Planning Your Ecommerce Advertising For The Holidays

Why you should use paid channels

Ho, Ho, Ho! The holiday season is fast approaching, I can already hear the sleigh bells in the distance! The masses are waiting to purchase your products! However, Black Friday and Cyber monday are going to look vastly different than they have in previous years. This year 97% of shoppers are planning to shop online due to COVID-19.

This is a huge opportunity for brands to reach wide audiences and get their deals in front of potential customers. It’s critical to have a strategy and plan in place, it’s not too late to start now either!

Today we are going to focus on paid media channels, however, it is also really important to have a strong marketing mix with channels like email, and a strong organic presence.

Having a visually stunning website that loads fast is also very important, which is why we recommend Pressable with their 100% uptime to all of our clients that host their stores with WooCommerce. You can find their WooCommerce hosting packages here

You can also find out more about Black Box, a growth marketing agency, at the bottom of the article or you can schedule a free advertising account audit here

With that said, let’s get started!

What’s The Best Platform to Advertise on?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this. You should test a wide variety of platforms to see what works best for your company. Usually finding a mix between a few platforms is the best way to achieve your goals.

A good way to figure out where you should start is by looking at your audience. Are they younger or older? Are they men or women? What are they interested in? Below are some of the platforms we use, and where they are applicable.

Social Media Marketing


Facebook & Instagram is the most common advertising platform for a reason: both have massive audiences which makes it easy to target your customers. They also offer great advertiser tools like lookalike audiences, the Facebook pixel, Facebook analytics and more.


Twitter is an amazing platform for getting your message across! Although Twitter is less visual, it’s great for hopping on trends and advertising towards keywords and hashtags. Twitter also offers great tools building audiences to marketers. 


Pinterest is a very visual platform where users go to look at creative ideas and products. It has a very engaged audience made up of primarily women. It’s a great platform if your brand has creative and engaging content, or if you sell women’s products.


TikTok is a newer platform with lots of potential – especially if your brand sells products using influencer marketing, or if you have the ability to create engaging videos. That said, it is a largely untested platform and is a bit more pricey and a bigger gamble when it comes to ROI. 


Display Network

The display network is perfect for remarketing to people who previously interacted with your site. Additionally, it’s a very affordable way to reach the top of funnel audiences!


Google shopping is ideal for serving visual product ads to people who are actively searching for your products. The set up for Google Merchant Center may be confusing, but once your account and products are set up, it can be a great tool for dynamic remarketing, product listing ads, and more!


YouTube campaigns are a fantastic way to build brand awareness and get a message across in an engaging video format.


Search campaigns are best for larger budgets. With search, you can serve ads to people who are actively searching for your products directly in the Google or Bing search results.

Tracking Your Results

Measurement is key to any successful campaign. Without tracking and measurement, you won’t have the benefit of accurate data which you can use to find trends, forecast results, and optimize your campaigns. Access to this data can help your business’ marketing be more pinpointed, allows you to see trends to make decisions, and lets you compare results from testing efforts. 

Setting up your tracking

Setting up your tracking can be a bit confusing. There are a lot of great tools, like Google Tag Manager for keeping all of your tracking in one place (we also wrote a great blog that covers the basics of common tracking tools here!) If you’re using WooCommerce and aren’t familiar with adding code to your site, you can use a plugin like Google Tag Manager for WordPress. We highly recommend using a tag manager, it helps to simplify your conversion tracking and allows for quickly adding tracking pixels without having to understand code.

Here are some standard events every eCommerce company should be tracking:

Page view

A page view event occurs when someone loads any page on your website. You should be tracking page views for every tracking pixel that you put on your site. Pageviews should be triggered every time someone views/loads any page on your website. 

Content / Product detail view

A content or product detail view event occurs when someone loads a product detail page on your website. A content or product detail view should be triggered any time a product detail page is loaded on your website.

Add to cart

An add to cart event occurs when someone adds a product or product(s) on your website to their cart. An add to cart event should be triggered anytime someone adds a product to their cart. 

Initiate checkout

An initiate checkout event occurs when someone initiates the checkout process on your website. An initiate checkout event should be triggered when starting the checkout process, or a pageview of the page immediately before the order confirmation page.


A purchase event occurs when a customer makes a purchase on your website. A purchase event should be triggered by a pageview of the order confirmation page.

Make sure you verify that all of these events are firing correctly. You can test and verify them using tools like the Facebook Pixel Helper, Google Tag Assistant, or preview mode in Google Tag Manager!

Advertising metrics to focus on

Now that your events are set up and firing correctly, let’s look at some advertising metrics to focus on.

Abandon cart rate

The abandon cart rate shows the rate at which your website visitors abandon their carts after adding products to it. For example, if your ads were attributed to 150 Add to carts and 100 purchases, your abandoned cart rate would be 33%. 

