kurt Elster

When comparing industry trends with your own strategies, look for the overlap between the two. And then, test those new strategies early to a small segment of your audience.

When approached with industry data, I take it with a grain of salt. A lot of published research is self-serving, skewed, and the result of a PR effort. Treat it as inspiration or suggestions for marketing tests, not as gospel.

You already know what works in your business. Evolve that by being curious about new opportunities without going so far that you cannibalize your own success chasing shiny toys.

Kristen LaFrance, Growth and Community Lead at Churn Buster

Kristen LaFrance

At the macro level, pay attention to what sale formats the big players are tossing out.

How are they communicating those sales? What channels are they using to bring in new (and repeat) customers? Pay just as much attention to where they aren’t as where they are.

That being said, only you know your business the best. And at such a critical point in your sales cycle, don’t let industry trends skew you too far from your own knowledge.

48% of 2018s BFCM sales came from existing customers, not new customers. Don’t risk a good chunk of these sales by focusing too heavily on “the industry” and turning a blind eye to your own customer base.

Trust your own customers, trust your customer knowledge, test early and often with them… but keep an eye for curiosity and adventure on the macro trends happening.

WTF is Going on with CPMs? Hint, Instagram Story Ads

Late 2018 saw the opening of a brand new placement with significantly cheaper ad inventory that has effectively lowered the average CPMs of advertising.

That placement was Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories are a form of media sharing that last only 24 hours from the time of posting. In addition, Stories only appear on profile pages and at the top of followers’ feeds as highlighted rings around a profile pic.

Despite non-feed placement, IG users have adopted Stories more rapidly than other recent releases. And, for brands, Stories drive engagement far out of proportion to where they appear:

Instagram Stories

Data from Facebook and Socialbakers

Disproportionate engagement likely stems from the organic feel of Stories in comparison to a feed:

  • 15 seconds or less
  • Full-screen vertical creative
  • And, “swipe up” action that takes user directly on site

Instagram Stories Ivory Ella

On the paid front, what we discovered was that Stories have significantly lower CPMs than IG Feeds or Facebook Feeds. (There’s a fourth, even-less-expensive placement, but we’ll hit that in the next section.)

CPMs by Placement

Many of our clients are seeing more than 20% higher reach when including Stories in an IG Feed campaign at comparable frequency and cost.

We’ve also found that ROAS for IG Story placement has nearly tripled since January.

ROAS by Placement

Creating content that feels native to the platform is a strategy used among top advertisers. And utilizing IG Stories will be key to winning with your ads on BFCM.

Aurélie Bangard, Sr. Account Strategist at Shoelace

Aurelie Bangard

Every year, we start by reviewing our data from previous BFCM campaigns to recap what worked well and what didn't.

For example, IG Stories worked very well last year and we noticed that our most successful brands tend to boost acquisition spend in October and focus almost entirely on retargeting BFCM content throughout November.

Then we'll consider new opportunities to incorporate into our strategy, such as Facebook’s new Asset Customization options for Placements as well as Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO).

Holiday Marketing: Macro Tactic #1

Use Instagram Story ads as a cornerstone of your holiday strategy to get cheaper delivery and higher reach.

Shoot your content in vertical 9x16 format to get the best bang for your buck. Story videos can then be used on Instagram and Facebook feeds.

Now, about that even less expensive platform…

Snapchat: Who Knew? (Yeah, That’s the Point)

Since Snapchat hit the market five years ago, it has grown to boast over 190 million active daily users – quickly surpassing Twitter’s 126 million. Snapchat reaches 90% of 13-24 year olds in the United States, more than Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger combined.

Similar to IG Stories, we can also leverage data and insights from Snapchat advertising.

Snapchat has also shown consistently cheaper CPMs and cost-per-purchase is more efficient than ever, with results as low as $3.06.

CPMs by Placement on Snapchat

Despite a “deliberate pivot to work with direct-response advertisers last year” as well as new creative options to drive conversions — Story Ads, Snap Ads, Collection Ads, etc. — in Q4 2018, a mere 1,400 advertisers used Snapchat, with the top five spenders being legacy companies like Comcast, Mars, AT&T, Adidas, and P&G.

