For many ecommerce businesses, the holiday season is the busiest time of year. 

Whether it’s freshening up your landing pages, creating brand awareness with your holiday marketing campaigns, finding others ways to target new customers and everything in between, the list of tasks seems endless.

However, business owners and marketers alike understand it’s an opportunity to strike big and the final chance to boost sales before the new year.

The holiday shopping season formally begins with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and leads up to the slew of December holidays, including Christmas. It’s never too early to start planning for it, either.

You don’t want to miss seasonal promotional opportunities or holiday sales  — especially to your competitors who may have started preparing already.

As more and more consumers shop online, the planning phase is arguably the most important part of a successful season. Here are some ideas and templates to make those holiday promotions shine:

What Makes a Great Holiday Marketing Strategy?

Crafting a magical holiday strategy, especially during a pandemic, can seem particularly overwhelming. Don’t overwhelm yourself and stick to the basics.

1. Audit previous holiday marketing campaigns.

No matter how many curveballs life throws, you can still learn and prepare from past success. Look back at statistics from previous years to understand where you won and where you could use some improvements. Analyzing your previous strategies and campaigns will help you avoid making similar mistakes.

In addition to performance statistics, consider looking at customer data. Has your customer base changed a lot in the past year? What are the main demographics? What do they value? Understanding these key elements of your ideal customer will help you craft holiday messaging that clicks.

2. Identify holiday marketing strategies that fit your audience.

No holiday marketing efforts are created equal. Don’t simply mirror your competitors’ strategies. The key to a successful holiday marketing campaign lies in knowing your target audience.

If you have younger customers, like Gen Z or Millennials, consider amping up your social commerce efforts to share special offers or holiday promotions. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, get creative with last-minute gift ideas available with curbside delivery or buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) options.

3. Create a schedule for syndication.

When it comes to the holiday season, work smarter — not harder. Find opportunities for content syndication that not only saves you time and money, but also creates a more unified experience for your customers. 

The following holiday marketing tips and promotion ideas will help you refine your efforts to ramp up sales during the most profitable time of year:

  1. Err on the side of simplicity.
  2. Be ready to react and adapt quickly.
  3. Use a more content-driven approach.
  4. Be prepared for more competition than ever.
  5. Consider an influencer strategy.
  6. Avoid false urgency. Create a real reason to buy.
  7. Don’t forget about your existing customers.
  8. Partner with a non-profit.

1. Err on the side of simplicity.

It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday planning. However, it’s better in the long run to start small with your holiday campaigns, especially if this is your first holiday season as a brand.

Even larger retailers who have been around for decades often refer back to the basics during the holidays. It all depends on the amount of bandwidth your team has and the amount of support your operations will have during the holidays.

The holidays are not a good time to experiment with a new approach for customers, especially if you’ve done thorough testing and discovery year-round to nail down the correct messaging.

There is too much on the line. If you want to be extra creative and try a new approach, consider doing an A/B test.

“Simpler is better. Be clear with promotions and product announcements and make the checkout process easy, clean and secure.”

— Jason Young, Founder, Ballistic Agency

The reputation you’ve built with customers throughout the year will be one of the deciding factors when they choose where to shop for that perfect gift from Santa or a gift card for their loved ones. Make sure you’re standing by with a customer experience that matches what they’ve been through when they purchased in the past.

Using social media marketing, including the use of hashtags, is another simple approach to take.

2. Be ready to react and adapt quickly.

The saying “all hands on deck” holds no greater meaning than when you’re a retailer during the holidays.

Regardless of the size of your website, you’ll need to have a fast-acting team available to remedy any issues that may occur on your site, on your holiday ads, including Facebook ads, and anywhere else.

It goes beyond digital and content preparations. Consider amendments to your customer service, shipping, fulfillment and operations teams to handle the extra visitors and orders. 

Additionally, you need to react quickly when things aren’t going as planned.

3. Use a more content-driven approach.

With the growth of online shopping, customers are more familiar with holiday campaigns than ever before. They often see the same thing year after year, so their eyes may glaze over at the traditional sales and marketing tactics.

The same themes that emerged during the last year in ecommerce will apply to holiday marketing strategies as well.

The main theme that will stay true during the holidays is the “content-first” approach that innovative and trending brands are using today. Using content marketing as a method to reach customers, we’ll see brands offer more personalized shopping experiences, including discount codes and holiday gift guides.

Adding a content strategy element to your holiday marketing ideas can reap big rewards, especially if you keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. This optimized content will help drive organic traffic to your website as customers search for products that you sell — even if they’ve never shopped with you before.

If you’ve introduced a new brand voice or customer marketing strategy over the past year, be sure to weave that new messaging into your holiday campaigns — otherwise, it may result in a disjointed customer experience.

