Holiday planning is predicted to happen earlier than ever this year. So what does this mean for your brand? Your online store must prepare for a historic holiday season. Making sure your brand reaches your target audience before your competition, will be crucial to ensure your product is their first choice when it comes time to purchase. 

Historically consumers start planning their holiday purchases in September, but people on Pinterest have started to search and save for the holidays back in April. April alone saw a 77% increase in holiday pinning from the previous year!

Why the change? The global pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and fears of a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall and winter of 2020 has encouraged consumers to celebrate the holidays even more than ever.

2020 has already been a trying year and consumers are looking forward to the warm comfort of the holidays. Below we will breakdown a Black Friday/Cyber Monday marketing timeline to help you prep for the earliest holiday season we are likely to see yet. 

July – October – CRO Testing

Between the months of July and October, you should actively run several conversion rate optimization tests to help prepare you for the big holiday season. Conversion rate optimization tests help you adjust elements on your website and advertisements in order to best maximize your conversions. 

Consider the following tests:

Optimizing CTA’s

If you have frequent traffic to your site but are not seeing a strong conversion rate, then you may consider testing your CTA, or call to action. A CTA includes any invitation that encourages your visitor to take action (i.e. download a whitepaper, ebook, demo, purchase, etc.). 

There are three elements to focus on when you look to optimize your CTA. 

CTA Copy Optimization

Most CTA’s are fairly specific and straight to the point, such as “Click Here,” “Download Now,” or “Purchase.” If your CTA’s are fairly generalized, you may want to consider experimenting with more personalized copy. 

Another trick to consider is framing your CTA’s as a direct link to a benefit. If you were a dental software company and you offer a free ebook that describes how to best migrate to a new dental software, you can test your CTA copy. 

Originally you may consider to test “Download Now” and run a second test with a more personalized copy “Seamless Software Migration!” 

Incorporating copy that implies the customer is missing out if they don’t download your resource will typically perform stronger than general instruction. 

CTA Visual Optimization

While optimizing copy is important, it is critical your CTA is seen in the first place. Testing out colors and animations will help you assess what combinations attract the most customers. If you are just using simple hyperlinks, you will want to test out more stylized buttons or forms to draw more attention. 

CTA Placement Optimization

Your copy and color is important but the location of your CTA is also equally as important. Product pages with only one place to purchase are missing the opportunity to attract conversions at different stages of a customer’s shopping experience.

You do not want to overwhelm your user’s with several CTA’s, but you want to work to strike the right balance between being overwhelming and naturally convenient for your users to commit.

Optimize Headlines

Going beyond CTA’s, your headlines are an easy and efficient place to optimize next. Your CTA’s can help encourage users to purchase or demo your products, but your headlines can help attract future prospects and increase your potential sales revenue. 

Incorporate Numbers

Adding numbers directly to your headline can have a massive impact on your click through rate. People love to know what they are going to get before they commit. By telling them you have 10 industry secrets, they are more willing to click and read because they have a clear idea what they are going to get out of their time. 

Numbers can also be used in the form of a year to entice users to click; People love to compare and read about the best and worst tricks of the trade each year.

Headline Length

According to a recent study, headlines that are approximately 7 words in length are considered to be the ideal for optimal performance. They are not too long but provide enough information to entice a click. 

Opt for Simplicity

The best headlines are simple to read. They tell you what you need to know with little effort and make it easy to identify you will find the right information by clicking through to your site. 

Incentive headlines are a thing of the past, instead opt for an informative headline that is straight to the point. 

Explore and test different variations in your headlines to find the proper message that attracts users to click through to your site. 

Optimize Social Proof Use

Another way to test for CRO optimizations is by testing different social proof statements in a variety of locations on your website. 

Social Proof statements include:

  • Product Reviews 
  • Testimonials
  • Total number of customers 
  • Total number of products sold

Social proof’s main purpose is to build trust with your online consumers by proving to them that your product is used and loved by a large community of happy customers. This trust is imperative to build from the start, because eliminating fears and overcoming objections helps to build loyal and lucrative customers. 

You may consider testing your homepage conversion rates by having your current homepage design act as a control and a second homepage designed with additional social proof edits as your variation. 

Social proof to include as the variation include:

  • Adding a carousel of customer testimonials
  • Highlighting products with sensational reviews
  • Incorporating statements like, “100,000 moisturizers sold last year!” or “Trusted by over 100,000 happy customers.”
  • Include a video highlighting a customer’s positive experience

September 1 – 18 – Building and Testing New Google and Paid Social Ads

For companies new to paid social or those who haven’t run big campaigns in the past, they should take the time to test and collect data from a month of consistently running ads. 

