Holiday season sales are important for retailers. Depending on your product category, the holidays should account for anywhere from over a quarter to over a third of your annual sales. One way to make this happen is by creating a holiday gift guide to help shoppers easily find the perfect gifts for their loved ones.
In 2020, over 45% of people said they would be looking for gift guides to inform their purchases during the holiday season.
Whether you use a landing page, blog article, and/or email campaign, creating a holiday gift guide will help you attract and sell more to your target audience and the people who are buying gifts for them.
In this article, we’ll review the necessary steps to create your holiday gift guide, the benefits of holiday gift guides, and how and when to market your holiday gift guide to increase sales.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What is a holiday gift guide?
In retail, a holiday gift guide is used to help prospective and existing customers make buying decisions during the holiday season. Products are curated based on factors such as category, target audience, price point, and sales history. Nowadays, gift guides are usually digital, but they can also be printed and sent to your mailing list via direct mail.
The main objective of creating and distributing a holiday gift guide is to create a frictionless shopping experience where customers can quickly pick up a gift without having to spend too much time thinking it over. Making it easier for shoppers to choose gifts will help you boost your retail sales revenue during the holiday season.
Benefits of creating a holiday gift guide
The main reason to create and promote a holiday gift guide is to increase sales. Here are a few ways gift guides help you do this:
Help customers make a choice
Many people leave holiday shopping to the last minute or have a difficult time choosing the perfect gifts for their loved ones. A holiday gift guide, which provides gift ideas for various people at a range of prices, is the perfect way to help customers make a choice and complete their purchase faster. It helps spark ideas, narrow down choice, and convert browsers into paying customers.
Convert newsletter subscribers into paying customers
Sending holiday gift guides via email is a great way to engage with your mailing list to provide value and make their lives easier. And it can lead to higher conversions: emails featuring gift guides generate 48% higher sales compared to other promotional emails.
Improve customer lifetime value
Customer lifetime value (CLTV) is the total amount a customer spends at your business during their entire lifetime as a customer. By creating a holiday gift guide, you’ll re-engage past and existing customers and encourage them to buy gifts from your retail store instead of the competition. This will, in turn, increase the amount of money they spend at your business during their lifetime as a paying customer.
Attract purchases from early-season shoppers
According to the National Retail Federation, each year about 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween. By creating and distributing your holiday gift guide early in the season, you’ll attract shoppers that might otherwise buy from another retailer.
Inspire last-minute shoppers
On the flip side, there will always be last-minute holiday shoppers. Your gift guide can help spark ideas and inspiration: the easier it is to make a choice, the more likely shoppers will be to pick up last-minute gifts from your store.
Highlight certain products
Creating a holiday gift guide lets you highlight and market specific products based on high demand, inventory planning, or sales history.
For example, if you sell beauty products and see from last year's sales history that a specific face cream has consistently been a bestseller, you could include it in your holiday gift guide as part of a bundle that features complementary products such as a cleanser and wash cloth. If the complementary products have not been selling as quickly, bundling those items with a high-demand product is an opportunity to sell through your inventory.
Extra visibility and brand awareness
Whether you create a holiday gift guide for your store alone or partner with other businesses, promoting it will help give you extra visibility and boost brand awareness. It can also help you win over customers who would usually buy from a similar business—because you made the buying process easier with a holiday gift guide.
Digital holiday gift guides in the form of a landing page or blog article can help boost your website’s organic search results. You can incorporate keywords that are related to your products and use local SEO strategies to help nearby shoppers discover your retail business online so they come to visit your store in person.
Publishing a holiday gift guide on your website can also get you attention in the press. “Along with more sales, a holiday gift guide also helps with SEO and makes it easier for editors who are searching for products to include in their gift guides,”' says Connie Lo, co-founder of Three Ships.
How to create a holiday gift guide: a 9-step guide
You may be feeling overwhelmed by the thought of creating and distributing your holiday gift guide, but you don’t have to. Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll be ready for the holidays in no time.
1. Think about your customers and target audience
Before creating your holiday gift guide, think about exactly who your target audience is, which customer segments you want to target, and how they would search for and discover your gift guide.
