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7 Holiday Season Trends For 2023: Run Better Ads

With the holiday season creeping up on marketers, one thing is clear — the current economy is going to change how this peak season shakes out. While people will buy what’s important to them, their spending will be far more controlled.

And that means your ads will have to cater to this new evolving behavior. We’ll get into more details, but here’s a quick overview of what to expect from Meta’s research:

  • Shoppers are looking for meaningful savings
  • Buyers are open to finding out more about new brands
  • Users still expect highly relevant ads

We’re going to show you how to survive this holiday season by using these findings to run better ads. And to make creating your holiday ad campaign strategy easier, we’ve also curated other predictions and studies so your Paid Social strategy is better informed. 

Bonus Meta findings for seasoned marketers:

  • Invest in AI: Meta’s research has found AI can help yield 20% increase in conversions YOY, and 3.3x return on ad spend
  • Simplify your account structure: Ad sets that exit the learning phase see a 19% lower CPA
  • Diversify your creative: Building a variety of assets by diversifying the concepts and formats can help you achieve a 32% increase in efficiency and 8% incremental reach.

#1 The “spend less buy less” season: Discounts are your best friend

Consumers are worried about inflation and a potential economic slowdown. So much so that over half of consumers surveyed by Numerator expect their holiday celebrations and shipping will be impacted by it. 

In fact, two-thirds of shoppers revealed they’ll only buy items on sale, and half will buy fewer items. 

Meta’s research also supports this prediction. 79% of shoppers care about discounts when making a purchase.  

The holiday season is already synonymous with discounts, so your ad strategy may not need major tweaks. But fair warning if you’re used to your customers splurging generously during the holiday season. That may not happen this time around.

Our Advice: Consider a site-wide sale and emphasize the deep discounts in your ad creative. If you sell big-ticket items, consider bundling products together to make it a value deal for shoppers planning to buy fewer items. 

Skinny & Co’s product bundling ad is a prime example:

Skinny & Co's product ad

#2 Give your customers more purchase options: Buy now pay later 

If you think that the current economic problems are only going to affect spending this peak holiday season, think again. It’s also going to change buyer preferences for payment options. 

Practical commerce predicts Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is going to make up 9% of all orders - up from 7% in 2022. People want to celebrate but without feeling the pain of parting with their hard-earned money. And BNPL financing options will help ease that financial burden. 

Our Advice: If you don’t offer BNPL already, consider adding it as a payment option and advertising it in your ad copy and creative front and center. 

This ad from IKEA gets it right:

Ikea's ad

#3 Gear up for an early shopping spree: Start running ads ASAP

Planning your holiday campaign strategy already? Good. Your shoppers have their lists ready too. 

Shopping earlier than usual has become a peak season trend over the past few years. In fact, research from Google found that by mid-October, shoppers complete 21% of their holiday shopping on average. 

Your audience needs time to compare prices and look for the best deals. They want to shop from brands that offer great customer experience and offer superior product quality. 36% of consumers reported spending more time researching products compared to previous years.

Our Advice: This pre-holiday period is the best time to get in front of new buyers. Data from Meta suggests that 82% of shoppers are open to switching brands or trying new ones to find the best deal.

Run your ad campaigns earlier than usual and offer deep discounts. Also, make sure you emphasize your customer service and product quality through customer reviews in the ad creative to make it an easy choice for them.

Reach out to influencers for paid partnerships on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Send them your best products in exchange for authentic reviews.

Here’s an example of what it could look like for your brand:

Influencer's marketing

#4 Want to grab eyeballs? Offer free shipping and free returns 

Once the holiday season is in full swing, last-minute and late shoppers will have a greater sense of urgency to make purchases. While they’ll still look for the best deals and discounts, you’re more likely to grab attention with free & express shipping as well as a generous return policy.

This strategy takes out the element of risk from online shopping and reassures buyers their gifts will arrive just in time to celebrate. And Google’s survey backs this up. 75% of shoppers across various countries reported they’d shop at stores that offer free shipping.

Our Advice: As we get to the middle of the holiday season, switch your strategy from deep discounts to free and express shipping and generous return periods. You can also invite shoppers to become members, so they’re eligible to make use of these policies. You can increase your sales and customer loyalty with this tactic.

Emphasize your store policies and favorable customer reviews in your ad copy and creative.

Take cues from Macy’s free shipping and returns ad:

Macey's free shipping ad

#5 We’ll be in for a longish holiday season 

Like early shopping, long holiday seasons have become the norm. Outbrain predicts that October will kick off the holiday season and possibly extend well into the Cyber Five (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday).

Psst...Have you explored our Ultimate Black Friday checklist?

Our Advice: With a longer campaign cycle, you have to constantly put out new creatives to prevent ad fatigue and stay relevant in the consumer’s eyes.

We have a 3-fold recommendation: 

  1. Automate your creative production so you’re not putting unnecessary strain on your in-house resources. If you want to see how it can help you, check out this case study from Gorillas. We helped them launch 5000 ads every day.
  2. Run automated ads with the help of creative management platforms like Hunch, so you’re taking full advantage of dynamic creative ads as well as creating weather, time, or location-triggered ads on auto-pilot. 
  3. Lean into Meta’s AI-driven discovery commerce system. Meta can help you optimize your campaign across different levers like creative, targeting, placement, and budget. (If you need help figuring out how this works, talk to us!)

#6 Become your customer’s personal shopper before they turn to Generative AI: 

Chat gpt example

We asked ChatGPT to suggest gifts for a 15 year old, and the results were impressive. It takes the whole guessing out of the equation and can even suggest brand names to shop from. 

While the impact of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, or the native Google search on product discovery isn’t exactly clear, it’s evident that people looking for gift ideas will look to AI for suggestions. 

Our Advice: Become your audience’s personal shopper before they have to resort to AI.

Use carousel ads to create gift guides for different audience segments. This strategy can help simplify purchase decisions. So instead of being shown a jumbled mix of products, buyers can see a collection of products that they may want to purchase for their kids, parents, or friends.

And, you can use AI to your advantage too. Our native AI-powered background removal tool can help you transform your product catalog from bland images to eye-catching visuals. Once you remove the background, you can play around with the ready-made templates on the Hunch platform to add an exciting background that appeals to your audience. 

This example from Uncommon Goods is a good example of a gift guide with products against eye-catching backdrops: 

Uncommon Goods ads

#7 The best way to understand and connect with audiences is still data 

Trends and predictions can help inform your ad strategy. But you still need to make data-driven decisions to justify your ad budget. Shoppers expect highly relevant and personalized ads during holidays, and that’s impossible to achieve without the right data.

Meta’s Conversion APIs create a direct connection between all your marketing data and Meta across all channels. Data from Meta found that using Meta Pixel and Conversion API can show a 13% cost per result improvement. 

Our Advice: We recommend partnering with a Meta-certified technology partner like us who can help you set up this API and make ad buying a data-first process.

Can’t stop, won’t stop: The end of the holiday season does not mean the end of peak season 

Some people like to use the time after holidays to buy gifts they wanted that were sold out or couldn’t be delivered on time. Products that can help them keep their New Year’s resolutions also get top priority.

In fact, more than half of consumers surveyed by Google reported that the deals after the holidays are better. And almost half take advantage of these post-holiday deals.

You can use the time after the holiday season wraps up to run new deals and plan all the moments for next year’s campaigns.

Partner with a creative partner like us, and you can bring your strategy to life. From taking creative production off your plate to optimizing your on-brand ad campaigns, Hunch makes sure your products fly off the digital shelves all year round.

Want to hit your financial targets this holiday season? Hop on a strategy call with our resident experts today!