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Q4 Marketing Guide: The Right Way to Attract Holiday Shoppers

If your marketing game isn’t competitively strong, then sitting on the sidelines as your competitors make the big bucks could be your unfortunate fate.

The key to winning big this Q4?

A rigorous, well-funded, and strategic Q4 marketing plan. 

Jungle Scout’s 2021 consumer trends report found that during Q4, 78% of shoppers shop online for holiday gifts and almost 47% source their gift ideas through social media ads and campaigns.

While social media is often the main stage for influencing consumer holiday trends, other platforms like email, paid ads, newsletters, and SEO strategies can also drive gift-buying customers to your store. 

So what does holiday-optimized marketing look like? Glad you asked. Let’s dive in.

The scoop on Q4 marketing:

  • Refining your Q4 marketing plan: Where should you start?
  • Coupons, deals, and promos: The marketing musts for Q4
  • Q4 calendar days that can drive your sales through the roof
  • Let’s talk Q4 social media
  • Know your Q4 marketing costs

Ready to get super-optimized for Q4? Download our free roadmap to Q4 success!

Refining your Q4 marketing plan: Where should you start?

To come up with a successful holiday season marketing plan, there are a few key things to do beforehand, starting with:

1. Research, research, research

As an e-commerce seller, you already know research is your best friend.

Gather as much information as you can on last year’s performance, how your marketing strategy needs to revamp for Q4, and how much that could cost you. You’ll want to include additional influencer partnerships, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) budget, and more.

Take time to research your competitors’ marketing strategies for insights on what works well for your niche versus what could end up just being a waste of cash. Looking back on some of the greats and fails of past Q4 marketing campaigns can also help you understand which trends work and which just…don’t.

For example, Bloomingdale’s 2015 “funny” holiday ad ranks among the worst of Q4 marketing campaigns. The copy between a man on one side and a woman looking away from him on the other reads: “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” 

Obviously, this holiday ad was doomed to fail. Once the internet got a hold of it, it quickly blew up for its date-rape implications.

While adding a touch of humor can be great for connecting with your audience, a distasteful joke can be a PR nightmare. And that’s the last thing you need during the busiest time of year. 

When mapping out your Q4 marketing campaigns, knowing ‘what’s in’ can be great for engagement, but be sure to draw clear boundaries and maintain a healthy dose of empathy when planning your creative.

2. Scrutinize your previous plan

If you’ve tackled Q4 before, pull out last year’s drawing boards and look for any gaps. Pay attention to what strategies worked well last time and which didn’t. Looking through your financials could also help you figure out which platforms are worth investing your holiday budget into. 

A 2019 study by AlixPartners gathered data from over 1,100 executives on their marketing spending, sales, and traffic conversions. The results were devastating: 

Over half of the budget spent on ads and social media showed either negative or zero ROI.

A major reason for this is a misallocation of budgets, spending money on social media channels that simply aren’t a good brand fit. (More on this in a minute!)

3. Prepare to track your spending 

A study by Rakuten Marketing found that most marketers believed that about 26% of their budget was being wasted due to wrong platform choices.

And while 75% said they would still gladly switch channels for better reach, only 36% managed to successfully implement performance tracking strategies that would help them make those choices. 

Whether you use a sophisticated system or a simple spreadsheet, it’s important to monitor conversions across multiple marketing channels to keep your spending and ROI on track.

The good news is that most Pay-Per-Click ads managers have a ‘budget cap’ feature that helps you control your spending.

To understand your marketing numbers even more, get to know the metrics you can use to track your marketing profitability — for example, Advertising Cost of Sale (ACoS), Cost per Click (CPC), and Return over Ad Spend (RoAS).

If you’re looking to dive deeper, check out our definitive marketing strategy guide that explains ACoS, CPC, and RoAS in detail.

4. Develop a solid SEO strategy

Having a great SEO strategy to drive traffic to your store is key. The sooner you develop a robust SEO plan, including comprehensive keyword research and lists of both backlinks and internal links, the higher your traffic will be when the holiday season comes calling

If you’re looking for organic SEO growth, you need to be focusing on site-wide keyword placement sooner than Q4 begins, and here’s why: It takes three to six months for websites to rank on google. 

So if you’re plugging on your holiday-focused keywords during the first month of Q4, your website could still be buried on page three of a google search. 