600M purchase events were recorded in Q4 of 2018, up from 230M in Q3, and yet…

Retailers only accounted for 10% of the ad spend on the platform throughout 2018.

Snapchat as part of a holiday ecommerce marketing strategy

Holiday Marketing: Macro Tactic #2

Maximize your cross-channel holiday efforts by prospecting at a lower price on Snapchat and then re-marketing to that traffic on Facebook.

In addition, integrate the Snap Pixel with your Shopify Store to retarget visitors on Snapchat acquired through other channels.

Google Ads & Shopping YoY

Living in the world of Facebook ads, it’s easy to forget about Google, the O.G. of paid advertising.

While Facebook is a great way to generate demand for your brand, Google is great for capturing demand.

Unlike Facebook, Google Search and Shopping ads show up based on keyword searches of the end user. While they may not have intended to purchase your specific brand, they definitely have the intention of purchasing something within your product category.

While it is competitive to advertise during the holidays, conversion rates are at an all time high.

Holiday Marketing: Macro Tactic #3

On Google, bid for maximizing clicks to optimize for the most traffic possible. Spend more than usual to capitalize on this opportunity.

Forget target ROAS or CPA bidding, especially on your branded search terms.

Tracey Wallace, Head of Brand Marketing at Eterneva & Founder at Doris Sleep

Tracey Wallace

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Your strategy for any campaign, including holiday, is about how you mix the macro with the micro of your brand, your messaging, and your offer/conversation starter.

Think of REI. Its #OptOutdoors campaign resonated with their brand (micro), but it hit on a much larger trend (macro) — digital wellness.

For your own brand, start with the macro trends happening in your space that are top of mind for your customers and prospects. Then, think through what you brand’s take on it is, why it matters (this part is important!), and the action folks can take.

Of course, you want people buying more of your products. But they are getting bombarded by emails, ads, campaigns — all talking about the holidays and gifts for XYZ person in their life.

Tying your campaign back to a larger trend that your brand is aligned with (and as a result, your customers are aligned with), makes your campaign stand out and drive more sales, all while increasing loyalty and building your tribe.

Babak Azad, DTC Expert and Consultant (Previous SVP at Beachbody)

Babak Azad

You have to start with considering if macro trends actually correlate with your business. Some businesses are outliers or just plain execute better than their competition and the market overall.

It’s similar to historical data. Perhaps you had a strong new product or promotion, but this year you don’t have something similar. Or perhaps, it’s the exact opposite.

Then, you have to decide what level of risk you want to take and the exposure:

  • If you over-ordered a physical product, is there an expiration on it?
  • How long do you think you’ll need to sell thru it, based on various scenarios?
  • If you get a ton of opt-ins but not as many buyers, do you have a plan for monetization beyond BFCM?.

Bottom line, I don't think any of the above is that different to how someone approaches their broader strategy. Only a few businesses should approach BFCM in a fundamentally different way.

It’s certainly important, but if you’re nailing the other 350+ days of the year, then I think you approach it as an opportunity to get even better results.

Facebook Metrics: Your Ideal Holiday Ad Dashboard

The idea behind our holiday strategy is to drive cheap (but qualified) traffic prior to BFCM. Then, reap the rewards of converting that traffic during the sale.

Arguably, the most important part of a successful Facebook ad campaign is being able to accurately measure success.

For the weeks leading up to BFCM, that means…

  • Cost Per Outbound Click (CPC)
  • Outbound CTR (Click-Through Rate), and
  • Cost Per UNIQUE Adds To Cart and Checkout Initiated

Cost Per UNIQUE Adds To Cart and Checkout Initiated tell us how many unique users are adding to cart or reaching the checkout page.

These are strong, early indicators of purchase intent — that the ad is driving qualified traffic.

Emphasize creative testing during this time to find ads that will drive the lowest CPC and highest CTR. Continually test and iterate on best-performing ad creative to find the winners ahead of Black FridayIf your creative is not captivating or thumb-stopping enough, you may have trouble getting new customers to your website.

