The Christmas season undoubtedly gives online marketers more nights of restless sleep than any other time of year.

The number of clicks rapidly fluctuate as more consumers each year take to the internet to get their Christmas shopping done and marketers need to make sure the right products are being represented at the right time, as well as correctly reflecting availability.

To help ease what is a very stressful time, we’ve been analysing data from the same time last year to help marketers prepare their campaigns to cope with key dates and fluctuations.

We’ve been looking at spend, click-through rates, impressions, revenue and mobile click share trends across Q4 2011 to identify key trends and dates for your 2012 Christmas calendar.  

The most important things we think marketers should do to ease the burden and get everything sorted are:

  1. It sounds obvious, but online marketers need to prepare their campaigns in advance. Once the Christmas season begins, marketers are often consumed by factors such as data analysis, granular reporting, and continuously striving to get the most out of their campaigns.

    This leaves little time to launch new campaigns with targeted keywords and relevant images that are carefully tuned to key promotions.

  2. At Christmas more than any other time it’s important to stand apart from competitors, so online marketing efforts need to clearly promote special offers. Free delivery, discounts and vouchers are among the most influential promotions for shoppers.

    To reach value-shoppers, highlight special offers like “25% off”, “£10 voucher” or “Free delivery” within creative text. Introduce shipping cut-off dates and time-sensitive offers to create a sense of urgency and convert shoppers at a higher frequency.

  3. More shoppers use their mobile phones and tablets to find deals and compare prices on-the-go during the Christmas shopping period, so if possible, marketers need to develop a mobile strategy.

    The first step to this is to create separate mobile and desktop-targeted campaigns – this is crucial as advertising real estate on mobile devices is limited compared to desktop ads, so you can’t just assume what works well on a desktop will be as effective on a mobile.

    Second, include location ad extensions to all ads to quickly point on-the-go mobile shoppers to the nearest store location. This could mean the difference between a shopper purchasing in-store and abandoning the search in favour of a competitor around the corner.

  4. As the Christmas period will be so busy, marketers won’t have time to see which promotions work and which won’t, so they should test promotions as early as possible.

    To do this, carefully establish an understanding of value throughout the year and condition shoppers to recognise the sales strategies and cycles. Allow shoppers to recognise when a special offer represents a “buy now” opportunity.

    For example, is “25% off” and “Free shipping” a monthly promotion or something that is only offered once a year on Cyber Monday? Educating shoppers creates more predictability and control during December.

  5. To make sure they’re catering for the influx of shoppers they need to target, marketers should adjust budgets on a daily basis.

    With online traffic volumes increasing year-over-year, the related costs will increase from October through December. As a result, daily campaign budgets should be adjusted to accommodate the expected increase in spend.