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Retargeting ads

Retargeting - The Best Thing to Try This Ecommerce Holiday Season on Any Budget

Jake Rheude, 09/26/2018,

Halloween is right around the corner, but we’re resisting the “retargeting can be spooooky” jokes to talk to you about something serious for every ecommerce business: making money during the holidays.

Gearing up with products, making partnerships around shipping, and adding seasonal team members to minimize bottlenecks are all stressful. Advertising to make sure you grow sales and pay for all of that additional cost is rip-out-your-hair level stuff.

So, it’s time to focus on one very specific tactic that can help you reach the people interested in your products: holiday season retargeting ads. Many people are already browsing around online, looking for gifts to buy in the coming months or bookmarking pages to return to when sales hit.

You’re taking the time to reach them now, and we want to talk about what to do to reach when it’s time to buy.

Holiday Retargeting

Holidays typically mean a sizable number of visitors and purchases in a short span of time, where you and all of your competition are competing for a select group of individuals. There’re limited budgets to splurge and many people shopping for the same categories and demographics — that’s why every year the local news does way too many shows on the hot toy of the season.

You know this, and your competitors know it too. Retargeting is key to success here because you want to ensure that you grab the attention and eyeballs as much as possible.

Retargeting helps in a few ways:

  • People researching a gift type will search for it and ask for recommendations. General retargeting will help you land on search pages, while social retargeting will help you land on social media pages where that conversation is happening.

  • Holiday shoppers are doing research care about price and want to know final price, which means adding products to a cart and getting all the way to payments to understand every cost. They’ll be abandoning your cart consistently, and retargeting allows you to reach them to remind them about the price and even sweeten the deal with something like free shipping.

  • Holidays are busy. Did you get your presents for everyone? Oh no, you forgot to actually buy that thing! Here’s a nice ad to remind you and get you right to the page to buy it, so it arrives on time.

A quick note on using coupons/discounts in retargeting ads. This is great for holidays, but not always the best for your usual campaigns. Your core customers, those who buy repeatedly, will learn that they get ads with deals after visiting your site. They’ll use this consistently. We’ve seen Facebook groups dedicated specifically to this that even get detailed enough to let members know how long they have to wait between discount codes.

The campaigns you run should match your audience sources that were common throughout the year. There are a few ways to run retargeting, and we’ve put some together below with a priority that focuses on holiday budgets:


Google remarketing ads cover its search engine and sites using its network. During the holiday, it’s a great tool because of its support for remarketing lists for search ads. It also offers packages for standard remarketing that reaches sites on its Display Network and dynamic remarketing that ensures it matches specific people to the specific products they’ve viewed. Dynamic is the way to go for these during the holiday season.


When possible, run retargeting ads on social media too. It’s a terrific way to reach a broad range of customers. To get on sites like Facebook, you need to specifically, directly advertise with them. Plus, with options like Facebook Dynamic Product Ads, you’re also reaching third-party sites and services that are on the Facebook network. Here’s a great primer for retargeting on a variety of social networks.

Customer list retargeting

Traditional retargeting focuses on people who have some way interacted with your website or app. Google and other networks also allow you to target anyone on your customer list, regardless of recent interaction, when you upload their details and when those people are logged in as they browse — usually logged into Chrome.


Mobile apps are smart if that’s where your users already come from, but they might not be great if you don’t get a lot of traffic from them. In many cases, you can see your costs more than double or even triple when you start targeting mobile apps. Mobile display ads are tricky to get right and drive traffic. However, if you have a physical store, then you’ll want to make sure your local search ads are reaching mobile searches.

Smaller ad networks

If you have money to spend beyond all that, expand to some smaller or more niche networks outside of Facebook and Google. There’s some overlap in these networks — most can land your ads on some Google and social ad slots. So, you might want to consider these as part of a larger campaign where smaller channels drive new leads, and then you use the larger networks to try and retarget to them.

Now that you’ve got an idea on some options and list of things to pick up as your budget increases, let’s dive into a few things to remember and areas to target for the 2018 holiday season.

2018 Holiday Season Projections

The economy is picking up this year, and overall it’s expected to have about a 4.5% increase compared to last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

That’s great, but what’s even better? U.S. holiday ecommerce sales are expected to increase 15.3% this year compared to last year, according to eMarketer. And if you’re in the online-only space, you might take a bigger portion of the overall pie this year as eMarketer expects foot traffic to decline.

“Consumer confidence in the US is high,” said eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser. “With low unemployment and rising wages, the immediate outlook for consumer spending remains solid.”

So, it’s a smart year to try some new things and spend a little more on that marketing budget because there’s a larger chance for you to see revenue (and hopefully profit) gains.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The two biggest days of holiday shopping are now actually about 5 to 6, spanning Thanksgiving Day sometimes through the Tuesday after Cyber Monday. You want your campaigns up and running well before this week.

Some 40% of holiday shoppers start researching products in early October. If your campaigns are active and tracking is going on, then you can start delivering retargeted ads during and just before these big shopping days to get people to think about you more often.

If you’re not a large store and aren’t able to drive a lot of traffic while people keep trying to refresh the Amazon page and get an order, consider boosting your ad spend between this Friday and Monday as well as the days just before and after.

Retargeting allows you to stay top-of-mind and land the sale when people find the perfect gift or when they get frustrated at the disappearing deals from major sites and start looking around for smarter bargains. You can provide their feeling of relief by having great deals on great items that are in stock.

Note: During this time, you might want to consider adjusting your ad budget. Prioritize retargeting and spend less on standard social or search — bid prices spike about 140% on these days — and you’ll be sticking to interested consumers instead of trying to turn an unknown into a lead into a sale when time and attention are short.

Cyber Week II Too

The holiday season doesn’t end nearly as early as many small e-tailers think. The week between Christmas and New Years can be big money. People are spending gift cards, making returns and new purchases, and getting in on last-minute deals to buy the thing they wanted but didn’t get.

Some reports say that the average cart size on New Year’s Eve is roughly the same size as the digital shopping carts. Keep your retargeting campaigns active and be sure to send out some extra emails to thank people, share deals, and try to meet your desired margins for the season.

And Give Yourself a Break

Once you’ve implemented your holiday campaigns and started your retargeting efforts, thank your team and take a breather. There’s a desire to adjust this content and try new things in the immediate term, refreshing dashboards to refine for what works.

That’s fine, but don’t micromanage and change every second. Holidays disrupt normal shopping habits, and you can see waves of activity shift dramatically and then return to normal. You’ve done your research, know your customers, and are ready.

Set the campaigns and let them roll.

About the Author

Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

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