For example, you may segment your existing customers into repeat customers, one-time buyers, types of products purchased, and spending habits. Then, if you create gift guides by price or product type, you’ll know which segments would most likely be interested in them.
Directly asking customers what they’re looking to buy as gifts this holiday season (or the types of gifts they’d like to receive) is another way to gather information for your gift guide strategy. You can do this in-store or online via a survey.
2. Analyze sales data
Looking at your sales data from the last year or even two years is a great way to make strategic decisions about the types of products to include in your holiday gift guide. A few items to review are:
- Bestsellers. Look at the products that were purchased the most throughout the year, as well as during last year’s holiday season.
- Customer segments. Who are your customers and what are they buying? Use Google Analytics to find information about their gender, interests, and spending habits. This will help inform the types of holiday gift guides they might be interested in.
- Shopping trends. You can also look at external data. What types of products are popular among your target customers? Do you notice any bigger trends? Understanding what’s trending in your market will help you create a holiday gift guide that’s relevant to your audience.
For example, if face oil is more popular these days than face moisturizer, consider adding a face oil product to one of your gift bundles.
📌 GET STARTED: Historical sales data helps you know which products have high demand based on how many units you sold over a given time period. To see your best-selling products and variants in Shopify, select Retail Sales Reports from your Shopify Admin.
3. Involve your team in the process
Your sales associates have firsthand knowledge of your customers and target audience. Getting their insights on which products to include in your holiday gift guide is a way to make sure you’re not only gathering quantitative data, but also qualitative information.
4. Ask the brands you stock about which products are trending
If you stock a variety of brands, asking your suppliers about popular and trending products this season is a great way to figure out which items to include in your holiday gift guide. This can also inform your buying strategy and reduce the likelihood of being left with merchandise that doesn’t sell.
5. Choose the types of products you’ll include
Once you’ve completed steps one through four above, you’ll have a better idea of the types of products you should include in your holiday gift guide. Now it’s time to choose them. The key here is to avoid overwhelming customers with too many options. Make your gift guide a curated selection of all the best products so customers can make quick decisions.
6. Think about how you’ll organize your holiday gift guide
Now that you know who you’re targeting, which products are trending, and the types of products you’ll include in your holiday gift guide, it’s time to figure out how you want to organize it. You can categorize products by personality, price, and gender, as well as in curated gift bundles based on style preference and shopping behavior. Then come up with gift guide names and titles that explain the problem it will help shoppers solve. For example, “The Ultimate Gift Guide for Last Minute Shoppers” or “The Top 5 Romantic Gifts for Her.”
Here are a few ideas on how to organize your holiday gift guide:
Gifts by age
Depending on the types of products you sell and your customer base, you can come up with gift guides based on age. Using groups in your gift guide titles can help prospective customers find the appropriate types of products and also quickly let them know how you’re going to help them find the right gifts.
Breaking gift guides down into age groups guides shoppers to find products that are relevant to the person they’re shopping for.
Here’s a great example from Good Housekeeping:
Gifts by personality and interests
Whether your target audience is into beauty, fashion and style, food and drinks, sports, tech, books, or something else, creating gift guides categorized by receivers’ interests will help shoppers narrow down the choices.
Here’s an example from Esquire of gift guides that are specific to the receivers’ interests:
Organizing gift guides into personality types helps people make a quick association between the person they’re shopping for and the products you’re selling.
Gifts by category
You can split your holiday gift guide into categories—for example, romantic, funny, practical, popular, early bird, or last minute. You can also split it into product categories, such as hair care or skincare if you sell women’s beauty products.
Doing this helps customers quickly find the category that best suits the recipient or occasion they’re buying for. Here’s a great holiday gift guide example from BuzzFeed featuring stocking stuffer gift ideas:
And here’s an example from Good Housekeeping where its gift guides are organized based on bestselling products:
Gifts by budget
Creating holiday gift guides by price helps attract customers who have a specific budget in mind. By listing gifts under $25, under $50, under $100, or whatever value makes the most sense for your business and customers, you keep shoppers from having to spend time calculating costs or guessing what they’re going to spend. This will make the purchasing decision easier (i.e., help you sell more).
Here’s an example from the Strategist that incorporates humor into the category headline: “Best Gifts for Cheapskates.”
