Four Phases of Holiday Shopping with Meta


To get the most out of each holiday shopping season, our friends at Meta recommend dividing the holiday season into four key phases:

  1. Establishing foundations for success.
  2. Reaching customers early.
  3. Maximizing customer purchases.
  4. Staying top of mind after purchase.

Major shopping season moments like Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) have become an essential part of the holiday shopping season, allowing customers to take advantage of deep discounts while merchants benefit from increased sales and new customers. But great deals are no longer the only thing on shoppers’ wish lists. 

Today, buyers expect a personalized experience that entertains, inspires, and enables them to discover the perfect gift. Once they find it, they anticipate a frictionless path to purchase. 

In this post, we offer insight-backed guidance and actionable “holiday recipes” to help you deliver on heightened expectations during four key phases of the season. 

Building opportunities in each phase of the holiday season

Phase One: Establish foundations

Goal: Set up strong data and creative foundations and best practices ahead of your sales event.

Data

The first step in delivering personalized holiday shopping experiences is making sure you have a well-rounded view of the customer. This information will help you deliver the right offers to the right people at the right time. Marketing pixels from Facebook or TikTok can be embedded into your site to help you track conversions from ads and build targeted audiences. With the pixel data, you can then remarket to people who have already taken an action on your website.

When retailers supplement their owned data with social platform intelligence, they get to know their customers better and maximize business performance. In fact, those who use the Facebook Conversions API (sometimes called CAPI) and Meta Pixel saw an 8% performance increase. 1

Here are three best practices for using customer data in your holiday ad strategy:

  1. Capture customer intent across channels. 

Centralize customer data with adherence to data privacy regulations and customers’ data choices. Build a holistic view of your customer to personalize and optimize ads.

  1. Improve your data reliability. 

Increase data reliability by creating a direct connection between your marketing data and the platforms you use. Collect and share data via trusted pixels, APIs, and offline conversions.

  1. Monitor the strength of the data connection.

Deliver ads to those most likely to take action – and generate more conversions and reduce cost-per-result. Meta enables this through an event match quality score. Aim for a score of 6.0 or higher by:

  • Increasing coverage of customer information parameters.
  • Sharing events in as close to real-time as possible.
  • Monitoring score in the Facebook Events Manager.

Creative messaging and visuals

Shoppers understandably get tired of seeing the same ad creative over time, which reduces ad effectiveness. To avoid this, brands can create flexible visual assets that speak to the different motivations influencing holiday purchases. Getting this healthy creative mix in front of new audiences can be advantageous in key sale moments – companies that diversified their creative mix saw a 32% increase in efficiency and 8% incremental reach. 2

To diversify your own creative ad mix:

  • Craft differentiated messages for different audiences. 
  • Consider messaging that addresses the top factors influencing holiday purchases, such as quality, price, product options, and authenticity. 
  • Use mixed formats (carousels, reels, stories) and asset types (video and static images) to connect with audiences with different viewing behaviors.

Phase two: Reach customers early

Goal: Focus on awareness and acquisition. Take advantage of cost-efficient impressions early to reach shoppers and build momentum for your shopping moment. 

Just as it’s important to reach customers where and how they like to shop, it’s also important to reach them when they like to shop. And when it comes to the holidays, consumers are filling their carts early – weeks before mega events like Black Friday. 

Building awareness

Businesses can take advantage of these less-promotional periods before key shopping moments by pairing brand and performance campaigns to drive awareness via social media platforms. 

Build presale awareness to reach potential customers while they’re considering which products and services they’ll give this holiday season. Ninety-one percent of shoppers say they’re likely to try a new brand during the holidays, meaning now is the time to reach new audiences while they’re willing and ready. 3

Drive acquisition

Take advantage of these awareness interactions by:

  • Supporting direct response campaigns with a focus on consumer awareness and consideration.
  • Exploring mid-funnel optimizations like link clicks, landing page views, and add-to-carts.
  • Diversifying video formats to introduce brand messaging in a fun and engaging way.