RoAS (Return on Ad Spend)

The amount of value returned from your advertising campaigns. This is similar to ROI, but only takes into account advertising expenses. For example, if your business spent $2,000 advertising spend for the month and had $10,000 in value from purchases for the month, the RoAS would be 5.00. This means that for every $1 you spent on advertising, your business returned $5 in purchases.

Total purchases & total purchase value

The total amount of purchases and total value of the purchases from your marketing campaigns.

Average order value

The average order value tracks the average value of orders placed through marketing. This is a great metric to track especially if you are running holiday discounts and promos!

Cost per purchase

The cost per purchase metric tracks how much money you spent on advertising to get a purchase. This metric is great to track when comparing different audiences and platforms.

Conversion Rate

The conversion rate shows the rate at which your web visitors convert to customers. Looking at conversion rates is important when you are looking for ways to optimize where potential customers are dropping off.

These are some of the more important metrics you should be tracking. Looking at metrics like Click-through rate, engagement rate, and more are also helpful for understanding where to move your budget.

Setting Up Your Audiences

Now it’s time to make some campaigns, but who do we market to? Targeting the right audience is crucial, luckily there are a ton of tools to help you.

The first step is defining your audience based on demographics. We want to narrow our audience by age, gender, & geography. A good place to find this information is Google Analytics. 

Use this data to see if you can find any features of your audience that stand out. The photos above are from one of our clients, we used these reports to tighten our prospecting audiences to target women aged 35-65+.

Now that we’ve defined the demographics of our audience, let’s build some prospecting audiences. prospecting audiences are for serving your ads to people who haven’t interacted with your business yet. You can build prospecting audiences off of interests & behaviors, but a great place to start is with similar audiences (Google) and lookalike audiences (Facebook). Lookalike & similar audiences are created using website data (via Google conversion tracking or the Facebook pixel), customer data sheets, or even engagement on your Facebook page.

Although prospecting is a great way to reach new customers, remarketing audiences drive the most value. Remarketing audiences are a great way to re-engage customers or people who took actions on your website. We wrote a blog about the basics of Facebook remarketing if you want to read more!

Remember those tracking tools we set up earlier? We can use them to make audiences based on what actions they took on your website! Here are a few good audiences to start with:

Pageview, no purchase

Someone who visited your website, but did not make a purchase. 

Content view, no purchase 

Someone who viewed a product detail page but did not make a purchase

Add to cart, no purchase

Someone who added a product to their cart, but did not make a purchase

Initiate checkout, no purchase

Someone who initiated the checkout process, but did not make a purchase

Previously purchased

Someone who previously made a purchase on your website

When setting these audiences up, it is important to set windows for when the users in your audiences completed the action. Each one of these audiences made different actions on your website and the people in those audiences are at different stages of the buyer journey. A good idea would be to segment an add-to-cart audience into a shorter window than a pageview audience. 

If you have specific holiday deals, you might want to extend your remarketing windows to capture a wider audience and then serve those people ads with your holiday deals.

Now that we have our audiences set up, let’s make some ads that will drive sales!

How to Make Great Ads

Great ads start with great creative. First off, what is creative? Creative is any material used to promote your brand. It can be in the form of imagery, video content, copywriting, promotions, or even just the call to action you choose.

Creative is important to any advertising effort, but when it comes to digital advertising, it is vital. There is a small window of opportunity to capture a web user’s attention and compelling creative is the best way to do this.

When thinking about Holiday-specific creative it is important to note that different strategies will work for different businesses. One major component however that stands true for nearly all eCommerce companies is great photo and video content. This is an absolute must, it is rare that a campaign will be successful if the imagery is low quality and not engaging. Regardless of what content you choose for your ads, make sure it is relevant to your end product, choose content that is engaging, and choose content that is not text-heavy (Facebook may actually not even run your ad if the text makes up more than 30% of the content). 

Some simple best practices to follow for photo or video content for eCommerce advertising are:

Smiling faces 

It’s no secret that smiles sell. With the possible exception of fashion, an ad displaying someone smiling will most likely convey a positive message to your audience. Fashion is often an exception because rather than a smile, confidence is key. If you are selling a product in the fashion industry you are selling confidence, and your goal is to convey that the best way you can. Check out Warby Parker’s ad below, they do a great job at this.

(Source: Warby Parker Facebook Ads Library)

Use of color 

Try to choose colors that will stand out whether you are running paid social ads or display ads on Google. Check out Sephora’s ad below, the perfume they are selling really stands out well against the abstract, yet colorful background.

(Source: Sephora Facebook Ads Library)

Clear Objective 

Your ads should have a clear objective and they should never leave a customer confused. Above all else, your ads need to be clear and your potential customers should know exactly what you are selling. You should also always make sure that you are using the correct Call To Action, if you are selling a product, it is best to choose a “Shop Now” CTA, where if you are looking for someone to sign up for your email newsletter, a “Subscribe Now” CTA would be best.