SEO planning for Q4 needs to start early in Q3 at the latest, and that includes hiring an SEO expert if you don’t already have one. By doing this ahead of time, your SEO has enough time to optimize your website and product pages and can help come up with holiday strategies based on real traffic data and trends.

Once you have a solid foundation for your Q4 marketing plan, it’s time to work out the details including which promos and social media campaigns you’ll launch. Let’s take a look.

“I had two days to find money because Black Friday is the biggest day for online sales.” Find out how sellers like Simba went from cash-strapped to $5 million in revenue with a little help from SellersFunding.

Coupons, deals, and promos: The marketing musts for Q4

Everyone loves a good deal. 

When the holidays roll around, people expect the very best offers to hit the market. And you better believe your competitors will be offering up the discounts on a silver platter, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Here are some great ways to make your promos stand out:

1. Conduct data-based experiments

Discounts can only be profitable if you can make enough sales. If you end up only selling about 2% more of what you usually sell, you’re not making much of a profit. And you may even be slipping into a loss. 

For Q4, you have to find offers that really work. 

A great way to do this is to learn more about your customers. Conduct online surveys or polls to figure out what kinds of deals your customers prefer. Are they more likely to buy when you offer free shipping? Do they like a free gift with their purchase? 

Don’t fall into the trend-chasing trap. Let the numbers lead you to the right offer.

2. Make it a holiday-exclusive

Customers love novelty. Including a special holiday-only gift with their purchase, or offering up coupon codes on limited-edition holiday gifts can be great ways to draw in gift-buying crowds. 

You can also introduce a free gift-wrapping option so shoppers can directly ship their gifts to their loved ones. Holiday-themed gift cards can also be a great sales booster. In fact, 2021 saw a 27% uptick in gift card sales.

Another proven method to attract sales is to offer event-exclusive deals, like special discounts on Thanksgiving Day. By setting up limited-time offers like these, you’re giving your customers a subtle push to purchase as soon as possible.

3. Amplify your offers on multiple channels

Using as many channels as possible to increase awareness about the deals you’re offering is key. Emails are great because you can include big, eye-catching images and embed links to help shoppers quickly find what they’re looking for. 

Additionally, email marketing has seen the best ROI compared to any other channel, yielding an average of $36 in earnings for every dollar spent. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should ignore social media.

Social media can be a great way to offer up discounts exclusively to your followers

If you have a social media store connected to your account, like Instagram Business or Facebook Marketplace, customers can buy your products directly from your page. Offering social media-only discounts can also get you more followers in the long run, helping drive more sales year-round.

Ready to expand your Q4 marketing channels? Don’t miss our guide to Omnichannel vs. Multichannel: What Every Seller Should Know.

Q4 calendar days that can drive your sales through the roof

It’s no secret that Q4 is absolutely loaded with holidays. Starting with World Mental Health Day on October 10th to New Year’s Eve on January 1st, this quarter is the most profitable time of year for most businesses.

Of course, holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are definitely the peak — but they’re not the only days worth planning for.

Here’s a list of the top sales days to pay attention to, along with some marketing ideas for each:

  • Oct 10thWorld Mental Health Day: Team up with a mental health organization and create a campaign where a part of each sale gets donated. 
  • Oct 24thDiwali: A major holiday for South-East Asians. Offer special Diwali-themed discounts, especially if you’re an international seller.
  • Oct 31stHalloween: Start Halloween campaigns the week leading up to this holiday. You can also create some seriously fun social media challenges for this one!
  • Nov 25thThanksgiving: Gift-giving season begins! Push out campaigns targeted toward gift-buyers.
  • Nov 26thBlack Friday: The big day! Drop exclusive, limited-time deals. Build buzz around your discounts in the weeks leading up to this major shopping event.
  • Nov 28th Cyber Monday: Offer online-exclusive deals on various channels along with free shipping to really get into the spirit!
  • Dec 24th and 25thChristmas Eve and Christmas Day: Gifts, gifts, and more gifts. That pretty much says it all!
  • Dec 31stNew Years’ Eve: Celebrate the New Year by hosting fun, creative campaigns, challenges, and giveaways on social media. 

While these are the major holidays of Q4, there are plenty more holidays you can plan for. Grab our free super-handy calendar to make sure you have a winning plan in place.

Let’s talk Q4 social media

We all know social media can help scale your business to a whole new level — that is, if you use it well. But with trends and tactics changing by the minute, how do you know which approaches will actually work for your store?