Video is a great discovery tool that can engage consumers year-round – people spend 50% of their time on Facebook watching videos. 4 

It’s an even more potent tool when shoppers are conveniently scouting out gifts for their friends and family.

Forty percent of holiday shoppers say that they find online videos helpful for gift inspiration. 5

For retailers, this medium is a great way to introduce brand messaging, products, and services so that when peak season arrives, consumers are well-acquainted and ready to make a purchase. 

Combine short, entertaining video creative on Reels, Stories, and Feed with longer storytelling on in-stream ads to maximize reach and align with consumer behavior.

Short-form video

Connect with people through engaging short bursts of entertainment across Facebook and Instagram.

Best practices: Create for vertical viewing (9:16), surprise with clean transitions and editing, keep attention with motion by adding animation, graphics, or text elements.

Long-form video 

Connect with people through longer brand stories such as product tutorials and live broadcasts. 

Best practices: Crop tight on main characters, boost impact with text, design for sound on.

Awareness Recipe Card
Awareness campaigns create demand with new audiences.
Objective Awareness 
Targeting Broad targeting ensures that you capture the largest set of potential customers available
Optimization Awareness 
Bidding  Automatic bidding to establish baseline on new audiences
Frequency  Campaigns seen at least 1 or more times per week are 4X more effective at driving long-term sales 6
Ad format  Short-form video: Reels Long-form video: In-stream 
Creative  People consume content differently on mobile, so utilize creative best practices to ensure your ads capture attention 
Measurement Incrementality with Conversions API-based lift
New Customer Acquisition Recipe Card
Conversion campaigns turn demand into sales.
Objective Sales
Targeting Advantage+ Catalog Ads for broad audiences (formerly known as dynamic ads for broad audiences)
Optimization Purchase, ROAS, and mid-low funnel events
Bidding  Use lowest cost if you want to maximize spend and cost cap if you want every new customer to have marginal profitability
Frequency  Use 6+ placements, expanding into automatic placements
Ad format  Reels, Stories, Carousel
Creative  Leverage video to capitalize on discoverability via storytelling
Measurement Incrementality with Conversions API-based lift

Phase three: Maximize purchases

On Black Friday, returns often outpace costs, making this a critical time to maximize purchases during the peak shopping season.

Goal: Maximize holiday sale purchases by incorporating flexible budgets and bids, enabling seamless experiences, and retargeting shoppers with high intent.

Flexible budgets and bids

Sixty-three percent of holiday shoppers who shopped during a mega sales day made an unexpected purchase. 7 Merchants can capitalize on purchase behavior and reach more people who are ready to buy by adopting flexible budget and bid strategies. Instead of using budgets to control costs, consider using bids by pairing a capped bidding strategy with high budgets.

Seamless ad formats

Seventy-three percent of holiday shoppers surveyed made a spontaneous discovery while shopping online, and a fast and easy path to purchase can convert this discovery into a sale. 8 

To drive purchases, try ads with intuitive and frictionless formats. On Meta platforms like Facebook and Instagram, this means promoting ads with product tags, Advantage+ catalog ads (formerly called dynamic ads), digital circulars, and collaborative ads.

Drive discovery and re-engage shoppers with different ad formats by:

  • Targeting broader audiences to reach new customers with Advantage+ catalog ads.
  • Expanding the reach of shoppable content via ads with product tags.
  • Finding new customers using shopping lookalike audiences.
  • Highlighting local inventory and help drive in-store sales with digital circulars.
  • Enabling shopper marketing through collaborative ads to drive purchases to your website or app.
  • Bringing shoppers back into the customer journey with Advantage+ catalog ads, collaborative ads, or shopping custom audiences.

Retargeting cart abandoners

An abandoned cart isn’t a lost opportunity. Sometimes cart abandoners just need a little more encouragement to become purchasers. With pre-sale campaigns doing the heavy lifting, companies have the tools and resources to focus on personalization by targeting customers who have already expressed interest.