Identify which platforms are most effective for your brand to advertise on, and you can do this by testing different platforms within the month of collecting data. 

Google Ads

According to Net MarketShare, Google dominates with over 72% of users worldwide

When it comes to advertising, Google Ads enables you to reach segmented and specific audiences through keyword targeting. Google ads are also built to produce a high return on investments. According to Google studies Economic Impact Report, advertisers generate approximately $2 for every $1 spent. 

Ad Types to Test

  • Search Network Campaign
  • Display Network Campaign
  • Shopping Campaign
  • Video Campaign

Facebook Ads

Facebook advertising offers unbeatable targeting filters. Through data captured on your Facebook pixel, you will be able to create niche audiences and further target your desired audience by demographics, shopping behaviors, locations, events and you can even target your competitors audience members. 

Approximately 57% of consumers say social media influences their shopping behavior and of the 57% a staggering 44% said Facebook was the most influential platform. 

Ad Types to Test

  • Product Showcase Video Ads
  • Brand Awareness Video Ads
  • Single Image Photo Ad
  • Carousel Ad 
  • Dynamic Product Ads

September 21 – 25 – Launch new campaign builds

After you have run multiple advertising tests you will want to run new fully optimized campaigns as quickly as possible to get them through the learning phase. 

What is the learning phase? 

The learning phase refers to the period of time when an ad delivery system is capturing and optimizing delivery to your ideal target based on the data received through your pixel. During this phase, your ad set is exploring the best way to deliver your ad, who to deliver it to and where is the best place to show the ad. The learning phase occurs when you first build an ad or when you make significant edits to current ad sets. 

Ad sets that have completed the learning phase and have stabilized, typically see performance stabilize after they receive 50 optimizations or within a week’s time. 

Getting your ads through the learning stage is critical for your Black Friday/Cyber Monday success. A stable ad set that is optimized prior to the event will have a more effective holiday ad run. 

September 28 – October 2 – Finalize Black Friday Discounts and Creative

Confirm with your team the final details of the deal you will run. Clearly note which products and services that will be discounted and for how many days. Communicate the deal with your content team, ad specialists and influencers to ensure a single message is being communicated with your customers. 

October 5 – 9 – Strategy Creation

After you have confirmed with your internal team or marketing agency the final deal you are going to promote, you will need to document your overall campaign strategy. This document should contain who you are going to target, how you plan to communicate with your target audience (i.e. email drip campaigns, brand awareness campaigns, influencers, etc.), and the expected results you plan to see from your campaign efforts.

October 12 – 15 – Creative Build

After the deal has been communicated with your team, have your specialists begin to craft ad and copy creative. The sooner you can build and design your campaign the better, you will have more time to finesse your message before it is set live. 

Ensure your copy writers and ad specialists are building resources that compliment each other. A more cohesive strategy will be more effective at building brand recognition prior to the sales event.

October 19 – 30 – Ad Budget Finalization

It is imperative your team understands their budget early on. This will allow them to analyze their accounts and determine which campaigns they can run with set daily budgets to get the most bang for your buck. Of course you can add and detract budget as time passes, but having your team prepared can help you prioritize the most effective campaigns. 

November 2 – 6 – Upload Campaigns

After the ads have been designed and their budgets have been finalized, your team will need to upload the approved campaigns into their respective ad platforms. This may sound early to do so, but uploading early on and reviewing the targeting settings will ensure all settings are appropriate and correct prior to the big day. 

November 9 – 13 – Stakeholder Review & Approval

After your ads have been updated and reviewed by your social team, the next step is to share the final settings with key stakeholders for the sign-off. Digital marketing agencies will share the ad designs and targeting settings with their clients for the final signature of approval, and internal marketing teams will get approval from upper management. 

November 16 – 18 – Updates & Finalization

If you follow this Black Friday marketing timeline, the week prior to Black Friday and Cyber Monday should have minimal stress. Your team should pull out the strategy you documented earlier in the year and do the final checks that all things are communicated and properly set up. 

Shoppers are not going to have a holiday shopping experience they are used to this year. Window-shopping and gift planning will not be a physical outing, instead these shoppers are looking to you to provide insight and excitement for purchasing this holiday season. Don’t be an after-thought purchase this holiday season, take the time and follow our digital marketing Black Friday timeline to be the go-to site for holiday shopping. 

Have any questions or need help preparing for Q4 in 2020? Contact us to learn more about how we can help your team ramp up for Black Friday/Cyber Monday this year. 

Laurel is a member of the executive team at Stryde. She's been doing digital marketing for businesses for 10 years, but she had several blogs as a teenager and in college (that are only available via archive.org). While her expertise is in content, social media and SEO, she loves talking about conversion rate optimization.