The holidays are the most wonderful time of year—but for retailers, they’re also the busiest. Almost 30% of all retail sales happen between October and December.
Holiday shopping will be here before you know it. But to get a slice of the $936 billion consumer spending pie, you need a holiday marketing campaign that captures customers’ attention.
Unsure when to start? The short answer is: right now. This guide shares key dates and tips to ensure your next holiday marketing campaign helps you capitalize on the most profitable season of the year.
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What makes a great holiday marketing strategy?
A great holiday marketing strategy is more than just festive decorations or deep discounts on Black Friday.
Here’s what you need to do to make your next holiday marketing campaign stand out:
Plan holiday marketing efforts in advance
October is the new November. Holiday shopping no longer exclusively takes place in November and December.
In mid-October 2022, holiday shoppers globally had, on average, 21% of their holiday shopping completed.
To keep up with early holiday shopping demands, many retailers start their holiday sales and promotions early in October. Some brands are even rolling out Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions in early October.
Early holiday shopping seems to be standard. To keep up with demand, holiday season preparation usually begins months in advance and involves:
- Scouting trends: Analyze this year’s industry trends and what’s likely to be a bestseller.
- Forecasting inventory needs: What were your top-selling products last year? Are they likely to sell well this year?
“How far in advance do I actually need to plan?” may be a question that’s sprung to mind. There is no best practice; it depends on how much work you need to do and the resources you have available.
Avoid scrambling at the last minute when customers are looking for gifts. Make sure you’re prepared by creating your marketing materials, such as social media templates and newsletter ads, in advance.
Get to know your audience and set clear objectives
Begin by diving into your customer data. Understand their preferences, past purchasing behaviors, and what they value during the holiday season.
Then start defining specific, measurable goals. Whether it’s driving sales, increasing website traffic, or boosting brand awareness, knowing your objectives will guide your efforts.
Take an omnichannel approach
Engaging content, whether through interactive social media campaigns, email marketing, or in-store events, should roll out in phases, building momentum as peak shopping days approach.
Engage customers across various channels. Whether it’s social media, email, your website, or in-store, ensure a consistent and cohesive brand message across all touchpoints.
Temporarily revamp your branding elements to reflect the festive spirit. This includes website banners, social media profiles, email templates, and even product packaging.
Run exclusive holiday season promotions
The holiday season is when consumers are most willing to consider new brands and retailers. Half of holiday shoppers said they were open to purchasing from new stores or brands during the holiday season.
Grab their attention and convince them to purchase by showcasing your brand value and best offers. This may include highlighting that you have the lowest prices for budget-savvy shoppers.
10 holiday marketing tips for retail stores
While twinkling lights and festive displays draw in customers, it’s the strategic, thoughtful marketing that truly sets a brand apart and ensures a profitable season.
For retailers aiming to captivate their audience and maximize sales, certain actionable strategies can make the festive season truly shine.
Here are 10 holiday marketing ideas to try this festive season.
1. Audit previous holiday marketing campaign performance
The foundation of any good marketing campaign is data. Chances are you ran some kind of holiday promotion last year. What worked well? What didn’t? What did you learn last year that may help make this year’s marketing campaign even better? Measure your past marketing results to inform future campaigns.
Let’s put that into practice and say you hosted the following holiday marketing events:
- A pop-up store at the NYC Christmas market
- A Black Friday flash sale at your Brooklyn store
- An email marketing campaign giving customers 10% off throughout the Cyber Weekend
Your sales data shows that most customers came from the email marketing campaign. At first glance, that may sound like a win. More customers means more revenue, right? Not necessarily.
Alongside the number of new customers each campaign got, dig deeper into the data. Which campaign or channel had the highest conversion rate or average order value (AOV)?
This year, prioritize the campaign and/or channel that came out on top, but still leave space for new ideas. That way, you double down on what’s known to work, without putting all of your eggs in one Christmas-themed basket.