📌 GET STARTED: Before you email customers a gift guide with products that fit their budget, consider grouping their emails based on how much they’ve spent at your store. This enables you to serve each group a gift guide that reflects their budget—from the price-conscious to the big-spenders. To start creating customer groups for more personalized and effective email marketing, select Customers from your Shopify Admin.
Gifts by gender
For shoppers who aren’t sure about exactly how much they want to spend or the recipient’s interests, holiday gift guides by gender can be a great starting point. And within this category it’s possible to narrow down on the recipient even further. For example, gifts for him can include gifts for your dad, boyfriend, or cousin.
Here’s an example of the Gifts for Him section on Good Housekeeping’s Gift Ideas 2021 landing page:
Gifts by recipient
Holiday gift guides based on recipients, like the BuzzFeed example below, can be separated into gifts for Mom, Dad, coworker, boyfriend, girlfriend, babies, kids, teacher—the list goes on. You’ll want to choose recipient categories, of course, based on the products you sell, your existing customer base, and your target audience.
Gifts by impact
Gifts by impact refers to the impact purchasing those gifts will have on a specific group, the environment, or a cause. For example, a small-business gift guide, sustainable or eco-friendly gift guide, woman-owned or minority-owned gift guide, or a charitable gift guide are all examples of holiday gift guides that create an impact.
Here’s an example from Vogue of a small-business holiday gift guide:
And another of a black-owned business gift guide:
💡 PRO TIP: Use Shopify’s customizable Product tags to create new product categories and start serving customers curated product discovery experiences on your website and in your gift guides—from locally made or environmentally-friendly to BIPOC-owned, the tags you create are totally up to you.
7. Create gift bundles
Now that you’ve come up with ways to organize your holiday gift guide into categories, you can take it a step further by creating gift bundles or gift baskets within each category. This suggestive selling strategy can increase the perceived value of products in the minds of customers and encourage them to increase their average order value (AOV). Plus, getting a bundle of items that complement each other all within one retail price makes the decision-making process easier and more convenient.
For example, if you create a gift guide called “The Perfect Holiday Gifts for Her,” you could include a gift bundle within the guide that includes three to five products and costs less in total than it would to buy each product individually. But the total amount spent will still be higher than if the shopper only purchased one item, increasing their total purchase amount (and your sales revenue).
You can show customers that buying a gift bundle is less expensive than buying each individual product by listing the savings in your holiday gift guide.
Let’s say the bundle includes face moisturizer ($25), cleanser ($18), exfoliant ($30), and a small hand towel ($8). Without creating a bundle for these products, the total to purchase all four would be $81. Creating a gift bundle with the same set of products but selling it for $75 will make customers feel like they’re getting a deal while it will help you increase the total purchase value compared to if they only purchased one or two of the products.
You can create gift bundles based on style preferences, shopping behavior, interests, and anything else you can think of that will attract your target audience and the people buying gifts for them.
“I recommend creating multiple guides for different customer shopping groups. For example, in 2020 we had a gift guide for Skincare Duos, another guide for the 6 Types of People to Shop For, as well as a generic gift guide featuring our bestsellers,” says Connie Lo, of Three Ships.
“The point is to make shopping as easy as possible for your audience, and help them think of gifts for even the hardest to shop for people in their lives, like co-workers or their in-laws.”
Here are two more examples of gift bundles from Dodo Burd’s 39 Must-Have Luxury Gift Baskets for Women gift guide:
8. Decide on your holiday gift guide format
In today’s retail landscape, merging your physical and digital storefront is crucial. Phygital retail isn’t just a buzzword, it’s impacting the way consumers discover and shop from brands as well as the way retailers are marketing their products. Incorporating omnichannel strategies into your holiday gift guide creation and promotion is essential.
The format of your holiday gift guide is ultimately your decision, but here’s what we suggest:
- Use an app like Shogun to create a custom landing page that features information about your holiday gift guide. If you have more than one gift guide theme, this is a great place to talk briefly about each and then link through to each gift guide collection page.
- If you’d rather create a gift guide in the form of a blog article, create a listicle that provides more details about each of the products and categories and links to the appropriate collections or product pages.
- Then distribute your landing page or blog article via email marketing and social media (more on this later).