Creative testing for your holiday ecommerce marketing

During BFCM…

Focus purely on ROAS and cost per purchase (CPP). With the high cost of traffic, disregard CPC and CPM as much as possible. Skyrocketing conversion rates will offset the price.

Holiday Marketing: Macro Tactic #4

Create a default dashboard that shows the metrics that you should be looking at as you scale your ads up for holiday.

The first step is to go to Customize Columns:

Facebook Ads Dashboard

Once there, you’ll have the option to type into the search bar which metrics you want to show on your dashboard.

In this order, these are the metrics to select:

  • Campaign Name
  • Delivery
  • Ad Set Name
  • Budget
  • Cost and ROAS Controls
  • Amount Spent
  • Website Purchase ROAS [Revenue Divided by Ad Spend]
  • Website Purchases Conversion Value [Raw Revenue]
  • Cost Per Website Purchase
  • Website Purchases
  • Cost Per UNIQUE Checkout Initiated
  • Unique Checkouts Initiated
  • Cost Per UNIQUE Adds To Cart
  • Unique Adds To Cart
  • Outbound Clicks
  • Cost Per Outbound Click (CPC)
  • Outbound CTR (Click-Through Rate)
  • CPM (Cost per 1,000 Impressions)
  • Impressions
  • Reach
  • Frequency

Conversion Rates: Timing Is Everything

At CTC, all of our media buying methodology revolves around one equation:

v x cr x aov = $

In ecommerce, it all gets boiled down to these three factors:

v = How many visitors you get

cr = How many of them purchase

aov = How much they spend when they purchase

For Black Friday, Cyber Monday, how do you maximize the variables?

No spoilers here: conversion rates hit an all time high during November; with December, a close second.

2018 Conversion Rates

Outside of buying gifts, consumers are obviously down for a good deal. Here’s that same conversion rate graph over 2018, isolating just BFCM.

2018 BFCM Conversion Rates

But, of course, CPMs are at an all time high in Q4 — especially during the week of BFCM. Even if your conversion rates are great, buying those conversions becomes exponentially more expensive.

Average Holiday CPMs Q4

Holiday Marketing: Macro Tactic #5

Drive new, qualified customers to your site in the lead up to BFCM so you can remarket during BFCM.

Because we know that the cost of traffic is going to spike during BFCM weekend, this is why it is so important to drive new potential customers at the top of the funnel during Oct. and Nov., with the idea of converting them during BFCM.

In case you missed that, I repeat: BFCM weekend is NOT the time to focus on driving traffic at the top of the funnel. This is the opportunity where you are retargeting all the website traffic you have developed over the last two months.

Oct. and Nov. are about driving cheap traffic, and BFCM is the time to convert that traffic profitably.

Email: When to Build Your BFCM List

For email, the question isn’t what or when to send — how-to tactics like holiday templates, subject lines, calendars, frequency, etc.

All that’s important, but it pales in comparison to three questions:

  1. What is the value of an email address?
  2. When is an email address most valuable?
  3. And, when is it most valuable to get that most valuable email address?

Everyone loves to compare themselves to industry benchmarks when answering the first question.

Data we compiled with Klaviyo puts it at $4.17. But, there are so many variables between brands, that — except comparing it to the average value of a follower — it’s an almost worthless data point.

Instead, let’s talk about the other two questions and frame them around payback period: the time between paying to acquire email addresses and generating revenue from them. The second question is easy.

In short, email addresses become dramatically more valuable during Q4 than any other time of year.

By way of example, we pulled email revenue metrics for FC Goods — one of our brands that makes men’s accessories out of vintage baseball gloves — and isolated the 30 day periods during and after our peak holidays:

Email Revenue

The reason? We sent more emails and our list converted more. At the same time. And we’re not alone. For ecommerce at large…

56% of the annual value of email is generated in Nov. and Dec.

Why? Because 89% of BFCM purchases are made by customers who open an email before the holidays.

But, it’s the third question where the heart of BFCM lies: when is it most valuable to get that most valuable email address?

Answer: October. Emails acquired in Oct. have the highest three-month value of any period of the year.

