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The holiday season is every marketer’s dream and nightmare.

It’s this time of year when customers I primed for purchasing. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years – the biggest sales days are packed into a two-month period.

It’s also when marketers start increasing advertising budgets. With so many big shopping days, every company will increase spending, especially with Facebook ads.

So how can small and medium sized businesses compete against these large advertisers?

That’s why we’ve created the Ultimate Guide to Prepare for Holidays with Facebook Advertising.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How ad costs are affected by the holidays
  • 3 reasons why you should start preparing now
  • Tactics and formulas to prepare for November and December holiday campaigns

How Do Holidays Affect Facebook Advertising?

Increased Competition

Competition for limited ad space heats up during the holidays. You are not only competing against big brands, but thousands of smaller advertisers who want in on the game.

Advertisers with the biggest budgets don’t always win Facebook auctions. To learn more about Facebook’s auction system, read our article on Facebook auction system.

With all this competition, your old strategy might not work. That one niche you use could be too expensive. That’s a real problem.

Ad Costs Increase

More competition means higher ad costs.

A study by Social Code in 2014 and found CPMs rose dramatically in November and December when competition increased.

In 2015, Facebook tracked ad costs during the holiday season. They showed that CPMs increased by over 100% during the holidays.

Ampush’s study showed that almost all metrics increased from mid November to the end of the year :

  • Cost per click – up 20%
  • Cost per install – 24%

So costs are already starting to increase.

People Ready to Buy Online

More and more people purchase Christmas products online.

In 2015, 40% of people planned to shop more online than in 2014.

In the U.S., 40% of consumers plan to purchase holiday gifts through a mobile device.

And Adobe predicts a 11% year-over-year increase in online sales this year, to $91.6 billion dollars.

People are online, and willing to buy your product.


3 Principles of Better Holiday Campaigns

It’s not just enough us to explain how to prepare for the holidays. You need to understand the principles behind our recommendations.

Warmer is Better

Leads can be broken into two categories – warm and cold.

Cold leads have no relationship to your brand. They haven’t viewed your content or engaged with your account.

An example of this is using interest or demographic targeting on Facebook. These people don’t have a pre-existing relationship with you.

Another example are lookalike audiences. While they may be similar to your customers, they aren’t yet a warm lead because they haven’t interacted with your brand.

On the other hand, warm leads have a pre-existing relationship, of have engaged with your brand. Within Facebook, warm leads are anyone of the following audiences:

  • Facebook page fans
  • Website visitors
  • Lead form, video or canvas ad viewers
  • Event attendees
  • App users
  • Customers

Warm leads are primarily created through custom audiences.

Warm leads are always better to target. The keep costs low and are more likely to sign-up or purchase from you.

Warm leads are a vital part of your pre-holiday strategy. If you haven’t already done so, start building your warm audience immediately.

Invest Early and Often

The earlier you invest in Facebook ads, the better the results.

Let’s say you run a SAAS business. If every sale nets you $5 in profit each month, you should spend as much money as possible in January.

The same applies to Facebook. Building your warm audiences early means a closer relationship between you and your potential customers. When the Holidays arrive, they’ll be more open to buying from you.

Rather than spacing out ad spending, choose campaigns with good performance, and start scaling right now. Investing more in November will pay off in December, especially with advertising costs steadily increasing.

Be a Smart Advertiser

Chances are you aren’t a billion dollar company.

Unfortunately, you still have to compete with those large companies. There’s no way to beat them with money or by bidding more. Spending more won’t necessarily mean better results or more sales.

Instead, you need to spend money more strategically.

By making the right right now, structuring your ads the right way, and understanding how the holidays affect your ad campaigns, you can get more sales and leads while keeping costs down.