What about print and direct-mail formats?
While printing off your gift guide and mailing it to your customer base isn’t the most cost-effective option, direct mail still works in our digital world. According to this Modern Retail article, in 2020, 93% of direct-mail clients reported an increase in year-over-year sales. One way to incorporate print into your holiday gift guide format is to create postcards and mail them to your customer base, letting them know about the gift guide. You can create a campaign URL and print it on the postcard so you’ll be able to track how much traffic you received due to your print and direct-mail marketing efforts.
Bonus: holiday gift guide formatting tips
- Digital gift guides should be responsive (i.e., they work on desktop, mobile, and tablets, and there are no broken links).
- Make sure it looks great on all channels (website, social media, and email marketing).
- All images should be high quality.
- Incorporating videos in your gift guide marketing strategy can help boost engagement.
- Gift guide layout should be clean and have white space to avoid overwhelming customers.
- Printed gift guides or postcards should be on high-quality paper.
- Choose your design style (i.e., editorial, lifestyle, user-generated content, or a mix).
- Don’t forget about the importance of copywriting.
- Use tools like Canva and Creative Market to create holiday gift guide graphics.
9. Stock up on the items you’re promoting
Planning your holiday gift guide in advance is important so you know you have enough stock of the items you’re promoting. The last thing you want to do is disappoint customers who found the perfect gift via your holiday gift guide but then can’t complete their purchase because it’s sold out.
You can look at holiday sales history from the last one-to-three years, as well as your sales for similar products throughout the year, to project demand and buy inventory accordingly.
Apps like Stocky work with Shopify POS Pro to help you manage inventory. Its analytics and insights feature uses in-depth reporting on bestsellers, stock on hand, low stock, and more to help you make good inventory decisions. This way you can increase profitability, reduce inventory loss and errors, and save time.
How to market your holiday gift guide
Creating a holiday gift guide without developing a plan to distribute and market it is a waste of time and money. You’ll want to start early and promote it frequently via various channels.
Here are nine tips to help you market your holiday gift guide:
1. Create a landing page and homepage banner on your website
In addition to creating a landing page for your gift guide, you’ll want to make sure website visitors who land on your homepage will be able to easily find your gift guide. Do this by creating a homepage banner that drives website traffic to your holiday gift guide landing page or blog article and the products or gift bundles you’re promoting.
According to GWI, fifty-eight percent of consumers in North America use search engines for product research. That’s why it’s important to think about the keywords you can target with your holiday gift guide landing page or blog article to help boost organic search results. You can use Google Keyword Planner or other SEO tools to determine which keywords have the most search volume.
For example, if the title of your holiday gift guide is “The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Guide 2021” you can use Google Keyword Planner to pull up search results for this keyword phrase as well as versions of it. This will help you determine if it can potentially help your holiday gift guide rank better in organic search results.
2. Send multiple email campaigns to your mailing list
The return on investment (ROI) for email marketing is 4,200% ($42 for every $1 spent), and it’s 40% better at converting when compared to Facebook marketing. Use this owned channel that doesn’t cost much to send email campaigns notifying your prospective and existing customers about your holiday gift guide.
“You need to remember that most people are being bombarded with brands’ emails over the holidays. We assumed our audience wouldn’t be opening every email we sent, hence the need to send multiple versions of our holiday gift guide emails,” says Connie Lo of Three Ships.
Sending one campaign is a good start, but for better results, you can send a series of email campaigns promoting your holiday gift guide. For example, if your gift guide features five different gift bundles, you could send a total of seven email campaigns highlighting the entire gift guide as well as each bundle.
Your email sequence could be as follows:
- Email #1: Announce your holiday gift guide and briefly mention all the gift bundles.
- Email #2: Campaign dedicated to sharing all the details about gift bundle one.
- Email #3: Campaign dedicated to sharing all the details about gift bundle two.
- Email #4: Campaign dedicated to sharing all the details about gift bundle three.
- Email #5: Campaign dedicated to sharing all the details about gift bundle four.
- Email #6: Campaign dedicated to sharing all the details about gift bundle five.
- Emails #7: Last campaign reminding your newsletter subscribers to pick up their holiday gifts before they’re gone. Briefly highlight all the gift bundles again.