4. Be prepared for more competition than ever.

With so many promotions around the holiday shopping season, email marketing is as important as ever to draw customers to your online store. Make sure your email campaigns help you stand out from the crowd and clearly communicate the benefits of shopping with you over your competitors.

However, getting customers in the door is just part of the battle. Cart abandonment paired with the rise in competition can make the holidays a troublesome time for retailers who struggle to keep up with changing customer activities.

5. Consider an influencer strategy.

The effectiveness of influencers wavers between industries, but many companies use social media marketing during the holidays.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and sometimes even LinkedIn are clear avenues for brand interaction during the holidays.

“When planning your holiday marketing strategies, ensure your team has the tools they need to respond. For example, if you are expanding your social media campaigns or working with influencers, you should have customer support processes in place to be able to respond to new customers across those channels in case they have questions.”

— Emma Kimmerly, Partner Marketing Manager, Gorgias

Make your presence known to social media users by applying an influencer strategy that carries through to the holidays.

6. Avoid false urgency. Create a real reason to buy.

If panic buying has taught us anything, it’s that consumers can have a sense of urgency and will purchase when they have confidence something they need or want will sell out. The holiday season is known for deep pricing discounts that can only be found once a year and shoppers know how to spot the good ones.

When creating your holiday marketing plans, make sure you’re clearly incentivizing shoppers to visit your online store and complete a purchase.

There is a fine line between haphazard discounting or giveaways and creating a relationship with your customers. You don’t want to devalue your brand to the point where customers think it’s cheap. They might not be compelled to make a repeat purchase.

The holiday season isn’t just about creating revenue — it’s also about establishing connections with customers who will return to purchase in the off-season. Make sure that customer retention is top of mind during any marketing decision you make for the holidays.

7. Don’t forget about your existing customers.

Chances are that the visitors who come to your website during the holidays will be a healthy mix of new and returning customers. The pathway to purchase for a repeat customer looks very different than a new customer, so make considerations for both while building out your plans.

8. Partner with a non-profit.

After all, this is the holiday season and, after a tough year, consumers are looking forward to the merriment of the season. 

For many, this means giving back and doing good deeds. Consider partnering with a non-profit to get in the holiday spirit while sharing your brand mission with your customers. 

“This is the season of giving, so align with a cause or non-profit that maps to your customers’ values. Create a campaign to reach a set goal, then use compelling storytelling to show how you give back to the community.”

— Randy Kohl, Head of Marketing, Gorilla Group

If you’re unsure where to start, consider partnering with a local organization or tap your customers to learn which organizations are close to their hearts. End the year on a positive note.

Holiday Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

While not every campaign is created equally, there are definitely some tactics you’ll want to steer clear of. Let’s break down the leading mistakes to avoid:

1. Not understanding your buyer personas.

The number one advice for all businesses: understand your customer. This advice may sound like a broken record, but it couldn’t be more vital to your holiday marketing success. 

Having a digital marketing campaign that is crafted specifically for your buyer personas will help your brand stand apart from competitors and hold your customers’ attention.

2. Focusing on only one marketing tactic.

Using one marketing tactic not only limits your potential customer reach, but also lacks the creativity and authenticity consumers’ expect. 

While you may spend a majority of your time focusing on one or two marketing tactics, like influencer marketing or display ads, use the holiday season to try new avenues. 

For example, Checkout on Instagram or Facebook Shops.

3. Last-minute planning.

Whether you’re a big company like Amazon or a small business, one of the most common mistakes online stores make during the holidays is late planning.

For those early holiday shoppers, you’ll need to start executing your marketing tactics in similar fashion. You don’t have to wait until after Halloween to get those campaign ideas rolling.

4. Sending too many emails.

Go to your inbox and count how many promotional emails you receive in a day. It’s probably more than you’d like.

Now, ask yourself which emails captured your attention. What was different about them?

Holiday email marketing can easily be overdone, but it’s the emails that add value and creativity that capture subscribers’ eyes. 

A simple yet catchy subject line needs to spark interest, but you’re only going to increase your click-through rate by crafting a value-add email. 

Be mindful of how many emails are in your stream and what purpose each one serves. This will create less work for your team and improve overall customer satisfaction.

Get Ready to Spread Gifts (and Cheer)

The holiday season will make or break revenue goals for almost every B2C retailer.

An increase in customers shopping online paired with a constant stream of competition makes it harder for brands to succeed during the holidays, but there are steps you can take in advance that can position your brand above others and earn loyal customers.

Start planning now, optimize your content, keep your customers in mind during every decision you make and don’t forget about establishing lifetime value with your brand.

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