14 Advanced Strategies to Drive More Holiday Sales With Facebook Ads

Man in whleechair sitting at desk working

The holiday season is every marketer’s dream and nightmare.

It’s this time of year when customers are primed for purchasing. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years—the biggest sales days are packed into a two-month period.

It’s also when marketers start increasing advertising budgets. With so many big shopping days, mant company will increase spending, especially with Facebook ads.

So how can small and medium sized businesses compete against these large advertisers?

This post will show you how.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How ad costs are affected by the holidays
  • 3 reasons why you should start preparing now
  • Tactics and formulas to prepare for November and December holiday campaigns

How Do Holidays Affect Facebook Advertising?

Hand carrying shopping bags

Increased Competition

Competition for limited ad space heats up during the holidays. You are not only competing against big brands, but thousands of smaller advertisers who want in on the game.

Advertisers with the biggest budgets don’t always win Facebook auctions. Facebook’s auction system is based on a number of different factors, some of which are influenced by price.

With all this competition, your normal strategy might not work. That one niche audience you use could be too expensive. That’s a real problem.

Ad Costs Increase

More competition means higher ad costs.

A study by Social Code in 2014 and found CPMs rose dramatically in November and December when competition increased.

In 2015, Facebook tracked ad costs during the holiday season. They showed that CPMs increased by over 100% during the holidays.

Ampush’s study showed that almost all metrics increased from mid November to the end of the year.

So costs are already starting to increase.

More People Shopping Online

More and more people purchase Christmas products online.

In the U.S., 40% of consumers plan to purchase holiday gifts through a mobile device.

Adobe predicts an 11% year-over-year increase in online sales this year, to $91.6 billion dollars.

And a Deloitte Study showed that people planned to spend just as much online as they do in-store during the 2016 holidays.

People are online, and willing to buy your product.

3 Principles of Better Holiday Campaigns

Shopping bags sitting on the ground

Warmer is Better

Leads can be broken into two categories: warm and cold.

Cold leads have no relationship to your brand. They haven’t viewed your content or engaged with your account.

An example of this is using interest or demographic targeting on Facebook. These people don’t have a pre-existing relationship with you.

Another example are lookalike audiences. While they may be similar to your customers, they aren’t yet a warm lead because they haven’t interacted with your brand.

Social media strategy and planning templates

Ready to get started with your social media strategy? These free, customizable templates give you tools to plan and execute a strategy that connects you with your target audience while keeping your content calendar organized.

On the other hand, warm leads have a pre-existing relationship, or have engaged with your brand. Within Facebook, warm leads are anyone from the following audiences:

  • Facebook page fans
  • Website visitors
  • Lead form, video or canvas ad viewers
  • Event attendees
  • App users
  • Customers
Screenshot of creating a website customer audience

    Warm leads are primarily created through custom audiences.

    Warm leads are a vital part of your pre-holiday strategy. If you haven’t already done so, start building your warm audience immediately.

    Invest Early and Often

    The earlier you invest in Facebook ads, the better the results.

    The same applies to Facebook. Building your warm audiences early means a closer relationship between you and your potential customers. When the Holidays arrive, they’ll be more open to buying from you.

    Rather than spacing out ad spending, choose campaigns with good performance, and start scaling right now. Investing more in November will pay off in December, especially with advertising costs steadily increasing.

    Outsmart Other Advertisers

    Chances are you aren’t a billion dollar company.

    Unfortunately, you still have to compete with those large companies. There’s no way to beat them with money or by bidding more. Spending more won’t necessarily mean better results or more sales.

    Instead, you need to spend money more strategically.

    By structuring your ads the right way, and understanding how the holidays affect your ad campaigns, you can get more sales and leads while keeping costs down.

    14 Advanced Strategies to Prepare for the Holiday Season

    Collection of gift packages

    In the rest rest of the article, we look at specific formulas and strategies you can start using right now to prepare for the holiday season.

    1. Invest in Video Content For Better Retargeting

    Since video is such an engagement content format, it's a great way to build a warm audience.

    Here’s an example of a video campaign we ran.

    Screenshot of Facebook ad spend report for video

    You can see the cost per 10 second view was $.20. 10-second views are a better indicator of engagement than 3-second views.

    And here’s an example of a website click campaign.

    Screenshot of Facebook ad spend report

    Notice the cost difference? 10 videos second views cost 75% less than website clicks. That means our retargeting pools is larger than website clicks.

