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A best practice guide to the festive season on Facebook

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The Media Image advise marketers on best to sell and engage customers over Christmas by following Facebook's lead.

With summer ending and the festive period closing in, it's important to have a plan in place for Christmas 2019. All digital channels are impacted in one way or another by this time of the year. However, one that perhaps needs more consideration than most is Facebook. Not only do we see a spike in interest, but the platform itself has become more competitive as companies both within the client’s vertical and outside of their industry look to ensure they harvest the increased consumer demand as best as they can. This has led to increased competition and can have a huge impact on results.

As such, we must find the balance between managing the increases in CPMs and meeting volume and efficiency targets. One way of doing this is to understand the cycle of the period and ensure messaging matches the user's intent. We have classified the Christmas Period into three phases; Building Momentum and Understanding Consideration (Late-September to Late-October); Maximising Conversions and Dealing with Increased Demand (Late-October to Late-November); and finally, Dealing with Panic and Depreciation in Demand (Late-November to Mid-December).

Building momentum and understanding consideration:

One of the main things we have recognised as an agency is the differences between the UK and US Markets. With Thanksgiving, the US experiences this phase slightly later than the UK, whereas the UK sees this phase grow through October before the Christmas Period starts in after Halloween. During this phase, consumers are aware that Christmas is approaching and may begin researching ideas or on the odd occasion, even start making purchases, if they believe they have found the perfect present. Breaking that down, it is extremely difficult to know what the user sees as a perfect present as it is so individual, so the focus during this time must be on the research element.

The focus should also be on branding as marketers attempt to identify new audiences that can be targeted during peak times. Therefore, messaging should be all about discovery and not be too product-focussed at this point. A useful tactic that can be incorporated for some e-commerce clients is to use the Back-to-School campaigns to build audiences. These can be rolled out in October and November. It is also useful during this period to ensure your accounts and site are working correctly. For example, Pixel and Site Speed checks should be done.

Maximising conversions and dealing with increased demand:

Now that the momentum has built, it is time to take advantage of the increased demand, with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day all happening within weeks of each other. This phase also comes with some of the highest CPMs of the year, with brands not only pushing hard on the acquisition front but also on the Christmas TV Ad-front with some of the biggest global brands in the world pushing theirs out on the platform. Messaging at this point should be purely acquisition-focussed and during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day, offers have to be strong and present on all advertising efforts in order to compete.

Outside of the intent to purchase gifts for friends and family, there is also an appetite to self-gift, which can be used to increase basket value on site. Tools such as Campaign Budget Optimisation, Automatic Placements and Dynamic Ads can be used to reduce the optimisation workload and focus on bids and budgeting. Facebook recommends using Broad audiences at this point in the festive period, however this must be taken with a pinch of salt and be done so very carefully as a combination of Broad Audiences, Auto Bidding, Automatic placements and Campaign Budget Optimisation can lead to expensive results if not closely monitored.

Finally, once messaging and tactics are set, audiences must be carefully considered, typically those audiences that have performed well throughout the year will continue to do so. However, we would strongly recommend that as cost increases, advertisers should respond by increasing the quality of their audiences. This can be done quite simply by, for example, moving Lookalike Audiences away from being based on all customers to high value or frequent purchaser customer audiences.

Dealing with panic and depreciation in demand

Lastly when planning for the latter stages of the festive period, the focus should be on the panic of consumers as Christmas looms. We have found that focussing on the days remaining to Christmas and the last days to ship to be a strong tactic, before toning things down in Christmas week and then ramping up again for January. In contrast to Q4, being the most expensive time of the year on Facebook, January is often the cheapest. This can mean from an e-commerce point of view, sales can be pushed hard and for some brands, such as those in the financial services industry, cheaper leads as the CPMs plummet as the post-Christmas blues settle in.

In summary, there are many considerations to keep in mind over Christmas, but with careful planning and awareness of how the Facebook market will behave, the platform can deliver strong results over the busiest and most competitive time of the year.

Tom Hutton, head of social at The Media Image.

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