Shorter days and colder weather signal the start of holiday shopping and holiday marketing campaigns.

The good news is that the 2018 holiday season retail sale outlook is very optimistic, with a strong year forecast overall. Sales (excluding gasoline and autos) are expected to grow 5.1%, better than the 4.2% growth in 2017, according to the forecast by Kiplinger. Online sales are expected to grow 15% and in-store sales 3.5%, their best showing since 2014.

In addition, based on the estimate by Deloitte, consumers will spend about $1,226, on average, during the holiday season. That amount nearly doubles for those with a household income of $100K or more.

Above all, the holiday season is a time to capture most of your retail sales, make profits, and make merry. Consumers want to spend on personal items and gifts, and advertisers want to make the most of the red-hot market.

Here are some tips to attract consumers and totally ace the holiday season.

1. Plan budget according to a prolonged shopping season

Every year, holiday searches ramp up in early October and continue through the holiday season. In fact, Bing Network recorded over 250,000 searches containing the magic words "black Friday" in October alone. Data from the Microsoft-owned search engine showed that overall, three out of four consumers continue to shop after the cyber week, and search volumes sustain through the end of the year.

So, hopefully, you started your holiday campaigns in October to capture early starters and also help you influence shoppers in the later shopping cycles by remarketing to them. If you haven't started your campaigns yet, now is the time.

2. Personalize messaging with remarketing ads

Remarketing has been shown to outperform non-remarketing campaigns, particularly during the holiday season. Data from Bing pointed to a 94% remarketing conversion rate during November 2017, and during February 2018 the conversion rate was at 87%. Around the same time, remarketing in paid search ads resulted in a 44% increase in conversion rate.

To capture prospective customers and cart abandoners, ensure that site tagging is implemented early. Those lists are extremely valuable and can be used for remarketing with deals later in the season to drive purchase.

3. Entice shoppers with shipping offers in your ad copy or ad extensions

With the onset of online shopping, shoppers are displaying the curious tendency of researching and buying products online but picking them up in the store—and vice versa.

A study by Shopify found that 69% of shoppers prefer to research online and buy in the store, a trend otherwise known as "webrooming." And 42% of major retailer sales between December 18-25 are from shoppers buying online and picking up in-store. Some shoppers don't want to pay for shipping, while others don't want to wait for delivery.

To entice those shoppers to shop for your products, include free shipping offers in your ad. That will help convert the customers who have been hesitant to pay for shipping and prefer to visit the stores to pick up their items.

4. Adjust bids by time of day and device during Cyber Week

Consumers wait for Black Friday money-saving deals; and, if the price is right, they tend to spend a lot and do most of their holiday shopping the same day.

Data from Bing shows two trends: Expect the morning of Black Friday to have the greatest activity, and expect a spike during commuting hours on Cyber Monday.

Black Friday, 7-9 AM, is the day/time with the most mobile search clicks. And 40% of all Black Friday online sales are expected to come from the mobile searches.

Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday tell a different story. Cyber Monday, 4-5 PM, is the best day/time for PC/tablet clicks.

Overall, 32% of online holiday revenues in 2017 occurred between Thanksgiving day and Cyber Monday, underscoring the huge impact of those two days on retail sales.

5. Save time by building keyword lists

Some 18% of monthly holiday searches are new search queries. Interestingly, intent-based queries were highest during Cyber Week and after Christmas, because shoppers are likely looking for deals. The queries that were indicative of research spiked primarily post-Cyber Monday through Christmas.

Start bidding on Black Friday keywords early in the season, and expect a shorter ramp-up period for Cyber Monday keywords. In addition, use Dynamic Search Ads and Broad Match to capture emerging queries this season.

* * *

Whatever product you are selling this holiday season, those five tips should help you stand out from your competition and ace the market. Don't wait. Get ready for the holiday season now.

Happy holidays—and a wonderful marketing season!

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image of John Lee

John Lee is a a learning strategist at Microsoft, where he creates training experiences for Bing Ads employees and customers. He is a digital advertising professional with experience in PPC, display advertising, social advertising, SEO, and analytics.

LinkedIn: John Lee