    An added benefit? You can retarget video views up to 365 days later. Website clicks? Only up to 180 days.

    💡 Tip: Build a warm audience of video viewers before holidays start.

    2. Increase Your Remarketing Audience

    For many advertisers, website visitors are a better audience than video views. And many advertisers can’t invest in effective video content.

    In that case, you’ll want to start building a large website visitor remarketing audience before the holidays. With costs rising in late November and throughout December, you should start building a remarketing audience immediately.

    The best way to build a remarketing audience is by serving interesting and engaging content to potential customers.

    Here’s how to set this up the right way.

    First you’ll need to choose your audience. 

    Choosing the right objective is important. We’ve had better luck selecting Website Conversions, even when the objective is link clicks.

    Screenshot of choosing website conversions in Facebook's Ads Manager

    Start by targeting lookalike audiences. Build them to look like website visitors, conversions, pixel events, or purchases—your pixel will need to be set up already.

    Screenshot of creating a Lookalike Audience in Facebook's Ad Manager

    Make sure to exclude all your retargeting audiences. That means video views, canvas and lead form engagements, and anyone who’s clicked an ad.

    Screenshot of creating a website custom audience with an exclusion

    Selecting optimization type will impact on costs. For larger audiences, we’ve gotten better results by selecting website link clicks. For smaller ones, we usually choose unique daily reach or impressions.

    Screenshot of selecting ad optimization type in Facebook Ads Manager

    💡 Tip: Immediately start building a remarketing audience for the holidays.

    3. Train Your Pixel to Find the Right Audience

    The Facebook Pixel is every advertiser’s secret weapon.

    In most cases, Facebook will know who to reach better than you. Account history, website metrics and pixel traffic all feed into your pixel performance. Every time an event is triggered, Facebook learns more about your target audience and who best to serve your ad.

    You can train your pixel to find target audiences by choosing and optimizing for specific conversion events. Facebook will learn who completes those events, and serve ads to similar users.

    But Facebook’s pixel needs enough data to find people who are likely to complete your event. In most cases, they require 20-25 conversions per day for 1-day conversions, or 25 per week if 7-day conversion window is selected in bidding.

    What if Total Conversions are Low?

    Unfortunately, not every pixel gets that many conversions, especially product purchases. In that case, you can target a different activity such as email sign-ups or content views.

    Some advertisers disagree with using content views as a conversion event, but we’ve found this effective to build a large retargeting pool.

    💡 Tip: Invest in pixel conversions to train your audience. Focus on smaller conversions purchases are not possible.

    4. Build Your Email List

    There’s a reason why advertisers spend so much money increasing email subscribers: email lists are a great source of customers.

    Unfortunately Facebook ad costs are already increasing. But you can still invest in increasing your email list before December.

    The best way to build your list is by giving away free content.

    This is a proven way to increase your email list. Think about the product or service you sell, and what your audience would find interesting. Then create downloadable content they would find interesting and run ads to it.

    💡 Tip: Build your list by giving away useful free content.

    5. Determine Email Life Time Value (LTV)

    Knowing the value of an email address helps you bid more strategically for leads and products.

    Here’s how to find total value:

    LTV = total $ of products sold to your email list / total # of emails collected

    Let’s say an email is worth $30 in life time value. And let’s say you’re willing to pay $15 per email conversion. Now you know you can bid up to $15 per lead.

    To do this, select the bid amount, choose manual, and set the bid value to $15 average. This will ensure that on average, you pay $15 per conversion.

    💡 Tip: Understand LTV of emails and set your bids accordingly to bid the true value of your emails.

    6. Use the Right Objective Per Channel

    Facebook has two lead capture campaigns:

    • Lead ads
    • Website conversions

    The objective you choose can affect ad costs.

    AdEspresso ran an experiment to see whether Lead Ads or Website Conversions had a lower cost per lead. Overall they found no real difference in total costs.

    But platform type impacted results. Lead ads performed better on mobile, and website conversions performed better on desktop.

    💡 Tip: Experiment with lead ads and landing pages on mobile and desktop.

    7. Increase Daily Budgets

    Facebook serves ads based on auction data. Many factors determine if your ads appear but price is still an important one.

    Larger daily budgets impact the chances of your ads being served. By increasing your daily budget, you allow Facebook to bid more for your target action, and show more ads.