Email value during a holiday ecommerce marketing strategy

Marco Marandiz, DTC Growth Strategist at 2PM

Marco Marandiz 2PM

Macro trends represent average movements of the market. They’re crucial to informing your BFCM strategy broadly, but no two businesses are identical. Therefore, I advise clients to create campaigns that acknowledge trends but stay true to their brand values and unique position.

Standing out with creative — while being spend-optimal — is a beautiful ideal, yet hard to execute on the most competitive holiday of the year. As an example…

Macro trend: Email marketers destroy your inbox because they’re unsophisticated.

Micro strategy: Offer exclusive merch at pricing otherwise unavailable to (1) your top ~500 customers as well as (2) non-customers through private FB groups, landing page sign-ups, and in-store collateral.

Three weeks before BFCM, email that list a pre-BFCM offer: e.g., 35% off versus your regular BFCM pricing of 25% off.

Holiday Marketing: Macro Tactic #6

Do everything you can to acquire as many qualified email addresses as you can in Oct.

Even if you lose money in the short term, your payback period will be at its shortest. So you can afford to be the most aggressive in acquiring them.

But that’s not the only dynamic at play here.

If you want to really understand this, you need to understand what we consider perhaps the most important holiday trend.

And why this trend creates a metric you’ve probably never heard of…

2. The One Holiday Trend That Really F*cking Matters

(aka, Instant Delayed Gratification)

We already know that costs and conversions peak during BFCM.

How do we take advantage of conversion rates without paying tons of money to get the clicks in the first place?

Simple. Buy your traffic ahead of time.

Think of it this way – last year I wanted to buy a new watch from MVMT. At some point in Oct. or early Nov., I went to their website and clicked on the watch I wanted.

Then? I didn’t purchase. Instead, I waited.

I made a mental note to check back on Black Friday to find out what the discount would be. When I came back, the watch was 25% off and I happily made the long-awaited, discounted purchase.

We all follow a similar purchase path when it comes to holiday shopping.

The way it affects your Facebook ad performance is through delayed attribution

To make it as simple as possible: Delayed Attribution occurs when a person sees or clicks your ad… and then converts into a sale within 28 days.

Facebook’s full default attribution window is a 1-day view / 28-day click window. That means that your ROAS will continue to increase throughout the entire 28-day window as purchases increase.

Hypothetically, if you want a ROAS target of 3x on a full attribution window, you need to understand how much ROAS will increase (or CPA decrease) over the entire window.

How to Show Delayed Attribution on Facebook

1. On the top right of your ads manager dashboard, click on “Columns.” Scroll down and click “Customize Columns” at the bottom:

step 1

2. At the bottom right you'll see, "Attribution Window" – click that:

step 2

3. Next, click on “Comparing Attribution Windows”:

step 3

4. Select, “1 Day View, 1 Day Click, 7 Day Click, and 28 Day Click.”

5. And there you go…

step 5

With BFCM, the problem is that there isn’t time to wait 28 days to determine if your ads are successful.

How can you determine 28-day’s worth of revenue with only 1-day’s worth of data?

By creating a “Delayed Attribution Multiplier” (DAM). This is done by dividing the 28-day click + 1-day-view ROAS by the 1-day click + 1-day-view ROAS.

Delayed Attribution Multiplier

For being a rather complicated projection, the ideology behind it is simple: the more delayed attribution you get, the higher the multiplier. Meaning that, if you see a delayed attribution multiplier greater than your 1-day click + view ROAS, you can project more revenue.

Keep in mind, the size of the multiplier will vary significantly from business to business. If you are new to Facebook ads, we can assume a (very conservative) multiplier of 1.3 during a normal time of year.

Here’s the catch – the holidays are not a normal time of the year.

So what happens when we expect lots and lots of people to do what I did with my MVMT watch? This…

Delayed Attribution in Holiday FB Ads

Getting people to your website in the weeks before BFCM is critical for your brand’s success.

Why? Because if they’re interested in your product, you can bank on them coming back to purchase.

With this knowledge, we can understand why CPMs are underpriced in the weeks leading up to BFCM. Many advertisers will see one-day click returns below their targets, so they hold out to spend big on the holiday weekend.