3. Promote your holiday gift guide on social media
GWI research indicates nearly one-third of consumers in North America use social networks to look for more information about brands, products, and services. Promote your holiday gift guide via your social channels to notify your followers about it. This way, you’ll reach a blend of existing customers and new customers and encourage them to check out your holiday gift guide. You can also incentivize them with limited-time special discounts for gift guide purchases.
4. Create shoppable Instagram posts
When promoting your holiday gift guide on Instagram, use shoppable posts to reduce friction for buyers and open Instagram as a direct revenue stream. This way, your followers can click directly on the image to open up product pages and seamlessly purchase items from your holiday gift guide.
“It’s crucial to share your holiday gift guide on multiple platforms. After all, you’ve already created the content—the easy part is distribution. We shared our guide on our blog, through email marketing to our Canadian and US audiences, and via our Instagram Stories and posts,” says Connie Lo of Three Ships.
5. Team up with other local businesses to collaborate on holiday gift guide creation and promotion
Tap into your network of local retail business owners to see if they’d like to collaborate on creating and promoting a holiday gift guide. Doing this can help add more value and options for customers and increase the exposure of each of your businesses during the holiday season.
The key here is to make sure the businesses you’re partnering with reach a similar target audience. For example, if you sell women’s beauty products, teaming up with a spa and yoga studio could be a good combination, but joining forces with a men’s apparel shop wouldn’t bring you the same positive results.
6. Offer special discounts on holiday gift guides
Offering flash sales or special offers on your holiday gift guide is a great way to incentivize shoppers to pick up products or bundles from your retail business instead of from the competition. It can also encourage customers to make purchases earlier in the season if they know they’ll get a discount that won’t be available later.
For example, you can create a special offer that coincides with the launch of your holiday gift guide and only make it available for the first one to two days or for the first 10 shoppers who purchase products from the gift guide.
7. Develop marketing campaigns that target your ideal customers as well as the people buying gifts for them
Your target customers will likely share your holiday gift guide with their friends and family if it sparks their interest. But it’s also important to think about how you can directly attract the people who will be buying gifts for your target audience. You can do this by using creative gift guide names that will solve the buyer’s problem.
For example, “The Holiday Romance Gift Guide: 12 Products Your Wife Will Love (You For)” will likely attract husbands who know their wife would like a romantic gift, but may have no idea where to start.
8. Offer various order fulfillment options for holiday gift guide purchases
The growth of click and collect options such as buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup has accelerated due to the pandemic. And according to the National Retail Federation, 70% of consumers say that BOPIS improved their experience by increasing convenience.
If you’re not already offering these omnichannel order-fulfillment options, the holiday season is a great time to start testing them. To make sure your customers are aware of the various options for online ordering and in-store pickup, list the details in your holiday gift guide marketing campaigns as well as on the landing page.
9. Provide help choosing gifts
Within your holiday gift guide you can create a section telling shoppers how they can contact you for help or to build a customized gift bundle. This is also a great time to use virtual shopping and clienteling strategies so customers can connect with you or your staff via text, chat, or video. Doing this will help streamline the online and offline shopping experience, improve customer satisfaction, and help you sell more holiday gifts.
When is the best time to start promoting your holiday gift guide?
According to Statista, in September 2020, almost 40% of customers were likely to begin holiday shopping before the end of October. And research from the National Retail Federation confirms that, in 2020, 42% of consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than usual. This trend will likely continue this year.
“This year we will start promoting our gift guides earlier, as most people are starting to shop earlier in the year for the holidays, especially with the pandemic impacting global shipping timelines,” says Connie Lo of Three Ships.
Keep up with the competition and avoid getting lost in the crowd by creating and promoting your holiday gift guide early. We’re predicting the holiday shopping season may start even earlier this year, so make sure you’re ready to promote in October.
Sell more with a holiday gift guide
The holiday shopping season is a busy and stressful time for retailers and consumers alike. That’s why it’s vital to plan ahead, so the decision-making and buying process is as easy as possible for your customers.
By taking the time to organize and create your holiday gift guide for the right target audience, and by promoting it at the right time, you’ll help customers find the best gifts for their friends and family—and reach your holiday sales goals while you’re at it.
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