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Holiday countdown checklist: Master the 2021 retail landscape

October 13, 2021

We know you’re working hard to get in front of the best customers this holiday season, so we’ve gathered advice and resources to help you plan. Retail industry and advertising best practices have changed over the last two years, indicating growing e-commerce adoption and shopping that will begin earlier than ever. The following tips will help you be in the right place at the right time.

Be there ahead of time

In our 2021 Holiday Gifting Survey,1 we asked respondents when they intended to start their holiday shopping, and 68% said they had already begun. With the holiday shopping season starting earlier, you’ll need to start promotion sooner, too.

What to do:

  • Review last season’s campaigns for successes and lessons learned.
  • Upload campaigns early and add Merchant Promotions to make the most of seasonal deal.
  • Influence decision making using rich image-based ads such as new Multimedia Ads, Multi-Image Extensions, and Microsoft Audience Ads for shoppers choosing brands.
  • Set budgets to accommodate traffic increases.
  • Double-check to make sure all relevant accounts and campaigns are active.
  • Add new, relevant, and emerging keywords.
  • Follow up on any rejected ads.

Find approaches for a better ROI

Getting your ad campaigns set up is just the first step. The last 16 months have changed the way shoppers buy and learn about products and services. Due to this changing consumer behavior and increased advertiser demand, we predict that retail will see a very competitive season. You’ll want to make the most relevant choices to provide the return on investment you need.

What to do:

  • Test In-market Audiences directly and indirectly related to your industry.
  • Emphasize the metrics you care about most with auto-bidding strategies to deliver ROI like Target ROAS or Target CPA.
  • Try multi-touch campaigns with search and native to boost your reach and ROI.
  • Use remarketing, dynamic remarketing, and similar audiences to boost your ad performance.
  • Use the right combination of ad extensions (Action, Promotion, Filter Link, and more).
  • Opt-in to search partner sites to expand your reach.

Optimize keywords, ads, and bids

When it comes to your holiday ad campaigns, or any time of year, don’t just set it and forget it. After your ad campaigns are running for a few weeks, you’ll start to notice behaviors and insights that will guide you toward optimization opportunities to increase your ROI.

What to do:

  • Use long-tail brand terms and Dynamic Search Ads discover gaps in your keyword lists.
  • Test ad copy variations or use Responsive Search Ads to test up to 40,000 variations for you.
  • Plan your budgets for periods of high CPC and consider shared budgets for collections of smaller campaigns to efficiently spend budget where there is demand.
  • Apply auto-bidding to maximize profitability.
  • Set up automated rules to schedule and automate your top campaign management tasks on a weekly, or even daily basis for invaluable time savings and efficiency gains.

Optimize shopping campaigns

This year a lot more shopping traffic will be online. In fact, the share of global e-commerce retail sales increased 32.4% from 2019 to 2020 and is forecast to grow another 8.3% this year.2 This data, coupled with the early shopping starts, gives advertisers more opportunity to reach customers while they’re in the research phase. Don’t miss the opportunity to go beyond the opportunity search and native ads — ensure you have shopping ads to reach this valuable audience.

What to do:

  • Automate part of your product offerings with new Smart Shopping Campaigns to target customers more likely to convert at higher revenue values.
  • Refresh your product feed daily.
  • Go beyond the required attributes and populate your feed with as many recommended attributes as possible.
  • Use the SKU column and unique identifiers to differentiate product titles and descriptions and keep all unique identifiers consistent between data feeds.
  • Include specific brands, product types, or individual products that align with your business goals.

You can apply all of these learnings to the Microsoft Search Network which added 82 million searchers globally in the last year, while retaining a valuable audience that spends 22% more than the average internet searcher.3 Plus, people who use Windows have a greater propensity to purchase online and are more inclined to make significant purchases across categories like Finance, Retail, Auto, Travel than the average internet user.4

Want more insights?

[1] Microsoft Holiday Gifting Survey, US, May 2021, N=1030.
[2] Statista: Worldwide e-commerce share of retail sales 2015-2024, Global, Jan 2021.
[3] comScore qSearch, Explicit Core Search (custom), Global, March 2021. The Microsoft Search Network includes Microsoft sites, Yahoo sites (searches powered by Bing), and AOL sites worldwide. Data represents desktop traffic only
[4] GlobalWebIndex, U.S., Q2 2020 – Q1 2021.


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