7 Ways Brands Can Win on Amazon This Holiday Season

These ad strategies will make brands stand out on the platform

Amazon boxes with yellow ribbons
Most consumers will use Amazon this holiday season—here's how to reach them. Amazon
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

It probably won’t come as a surprise that digital marketing agency Tinuiti found 82% of consumers plan to use Amazon in some capacity to shop online for holiday gifts this year. It is, after all, the Everything Store.

Tinuiti’s research also found Amazon is consumers’ preferred starting point for holiday shopping—so much so that it beats out individual brand sites by a factor of four. The result: A presence on Amazon is “all but mandatory,” according to the report.

Here’s a closer look at how exactly brands can connect with holiday shoppers on Amazon during this frenzied season of gifts, food and décor:

Start early

According to Mark Irvine, director of strategic partnerships at search marketing company WordStream, an early start is important—particularly in 2019, when there are six fewer days between Black Friday and Christmas than the year prior.

“That lost week makes every day more valuable, and you’ll have to set aside more aggressive daily budgets to get the same return,” he said. (Although, to be fair, during Amazon’s Q3 earnings call, CFO Brian Olsavsky said he didn’t think the shorter season “is going to be that impactful” in part because consumers are more comfortable placing later orders thanks to advancements in one-day shipping.)

Regardless, brands have to be at the ready from about October onward: Amazon has specific deadlines for when products need to be in its warehouses and available for holiday shipping, so Jon Maxson, senior director of SEO at digital marketing agency iCrossing, said that’s “definitely something that brands have to plan ahead for.”

Elizabeth Marsten, senior director of strategic marketplace services at Tinuiti, said her agency advises clients to offer Lightning Deals (promotions offered in limited quantities for a short period of time) along with Black Friday deals, but the deadline has already passed for those submissions. Moving forward, she said brands should note to plan their holiday season strategy a “good couple of months in advance.”

Similarly, Tinuiti recommended setting budgets “at least a few months ahead of time” and getting creative approved “well before Q4 kicks off,” as well as to review Q4 results after the fact to record takeaways for 2020.

Be ‘retail ready’

In addition, Marsten said brands must be “Amazon retail ready.” That means having:

  • Competitive prices
  • Products in stock
  • Two-day fulfillment through either Amazon or their own means
  • Onsite history, like pageviews, clickthrough rates (CTR) from the search engine results page (SERP), and sales figures for each product
  • Increased bids ahead of peak shopping moments so their products are discoverable and their chances of winning the Buy Box are higher
  • Sufficient budget for the products and campaigns that matter

According to Tinuiti, being retail ready also helps brands secure prime ad placements and increase return on ad spend (ROAS).

“The more retail ready a brand’s products are, the more likely they will convert … which, in turn, improves advertising conversion rate, which helps with getting better ad placements on Amazon,” said Leo Carrillo, associate director of Amazon and Marketplace growth at Tinuiti. “Retail readiness also helps improve ROAS because if a brand’s product conversion rate improves, advertising conversion rate will increase, too,” meaning it takes fewer clicks to get a sale.

The more retail ready a brand's products are, the more likely they will convert … which, in turn improves advertising conversion rate, which helps with getting better ad placements on Amazon.
Leo Carillo

Get your copy in the holiday spirit

Maxson also recommended changing ad copy and product page copy to incorporate gift-giving language and the benefits of a given product—for the giver and recipient.

“For example, givers search for ‘unique’ gifts and other types of qualifiers that speak to the mindset of the shopper, while searchers are increasingly refining queries to meet hyper-specific needs related to the recipient’s age and interests,” he said.

Irvine, too, noted brands have to focus on a different shopper during the holidays.

“Most of your holiday shoppers will be shopping for someone else and will be different than your usual shopper,” he said. “They will be less knowledgeable about your product, they’ll be less loyal to your brand, and will likely spend more time shopping around before converting.”

That means brands should open their campaigns to broader keywords, demographics and audiences.

“Position your product to a shopper that is unfamiliar with it,” Irvine said. “Use remarketing to attract more shoppers to give your product a second or third look.”

For his part, Carrillo said brands should “do all the things they do anyway” during the rest of the year, but with branded holiday ad copy.

He also recommended bidding on holiday-specific search terms, like “gifts for mom.”

Don’t forget festive imagery

Maxson advised brands to consider changing the imagery associated with its products during the holidays to be more seasonal, such as featuring someone opening a product as a gift.

“The value here obviously may vary quite a bit depending on the product, but images are powerful both to conform to Amazon’s standards for product pages as well as to increase conversion rates, which then influence future organic Amazon visibility,” he said.

Test and learn

Tinuiti said brands should use Q3 and the first month of Q4 to test ad copy, bid levels and keywords. This will help identify top-performing targeting strategies and content “so you can maximize your click and conversion potential when it really counts at holiday time.”

Focus on Sponsored Brand ads

Amazon’s Sponsored Brand ad placement features a brand logo, custom headline and up to three brand products atop SERPs.

Sponsored Products, on the other hand, are a cost-per-click option in which sponsored product listings appear atop, alongside and/or within search results and on product pages.

In the month of December, Tinuiti said brands should focus on the former because in part of a newish feature in the U.S. and U.K. that automatically displays the most relevant products from a Sponsored Brand based on a given shopper’s search.

“Time and time again, we’ve found that Sponsored Brand ads are much more effective at converting leads in this part of Q4, so shift a good part of your budget toward these options if possible,” according to Tinuiti. “You should also use the Optimize My Ads function so your ads dynamically change based on the user’s search intent.”

Use Black Friday intel to boost Cyber Monday sales

Tinuiti also recommended using Black Friday traffic to retarget consumers who are still in gift-buying mode on Cyber Monday.

“Brands utilizing [Amazon] DSP … have the ability to retarget customers that have visited their Product Detail pages, but have not converted,” Carrillo said. “Thus, if we have shoppers that visit brands’ product pages on Black Friday, but don’t convert, we can retarget them on Cyber Monday and so forth.”

@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.