The holiday shopping season is now upon us – a critical time for brand marketers looking to engage with valuable consumers. But during this highly competitive period, digital marketers face peak prices for advertising space on the internet, as consumers choose gifts for family and friends, and online shopping activity surges.

Media buyers, both globally and in the UK, are charged with helping their clients navigate this complex holiday marketplace – in which the most expensive placement may not always deliver the greatest return, and brand marketers may do well to deploy their budgets at times when impression prices are lower.

Indeed, advertisers looking at how to spend their budgets in the lead up to Christmas and directly afterwards, should be focusing on finding ways to limit their risk and maximise conversions. Sticking to placements and creative ideations that have performed well in the past is one way to minimise the risk of wasted spend.

However, if a brand has no pressing reason to advertise heavily during high-demand periods, they should consider a different approach, according to our recently released whitepaper focusing on buying strategies for Q4 2016. Powered by 2015 and Q1 2016 pricing and performance data from our platform, the whitepaper offered deep insight into the peaks and troughs of the buying cycle during the build-up to the holiday season in December and into January, as it plays out globally, as well as in the U.S., U.K., EMEA and APAC regions.

In the U.K., the holiday pricing situation is distinct. Unlike in the U.S. and the rest of Europe, inventory prices took a dive in early December of last year, before steadily rising again as Christmas drew closer. This means that UK advertisers hoping to boost Christmas sales should consider targeting the two weeks leading up to Christmas when conversion rates skyrocket, even as CPMs fall.

Another key point of differentiation in the UK is that while global CPMs remained high right through to the end of December, CPMs in the UK slid in the week following Christmas. During this time, conversion rates remained strong all the way through to the middle of January. Indeed, the early January period has been the most undervalued time of the year for UK brands, with ad space prices at extremely low levels.

UK marketers should therefore consider pacing their spend to focus more budget on the two crucial weeks before Christmas and the week following Christmas – particularly Boxing Day, an excellent opportunity to reach people when they are at home – and holding some budget back for the early January period.

The holiday season is such a vital time for advertisers. Armed with a clear understanding of pricing trends, agencies are well-positioned to help their advertisers tailor spend to meet business, budget and brand goals, as well as avoid wasted spend on pricey, irrelevant inventory. Marketers would do well to start thinking now about planning their CPM spend for next year!