Holiday 2023: Stay Retail Ready


With fewer than eleven weeks left in the year, it’s peak sales season for many brands and retailers are ready. Target started early this year with Circle Week (October 1-7); Amazon’s Prime Days and Walmart’s Deals for Days followed on October 10th and 11th. “Turkey 5” (the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, including Black Friday) is next up.

Although the majority of seasonal strategy and inventory planning is in place, day-to-day actions and awareness will make a difference. Support the momentum of holiday 2023 and ensure selling success with these retail readiness guidelines.

RETAIL MEDIA: pay attention to pacing and be ready for spikes

Prepare for traffic surges and sales spikes on ecommerce retailers. Media platforms and RMNs do a poor job of pacing themselves appropriately for peaks such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Stay vigilant on these days and optimize media campaigns manually to keep pace with the trends. Be prepared to pivot quickly and modify media if promotions change or inventory runs out.

  • Support promotional SKUs with dedicated media activity; plan for pre-, during, and post-event traffic to maximize “spillover” shoppers

  • Budget for increases in CPC and CPM rates, and adjust bids accordingly; watch for spend overruns as massive traffic spikes can be unpredictable

​​​OPERATIONS: maintain inventory readiness and prepare to pivot

Take a holistic pricing and promotional strategy across channels to minimize unintended price erosion and unexpected demand spikes. Retailers are notorious for changing promotions and merchandising shortly before and even during peak sales periods such as Black Friday. Be prepared to pivot quickly if promos change, price matching occurs, inventory runs out, or technical issues develop with the catalog. Communicate inventory levels so marketing activities can be adjusted and reallocate inventory across channels based on demand.

  • Ensure product assortment is displayed accurately with correct variations and inventory; maintain accurate pricing and offer fast delivery

  • Secure inventory availability and fulfillment with contingency plans including drop shippers and partnerships with distributors, dealers, or resellers

  • Offer alternatives if an item goes out of stock; use "like" product widgets to redirect customers to similar products within your brand rather than those of a competiton

CONTENT: keep up with QA and maximize merchandising

Content optimization is a strategic approach that leads to improved search visibility and user experience and is critical to support media efforts and maximize conversion. Find opportunities to refresh pages with promotional content, add seasonal graphics to images and enhanced content to entice consumers with giftable messaging and a sense of urgency. Best-in-category content includes a strategy for keywords, images, and text content.

  • Optimize product content to effectively convey features, benefits, and value; monitor and update copy and images ensuring they align with customer expectations
  • Create dedicated holiday pages for gift-centric campaigns, including educational content and timely CTAs; implement A/B tests for improved conversion

MARKETPLACE: walk the store and promote Brand Stores

Regularly review product detail pages, ad campaigns, buy box status, and competitor activity. Increase monitoring during peak holiday periods. Brand Store updates are a great way to merchandise products. Develop a dedicated page exclusively for holiday and leverage it as the focal point for gift-centric media campaigns, day-to-day messaging management, and listing optimization.

  • Walk the store; perform this daily task to check the overall status and presentation of product detail pages, ad campaigns, buy box status, pricing, inventory availability, shipping options, and lead times

  • Check your competition; ensure you’re aware of their promotional activity, pricing strategies, content updates, and other holiday initiatives

  • Monitor and reply to reviews; responsively update product copy to address customer questions and feedback

SHOPPER: reward early shoppers and align holiday-themed campaigns

Entice your best customers and reward ‘early’ shoppers with exclusives or access to deals for their commitment. This helps to get out of the gates strong and ensure product availability throughout the selling season. Also consider a loyalty program to encourage repeat purchases. Ensure that holiday-themed campaigns align to the core of your brand proposition across brand image, creativity, and mobile commerce.

  • Synchronize social, influencer, programmatic, search, and retail media to build anticipation and have each channel amplify the others; leverage social platforms and shoppable posts

  • Align ad creative with ecommerce content to capitalize on consumer familiarity and foster brand trust

DATA: prioritize daily monitoring and YoY comparisons

During peak holiday periods we recommend daily-level data pulls and reviews to enable more granular insights at higher frequency and to ensure better planning for promotional spikes. Some retailer data may be limited to only weekly or monthly level frequency, in which case year-over-year comparisons by same business week or month are important to review and plan for similar spikes in key promo products and brands this year.

  • Track year-over-year run rates leading up to peak promotional days, if trending higher than previous year, prepare for more traffic and sales during peak promotions this year.

  • To gauge performance of peak promotions, compare year-over-year with same peak promotional days and not weeks (Black Friday this year compared to Black Friday last year even if different calendar dates).

DIGIPHYSICAL (PHYGITAL): drive engagement and boost brand visibility

Consumers are likely to use a combination of digital and physical channels for their holiday shopping. Consider how BOPIS, inventory visibility, price comparison, and personalized recommendations will impact decisions both online and in stores. Leverage the ease of online while amplifying seasonal aspects of in-store to create a cohesive, connected shopping journey that maximizes customer convenience and delight.

  • Offer incentives like exclusive discounts or early access to boost in-store visits; promote events, pop-up shops, and holiday-themed displays.

  • Utilize QR codes to connect the physical and digital; promote features like virtual try-ons, AR, and cross-channel customer service.

Retail readiness takes on heightened importance during Q4. If you’d like additional ideas and support, please reach out. Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Technology is home to WPP’s Amazon Center of Excellence.