Smash Your Peak Season – 17 Tips from Wonderbly

Jorrit Bouma

Marketing

Editor’s note: 60% of Wonderbly’s annual sales are made during Q4. We asked Jorrit Bouma, the Director of Performance Marketing at Wonderbly, to share how he leads his performance marketing team through the holiday season at our recent Smartly Connect event in London. He gave a captivating keynote titled “17 Tips to Smash Your Peak Season”.

I work for a company called Wonderbly. We make personalised children's books that are – if we say so ourselves – on another level.

I run the Performance Marketing and CRM team at Wonderbly, and since we are – like many startups – very performance focused, we depend on performance marketing to drive a large chunk of our sales. From Q1 until Q3 we’re a typical “digital native” marketing team, depending mostly on digital performance channels like paid social, paid search, display, native, and email. In Q4, our peak-season, we add somewhat more traditional channels to the mix that are otherwise out of reach, such as TV, out of home or even podcast ads.

As our books are oftentimes given as presents, we’re a highly seasonal business. In fact, the large majority of our annual sales is generated in just those few weeks before the holidays. A high stakes situation that represents a big opportunity, so we better be prepared to deliver on a solid plan. In the presentation (below), I highlighted some best practices we’ve developed, sometimes the hard way, to make sure you’re ready for peak season.


It All Starts With Planning

In our case, it all starts with solid preparation. In January we start with a Q4 retro, looking back at last year's data to understand what we did well, and learn from what we didn’t do so well. This informs our real planning, which comes in the form of a trading calendar and budgeting. As boring as it might sound, in times of lean marketing teams, we still create a central trading calendar per region, reflecting key dates and events in our peak season, such as product launches, major trading events or last order dates. This helps us plan for cross-channel and site-wide marketing campaigns throughout the holiday season that will help us hit our targets.


Prepare for Different Scenarios

As any marketing team, we have marketing budgets. Heading up to Q4, we actually create a multitude of marketing budgets to be prepared for multiple scenarios we think might happen; what if our TV ad doesn’t do as well as we hope it will do? What if we see a deterioration of our paid social ads year over year? These budgets are a good starting point for our budget allocation, but we only see them as a guideline.

We use attribution models built in-house to inform our decision-making. We allocate budgets across channels, products and regions on the fly, constantly reallocating budgets to the most efficient channel-product-region combinations, taking budgets from less efficient marketing activities. Especially when talking about channels like Paid Social or Display, which are first-click or even first-impression heavy channels, having a good understanding of true attributed value is crucial to making the right investment decisions.


Stay Aligned With Your Team

During peak season, we encourage as much cross-squad communication as possible. Being a print-on-demand business, we need to stay close to ops to make sure nothing breaks. Seasonality does funny things to customer behaviour and the media mix, so we rely heavily on our all-star BI team to inform us about shifting conversion lag and the full impact of our somewhat harder to attribute channels like TV. Since we’re dealing with quite extreme seasonality, we make sure we’re on the same page with finance as well, as our spend-levels will go through the roof. From experience we’ve learned that spending beyond your credit-limit in Facebook doesn’t do wonders for your delivery.  

There are more take-aways than what I’ve written above, which are all collated in this “17 tips to smash your peak season” deck. Obviously, every team will find different ways to best navigate their peak season, and I’m sure if you’d ask me after the Q4 we have ahead, we’ve run into new findings and learnings that we’ll be looking to integrate into the way we work next year.

Good luck smashing your peak season, I hope our findings help you on your way!

While we're on the topic of seasonal Facebook advertising, get the ecommerce edition of free guide for holiday campaigns. You can access it from the link below.

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