Ads up! The shopping season is coming and it is going to be bigger than ever


[Updated: Sep 2020]

The shopping season is starting under a grey COVID-19 cloud but the predictions are that more shoppers will do most of their shopping online and your eCommerce site is going to play a much bigger role in the marketing effort of the advertisers.

Make sure you are ready for it and able to utilize all the brand budget that is going to be thrown at you!


The holiday season doesn’t really start in December – It starts right NOW! Usually at least half of the internet users plan to start their holiday shopping by the end of October and this quarter will be responsible for a disproportionate share of your annual revenues (according to the NRF (national retail federation) the holiday season can represent as much as 30 percent of annual sales)!

This will have much more effect this year as a recent survey shows that COVID-19 impact hasn’t disrupted consumer holiday shopping plans but it has changed how and where they are planning to shop! 66% of the shoppers anticipating they will increase their online purchases during the 2020 holiday season while on the other hand 60% of consumers plan to shop less in-store this season due to fear of COVID-19 exposure.

eBay advertising also release a study showing that COVID’s online shopping boost likely to continue through holidays. a majority (54%) of eBay shoppers say they will be doing all of their holiday shopping online. Nearly three-quarters (72%) plan to buy more of their gifts online this year than last. This habit is expected to continue through the fall and winter as 72% expect to continue shopping more online even as stores open.


Ads up!

This means that during the holiday shopping season, from October through December, advertisers that are already used to spend a disproportionate amount of money on advertising are going to shift much of it to eCommerce, where the shoppers will be.

According to Kissmetrics, during the holiday season ad impressions typically increase by 50%. In addition, CTR (click-through rates) rise 100%, direct traffic increases by 150%, the average order value grows by 30%, and conversion rates grow by 60%.

The increase is well felt in Sponsored Product Ads as well and it is going to be even stronger this year.

Last year we saw an increase of 200%-300% in the Sponsored Product Ads impressions!

Despite the increase of PPC (price per click) because of the competition and the discount product prices, the average return on ad spend (ROAS) was 50%-150% higher than the average. The reason for the outstanding performance was that shoppers were focused on buying and the conversion rates were much higher than usual. In some categories, like toys and video games consoles it was 500% higher.

The Sponsored brand ads (aka Headline ads) presented even a better uplift in terms of conversion rates and ROAS. In average it was 200% higher!

That means that every dollar that was spent on Sponsored Products during Black Friday generated much more sales than in regular days.

Needless to say that the increase in CPC and the number of impressions and clicks contributed directly to the incremental revenues of the stores Sponsored Product Ads.

So what can you do to make sure you are getting the most out of your Sponsored Products offering at this time?

Here are 5 tips:

#1. Seize the opportunity

This quarter is the best time to engage your brand partners and sellers with Sponsored Product Ads!

They need it the most (because it’s that time of the year) and luckily this is also the time of the year when it works best (as seen above – the best ROAS ever)!

You should build marketing plans to (1) Introduce the Sponsored Product Ads to brand partners and sellers who are not yet doing Sponsored Product Ads (if they join your eCommerce media program now they are likely to get good results and continue after the shopping season), (2) Use SPA to retain existing advertisers and brand partners (if they run campaigns now they are likely to get good results and continue after the shopping season).

How do you do it?

Channel all your marketing brains into this time of the year – Special promotions with limited time frames, creative bundles that will get your brand partners and seller to engage with your Sponsored Product Ads offering.It can be a bundle of re-targeting campaigns and co-ops for their products, special discounts prices, display ads, reduced fulfillment or delivery rates etc. Think of all the benefits and the Points of Tangency you have with your sellers and brand partners that can be somehow bundled to get them more engaged with your Sponsored Product Ads offering and with your store in general.

But more importantly and basic is to communicate the benefits.

#2. Communication: Be kind – remind

So we now know that for brand manufacturers and marketplace sellers the best marketing channels in terms of ROI is the store itself, especially in the shopping season, as the competition and prices of the other channels (like Google and Facebook) rises (mainly because the stores are fighting to get shoppers into their store and compete for traffic on the same keywords as the brands).

It doesn’t mean you don’t need to repeat it in the ears of your sellers and brand partners.

This is the time to send them emails and notify them that Sponsored Product Ads are their best marketing tool this time of year, Do re-targeting campaigns on Google and social media to your mailing list etc.

You need to shout it out loud!

Take this opportunity to send emails to those who have never done Sponsored Products on your site before (inviting them to start now with a special incentive maybe), to those who run small budget campaigns (encouraging them to exploit the shopping season boost in traffic to raise their budgets) and to those who are already running big budgets (reminding them that this is the time to spend even more and get their campaign ready).

Feel free to get some ideas for your emails from these posts:

11 Reasons Why Advertisers & Online Sellers Must Do In-Store Promotions

How effective are Sponsored Product Ads on Black Friday?

#3. Time to add one more!

Your fill rate at this time is going to be very high (especially in high competition categories such as consumer electronics, toys and smartphones) and there is a very good chance you will not be able to utilize all the budget that will be thrown at you. The easiest way to get more impressions and clicks is to add touch points to your search results pages, category pages and product pages.

Whether it is at the top of the page, the middle or at the bottom, if you add more products to the page or that the Sponsored Products replace organic results – Allow your sellers and brand partners to get more exposure (in relevant pages) and generate more clicks and revenues.

According to a recent survey by Walmart advertising shoppers are going to be much more open to ads on the ecommerce site during the shopping season so as long as your sponsored product ads are relevant to your shoppers’ queries and can actually help them find what they want adding more ads is a win-win-win for everyone and highly effective.

You can also add more touch points in pages where you are currently not showing ads at all but if you want to keep things simple and make a quick win just add more ads in the pages that already show ads.

One last thing – If you are not yet offering Sponsored Brand Ads – Now is the time to introduce them!

They will get better CTR, higher CPC and can generate incremental revenue on top of your Sponsored Product Ads. You can also sell it on CPM as they replace display ads.

#4. Take care of your weak spots – Fill in all your categories

While some of your product categories are filled up with competing sponsored product ads campaigns, there are still some that aren’t.

Towards the shopping season we send our retailers reports presenting the low fill rate categories and a list of the potential sellers and brand partners who should be promoting their products in these categories so that the retailers can approach them and offer special benefits and incentives for running Sponsored Product Ads at this time.

#5. Keep the strongest stronger

During the shopping season the leading products are sold faster and getting quickly out of stock, meaning that if they are running Sponsored Product Ads, their campaigns can probably end before it runs out of budget.

To exploit all the budget, make sure they have enough products in stock and that you have substitutes for their products.

Not sure who are the strongest? Check out this list of leading spenders on Amazon’s Prime day last year and make sure they are also on your list:


Happy shopping season!

Oh, and remember – It’s September – This is not a Christmas post 🙂

About Mabaya

Mabaya develops advertising tools that enable marketplaces and online retailers to monetize their traffic by offering sellers and brands to promote their products. Mabaya’s white label Sponsored Products Ads platform enables sellers and brands to bid in order to ensure their products are listed in premium locations in the online stores.