More ad space now means you can arbitrage it by buying the underpriced placements in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

With this strategy in mind, know ahead of time that your ROAS will look bad initially.

Lean into this by being proactive.

Excite your customers through sharing gift guides that indicate just how good of a deal they’re going to get, if they wait until BFCM to purchase.

Prospect heavily, remarket heavily, and simply stay top of mind – they will come back and buy.

That’s the macro foundation of your BFCM strategy. Get the clicks before the big weekend.

So… what’s your plan?

3. Holiday Trends (Micro): Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy

Just like your business, your data and your trends are unique to you.

The first question you should ask yourself when determining what “success” looks like for your holiday season: “What are my goals?”

Griffin Thall, CEO of Pura Vida Bracelets

Griffin Thall Pura Vida Bracelets

At Pura Vida, we choose to stay in our own lane when it comes to Black Friday, Cyber Monday promotions. We’ve run the same promo for the past seven years, which we know works best for our brand.

Urgency, high-value prop, free gift with purchase — all of that comes together to create an offer that shoppers cannot find anywhere else on the internet.

In terms of the bigger picture, I’m seeing more brands start their BFCM offers sooner and sooner, so that may be something we adopt more this year.

But — in terms of the consistency of the offer, marketing, and urgency — we are hyper-focused on the strategy that has proven itself so well for us year over year.

Wilson Hung, Director of Growth at Kettle & Fire

Wilson Hung Kettle and Fire

We don’t look at macro trends much at all — too many variables and assumptions to influence inventory, spend, and revenue projections. If anything the health, wellness, and food industry sucks in December but does well in Q1

Instead, we look at the previous year’s percent lift in November versus the average of the trailing eight weeks (unless there’s an outlier during that time). Then, we layer on projected scenario analysis based on (1) increase spend and (2) assumed ROAS from historical data.

This year, I’ll layer on an additional stretch goal since there’s quite a bit of low hanging fruit that we didn’t do last year. Generally speaking, we over-forecast aggressively in BFCM planning because — if we don’t hit a goal — we at least have extra inventory that we need to build up in preparation for Q1, which is huge for us: new year, new you.

Defining Holiday Season Success

Ask yourself:

“Is my goal to make as much money as I can possibly make while maintaining optimal margin?”


“Is my goal to acquire mass volume of new customers, at a potentially lower return?”

Both are great and require you to understand the “why” behind your success metric thoroughly — a success metric should never be an arbitrary metric that you pull just because it sounds nice (though a 4X ROAS does sound sexy).

It is likely that due to higher AOV, higher spend in your ad account, or increased delayed attribution that your holiday season success metric may look different than evergreen buying times, which is why we encourage recalculating.

With that in mind, we’ve built a Holiday Fuel Profit Template — broken into two tabs: (1) Costs Breakdown and (2) Profit Analysis — to make it easy for you to calculate and adjust the metrics that matter…

Holiday Fuel Profit Template

Average Order Value (AOV)

Pull your AOV from last year’s holiday sale. If you don’t have data from last year, pull your evergreen AOV and adjust a bit higher if you’re projecting any sort of increase.

average order value

Chris Cantino, Co-Founder of Supermaker (Previously Schmidt’s Naturals Dir. of Marketing)

Chris Cantino Supermarker

Optimization is DTC’s strength. Big CPG relies only on guaranteed media buys and rates, and doesn’t look back. They just slap a discount on and don’t optimize.

Watch your AOV increase and be willing to raise your CAC accordingly. Know your margins and be clear on your COGS.

If your target CPA is around $15, but your AOV, has gone up by 40%, can you flex on that CPA? This is different within every team.

If your company is EBITDA negative or your supply chain is backed up, your company’s priorities may lie in actually slowing down a “too successful” campaign. Know your KPI's and make sure marketing is aligned with finance and ops.

Don’t rely on your discounting to do all the work:

  • Set up your content and messaging variations
  • Set up your audiences
  • Walk people naturally into your BFCM campaigns
  • Prep them with content or advertising in the week beforehand

Cost of Goods (COGS)

This includes any costs associated with getting your product from non-existent into your customer’s hands.