The brand encouraged shoppers to make more sustainable holiday purchases by featuring products from 85 brands. They also made these items available on their online store with a sustainable delivery option.
Shoppers could also take part in a few special in-person events, including plant care workshops, terrarium creation, and mindfulness sessions. Don’t just look into your own data. Your competitors are likely running their own holiday marketing campaigns. So, scan through their social media profiles and check for any press coverage last year.
“The most important thing we do is track our competition. We sign up for their emails and follow them on social media. We want to know exactly what they’re doing and when they’re launching their holiday marketing campaigns. This has helped us create and promote better marketing campaigns than our competition each year,” explains Brian Anderson, founder of My Supplement Store.
2. Diversify your holiday marketing tactics
These days, shopping experiences are anything but linear. Search engines, retail stores, and recommendations from family and friends all work their way into holiday shopping research.
Consider this when creating your holiday marketing campaign and diversify the channels, promotions, and messaging you’re running. Post user-generated content (UGC) on social media, display posters in your local area, and send email marketing campaigns to drive ecommerce sales.
It’s the best way to see which your target audience responds to most strongly—so you can double down and improve your holiday marketing ROI.
“Marketing in-store with pop-up materials corresponding with online graphics, social media posts, and emails can create a winning strategy. Shoppers are so inundated with marketing messages that they will need to see a retailer’s message multiple times before really seeing the message,” says Mikey Moran, founder and CEO of Private Label Extensions.
3. Use holiday email marketing
Earlier, we mentioned that email is a channel with the potential to drive tons of new and existing customers to your holiday marketing promotions.
Use your email campaigns to drive traffic to your website or brick-and-mortar store through:
- Gift guides. Help people decide which products to give their loved ones with gift guides. Round up your most popular products gifted to men, women, children, and partners.
- Giveaways. Incentivize your subscribers to engage elsewhere by running a competition. For example, have every new customer post on X about the item on their wishlist and tag your brand. The winner gets a $100 voucher to spend in-store or online.
- Subscriber-only flash sales. Stand out amongst the Black Friday emails by offering discounts, flash sales, or coupon codes. The catch? They’re only available to those on your mailing list. It will help you grow your list for post-holiday retargeting.
Magic Spoon, for example, uses its email newsletter to showcase its exclusive holiday product. Its limited edition gingerbread cereal is only available to its subscribers.
As a final nudge to buy, Magic Spoon mentions the cut-off point for Christmas delivery. Shoppers need to order the product by December 14 for guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery, which gives subscribers an incentive to buy now rather than later.
While we’re on the topic of email marketing, use the data you already have on customers to your advantage. Segment them into various groups based on:
- Their demographic (such as their age or gender)
- Their location and nearest store
- Which types of products they’ve purchased before
Send personalized emails based on each defining quality. Subscribers near your Chicago store can get store-specific offers; those with a history of buying men’s trainers can profile the men’s sneakers included in your Black Friday deals.
Regardless of how you’re personalizing your holiday emails, 56% of consumers say they will become repeat buyers after a personalized experience (a 7% increase year-over-year).
4. Offer free and fast shipping
Free shipping is now table stakes for most retailers, with 96% of retailers offering free delivery. But consumer expectations are also high for fast delivery. Ninety percent of consumers believe delivery should take fewer than five business days, and 62% less than three business days. Not all brands are matching these demands.
In today’s climate of supply chain disruption and slow deliveries, shipping products fast and free makes your brand stand out. One way to do this is to guarantee shipping before a certain date. Accessible art brand Room Fifty nudges shoppers to purchase items before December 19 for guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery.
Other delivery options, such as curbside pickup and buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), are also worth considering. Both allow shoppers to collect an item sooner, making it an attractive option for last-minute Christmas shoppers. They don’t have to wait for delivery; you don’t have to ship it out. They simply collect the item from their nearest store.