    Don’t be concerned about spending your total daily budget. If you’ve set a low bid, there is almost no chance your daily budget will fully spend.

    💡 Tip: Increase daily budgets in November to win more bids and increase ad delivery.

    8. Create and Test Dynamic Product Ads

    The secret weapon of every ecommerce advertiser are Dynamic Product Ads.

    Screenshot of a sample Facebook Ad

    Facebook dynamically generates ads based on actions people take on your website.

    How good are they? Point It Digital Marketing compared Dynamic Product Ads versus normal remarketing ads. The results?

    • 44% increase in click-through-rates
    • 77% lower cost-per-click
    • 74% lower cost-per-action

    Setting up Dynamic Product Ads can be straightforward, but more advanced customization may require a developer.

    Create and Upload a Product Catalogue

    List your product attributes in an XML or CSV file. These attributes auto-populate each part of your ad, such as name, landing page URL and image URL.

    Screenshot of a product catologue

    You have to upload this through your Business Manager account.

    If you use Shopify, you can set up your product feed using the Facebook Product Feed app.

    Setup Your Pixel

    You will need to modify your pixel to report product IDs, and different pixel events like product views, added to cart and purchased.

    Screenshot of adding Facebook pixel

    Use Facebook’s developers guide to install the pixel correctly. It’s even easier if you’re using Shopify.

    Setup a Dynamic Ad Template

    You need to create a dynamic ad template to generate each ad. You can use multi-product or single product in the Newsfeed or Right-Hand column.

    Run the Campaign

    Setup your campaign and start running it!

    Strategies for Dynamic Product Ads

    We recommend using November to test Dynamic Product Ads to see what works.

    Provided your site gets enough traffic, you should test out the following ad set campaigns:

    • View products, but no purchase
    • Clicked on email product, but no purchase
    • Added to cart, but no purchase
    • Cross-sell to past customers who match certain interests
    • Up-sell to recent buyers who visited your website again
    • Sales and promotions

    💡 Tip: Setup and test Dynamic Product Ads and use your findings for holiday campaigns.

    9. Setup Offline Conversion Tracking

    Offline conversion tracking lets you track any offline conversions, like in-store sales or leads, that occurred as a result of a Facebook ad.

    Screenshot of creating an offline event

    This is incredibly useful for small business advertisers who rely on physical in-store sales, but want to track ROI from Facebook advertising campaigns.

    Setting Up Offline Conversions

    You’ll need three things to setup offline conversion tracking:

    1. Offline data file or API connection
    2. Ads Account
    3. Business Manager

    Next you’ll need to create an event in Business Manager.

    Go to Business Settings and select Offline Event Sales.

    Name your offline event and the description.

    Screenshot of naming the offline event

    Then choose the Offline Event and upload the corresponding data and follow the instructions.

    Tracking Conversions for Offline Events

    You can select offline conversion tracking in the Tracking section of your ad set.

    Screenshot of offline tracking in Facebook Ads

    Select Offline Events Tracking and select your offline event.

    View Offline Conversion Results

    To see your offline conversion results, go to the Ads Manager and select Columns and Customize Columns.

    Then choose any of the Offline conversions you with to track.

    Screenshot of Facebook Adsa conversion type

    💡 Tip: Setup offline conversion tracking to understand how your campaigns contribute to offline purchases.

    10. Optimize Your Mobile Experience

    Many advertisers, especially large retail brands, don’t differentiate mobile or desktop targeting. Everything is lumped together into one ad targeting group, even though mobile and desktop experiences can be different.

    Research data shows how important mobile is to holiday shopping:

    With all this in mind, how can you take advantage of increased mobile usage?

    Make sure your website is optimized for mobile. If you’re using Shopify, your website is already designed to work on any device.

    Test and optimize mobile campaigns. Understand what products drive mobile purchases or in-store visits, and apply those findings during the holidays.

    Build a profitable mobile campaign. By creating a profitable campaign early, Facebook will know your target audience. This saves you money during the holidays as Facebook already knows your target audience.

    Build mobile retargeting traffic. Setup a campaign to target only mobile devices.

    By building a retargeting pool early, you can reach mobile users during the holidays at a lower cost than your competitors.

    Sell your products on Facebook. Set up a Shop Section on your Facebook page or add the Messenger channel to take advantage of an optimal mobile experience.

    💡 Tip: Optimize your sales experience for mobile right now or miss out down the road.