You’ll need your average cost of goods across all your SKUs, any credit card fees, how much shipping costs you (make sure to adjust this if you’re offering free shipping), and your fulfillment cost per unit.

Cost of Goods

Holiday Offer (Discount)

In a later article, we’ll help you determine your optimal holiday discount. For now, you can begin testing to see the impact of the three most common offers within the Holiday Fuel Profit Template:

  • Discount - $ OFF
  • Discount - % OFF
  • Incl. Free Gift

Holiday Offer

ROAS and Profit

Now that you have all the data plugged into the first tab, you can shift to the second and play with different monthly:

  • Spend Levels
  • ROAS Targets
  • Facebook CPA Targets

You’ll immediately see how they’ll impact your Profit.

ROAS and Profit

Still, you’ll need to set a much more detailed budget. That’s where we’ll turn next, beginning with…

Determining Your ‘DAM’ ROAS

Despite seeing a drop in CPMs for 2019, BFCM is still the most expensive time for advertisers.

You, along with the other 7,973,432+ (definitely not a real number) buyers are all trying to get a piece of that honey pot, which means BFCM is not the time to try and prospect for new customers.

Be sure to download the full holiday strategy bundle, open the Holiday Budget Planning Calculator, and follow along…

Step 1. CPM Data

To see if this CPM trend holds true for you…

Export your CPM data by week for Q4 2018. Plug it into CPM (column B). A graph will automatically populate showing you whether or not CPMs are cheaper before BFCM for you.

Holiday Budget Planning

Chris Cantino, Co-Founder of Supermaker (Previously Schmidt’s Naturals Dir. of Marketing)

Chris Cantino

Historical data is everything. If you’re in year one and you don’t have it, run test campaigns to isolated audiences at your planned discount rate with the goal of identifying an uptick on your conversion rate.

Or, do some lead gen by offering customers to sign up for early access to the discount as a way to gauge interest and see if you’re incentivizing enough (or too much).

Educated guesses are key, but BFCM and discount events are not “set it, and forget it” moments.

You have to be ready to invest opportunistically in winning ad sets, and that can mean pulling levers — increasing and decreasing budgets on several to dozens of sets at a time. Minimum and maximum advertising budgets are okay, but static budgets are not ideal.

Step 2. DAM (Delayed Attribution Multiplier)

In 2018, our agency clients’ average delayed attribution was 1.47. In the 28 days prior to BFCM, it ticked up to 1.59. That may sound like a small difference, but it represents a delayed attribution increase of 26.35%.

For click-only attribution, that increase jumps to 198.84% — 0.79 during the year and 2.36 before the holidays.

If you have historical data, here’s how you would calculate your delayed attribution and the delayed attribution multiplier (DAM).

Pull revenue for 1-Day View + 28-Day Click and 1-Day View + 1-Day Click for Oct. 2018 -July 2019. Paste it into columns B and E in the “Step 2. DAM” sheet.

Delayed Attribution Multiplier

Within Facebook, make sure that all of the attribution windows are selected. Go to “Reports,” “Export data table,” and copy into the holiday planning sheet to avoid having to copy over each variable

The sheet will calculate your week-by-week Delayed Attribution 1 -> 28 Day (column H) as well as the three blue boxes:

  • Average Delayed Attribution (Without Holiday)
  • Average Delayed Attribution (28 Days Before BFCM)
  • Delayed Attribution Multiplier (DAM)

From my data set, you can see that there is an additional 1.39 increase (+39%) in delayed attribution in the days leading up to BFCM.

Ignore it for now — but rest secure knowing — that data is automatically getting sent to “Step 5. Budget Planner” tab.

There, if my normal target ROAS is a conservative 1.5, I need to hit 1.21 in order to get to my target on full attribution. This ROAS is calculated by taking the Facebook ROAS Target and dividing it by my standard delayed attribution number.

For the holidays, we know that there is an additional 39% lift. So, for the 28 days prior, my one day target is 0.87.

Facebook Target ROAS

It’s essential to calculate and utilize your delayed attribution multiplier so that you know what ROAS to accept and how much to spend in the weeks leading up to BFCM.

