How to Plan Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy on Social Media

 In Later

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If you haven’t started to plan your holiday ecommerce campaigns yet, now’s the time — the holiday season is just around the corner! 

Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, Black Friday, and the rest of the winter holidays, this is the most important (and busiest!) time of the year, especially for ecommerce brands.

In fact, holiday ecommerce sales reached a total of $126 billion last year — up from $108.2 billion in 2017. That’s a 16.5% increase in online sales!

Hoping to get a piece of that holiday ecommerce action? The trick is to start planning early and we’re showing you how to do it: 

holiday ecommerce planning

Step #1: Review Last Year’s Holiday Campaign

Before you jump into any planning for 2019, you need to spend some time reviewing last year’s campaign to see how it tallied up against your goals (feel free to skip this step if you’re running your first campaign this year!). 

Was your 2018 holiday campaign successful? Did it perform as well as you hoped? Did it underperform? What metrics or KPIs did you use to measure your success? Were they useful?

This step is all about reflecting on your previous successes or failures to identify areas where you can improve!

Try to be crystal clear about what you’re looking to achieve with your campaign — was your goal to sell a certain number of products? Grow your email list? Drive traffic? If you had multiple goals, how did they stack up against each other?

You should also spend some time breaking down your results by channel. For example, if you ran promotions on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more, find out which channels had the best ROI (return on investment). You may want to consider doubling-down on your best channels!

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What worked and didn’t work in your campaign last year?
  • How was your timing?
  • Which channels had the best ROI?
  • What are you definitely repeating this year?

Step #2: Make a Plan for this Year’s Holiday Ecommerce Campaign

When it comes to planning your holiday ecommerce campaign on social media, it’s important to start with the end in mind — your goals and KPIs!

Once you have a clearly defined goal for your social media campaign, you’ll be able to come up with strategies to achieve your goal.

For example, @herschelsupply ran a ton of promotions on Instagram last year, including a holiday gift guide featuring some of their most iconic products. Since most of their marketing was focused on social media (and Instagram specifically), we can assume that their main goal was to generate sales of their products through social media.

Holiday ecommerce campaigns are naturally very much focused on bottom-funnel goals, like conversions and sales.

But you can also incorporate some top-funnel goals into your strategy, like improving brand awareness, building engagement in your community, or even growing your email list.

For example, last year @lululemon ran their #feelgoodgiving campaign with the goal of inspiring people to practice mindfulness during the holiday season.

So they focused more on driving engagement rather than generating sales through social media (although, they did promote special holiday product lines as well!).

Once you’ve decided on your goals (and the metrics to measure those goals), it’s a good time to nail down your timeline.

Timing is everything when it comes to holiday marketing campaigns, and you’ll want to set your timeline well in advance of your launch date. Here are some key dates for the 2019 holiday season:

  • Halloween: Thursday, October 31
  • American Thanksgiving: Thursday, November 28
  • Black Friday: Friday, November 29
  • Cyber Monday: Monday, December 2
  • Christmas & Hanukkah: Saturday, December 1 – Wednesday, December 25
  • Boxing Day: Thursday, December 26
  • New Years: Tuesday, December 21

Note: Don’t feel like you have to stick to these dates. For example, if you do a lot of business in Canada, you may want to incorporate Canadian Thanksgiving into your holiday campaign. It really depends on your business and what’s right for you!

The most important part of this process is creating a robust promotional calendar that ties back to the specific goals of your campaign. For example, if your focus is generating ecommerce sales, you need to break down how and when each product will be promoted in the lead-up to the holidays. 

According to Lizzie MacNeill, Later’s Partnerships & PR Lead, a lot of businesses run 2-3 promotions per week throughout the entire holiday season, including Instagram posts, stories, influencer marketing, and more.

That’s a lot of social content to plan for!

But even if you’re only running a few promotions during the holidays, it’s really important to build a calendar with your key promotion periods for the season.

It’s also important to factor in how long your individual holiday campaigns will run. You may want to think about a launch timeline that runs something along the lines of:

  • Day 0-14: Pre-launch hype
  • Day 15: Launch day
  • Day 16-20: Post-launch follow-up

By breaking it down per day, or pre- and post-launch, you’ll be able to start thinking of creative ways to incorporate your products into the campaign, without having dull, repetitive content.

For example, if you’re planning on running a Halloween campaign this year, you should plan to have all of your creative and messaging finalized before October 1st.

Then you can start teasing the campaign in early October leading up to your launch day.

If you’re partnering with any influencers for your holiday ecommerce campaign, you also need to take their timelines into consideration.

For example, if your Halloween campaign launch is happening on the 20th of October, you may want your influencers to promote the campaign on their own channels starting on the 14th or 15th of October.

That means you need to review the promotional content that they plan to post by the 10th of October at the latest.

One last thing to consider: shipping!

Every year, carriers publish their “Last Days to Ship” schedules in October — these are the final days that orders can be made before Christmas.

Before the dates are confirmed, you can still start developing your promotional materials based on previous years — but be sure to stay on top of this year’s deadlines.

You should also make sure to include time for you to process orders (including international orders) before the deadlines!

holiday ecommerce campaign

Nailing down a solid calendar is super important — it will give you a clear idea of how much lead time you’re working with and the potential scope of the project. If you’re running to a tight deadline, you may have to scale back on some of your more ambitious ideas for your campaign.

Use Later’s free social media holidays calendar to keep your Instagram up-to-date and plan your content ahead of the holidays!


Step #3: Decide on Your Strategy & Creative Direction

Now that you have a goal and a timeline, you’re ready to start choosing what social media channels you’re going to light up when you launch your social media campaign.

But each channel you choose — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and more! — should all have a slightly different strategy and approach.

For example, what you create for your Instagram will be hugely different to what you create for Twitter, so they deserve different strategies!

So it’s important to spend some time thinking about each channel, how it will best serve you and your audience, and how that channel’s social strategy will work.

Now that you have all the background details like goals, timeline, and channels locked down, it’s time for the fun part: what will your campaign look like?

It may sound like a fancy marketing term, but having an overarching creative direction is what separates your campaign from your other day-to-day social posts!

What’s unique about the holiday season is that you can create several different campaigns, each with their own creative direction, to coincide with the individual holidays.

Take @lushcosmetics for example. They ran several *gorgeous* holiday campaigns last year, each with its own creative direction and concept.

So how do you go about coming up with your own creative concept for your holiday ecommerce campaign?

Well, the first step is to brainstorm some ideas! We recommend hosting a big session where each of your team members gets a chance to pitch ideas for the campaign.

Each pitch should have its own branding concept (like brand colors, fonts, visual identity), timeline, and promotional strategy. 

To keep everyone on track, make sure that each pitch answers the following questions:

  • What is the idea or concept behind the holiday marketing campaign?
  • What is the focus of the holiday marketing efforts? What products or services will we be focused on marketing primarily?
  • What is the campaign’s promotional strategy? 
  • How will the campaign help us reach our business goals? 

Once you’ve come up with the broad strokes vision of your holiday campaign, including its overall look and feel, it’s time to build the specifics.

Here are a few elements you should consider when developing your creative direction:

Firstly, the overall visual style of your campaign needs to be defined in your creative concept.

This should include a color palette, some inspirational imagery, a design style guide, or design templates that will work across your social channels.

This post was originally published on Later

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