Research shows that 37% more consumers used curbside pickup or BOPIS for their most recent purchases in 2022. This highlights 16 million more shoppers using the option in the US alone.
Take that as your sign to ditch the delivery fee and let holiday shoppers collect the items on their terms.
5. Appeal to emotions
The holidays are an emotional season. It’s the time of year we spend most often with our families and think of those no longer with us.
Retailers can use those emotions in their own holiday marketing campaigns. Whether it’s inducing a feeling of nostalgia or pure happiness, it pays to put heart into your marketing —emotions stimulate the mind 3,000 times quicker than rational thoughts.
Dog accessory subscription brand BarkBox used its holiday campaign to shine a spotlight on diversity and inclusion among our four-legged friends. The campaign features several “misfit” dogs, including those born deaf, missing an eye, or partially paralyzed.
6. Give back to your local community
Shoppers consider tons of things when they’re thinking about buying from a new retailer. One of those is whether the brand supports a purpose.
Research shows that 70% of customers say they buy from brands they believe reflect their own principles.
With the festive season being the time of giving, work this holiday cheer into your holiday marketing strategy by giving back to your local community.
Not only does it show you’re passionate about a cause, but shoppers will feel less guilty about their splurge. They may be more likely to spend if they know a small part of their purchase is going toward someone or something in need.
Lucy & Yak is a retailer doing this on a larger scale. For Black Friday 2022, the brand donated half of its profits to a foundation dedicated to improving girls’ education in India.
7. Go all in on window displays
“The holidays aren’t the time to be conservative with your store’s appearance. You want to be noticed by everyone who walks within a 100-foot radius of your store,” says Brian Dean, founder of Exploding Topics.
With so many people saying their festive shopping period is a yearly tradition, get passersby to visit your store with a holiday-themed window display. You’ll reach the window shoppers who have no intention of visiting your store but can’t help themselves when they see your festive display.
“If your store or company already has a distinct color scheme, stick to it and emphasize it. Increase the amount of lighting in and around your store to make it more visible at all times of the day and night,” explains Brian.
“Put up some booths outside, display some of your most popular products, go crazy with your window display—do whatever you can to make your store more visually appealing and engaging. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild,” he says.
8. Advertise in the local area and online
Driving foot traffic to your store is half the battle in your quest to generate more holiday sales. The same goes for your digital store.
One way to push people toward your store throughout the holiday season is by playing around with radio ads, billboards, and posters in local shopping malls. You could also have retail staff hand out flyers in busy shopping districts or Christmas markets. “Get 10% off with this voucher,” and directions to your store could be enough to make them stop off and buy something.
Alongside offline marketing channels, Facebook advertising is a good option to consider. You’re able to segment your audience to:
- Target people within close proximity to your brick-and-mortar store
- Retarget people who’ve bought an item online or in-store before
- Reach people who’ve visited your physical or online store but not bought anything
Take Moriarty’s Gem Art, for example. Some 35% of its annual sales happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas. For this reason, its marketing manager, Jeff Moriarty, says, “It is extremely important that our holiday marketing campaigns go well.”
“We find paid Facebook ads drive the most foot traffic. We normally target a certain demographic within a 10- to 15-mile radius of our store and see great results,” he explains.
Despite his success with Facebook ads, Moriarty adds, “My biggest recommendation is to test different platforms to see what works best for you. We tested Google Ads, Bing Adcenter, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, and based on those results, found out which worked best. Now we focus solely on those platforms.”
9. Create exclusive holiday editions and discounts
Holiday promotions are rife on major dates throughout the festive season. As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
Nearly seven in 10 (69%) shoppers said price is the top factor influencing their purchasing decisions during the holidays, outpacing quality (56%) and convenience (41%).
Four out of five consumers said price would drive them to try a new brand or store, and 59% said better prices would motivate them to shop at an unplanned location.
Make it easy for those people and get ahead of competitors by offering holiday deals and promotions.