How to Prepare for the Holiday Season

In the rest rest of the article, we look at specific formulas and strategies you can start using right now to prepare for the holiday season, including:

  • Investing in video content for better retargeting
  • Increasing your remarketing audience
  • Training your pixels to find the right audience
  • Building your email list
  • Determine the lifetime value of an email address
  • Pick the right objectives for each channel
  • Increase your daily budgets
  • Create and test dynamic product ads
  • Setup offline conversion tracking
  • Optimize your mobile experience
  • Experiment with event value targeting
  • Test a local awareness campaign
  • Get access to in-store purchase objectives
  • Review audience breakdowns

1. Invest in Video Content For Better Retargeting

Besides being the most engaging content format, video is a superior way to build a warm audience.

Let’s look at an example to illustrate what we mean.

Here’s an example of a video campaign we ran.

You can see the cost per 10 second view was $.20. 10-second views are a better indicator of engagement than 3-second views.

And here’s an example of a website click campaign.

Notice the cost difference? 10 videos second views cost 75% less than website clicks. That means our retargeting pools is larger than website clicks.

An added benefit? You can retarget video views up to 365 days later. Website clicks? Only up to 180 days.

Summary: Build a warm audience of video viewers before holidays start.  




2. Increase Your Remarketing Audience

For many advertisers, website visitors are a better audience than video views. And many advertisers can’t invest in effective video content.

In that case, you’ll want to start building a large website visitor remarketing audience before the holidays. With costs rising in late November and throughout December, you should start building a remarketing audience immediately.

The best way to build a remarketing audience is by serving interesting and engaging content to potential customers.

Here’s how to set this up the right way.

First you’ll need to choose your audience. If you need help choosing your audience, you can sign-up for our free guide on Finding Your Perfect Facebook Audience.

Choosing the right objective is important. We’ve had better luck selecting Website Conversions, even when the objective is link clicks.

Start by targeting lookalike audiences. This could be website visitors, conversions, pixel events or purchases.

Make sure to exclude all your retargeting audiences. That means video views, canvas and lead form engagements, and anyone who’s clicked an ad.

Selecting optimization type will impact on costs. For larger audiences, we’ve gotten better results by selecting website link clicks. For smaller ones, we usually choose unique daily reach or impressions.

Summary: Start building a retargeting audience right now.


3. Train Your Pixel to Find The Right Audience

The Facebook Pixel is every advertiser’s secret weapon.

In most cases, Facebook will know who to reach better than you. Account history, website metrics and pixel traffic all feed into your pixel performance. Every time an event is triggered, Facebook learns more about your target audience and who best to serve your ad.

You can train your pixel to find target audiences by choosing and optimizing for specific conversion events. Facebook will learn who completes those events, and serve ads to similar users.

But Facebook’s pixel needs enough data to find people who are likley to complete your event. In most cases, they require 20-25 conversions per day for 1-day conversions, or 25 per week if 7-day conversion window is selected in bidding.

But What if Total Conversions are Low?

Unfortunately, not every pixel gets that many conversions, especially product purchases. Therefore, you should target a higher-funnel activity such as email sign-ups or view content.

Some advertisers disagree with using view content as a conversion event, but we’ve found this effective to build a large retargeting pool.

Summary: Invest in pixel conversions to train your audience. Focus on higher-funnel conversions in lower-funnel isn’t possible. 


4. Build Your Email List

There’s a reason why advertisers spend so much money increasing email subscribers because email lists are your best source of customers.

Unfortunately costs are already increasing. But you should still invest in increasing your email list before December.

The best way to build your list is by giving away free content.

This is a proven way to increase your email list. Think about the product or service you sell, and what your audience would find interesting. Then create downloadable content they would find interesting and run ads to it.

It’s more complicated than that, but you need to start doing something.

Summary: Build your list by giving away useful free content.


5. Determine Email Life Time Value

Knowing the value of an email address helps you bid more strategically for leads and products.

Here’s how to find total value:

  • LTV = total $ of products sold that have email addresses / total # of emails collected

Let’s say an email is worth $30 in life-time value. And let’s say you’re willing to pay $15 per email conversion. Now you know you can bid up to $15 per lead.

To do this, select the bid amount, choose manual and set the bid value to $15 average. This will ensure that on average, you pay $15 per conversion.

You can read our article on Facebook advertising changes to learn more about bid amounts, average and maximum bidding.

