The final countdown: how paid media can push your sales performance during retail’s peak trading period

Posted on 06/12/2021 by Jack Brown

Black Friday, Christmas shopping and Boxing Day sales: if there’s ever a time to get sales performance right, it’s the end of Q4. 

However, after another year affected by the pandemic, Brexit-related supply chain issues and evolving economic circumstances that impact consumer spending, 2021 is perhaps the toughest year ever for retail. 

If your December sales aren’t quite where you’d want them to be, hope is not lost. Paid media activity can be key for helping to drive sales in the run-up to Christmas, helping brands to sell more stock at full price.

So, if you’re an ecommerce business looking to take advantage of this, the question is how?

As with every marketing campaign, you start with the marketing funnel and your three target markets, including:

  • Customers that don’t know who you are 
  • Customers not looking to find the right product 
  • Customers that you need to convince to buy from you

When it comes to implementing December paid media activity, here’s everything you need to know.


Awareness is all about finding people that don’t know who you are, what you sell or what your logo looks like and making that first introduction. When it comes to Christmas’ peak trading period, things are a little bit more condensed. You don’t have the traditional amount of time for a soft introduction to reach users and move them through the stages of the funnel. 

Over this time, you’ve got to combine awareness and consideration activity together. You’re trying to find new customers before and during their initial research for products and deals. The best networks to use for this type of activity are platforms that offer wide reach at low cost.

Facebook ads 

With paid social and, in particular, Facebook advertising, you can target huge and granular audiences at a relatively low cost. The average cost-per-thousand (CPM) on Facebook ads is considerably lower than alternative networks dependent on your target market. 

Facebook also has a great suite of adverts specifically focused on ecommerce. By combining your ad content across images, carousels and video, you can ensure low levels of ad fatigue and high levels of engaged traffic to the site.

Programmatic ads 

Programmatic advertising is often seen as a much more complicated process than it really is. Google Display advertising is often the go-to choice for an advertiser looking to drive high levels of reach at low CPMs.

However, Google’s Display network has lost a lot of it’s sparkle recently – in comes programmatic display. Imagine Facebook level ad targeting with the broad reach of the Google Display network, making it perfect for awareness activity.


True consideration activity is users that have already been on-site and know your brand. They’re browsing a range of products and are both choosing the right product to suit their needs but also who they’re going to buy from. The main goal here is to help them find the right product. 

Google Search and Shopping ads

When it comes to platforms, Google Search advertising will always reign supreme here. Google Search is built on user intent and getting ads in front of customers actively searching for the products you sell.

You’re also able to use a range of holiday-specific promotion extensions that are specifically focused to boost your product visibility and drive higher engagement. 

Make sure you’re using all available promotion extensions for Search and Shopping to ensure you’re not missing out!

When talking about Search, it’s impossible to not look at Google Shopping which lives on the Search Network. Google Shopping drives traffic through product listing ads which appear at the top of the search engine results page and on the separate shopping tab.

The big focus for Google Shopping is, as always, the feed in Google Merchant Center. The feed controls what product data is shown in your ads so it has a direct impact on the performance of your campaigns. By improving your product data, you improve your ads, which will improve your results. 


The conversion stage of the funnel is where the money is made. Users have decided which product(s) they’re looking to purchase and will have a few vendors that they’re looking to purchase from. Your sole job here is to convince them that you’re the brand they should be buying from! When it comes to conversions, remarketing is king. 

This is where you can make all of the previous activity work twice as hard at a lower cost. Remarketing should run across every channel but the most important point is that the messaging and imagery should remain consistent regardless of where a user is seeing your ad. 

Remarketing is driven by the audiences and you can improve performance and conversion rates by segmenting your audiences as much as possible. 

Dynamic Product Remarketing (DPR) 

This is exactly as it sounds. With DPR across platforms like programmatic display and Facebook, you can show users the exact products that they’d previously looked at as well as related products they’re also likely to be interested in.

When it comes to peak trading, this is perfect as consumers are likely to be doing a lot of research in the time leading up to Christmas. So start with some basic DPR targeting users based on the products they’d viewed in the previous 30 or 60 days.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)

RLSA is often an underrated trick. It allows you to increase bids on users that have been on site before.

The benefit to this when it comes to Christmas shopping is that the keywords you target can be a lot more competitive and expensive, but you’re only bidding when users have already been on site and interacted with your brand before.

If you’ve got big enough audiences, it’s also great here to segment the audience by their engagement levels to just target users that have an above average time on site or higher than normal pages per session.


Overall, peak trade marketing for retail is all about condensing the traditional marketing funnel down into a much shorter period and keeping your products and discounts front of mind.

You also need to ensure that users know exactly why they should be buying from your brand – and not a product from your competitors. However, if you’re not running any discounts or have clear USPs that outmatch the brands you’re coming up against, it’s potentially better to stay out of the fight completely – it can get very expensive! 

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The final countdown: how paid media can push your sales performance during retail’s peak trading period

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