Digital marketing is an ever-evolving field. Times keep changing, new consumer trends develop, and what was good enough a year or two ago simply isn’t good enough today. This is especially true when it comes to meeting (and surpassing) the goals you’ve set for your brand during the holiday shopping crush.
In other words, your digital marketing cycle can’t wait until Black Friday to get into high gear. The time to start preparing for your holiday marketing and to move forward on your holiday marketing ideas should be in August, not October or November.
Why Holiday Marketing Starts in Q3
Last year, we saw an unprecedented surge in online shopping during the holiday season, combined with equally unprecedented delays in shipping. Online sales aren’t likely to decrease this year, and a large portion of your audience will be shopping earlier to ensure their gifts arrive on time. But this isn’t the only reason you should be ramping up your online marketing long before the fourth quarter arrives.
Advertising activity in the third quarter will reduce your costs, generate trust with your audience and give you time to provide the social proof you will need when the holiday rush begins.
Consumer Trust Takes Time
Consumers are picky about who they buy from. There are two reasons for this. First, there have never been so many options for online purchasing as there are today. If you see a product you like, there are usually several vendors offering similar products at a variety of prices with a variety of shipping options.
Second, consumers are increasingly concerned about scams. Even if a consumer hasn’t been the victim of a scam (which is statistically unlikely), they have access to countless examples on their social media feeds of people who have given their money to an unknown company and gotten ripped off.
For health and beauty products, for instance, 33% of consumers are very cautious toward new brands because of concerns of reselling fraud and brand counterfeiting.
People also don’t trust ads alone. Your company may have been in business for 50 years, you could have an excellent rating from the BBB, with countless testimonials from satisfied customers, but if a specific consumer hasn’t heard of you before, your brand is in the same class as every other new company she hasn’t heard of.
Once she sees your ads a few times and recognizes your brand, you can quickly develop some trust. But this takes time — and advertising.
Q4 Ads Are More Expensive
You can generate brand recognition and build trust with consumers during a hectic Q4, but it’s the most expensive time of the year to do this. The closer you get to Christmas, the more expensive your ads become.
In a famous study last year, Adespresso illustrated that Facebook cost-per-click (CPC) ad costs fluctuate widely month by month. If an ad costs you 37 cents in January, that’s the lowest you will pay for the rest of the year.
It rises through the spring, descends in the summer to about 42 cents and then, beginning on the first of October, begins a fast and steep ascent to 52 cents by the end of the year.
If you were advertising in the third quarter, ads would cost you between 42 and 45 cents per click, on average. If you put off advertising until the fourth quarter, you could be averaging between 50 and 53 cents, representing about a 20% increase in your ad spend.
A 20 percent hike is actually quite moderate. In previous years, MarTech Advisor reported a spike of 25% between Black Friday and Christmas for Facebook Ads. And Facebook isn’t alone in this. All digital platforms have similar numbers — and we’ve seen this pattern repeat itself year after year with Hawke Media’s clients.
Developing a Solid Q3–Q4 Marketing Strategy
Ideally, brand awareness is a year-long endeavor, but if you haven’t started yet, you should start now and then ramp up your brand awareness and product ad campaigns in the third quarter. This generates familiarity with your audience now, which you can start leveraging once the holiday season approaches.
Instead of spending your Q4 budget reaching out to new consumers with cold ads, you can focus more of your budget on building the trust you earned in Q3 and spend more on retargeting ads.
Gather Reviews During Q3
A BigCommerce survey this year showed that 55% of consumers were more concerned about online scams now than they were in 2019 and more than a third of them will be checking your customer reviews more thoroughly than they would have a year or two ago. Highlighting reviews on your product pages improves conversions, decreases abandoned shopping carts and actually increases average order values.
Follow up on all of your Q3 sales with email or SMS, asking your new customers to review your products on your social media pages and on your website. If you can offer them an incentive, like discounts on future purchases, to post photos of their purchases, do this without hesitation.
Customer reviews and testimonials are the social proof holiday shoppers will be looking for before they take out their credit cards — and nothing is more credible than a five-star review that comes with a snapshot of a recent purchase that has been dated within the past few weeks.
Tweak Your SEO in Q3
Consumers routinely go to Google to find products they want, but a growing number of them are skeptical of anything with the “Ad” tag at the top of the page. Instead, they’ll click on the first or second organic result that’s posted.
If your company relies on SEO, double-check your rankings for keywords in the third quarter and give your content a refresh if it’s needed to get to the top of the page. Organic results are often elbowed off the first page for popular products, so being fourth or fifth in the rankings may not be enough to keep your brand visible during the fourth quarter.
Review Your Google Seller Rating
If you do use Google Ads or rely on SEO, review your Google seller rating (GSR) in Q3. Google uses an aggregate of different sources to give you a rating.
As of August of 2020, you need at least 100 reviews in the previous 12 months in any given country to qualify for a rating in that country. If you qualify for a rating and have a score that is at least 3.5 out of 5 stars, you can showcase your GSR on your Google ads.
Bring Some Outside Expertise On Board
Having a digital marketing consultant on your team pays tremendous dividends throughout the year, but at no time is this measurable outlay more important than in the fourth quarter. To give that team adequate time to ramp up efforts on your behalf, we recommend bringing them on now. That way, you can launch ads and brand awareness campaigns while CPCs are still low, and get through any necessary learning phases long before the holiday rush hits.
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