To learn more about effective bidding strategies, take a look at’s analysis of true value bidding

Summary: Understand LTV of emails and set your bids accordingly.


6. Use the Right Objective Per Channel

Facebook has two lead capture campaigns:

  • Lead ads
  • Website conversons

The objective you choose can affect ad costs.

AdEspresso ran an experiment to see whether Lead Ads or Website Conversions had a lower cost per lead.

Overall they found no real difference in total costs.

But platform type impacted results. Lead ads performed better on mobile, and website conversions performed better on desktop.

Summary: Experiment with lead ads and landing pages on mobile and desktop.


7. Increase Daily Budgets

Facebook serves ads based on auction data. Many factors determine if your ads appear (click here to learn more about the Facebook auction) but price is still an important one.

Larger daily budgets impact the chances of your ads being served. By increasing your daily budget, you allow Facebook to bid for more for your target action, and show more ads.

Don’t be concerned about spending your total daily budget. If you’ve set a low bid, there is almost no chance your daily budget will fully spend.

Summary: Increase daily budgets in November to win more bids and increase ad delivery.


8. Create and Test Dynamic Product Ads

The secret weapon of every ecommerce advertiser are Dynamic Product Ads.

Facebook dynamically generates ads based on actions people take on your website.

How good are they? Point It Digital Marketing compared Dynamic Product Ads versus normal remarketing ads. The results?

  • 44% increase in CTR
  • 77% lower CPC
  • 74% lower CPA

Setting up Dynamic Product Ads can be straightforward, but more advanced customization may require a developer.

1. Create and Upload a Product Catalogue

List your product attributes in an XML or CSV file. These attributes auto-populate each part of your ad, such as name, landing page URL and image URL.

You have to upload this through your Business Manager account.

2. Setup Your Pixel

You will need to modify your pixel to report product IDs, and different pixel events like product views, added to cart and purchased.

Use Facebook’s developers guide to install the pixel correctly. It’s even easier if you’re using Shopify,

3. Setup a Dynamic Ad Template

You need to create a dynamic ad template to generate each ad. You can use multi-product or single product in the Newsfeed or Right-Hand column.

4. Run the Campaign

Setup your campaign and start running it!

Strategies for Dynamic Product Ads

We recommend using November to test Dynamic Product Ads to see what works.

Provided your site gets enough traffic, you should test out the following ad set campaigns:

  • View products but no purchase
  • Clicked on email product, but no purchase
  • Added to cart, but no purchase
  • Cross-sell to past customers who match certain interests
  • Up-sell to recent buyers who visited your website again
  • Sales and promotions
Summary: Setup and test Dynamic Product Ads and use findings for holiday campaigns.


9. Setup Offline Conversion Tracking

Offline conversion tracking lets you track any offline conversions, like in-store sales or leads, that occurred as a result of a Facebook ad.

This is incredibly useful for small business advertisers who rely on phyiscal in-store sales, but want to track ROI from Facebook advertising campaigns.

Setup Offline Conversions

You’ll need three things to setup offline conversion tracking:

  • Offline data file or API connection
  • Ads Account
  • Business Manager

Next you’ll need to create an event in Business Manager.

Go to Business Settings and select Offline Event Sales.

Name your offline event and the description

Then choose the Offline Event and upload the corresponding data and follow the instructions.

Tracking Conversions for Offline Events

You can select offline conversion tracking in the Tracking section of your ad set.

Select Offline Events Tracking and select your offline event.

View Offline Conversion Results

To see your offline converstion results, go to the Ads Manager and select Columns and Customize Columns.

Then choose any of the Offline conversions you with to track.

Summary: Setup offline conversion tracking to understand how your campaigns contribute to offline purchases.


10. Optimize Your Mobile Experience

Many advertisers, especially large retail brands, don’t differentiate mobile or desktop targeting. Everything is lumped together into one ad targeting group, even though mobile and desktop experiences can be different.

