← Back to Blog
Instagram, Marketing

How to Plan Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy on Social Media

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 31

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.

Of course, since you could be running campaigns for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and more, you might have to do this several times over!

Mood boards are a great idea at this stage of planning. You can easily create a mood board by pinning inspiration images on Pinterest or check out this blog post from Canva on how to build a mood board for your future campaign.

holiday ecommerce campaign

Secondly, your creative direction should outline your campaign message and editorial style.

This will help you fine-tune your content and make sure how you’re introducing, explaining or selling your product throughout the campaign remains consistent.

It’s a good idea to nail down a couple of terms or core messages you want to weave through each of your campaign assets.

For example, @maccosmetics ran a campaign last year centered around “New Year’s Resolutions.” In each Instagram post, they shared a resolution and a call-to-action to purchase one of their beautiful glitter-based products:

Finally, you should also think about specific promotional strategies for each idea.

A lot of businesses like to partner with Instagram influencers for their holiday campaigns. It’s a great way to introduce your business to new audiences, get on shopper’s minds, and, during the holidays, to get your customers into the buying spirit!

But you should also consider running an Instagram advertising campaign during the holidays. That way, you can jumpstart your engagement and reach more people with your campaign!

Of course, if you’re running your own business, this might mean that you are coming up with the creative direction, managing the photoshoot, editing the content, and posting everything yourself — which is a lot of work!

But as long as you can stick to your timeline, and you’ve got a clear creative direction you’ll 100% be able to achieve a successful campaign!

Step #4: Create a List of Assets for Your Holiday Ecommerce Campaign

Once you have your overall strategy nailed down, you should spend some time reviewing all the assets you’ll need for your holiday ecommerce campaign

Your campaign assets would be things like photos, videos, graphics, GIFs, or anything else you’re planning to share on social media.

When it comes to actually creating the content for your campaign on social media, this is going to vary heavily depending on the size of your company, and whether you’re selling a physical or digital product.

For a physical product, you will obviously be creating photos and videos with the actual product. You’ll want to have a mix of both product photos and lifestyle photos, and your creative shoot could range from a small photo session with your iPhone to a multi-day, big-budget shoot with multiple photographers and videographers.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to get started with this step early on!

If you’re planning on posting content throughout the season, you could be looking at dozens of Instagram posts, stories, Facebook posts, emails, and more! So there’s really no time to waste.

In fact, some businesses start creating their holiday assets as early as August or September!

Step #5: Prep Your Social Media Content Calendar

Once you have all your content and assets, it’s time to put everything together and plan out your social media content calendar for the holiday season!

Now’s the time to plan when each piece of the puzzle goes live across your social channels for maximum impact for your campaign.

This often takes up more time than you think, so make sure to factor that into your timeline and schedule!

While you may have official “launch” days for when you’re promoting your products, you might want to have a different timeline for social media or different launch “phases.”

For example, @meundies (a Later client!) announced their holiday line on November 1st last year and then ramped up promotions throughout November and December — in total, they promoted over 15 holiday-inspired products during this period!

When it comes to planning out your holiday ecommerce content, there’s no better tool than Later’s intuitive and easy-to-use content calendar!

You can schedule your photos and videos to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest with Later, and view all of your social posts on a content calendar together to have a comprehensive view of everything that’s going out.

Even if you’re not ready to actually schedule your posts yet, you can still plan out your social posts with Later’s new calendar notes feature.

You can add notes to remind yourself to post on that day or time, create placeholder content, or indicate which posts will be a part of your campaign.

Don’t forget to schedule your teaser content ahead of your campaign launch date too!

If you’re posting about your holiday ecommerce campaign across multiple social platforms, that means you’ll have a lot of different photos and videos to manage.

Instead of scrambling to find the right content for the right channel close to the deadline, you can upload all of your content to Later’s media library so everything is together and easily accessible in one place.

You can use labels to tag all of your campaign assets and keep them organized, so they’re just a click of a button away when you need them.

holiday ecommerce

Scheduling your holiday campaign content with Later (across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!) is free — sign up today! 