    11. Experiment with Event Value Targeting

    Facebook’s newest audience targeting tool let’s advertisers target audiences by the value of a Facebook event

    In preparation for the holidays, you should experiment with the following audience groups:

    Up-sells on low purchase-value audiences

    Screenshot of Facebook Ads targeting for website custom audience with low purchase value

    Up-sells on specific products or product themes

    Screenshot of Facebook Ads targeting for website custom audience that has made a purchase

      Customers who used iOS devices

      Screenshot of Facebook Ads targeting for website custom audience using iPhones.

        Be sure to experiment with these audiences beforehand to see if they are worth targeting during the holidays.

        💡 Tip: Use advanced custom audiences to see if targeting by purchase data increases sales.

        12. Test Local Awareness Campaigns

        In September 2016, Google commissioned a study on mobile device usage and shopping:

        • 87% of people within the study visited a retailer’s website or app on their smartphone
        • 61% of people visit a retailer’s app or website before purchasing

        Customers also engage on their mobile devices inside a store. A Business Insider study found that 70% of store shoppers use their mobile device in-store every single time or on a regular basis

        You need to prepare for in-store visits. The best way to do this is by experimenting and testing Facebook in-store traffic campaigns.

        Local Awareness Setup

        Using this campaign is easy. Just select the Local Awareness objective and you’ll be given a 1-mile radius around your store.

        Using this objective has it’s advantages:

        Context specific map cards. This shares locally relevant details with your audience, like a map pin, distance to business and hours of operation

        Screenshot of context-based ad

        Store-visit call-to-action buttons. You can use Get Directions, Call Now, Learn More and Send Message call to action buttons.

        Screenshot of Facebook call to action buttons

        💡 Tip: Experiment with location-based campaigns before key holiday dates and use data as a cost benchmark.

        13. Get Access to Offline Purchase Objectives

        Companies with multiple business locations should use the Store visit objective.

        Screenshot of marketing objectives in Facebook Ads Manager

        Here’s why you should use this campaign objective:

        • Location-contextual information for each business location
        • Proximity-based ad content
        • Proximity-based maps
        • Set boundaries based on population density

        To use this objective, you’ll need locations enabled. Do this by contacting Facebook, and following the instructions.

        Setting up and testing store performance will ensure you spend money on top-performing locations, rather than waste money during the holidays.

        💡 Tip: If you own multiple stores, contact Facebook to setup Facebook locations.

        14. Review Breakdowns to Determine Most Valuable Audiences

        Understanding how to use Facebook breakdown data is key to increasing leads and sales. By analyzing breakdown data like platform or device, you can see what audience segments perform the best. We’ll use our Instagram Advertising Guide as an example.


        We tested four different platforms:

        • Facebook Mobile Newsfeed
        • Facebook Desktop Newsfeed
        • Instagram
        • Facebook Right Hand Column

        Placement conversion value screenshot in Facebook Ads Manager

        In this case, mobile devices performed best.

        Device Impression

        Our data shows that Android Smartphones and iPhone were the main devices people used.

        Screenshot of device breakdown Facebook Ads Manager


        This breakdown shows results based on platform.

        In our campaign we tested Facebook and Instagram. Facebook unsurprisingly was the best performer.

        Screenshot of platform type in Facebook Ads Manager


        The best country was Indonesia, followed by United States and Turkey.

        Screenshot of country breakdown in Facebook Ads Manager


        Unsurprisingly, young people were most interested in our Instagram Guide.

        Screenshot of age breakdown in Facebook Ads Manager

        Using Breakdowns is an incredibly powerful way to understand your audience.

        Be sure to test wider audiences throughout November. This will ensure you have enough data to make informed decision over the key holidays.

        Based on our data, we would break out 18-24 audiences who use mobile devices, and increase our bids and daily budgets. That way we’re bidding on more profitable audiences

        💡 Tip: Determine most profitable audience segments before key holidays.


        Thanks for reading. If you follow even a few of these tactics, you should be ready to ramp up sales during the holiday season.

        Did we miss anything? Need anything clarified? Scroll down to the comment section and let me know what you thought.

        shopify-author Tara Mahoney

        About the Author

        Tara Mahoney is a marketer, writer, developer and contributor at Online Advertising School. The Online Advertising School is the best way to learn online advertising. We cut through the internet guru bullsh*t to deliver quality, useful content so you can sell more while spending less.