Cocokind, for example, shares lighthearted posts on its Instagram page to promote its Black Friday Cyber Monday sale. Club Kind members get early access to 30% discounts, exclusive bundles, and free gifts––incentives bound to make followers exit the Instagram app and sign up.
Want to take this a step further? Consider creating limited edition versions of your most popular products. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte is the most obvious example. Its release coincides with the start of the holiday season and is long-awaited year-round.
“Smaller retailers that can control their manufacturing might want to consider doing a special edition product for the holiday to generate some buzz,” suggests Mikey of Private Label Extensions.
“For example, we’re offering limited-supply wigs to holiday shoppers looking for an exclusive new look. Since quantities are limited, we expect the wigs will help drive foot traffic to our showrooms and retail stores,” he says.
10. Tap into Facebook holiday ad strategies
Although competition for Facebook ads heats up and ad costs increase, the holiday season is still a great time to use the platform to engage recent customers or discover new shoppers.
The earlier you invest in Facebook ads, the better results you’re likely to generate.
Here are a few tips to get started:
- Train your Meta pixel to find the right audience. Facebook usually knows your audience better than you. Every time a conversion is triggered, Facebook learns more about your target audience and who to show the ad to. You can train your Meta pixel to find target audiences by choosing and optimizing for specific conversion events. Facebook will learn who completes those events and serve ads to similar users.
- Increase daily budgets. When you increase your daily ad budget, you let Facebook bid more for your target action and show more ads. Do this in November to win more bids and boost ad delivery.
- Create and experiment with dynamic product ads. This ad format lets Facebook generate ads based on actions people take on your website, like viewing products or adding to their cart without purchasing. These work best if you already have solid levels of website traffic.
Important dates to consider in your holiday planning
Keep these important holiday dates in mind as you start campaign planning.
Halloween falls on October 31 every year. It signals the start of the holiday season. The average US shopper expects to spend $108 on Halloween-related items this year. While that may not sound like much, it amounts to a whopping $12.2 billion in sales. The end of Halloween also signals that it’s time to re-merchandise your store to reflect the upcoming holiday season.
Thanksgiving is a US holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November––this year, it’s on November 23. But there’s more to it than splurging on turkey and pumpkin pie.
Data shows that 106.7 million consumers shopped online and in-store during the 2022 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, spending an average of $325.44 each. Some 68% (72.9 million) of those shoppers planned to make their Thanksgiving purchases in-store.
Black Friday is arguably the most popular shopping date of the year—especially for retailers. It happens on the Friday following Thanksgiving.
Some 72.9 million people shopped in-store on Black Friday last year, a higher number than on Cyber Monday or Thanksgiving.
The Monday that follows Black Friday is Cyber Monday. As its name suggests, it’s one of the biggest ecommerce shopping days of the year.
More than $11.3 billion was spent on this day alone in 2022, beating Thanksgiving and Black Friday itself.
It’s estimated that shoppers spend $998 on holiday gifts during the Christmas season. Christmas takes place on December 25, but shopping for the big day starts much earlier.
People shop for last-minute holiday gifts up to (and including) Christmas Eve––around half of shoppers don’t start shopping for gifts before December.
After the big day, shoppers flock to Boxing Day sales, treating themselves to clearance items that retailers couldn’t sell through before Christmas.
There’s more to New Year than fireworks and countdowns. It’s also a time when people buy outfits for parties and give to charity. In fact, it’s estimated that nonprofits bring in 47% of their online revenue the last week of December, with 20% coming in on December 31.
Chinese New Year, which happens at the start of the lunar calendar, is also a big spending season. Consumers collectively spent $127 billion throughout the seven-day event.
Holiday marketing campaign examples and ideas
Not sure how to kickstart your holiday marketing campaign? Get inspired by these three holiday marketing examples and ideas.
The Giving Manger
The Giving Manger is a case study that goes to show you can build a thriving business off seasonal marketing campaigns.