Now we have covered content, let’s move onto promotion, strategy, and copywriting. Copywriting is often challenging, and it can seem overwhelming at times. That is OK, here are a few best practices for copywriting:

Keep in mind your main objective:

Make sure you know what KPI (Key Performance Indicator) your campaign is focusing on. For example, an ad with a sales objective should mention buying or action of actually purchasing the good or product while mentioning a value add. These ads should usually have a “Shop Now” Call To Action.

Keep it short and sweet

Facebook recommends 125 characters or less for the body text and 40 characters or less for the headline. Google recommends only 30 characters for Headlines and 90 characters for description lines. 

Keep in mind your Landing Page or where the customer will land after they click your ad:

Think of your ads as a mini callout of what someone will see when they click and land on your landing page. If you are selling chocolate bars, you should be sending the customer to a page with chocolate bars available for sale, NOT just your candy company’s homepage.

Make sure your ad copy is relevant to your target audience:

When writing copy for your ads or creating any content for your brand in general, it is imperative to think about who your customer is and what is relevant to them.

Paid Social Media Marketing is a great way to quickly and relatively easily target individuals who exhibit traits or buying patterns similar to your target audience. But the targeting only takes you so far. You need to write ad copy that is both relevant and actionable, to drive the desired action.

Holiday promotions

Holiday promotions are a great way to drive sales. Here are some great promos that have worked for our partners.

  • Free Shipping – Free shipping is a great offer for e-commerce companies. You can either offer free shipping on all orders, or you can offer free shipping on orders over a certain value to drive higher value sales.
  • Bulk Discounts – Bulk discounts are awesome for increasing the product sales volume by incentivizing discounts for ordering multiple products.
  • Percent Off – Percentage off discounts are great for certain days of the year or for flash sales. Days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Christmas are great for percentage discounts..
  • Buy One, Get One (BOGO) – Buy one get one deals, when done correctly, can help you to sell your higher margin items while increasing sales and offering your customers value.
  • Buy One, Get One X% Off – BOGO with a percent awesome for driving sales of higher margin products, while making better margins than simply BOGO’s.

The advertising content that you put in front of a customer is extremely important. Engaging consumers with your brand from the get go will help your business to drive more sales and build larger audiences for your remarketing campaigns.

Bonus: Dynamic Advertising & Data Feeds

Have you ever been browsing online and checkout a pair of really cool shoes, get sidetracked by something you are working on, and log off? You might see that same pair of shoes popping up on websites and in your social media feeds. It follows you around, stalking you every day. This is dynamic remarketing, and if you don’t have it set up, you are missing out! Dynamic remarketing is especially great for the holidays, when you can serve that exact pair of shoes back to someone with a holiday discount.

Dynamic remarketing can seem confusing to set up, but here are some of the basics to get started.

What is a data feed?

A data feed is a way to send all of your product information in a structured format to different advertising platforms. With a data feed, you can use the dynamic attributes of your products to serve people ads of products they engaged with. Data feeds can send your product information to a variety of advertising platforms, including:

  • Facebook (Facebook Catalog)
  • Google Ads (Google Merchant Center)
  • Pinterest (Pinterest Catalog)

To create your product feed, you can manually upload an excel file, use a Google sheets URL, or you can use a feed management platform.

Formatting your feed – Best practices

If you aren’t using a feed manager, mapping and formatting all of the attributes of your products is the most important step. Here are some best practices for key fields.

Product ID’s

Make sure your product ID’s in your feed match the product ID from the tracking tools on your website. If you are running dynamic remarketing campaigns, this step is the most important.

Image links

Make sure none of your image links are broken, and that the images are at least 600×600.

Other Attributes

Specifying the gender and type of product are extremely helpful when creating product sets.

Custom Labels

You can use custom labels to add other important information. You can use this field to add discount codes, holiday or event specific attributes, and more!

Before you get started, here are the data specs for the Facebook Catalog, Google Merchant Center, and the Pinterest Catalog.

Final Notes

Before you start setting up your marketing campaigns, here are some final notes.

  • Make sure you have a plan. Your plan should include your budget, your audiences, and holiday promos. Figure out where you want to allocate your budget and plan out some tests. Sometimes the results from a new platform or audience might shock you!
  • Data is king. Make sure all of your tracking tools are set up correctly so that you can build remarketing audiences. Having actionable data is crucial so that you can test new things like audiences, content, and promos. Having data will also help you to change your plan on the fly.
  • Watch your metrics to find trends. It’s important to have a plan, but as Mike Tyson famously said “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Watching the performance of different audiences, content, copy, and landing pages allows you to be nimble to make changes on the fly.

Black Box

Guest Author

Black Box is a growth marketing agency that focuses on optimizing paid media channels to drive growth metrics. We partner closely with all of our clients to become a data-driven extension of their marketing department.

With experience ranging from e-commerce to fintech, and small business to enterprise, there’s a reason 70+ companies trust Black Box.

Interested in working with us or learning more? Schedule a free account audit here.

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