Your ROAS may look bad initially, but you have to take advantage of buying cheap, low-converting traffic before Black Friday in order to remarket to that traffic when the payoff is greatest.

Projecting BFCM Ad Spend

At this point, you have a 1-day target for both non-BFCM and BFCM period and (hopefully) you have your Q4 revenue goal.

We can now take your revenue goal and combine it with the research on your account behavior.

If you have your revenue goal broken out by months, that’s great. If not, here’s an example of how to do that...

Step 3. Revenue Distribution

Enter your 2019 Q4 Goal Revenue into the blue box on the “Revenue Distribution” sheet. Then, pull your revenue data for Q4 2018. Enter it either as Weekly Revenue (column C) or Monthly Revenue (column H).

Revenue Distribution

As soon as you enter your Q4 Goal Revenue below the blue box — $5 million — and historical revenue, all the percentages will populate. Even better, you’ll get an immediate calculation of your 2019 Monthly Est. Breakdown (column J).

Those are monthly goals based on your own historical trends and your 2019 goal.

Let’s take a similar approach with revenue from your marketing mix to truly back out spend.

Step 4. Six Month Revenue Attribution

Pull the last 6 month’s revenue by month and Q4 2018 revenue by month for…

  • Facebook
  • Google Ads
  • Site Wide Revenue

Paste each of those sets into the corresponding cells:

six month revenue attribution

After adding in your revenue by channels, you will see that columns J - L have populated what percentage of revenue each channel represents. This will help you identify what percentage of your revenue goal needs to come from each of the paid channels.

We have it broken out by Feb.-July of 2019 and Q4 of 2018 so that you can compare the percentages represented by each channel during peak versus normal seasons. In this instance, you can see that during Q4 of last year, my paid channels actually represent more of my revenue than the past 6 months of 2019.

Setting Your Holiday Marketing Budget

Step 5. Budget Planner

Finally, we’ve arrived at the Budget Planner. Everything you need will already be there waiting for you, except…

  • Facebook ROAS Target in cell V7
  • Google ROAS Target in cell V11
  • And, your weekly % Of Rev. Distribution (column F).

Budget Planner

Use the information found in “Step 3. Revenue Distribution,” but don’t forget to adjust those percentages based on your sales/offers and that Cyber Monday will fall in Dec. this year:

Revenue Distribution Percentages

If my revenue goal is $5 million and Facebook represents ~41%, $1.54 million needs to come from Facebook.

Revenue Sum

Far more important than a mere revenue total…

You now have week-over-week spend projections for Facebook and Google based on your own data and your own goals:

Holiday Spend

William Harris, Ecommerce Strategy Consultant at

William Harris Elemynt

If you crushed it last year, the same strategy might work again. But, it might not. If you didn’t do amazing last year — your answer is easy. My overall process is to…

  • Review the last few years of owned historical data
  • Compare that with reputable case studies in related verticals
  • Map out the potential risks, rewards, and complexity in a spreadsheet
  • And then, subjectively think through how each specific audience would likely receive the offer

That said, if you haven’t tested the idea in some small scale prior to BFCM, you should proceed with caution — unless this is a last-ditch effort.

So, About That ‘Peace’ Thing for Your Holiday Ecommerce Marketing

One of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur is that we’re constantly being reminded of all of the things we’re failing to do.

It’s the curse of the marketer or ecomm brand owner to live in a world of “always more to do.” At its worst, information piles on this feeling and leaves you paralyzed. At its best…

It represents freedom, light to your path, and peace.

We’ll be releasing more holiday strategies soon. So, if you want to impress your colleagues at the water cooler, you’ll need to follow us to stay on top of those releases.

Regardless, thank you for spending thousands of words of with us. We wish you a very happy holiday season with Shopify sale notifications so abundant on your phone that you have no choice but to mute!

If you haven’t downloaded the resources from this guide, be sure to get the…

  • 50-Point Holiday Checklist
  • Holiday Fuel Profit Template
  • Holiday Budget Planning Calculator

Holiday Bundle