Remarketing Recipe Card
Remarketing campaigns help maximize sales during your key shopping moment.
Objective Sales
Targeting Advantage+ catalog ads for retargeting (formerly known as dynamic ads for retargeting) to reach people who visited your website and did not purchase
Optimization Conversions
Bidding  Automatic bidding (lowest cost), campaign budget optimization
Frequency  Use six or more placements, expanding into automatic placements
Ad format  Carousel and collection formats
Creative  Test whether creative that is tailored to the customer’s intent can drive optimal remarketing value. 
Build for specific remarketing needs, instead of repurposing customer acquisition creative.
Measurement Incrementality with Conversions API-based lift

Phase four: Stay top of mind

Goal: Capitalize on January’s lower cost-per-impression levels by running engaging ads that encourage loyalty and keep your brand top of mind.

It’s January. The holidays are wrapping up and retailers are likely looking forward to some well-deserved rest after the busy season. But before getting back to business as usual, merchants should use this critical time to both capture the 41% of holiday shoppers who say their shopping continues past the holiday season and also re-engage with their new trove of customers. 9

The customer journey doesn’t end at checkout. To turn one-time visitors and buyers into life-long customers, merchants must continue connecting to drive purchases and build brand loyalty. 

Loyalty Recipe Card
Remarketing builds loyalty with recent purchasers.
Objective Advantage+ catalog ads for retargeting (formerly known as dynamic ads for retargeting) to reach past purchasers
Targeting Automatic bidding (lowest cost), campaign budget optimization
Optimization Conversions
Bidding  Use six or more placements, expanding into automatic placements
Frequency  Carousel and collection formats
Ad format  Continue testing to determine creatives most beneficial to loyalty/repurchase audience. Build for specific loyalty/repurchase needs.
Creative  Incrementality with Conversions API-based lift
Measurement Advantage+ catalog ads for retargeting (formerly known as dynamic ads for retargeting) to reach past purchasers

Catering to customers’ holidays needs can be challenging, but companies are adapting to meet new expectations during this year’s key shopping moments. With Meta products and tools, business leaders are empowered to deliver personalized, engaging, seamless, and measurable shopping journeys at every touch point leading up to peak sales events.

Get the official Facebook for WooCommerce extension to reach customers across Meta platforms including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, then use Meta tools to help people discover, gift, and love your products and services season after season. 


1. Based on 15 global experiments in H2 2020 across multiple verticals (Ecommerce, Tech/Telco, Financial Services, Education, Restaurants, Professional Services, CPG) 2. Meta case study, Dec 2021.
2.  Internal Meta test comparing the performance of two identical vs two non-identical (creatively diverse) creatives in 2703 ad sets across verticals from 04-04-2021 to 04-26- 2021. 2. “Meta Seasonal Holidays Study” by YouGov (Meta-commissioned online study of 3,130 people aged 18+ across in CA and US). Minimum N=1500 per market, Dec 2021.
3. “Meta Seasonal Holidays Study” by YouGov (Meta-commissioned online study of 3,130 people aged 18+ in Canada and the U.S.). Minimum N=1500 per market, Dec 2021. 2. Meta internal data 3. Auction Experts Cyber5 Analysis May 2022 4. Meta case study, Jul 2021.
4.  Meta internal data 
5.  “Meta Seasonal Holidays Study” by YouGov (Meta-commissioned online study of 3,130 people aged 18+ in Canada and the U.S.). Minimum N=1500 per market, Dec 2021.
6.  Driving long-term and short-term sales using Facebook and Instagram advertising, Nepa, Oct 2020. Based on MMM results of 6 retail clients in Sweden.
7.  “Meta Seasonal Holidays Study” by YouGov (Meta-commissioned online study of 3,130 people aged 18+ in Canada and the U.S.). 2. Auction Experts Cyber5 Analysis, May 2022
8.  “Meta Seasonal Holidays Study” by YouGov (Meta-commissioned online study of 3,130 people aged 18+ in Canada and the U.S.).
9.  Source: BMRI 2021 Holiday Research, 2) Meta case study, Aug 2020.

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