The “Turkey Five” is more than just an exceptional afternoon at the bowling lanes. For small businesses, it refers to the critical days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday when retailers take advantage of a surge in online holiday shopping. With October’s arrival, and the Turkey Five drawing closer and closer, your holiday planning should already be in overdrive. However, it would be a mistake to base your 2021 strategy on last year’s results.
During the 2020 holiday season, small businesses benefited from historically low advertising costs and historically high holiday shopping traffic. Don’t expect the same to hold true this year. While demand should remain high, advertising costs will also rise. For example, current cost-per-click (CPC) rates have already exceeded pre-pandemic numbers and will likely continue growing before the holidays are over. That means you’ll face more competition than ever before as you attempt to attract buyers.
In such a competitive environment, it will be difficult for small businesses to succeed without taking the proper steps to prepare. With that in mind, here are four areas of focus that will help your business be ready when the Turkey Five finally arrives.
By now, we’re all used to the pandemic upending our carefully laid plans. That same dynamic will surely exist this holiday season. However, conducting a historical audit may help predict what’s to come this year. Not only should you examine all of your historical data, but you should also compare it to 2020 to help identify the outlying results. As you perform your audit, don’t overlook these data points:
- Examine 2020’s returns, but keep in mind that you likely won’t achieve those same results.
- Look at past holiday seasons with an eye toward trends that are unique to your customers.
- Review your auction insight reports over the last 12-24 months to see how competition for your CPC terms have changed during the pandemic.
- Check Google Trends to gauge the current popularity of your customer’s search queries. You can also use this site to estimate when traffic for particular queries picks up.
Ideally, these steps will help you anticipate potential holiday CPC rates and predict customer demand during the holiday season, which will be enormously helpful as you plan. However, don’t forget that advertisers spend more during the holidays because the landscape is more competitive, and there’s more volume to capture. So as you forecast, plan for increases beyond your expectations in both traffic and CPCs.
Planning and Preparedness
With historical data and insights in hand, it’s time to create your plan. As you begin, consider these three factors that could play a big role in the upcoming holiday season.
- Adopt a Flexible Budget
This year, you’ll need to be nimble to exploit any opportunities you find. However, it’s hard to be nimble on a fixed budget. So, try focusing on returns instead. After all, if you’re exceeding your return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) goals and you don’t spend more, you’re just leaving money on the table.
Another option is to look beyond the single holiday purchase for the potential to build greater lifetime customer value. This approach might require you to accept lower initial returns with the promise of more significant gains over time. Either way, avoid setting artificial caps on your holiday spending that end up limiting your potential for success.
- Inventory Will be King
The pandemic has exposed the faults in our global supply chain, causing many retailers to experience severe manufacturing and shipping delays. While consumers have come to expect these delays, this knowledge will probably impact their purchasing decisions, causing them to begin shopping sooner than they usually would.
Take a pulse on your inventory. If you don’t anticipate shipping delays or have plenty of stock on hand, you’re well-positioned to dominate this holiday season. Make sure to exploit this advantage by beginning your advertising efforts early (like right now) with prospecting ads that get your brand in front of new customers. Now is the time to start ramping up your advertising efforts, or you may not be part of your customer’s purchasing decisions.
- Diversity Your Spending
Because competition may be unusually heavy this year, you should expand your advertising spending beyond Google. Microsoft ads, paid social media campaigns and YouTube advertising can get your brand in front of new customers when they’re at different places in their buying journey. So, as you create your spending budget, leave room to expand into new platforms.
It’s critical to set realistic expectations in a digital marketing environment where costs will be high, and returns will likely be lower than in previous years.
- Start by evaluating your ROAS goals. Are they still realistic based on your most current margins? Are you willing to reduce your profit on ad spend to compensate for increased costs or shrinking margins?
- Can you accept less immediate profit in exchange for increased traffic, impression share or rankings?
- Are you willing to increase the amount you spend on a bid to show up in customer search queries?
Unlike last year, when cheap traffic came in bulk, consumers will do a lot of online browsing this year — and sellers will spend more to reach them. This dynamic means you may need to accept lower ad returns (or no returns at all) to capture the same traffic as last year. If you’re not prepared for the possibility now, you may be in for an unwelcome surprise come Thanksgiving Day.
Day-Of Game Planning
The Turkey Five are not the days to set and forget your digital ads. Instead, you need a day-by-day game plan to maximize your returns during this critical period. As you build your five-day plan, consider these questions:
- When are you planning to begin ramping up your digital marketing campaigns?
- If you have a set advertising budget, have you reserved enough to compete during the Turkey Five days?
- Can you accommodate the advertising cost spikes that will pop up during the time leading up to Cyber Monday?
- Are you prepared to make hour-by-hour advertising adjustments on Thanksgiving and Black Friday?
During a hyper-competitive holiday season, you risk losing out if you’re not paying close attention while executing your strategy. This year, your best chance at success will come by staying engaged with your advertising and reacting when you spot opportunities or challenges.
Focus on What Matters
For many small businesses, the Turkey Five represents the make-or-break moment for their entire sales year. With so much on the line and so much pandemic-related uncertainty in the market, it’s critical to enter the season with a solid plan that you can adjust if necessary. Flexible budgets will help significantly here as you undoubtedly encounter the unexpected. You’ll have the capacity to take advantage of what’s working and have a strategy in place for what’s not.
No matter what happens, remember that the goal is not necessarily to make a profit on your advertising. Instead, focus on capturing traffic and creating new demand. Even after the Turkey Five ends, these new customers will continue paying off well into the New Year.