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How to prepare your Amazon ads for the holiday season

November 10, 2020 / Reading Time: 6 minutes /
Victoria Doherty

The last few months of the year hold many important dates for the e-commerce advertiser’s diary: namely Black Friday and the lead up to the Christmas period and New Year. In this post, we’ll take a look at how to set up your Amazon Advertising campaigns for success to maximise increased traffic to your website. 

Evermore online shoppers now head straight to Amazon for research, inspiration, and purchase. This makes the site’s ad management platform, Amazon Advertising, a prime (no pun intended) channel to reach holiday shoppers in all phases of the buying cycle and promote your product range during the most important period of the e-commerce year.

With Amazon Advertising seeing consistent year on year growth as more e-commerce advertisers understand and leverage the platform’s capabilities, it’s never been more important to have a competitive edge when planning your campaigns for the holiday season. 

Moreover, traffic to the Amazon platform as a whole continues to reach new heights; the graph below shows the increase in traffic to the site last year, clearly showing how it skyrockets from September to December:

(Source: Statista)

Planning Your Campaigns

As with every digital marketing campaign, forward planning for your paid Amazon activity is crucial to make the most of the Q4 peak period. Ahead of the rush, plan out the realistic budgets you have to invest in your Amazon up until the end of the New Year period.It’s also a good idea to have some additional investment set aside, especially as there’s still plenty of uncertainty around lockdown restrictions and how these will fuel more online shopping due to the closure and safety concerns of high streets. Ultimately you need to keep a close eye on your top-performing campaigns to ensure they don’t become limited by budget.

Your budgets will naturally depend on how established your brand is on the platform, as well as the popularity of the products you sell and how much search volume there is available.

As part of your holiday planning process, it’s also worth undertaking some additional keyword research to understand any new trends as they arise, which is particularly relevant during times of COVID-19 when consumer behaviour can change so rapidly. There are several good tools available for this, including Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner (many product-level searches are replicated across the two platforms), and Merchant Words.

Lastly, when planning your campaigns always have your goals in mind and clearly understand your profit margins at a product level with holiday promotions applied. It’s worth being flexible on your ACoS (Advertising Cost of Sale) in the run-up to Black Friday, for example, as driving traffic in advance of the date is likely to pay off in terms of orders when your promotions go live, particularly if you’re selling items with higher price points. 

Ensuring ASINs Are ‘Retail Ready’

Any products you invest in advertising on the Amazon platform during the holiday season need to be ‘retail ready’. This means they should contain all the information a potential shopper needs to make a purchase decision, including clear photos, customer reviews, and a full product description. Having a well-optimised product detail page also influences purchasing decisions on your website and anywhere else you stock your products, as growing numbers of shoppers use Amazon as a point of truth for product information and reviews to make purchasing decisions.

Consider Campaign Formats

There are a number of campaign formats available on the platform that you can match back to your overarching advertising goals. If, for example, your promotional calendar includes multiple discounts for Black Friday, it would be well worth planning some sponsored display campaigns, as these give you the ability to reach shoppers both on and off Amazon and influence their purchasing decisions.

If your focus over the holiday period is to drive brand awareness and new-to-brand orders, then sponsored brands campaigns would also be an excellent addition to your campaign plan.Sponsored brands ads can be targeted based on competitors’ products for lower-funnel activity, and on Amazon’s pre-defined categories to reach shoppers searching for similar items, making them an excellent tool for upselling and cross-selling when shoppers are more receptive. As an example, if you’d like to upsell one of your more expensive products that will be discounted for Black Friday, you could use sponsored brand ads to target people who are looking at complementary products with a lower price point.

Focus On Branded Search

Before and during the holiday period competition on the Amazon platform will ramp up significantly, with advertisers being more aggressive with their competitor bidding in an attempt to gain market share and exposure. This necessitates keeping a close eye on your branded campaigns.It’s worth preemptively increasing your bids for any branded keywords to ensure you remain competitive and don’t miss out on any potential clicks or impressions.

As part of your branded strategy, you could also consider setting up sponsored brands campaigns targeting your own brand keywords to ensure maximum coverage. Set up in this way these ads will appear on PDPs (product detail pages), ensuring you’re consistently top of mind and preventing competitors from appearing on your product pages.

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Bidding for Success

Unlike Google Ads, Amazon only has two truly automated bidding strategies. However, when used properly and combined with bid adjustments for top placements you can bid your way to success during the holiday period. The options are ‘dynamic – bids down only’ or ‘dynamic – bids up and down’. Alternatively, you can opt for ‘fixed bids’ which means your keyword/product/category bids are set and fixed by you.

To look at the options in a little more detail,Amazon’s real-time dynamic bidding can be a highly effective way to manage your campaigns in times of increased traffic such as Black Friday and Christmas, allowing you to make the most of opportunities in the auctions as they arise. This is particularly true for larger, more complex accounts where manual keyword management will be time-consuming and ineffective. Incidentally, setting bids at a keyword level will give you more granular control over your ACoS, as opposed to setting them at an ad group level, which means your bid is the same for all of the keywords within it.

Our recommendation during the holiday season is to make the most of Amazon’s algorithmic bidding and use the ‘dynamic – bids up and down’ option. By setting the bid you dictate the minimum that you’d like to pay for your keyword/product target. Amazon will then dynamically bid up or down when a click is more or less likely to occur based on the context of the shopper’s search. Of course, you should keep a close eye on results to ensure that the dynamic bidding is working as expected, while also reviewing that your minimum bid remains consistently competitive for your main keywords/product targets.

The next consideration is bid adjustments for placements; these relate specifically to sponsored product campaigns. There are three main placements: top of the search results, product pages, and the rest of the search. You can implement bid adjustments for the first two up to a maximum of 900%. This can be an extremely effective way to increase your chances of appearing at the top of the search results for branded terms, or for appearing on product pages when people are viewing competitors’ products. 

The bottom line here is that bidding strategically using a combination of keyword-level bids, placement bid adjustments, and dynamic bidding will help you win more auctions and drive more traffic during the competitive holiday period.

Combining Amazon with Paid Social

Amazon Advertising does not have to operate in isolation. In fact, it can work well in tandem with your other paid social campaigns during the holiday season.If, for example, you’re running campaigns on Facebook or Google Ads, you could look to send some or all of that traffic back to your Amazon Brand Store to increase your orders coming through the site. Of course, this will depend on your product margins and how profitable selling on Amazon is for your business.

If you are a vendor you can use Amazon’s Attribution tool to understand the performance of your ads or email marketing campaigns in driving traffic back to your Amazon products and/or store and make tweaks as necessary. In this way, you can get a more holistic overview of your campaigns for the holiday season.

A Final Thought

With proper planning and execution, you can make your Amazon Advertising campaigns work as hard as possible over the holiday period.Set your goals in advance as granularly as possible at a product level based on your product margins. This will ensure you understand the right level of profitability that needs to be achieved during the holiday period with discounts applied and means you can optimise your campaigns accordingly to reach a certain ACoS.

If you’d like any support or further information on Amazon Advertising management and strategy, please do get in touch.

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