Here are some things to keep in mind before launching a Q4 social media campaign:

  • Keep a close eye on engagement to find the platforms that work for you.
  • Plan your posts ahead of time and schedule them for the holidays.
  • Find creative ways to promote your store — nobody likes a hard sell.
  • Get festive with your posts, but make sure to always include a call to action (CTA).

Tap into influencer affiliate marketing

Speaking of creative ways to connect with shoppers, hiring influencers to market your products through holiday-themed content can be a powerful move for your Q4 marketing strategy.

Influencer marketing has peaked. And for good reason: 92% of consumers trust influencers’ reviews and recommendations over any other type of ad or endorsement. Collaborating with influencers who are popular with your target audience could boost your brand presence.

And when you pair that with exclusive affiliate deals for your top influencers, you can channel that awareness into even more holiday sales.

And a big medium for influencer marketing is, you guessed it — TikTok. 

What’s going on with TikTok?

The perception that social media is only for the younger generations is now, well…dated. 

The number of adults who use at least one social media platform every day has risen to an astounding 72% in 2021 from just 5% in 2006. Traditionally, Facebook has been the most used platform for adults, but it’s forecasted that this will soon change as more and more adults are switching to TikTok.

If you’re looking to make TikTok part of your Q4 marketing mix, here are a few simple rules to get you started.

Partner with the right influencers

As consumers make the move to Tiktok, it is forecasted that 54.9% of marketers will follow close behind by engaging influencers on this platform. 

While you can definitely run paid ads on TikTok as you would on any other social media, it might not be as effective as influencer marketing.

By working with established creators, you can tap into a wider customer base. Influencers also help humanize your brand and create a real connection with customers.

For example, by partnering with Charli D’Amelio, a popular influencer, American Eagle brand Aerie increased sales by 75%.

Clearly, influencer marketing can be super effective. Just be sure to partner with an influencer that aligns with your brand message so that you can tap into the audiences most likely to buy your products.

Start your own account

Apart from paid ads and influencer marketing, you can also start your own company page on TikTok. Initially, it might be harder to kick off, but your own page gives you a lot more control over your brand’s narrative.

You can post videos with tips on how to use your products, which products make the best gifts for the holidays or even create holiday-themed TikTok challenges.

For example, if you sell bakeware, a great challenge could be to ask your audience to post videos of them using your bakeware to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for their family. This way your audience can watch videos of real people using your products in everyday life. 

Get creative

TikTok is all about the creativity. And with five times higher engagement than any other platform, it can be a great tool for e-commerce sellers. 

Customize your products for the holidays and don’t be afraid to color outside the lines with your content.

Know your Q4 marketing costs

Great marketing costs money. During the holiday season, the costs can add up — especially if you’re running promotions on many platforms. 

But aside from marketing, much of your budget could end up going towards inventory, staying in stock, optimizing your shipping, customer service, and other expenses. As these costs grow, your marketing budget could start shrinking. 

Even with a slowing economy on the horizon, skimping on Q4 marketing won’t do you any favors. Apart from the increased sales, the holiday season is the best time of year to get your brand seen by new customers — cutting costs could stall your success in the long run.

Bottom line? This is when you need marketing the most. 

In fact, many surveys have shown that companies who didn’t cut down on ad spending actually fared a lot better after a rough patch. 

This is because stopping marketing could lead to:

  • Lack of brand awareness among your customer base
  • Being overshadowed by your competitors
  • Less traffic
  • Decrease in sales

If your Q4 budget needs a boost, know that there are options.

Get your cash flow on track for Q4

At SellerFunding, we work with merchants of all shapes and sizes to help them scale their businesses without the stress of temporary cash flow gaps.

We provide two core types of ecommerce funding solutions for sellers:

Credit limit: Flexible working capital for your forecasted seasonal inventory and holiday marketing budgets. A working capital credit limit allows you to invest in the inventory, tech, and human resources you’ll need for a smooth holiday season. We can approve credit limits of up to $5 million in 48 hours or less, and you’ll only pay interest on the amount you use. 

Daily Advance: If you’re facing a sudden holiday rush and need to invest in more inventory ASAP, the Daily Advance solution allows you to release up to 90% of the previous day’s net sales and negotiate repayments up to 2-6 months later. Repayments are based on how much revenue you make each month, not fixed amounts.

No matter what targets you’re looking to hit this Q4, the right e-commerce funding can help make it a reality. This quarter holds the most promise for both immediate sales and increased organic growth over time. 

So start planning now and take Q4 by storm!


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