 

Step #6: Track and Measure Your Campaign Success

We did say that a successful campaign was all in the planning — well now you’re already planning for 2020!

By setting up some trackable links and getting your campaign reporting in order at this stage, you’ll be fully prepared and armed with more campaign knowledge for future campaigns to come.

Here’s a couple of ways to get your reporting organized for your holiday ecommerce campaign:

#1: Set up UTM tagging for your social posts and newsletters

UTM is short for “Urchin Tracking Module”. To put it in easier terms, a UTM is the piece of unique code you’ll add on to the end of your URL. With UTM tagging, you can make sure Google Analytics is tracking your social traffic with complete accuracy.

First, decide what website or specific webpage you want to send your followers to — this could be a specific landing page for your holiday campaign or the shopping pages of your website.

It’s best to send your audience to a website they can take a “next step” — whether that be signing up for a service, making a purchase, or to simply continue the conversation.

For example, if you running a new holiday campaign and want to get more newsletter sign-ups, you can send them to a landing page on your website:

Next, Google Analytics lets you tag your URL with the following three campaign parameters and their values. You can add parameters (such as utm_source, utm_medium, and utm_campaign) to a URL to capture reporting data about the referring campaign.

For example, the following link would allow you to identify the traffic to later.com that came from Instagram, as part of a particular campaign:

https://later.com?utm_source=instagram&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=holiday-campaign

Note: Google Analytics is case sensitive so make sure you’re consistent in naming your sources!

Thankfully, all the technical stuff is taken care of if you use Google’s Campaign URL Builder — it allows you to easily add campaign parameters to URLs so you can track custom campaigns on your Google Analytics Dashboard.

All you have to do is fill out the form, and Google will create a custom URL for the social posts part of your holiday campaign! 

Now you’re all set! Once you’ve added the link to Instagram, you can start to track traffic from for each individual link on your Google Analytics Dashboard.

#2: Review your social media analytics

Whether you’re promoting your holiday campaign on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, it’s super important to check in throughout your campaign (as well as afterward!) to see how your content is performing.

That way you’ll be able to gauge what content is getting the most traction, and what types of posts your audience responds to best. For example, you could find that user-generated-content (UGC) is driving more sales than stories on Instagram.

One way to do this is to check in with your analytics for each social site, like Instagram Insights or Pinterest Analytics. 

However, this can be time-consuming, especially if you’re running your campaign across multiple platforms.

To help save time, you can track your Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest performance all in one place with Later Analytics!

With Later Analytics, you can hone in on each post’s performance, and really see which content is working best for your audience and your campaign goals!

Track and measure your Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest performance with Later! Available on all paid plans starting from $9 per month! 

 

#3. Get your campaign report ready

Equally as important as tracking and measuring your campaign, is how you record and report on it.

Being able to analyze and store the metrics related to your campaign (as well as the wins and losses!) shortly after the campaign has finished will be a huge help with it comes to planning 2020’s holiday campaign!

Think about your campaign goals we set out in Step #2, and how you’d like to report on each one.

Make sure you spend time thinking about the lessons learned and how you could improve upon your campaign plan and direction — all this info will help out when it comes to improving and scaling your next campaign!

Not sure what to include in your campaign report? Check out our free social media report template to help you get organized! 

And that’s it!

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s important that you start planning your ecommerce campaign on social media as soon as possible!

Just try not to get too stressed out! Holiday marketing campaigns don’t have to be overly complicated and can deliver great benefits to your business. 

Whether you do a few simple things to “dress up” your brand for the holidays or commit to a full-on campaign, follow our planning guide get the most out of this busy season!

Ready to get organized and plan out your holiday content in advance? Start scheduling with Later, the #1 Instagram marketing platform trusted by over 2 million businesses! Sign up now — it’s free

 

Written By

Benjamin Chacon

Benjamin is a Content Marketing Strategist at Later and recent transplant from Toronto. You can follow his day-to-day on Instagram @benjaminchacs.