Its signature product is a Christmas-themed activity kit that comes with a wooden manger, a bundle of straw, a tiny baby Jesus, and an accompanying book. And it makes all of its annual revenue within six months.
The brand started off the back of a Kickstarter campaign that was funded in two days with zero paid promotion.
Its founder, Lisa Kalberer, attributes its success to a brand story. “We really love giving people a tradition that’s not just about receiving,” she says. “Some really influential people in the Christian market reached out to us just from our Kickstarter campaign. Everyone really rallied for us, and it’s pretty amazing.”
The Giving Manger only has a limited amount of stock each year. Lisa adds, “Obviously, we don’t want to not have products because then we’re not making money. But this adds to its scarcity model. People need to buy them as soon as possible. If not, they’ll miss out and have to wait for next year.”
The brand also uses it as a chance to shine a light on other small businesses in the community and encourage shoppers to visit them, too.
Gymshark is one of the fastest-growing DTC brands. So, it makes sense that it would have a strong Black Friday campaign.
The campaign started with a short Instagram video teasing its upcoming sale. Promising the “biggest ever Black Friday sale,” each teaser video used the same branded hashtag, #BigDealEnergy. One video even starred influencer KSI—and really got people excited.
A fancy social media campaign that got people talking? Nothing new in Gymshark’s marketing strategy. But its humorous approach to its Black Friday video campaign—a news-style YouTube video to answer frequently asked questions about its annual sale—may not be what you expected.
Creating your holiday marketing plan
As you can see, there’s more to holiday marketing than a few Instagram posts that show your Black Friday offers. Use these ideas to offer free shipping, play on emotion, and go all-in on your festive window displays.
Regardless of which ideas you’re using, remember that planning starts way before the festive season officially kicks off. Aim to have your holiday marketing campaigns prepared and ready to go by the end of September. That way, you don’t risk losing out on customers eager to start their Christmas shopping when fall rolls around.
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Holiday marketing FAQ
How do you do a holiday marketing campaign?
Creating a successful holiday marketing campaign means leaning on past campaign data, knowing your audience, and defining goals. Here are five steps to take when coming up with a holiday marketing campaign:
- Research past campaigns and set clear objectives.
- Allocate budget for festive branding, content, and promotions.
- Engage customers through social media, email, and in-store experiences.
- Monitor campaign performance and adjust in real time.
- Analyze results post-holiday and set goals for next year.
What are the benefits of holiday marketing?
Holiday marketing offers five clear benefits:
- Boosted sales: Holidays encourage consumer spending, giving businesses an opportunity for higher revenue.
- Brand visibility: The festive season, with more advertising and promotions, helps brands capture attention and stay top-of-mind.
- Customer engagement: Themed content and promotions can boost customer engagement, building brand loyalty.
- Inventory clearance: Seasonal sales help businesses offload older inventory, making way for new stock.
- Acquisition of new customers: Special offers and the holiday buzz can attract first-time shoppers, expanding a brand’s customer base.
What is the best promotional strategy for Christmas?
The best promotional strategy for Christmas varies on your target audience, product or service type, and business goals.
However, several time-tested marketing strategies tend to resonate well during the festive season:
- Limited-time offers: Create urgency with time-sensitive discounts or promotions. Flash sales or “12 days of Christmas deals” can keep customers engaged.
- Bundling and gift sets: Package complementary products together at a reduced price for convenient gift options.
- Gift with purchase: Offer a complimentary item when customers spend over a certain amount. This can increase average transaction values.
- Holiday-themed content: Gift guides, DIY ideas, or festive recipes can attract and engage customers.
- Social media campaigns: Run festive contests, polls, or challenges on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok. Consider collaborating with influencers for wider reach.
- Email marketing: Segment your email list and send personalized holiday promotions or messages. A well-timed, attractive email can boost sales significantly.
- Free shipping: As Christmas approaches, offer expedited shipping options or free shipping to entice last-minute shoppers.