Research data shows how important mobile is to holiday shopping:

  • 4.2X more of more often that people access Facebook on mobile phones before holiday shopping
  • In 2014, year nearly half of online shopping traffic came from mobile
  • 56% of in-store sales were influenced by mobile activity
  • Purchases on mobile devises increased 58.5% during the 2014 holiday season, while desktop only increased 5.9%

With all this in mind, how can you take advantage of increased mobile usage?

Test and optimize mobile campaigns. Understand what products drive mobile purchases or in-store visits, and apply those findings during the holidays.

Build a profitable mobile campaign. By creating a profitable campaign early, Facebook will know your target audience. This saves you money during the holidays as Facebook already knows your target audience.

Build mobile retargeting traffic. Setup a campaign to target only mobile devices.

By building a retargeting pool early, you can reach mobile users during the holidays at a lower cost than your competitors.

Sell your products on Facebook. A mobile optimized experience will encourage mobile purchases. Set up a Shopify Facebook store to take advantage of an optimal mobile experience.

Summary: Optimize your sales experience for mobile right now or miss out down the road.


11. Experiment with Event Value Targeting

Facebook’s newest audience targeting tool let’s advertisers target audiences by the value of a Facebook event.

For a detailed review of this new tool, download our Advanced Facebook Custom Audience Guide.

In preparation for the holidays, you should experiment with the following audience groups:

Up-sells on low purchase-value audiences

Up-sells on specific products or product themes

Customers who used iOS devices

Be sure to experiment with these audiences beforehand to see if they are worth targeting during the holidays.

Summary: Use advanced custom audiences to see if targeting by purchase data increases sales.


12. Test Local Awareness Campaigns

In September 2016, Google commissioned a study on mobile device usage and shopping:

  • 87% of people within the study visited a retailer’s website or app on their smartphone
  • 61% of people visit a retailer’s app or website before purchasing

Customers also engage on their mobile devices inside a store. A Business Insider study found that 70% of store shoppers use their mobile device in-store every single time or on a regular basis

You need to prepare for in-store visits. The best way to do this is by experimenting and testing Facebook in-store traffic campaigns.

Local Awareness – Setup

Using this campaign is easy. Just select the Local Awareness objective and you’ll be given a 1-mile radius around your store.

Using this objective has it’s advantages:

Context specific map cards. This shares locally relavant details with your audience, like a map pin, distance to business and hours of operation

Store-visit call-to-action buttons. You can use Get Directions, Call Now, Learn More and Send Message call to action buttons.

Summary: Experiment with location-based campaigns before key holiday dates and use data as a cost benchmark.


13. Get Access to In-Store Visit Objective

Companies with multiple business locations should use the Get People to Visit Your Store objective.

Here’s why you should use this campaign objective:

  • Location-contextual information for each business location
  • Proximity-based ad content
  • Proximity-based maps
  • Set boundaries based on population density

To use this objective, you’ll need locations enabled. Do this by contacting Facebook, and following the instructions.

Setting up and testing store performance will ensure you spend money on top-performing locations, rather than waste money during the holidays.

Summary: If you own multiple stores, contact Facebook to setup Facebook locations.


14. Review Breakdowns to Determine Most Valuable Audiences

Understanding how to use Facebook breakdown data is key to increasing leads and sales. By analyzing breakdown data like platform or device, you can see what audience segments perform the best. We’ll use our Instagram Advertising Guide as an example.


We tested four different platforms:

  • Facebook Mobile Newsfeed
  • Facebook Desktop Newsfeed
  • Instagram
  • Facebook Right Hand Column

As you can see from the data, mobile devices performed best.

Device Impression

Our data shows that Android Smartphones and iPhone were the main devices people used.


This breakdown shows results based on platform.


The best country was Indonesia, followed by United States and Turkey.


Unsurprisingly, young people were most interested in our Instagram Guide.


Using Breakdowns is an incredibly powerful way to understand your audience.

Be sure to test wider audiences throughout November. This will ensure you have enough data to make informed decision over the key holidays.

Based on our data, we would break out 18-24 audiences who use mobile devices, and increase our bids and daily budgets. That way we’re bidding on more profitable audiences.

Summary: Determine most profitable audience segments before key holidays.

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