The Ultimate Retail Holiday Marketing Guide

It’s that time of year again where retailers must start making holiday preparations. And for many, this is the busiest and most profitable time of the year. 

Whether it’s making room for waves of new product shipments, freshening up the marketing for your brand, or hiring new employees to help with the rush, the list of tasks seems endless. Specialty Retailer is here to make your holiday preparations a little less daunting with our Ultimate Retail Holiday Marketing Guide.

But before jumping right into holiday campaign planning, here is some prep work to think about:

When Should You Start Your Holiday Marketing?

When it comes to holiday marketing, timing is everything. Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, suggests that smaller retailers plan their campaigns well in advance to ensure they align with key shopping dates, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entire holiday season. Creating a content calendar and setting up automated marketing workflows can help retailers stay organized and consistently deliver their messages across various channels.

What Are Consumers Looking For in Terms of Holiday Marketing?

According to Reilly Newman, Brand Strategist at Motif Brands, the answer is nostalgia. “This is what Disney and Coke have proven to us decade after decade. Nostalgia is being discovered by brands and they are leveraging it. People will spend more on a brand if nostalgia is part of that purchase. There is this deep-rooted nostalgia as to why we do certain things and when you think of tradition, it is rooted in nostalgia. Think of how things used to be and how it makes us feel – retailers can lean into that,” Newman says.

Review Data From Last Year

Doing a bit of prep work can save retailers money and stress once the high volume sales days come, according to Katie Wilson, Founder at Serious Moonlight Consulting. Retailers should review their daily sales and traffic to prepare for this year. Use free tools like Google Trends to see what days demand for top products or keywords surged. 

Retailers can compare that to advertising costs and budgets daily to see if they were able to successfully capture all traffic or if there were high volume low cost days overlooked. This can also help in planning out promotions for the season to make sure brands encourage folks to shop early when volume and ad costs are low.

Make Sure Your Website is in Tip Top Shape

Before beginning any marketing campaign planning, it’s important for retailers to ensure their websites are updated and ready to handle the influx of online traffic. 

“Triple check that your website is functioning and mobile-friendly, especially if you offer e-commerce,” Ashley Mason, Marketing Consultant and Founder at Dash of Social, says. “As a buyer, nothing is worse than when you go to a company’s website and discover that it loads slowly, has broken links, is hard to navigate, or something else. Additionally, many people do their shopping from their phones or a mobile device. If a website is difficult to navigate from a mobile device, buyers will give up on trying to make a purchase.”

Jeanel Alvarado, Editor-in-Chief, Founder and CEO at RETAILBOSS, also suggests retailers make sure that estimated shipping times are accurate. Brands can even go so far as having Christmas delivery cut-off dates for customers so they know to order gifts well ahead of time. In addition, smaller retailers can create an omnichannel experience, whereby customers who shop online will also be able to request gift wrapping. 

“For smaller retailers, I recommend they start with cleaning base,” Guy Sheetrit, CEO at Over The Top SEO, says. “This involves building landing pages for each holiday offer, doing proper SEO for these pages before proceeding to advanced tactics such as unconventional content marketing, and launching display ads on Google. 

As retailers do begin planning holiday marketing campaigns, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Increase Your Reach With Email Marketing

Email marketing still has the highest conversion rate out of any channel, but it’s important to write compelling copy and double check that all the links work. Megan Cotanch, Chief Revenue Officer of S2W Media, suggests that retailers hire a copywriter to make sure the copy stands out and is SEO-friendly. Google rankings and profits are sure to benefit.

“Utilizing email marketing is another effective tactic for holiday preparation. Retailers should build and maintain a subscriber list to which they can send personalized offers, exclusive discounts, and early access to holiday promotions. Personalization is key here, as tailoring messages based on customer preferences and purchase history can significantly boost engagement and conversion rates,” Morgan says. 

Pro Tip: Mason advises retailers to tease any special offers to their email list first. Email subscribers are already full of warm leads or potential buyers, as they’ve made the decision to opt into the email list to stay up-to-date on everything that is being offered. Additionally, as a way to entice people to join an email list, let shoppers know that they’ll be the first to know about any promotions or special sales. This will encourage them to join the list, which will help to grow it, ultimately giving retailers a bigger audience to market to.

Stand Out With Limited Edition Products

Without a shadow of a doubt, creating limited-edition holiday products is a triumph for smaller retailers gearing up for the holiday hoopla, according to Henrik Park, CEO at Marketin. This isn’t just a trick, it’s a dynamic approach that can set any store ablaze with excitement and, most importantly, sales. 

“When customers sense scarcity, it sparks a primal urge to possess. It’s the age-old ‘grab before it’s gone’ impulse, a phenomenon that fuels urgency. And for a smaller retailer, this isn’t just a strategy – it’s a golden ticket to the heart of holiday success,” Park says.

Market at Local Events

Participating in local holiday fairs and curated events can help retailers gain exposure and attract new customers. Alvarado recommends smaller brands reach out to popular malls and their local area to do a pop-up. Many malls have vacant spaces or smaller kiosks to explore. 

“Attending or sponsoring downtown pop-up programs and holiday markets are tried-and-true ways to increase local shopper discoverability for your store and/or products as well as collected information for future marketing,” Rae Guimond, Strategy & Business Development Director at PriceSpider, says. “Offering free samples with promo codes and QR codes for easy loyalty program signup or marketing emails are quick ways to engage with potential shoppers as they browse goods during local events.”

Stores Should Feel Like a Go-To Holiday Destination

Andy LaPointe, Founder, Owner and Author at Traverse Bay Farms, owns two retail stores in Michigan. He offers a unique holiday experience by setting up a holiday HO-gauge train display in each of his stores. 

“It’s great for kids of all ages, and we call it the ‘Santa Express.’ The train table is covered in snow and we have all winter-related activities on display. This has become so popular,” LaPointe says. 

Creating a festive atmosphere in a brick-and-mortar store with fun decorations and themed window displays can all help to make it feel like a go-to holiday destination. Alvarado suggests that retailers offer free gift wrapping or some free tissue paper and ribbons with a purchase to incentivize customers to spend money.

Connect With Customers Through Social Media Marketing

Social media platforms play a crucial role in holiday marketing. According to Morgan, smaller retailers should engage with their audience by:

  • Posting regularly
  • Sharing festive content
  • Running targeted advertising campaigns
  • Showcase new products

“I think one of the best ways for retailers to market themselves is through social media,” Mac Steer, Owner and Director at Simify, says. “I would recommend using Facebook and Instagram, as they’re both popular social media platforms that you can use to connect with customers. It’s also a good idea to make sure your business has a website or blog where people can find more information about what you do or even see pictures of products they might be interested in buying.” 

Dan Wagner, CEO of Rezolve, proposes that retailers change the way they think about social media. While Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are all great ways to raise awareness, they can also be thought of as launch pads for a fully integrated digital experience. Make it easier for shoppers by:

  • Including a shopping link so they can purchase at the point of interest.
  • Activating features like ApplePay and GooglePay so they can purchase in an instant.

Partner With Other Brands

Collaborations and partnerships can be a valuable strategy for smaller retailers, according to Morgan. By teaming up with complimentary brands or influencers, businesses can expand their reach and tap into new customer bases. These are some strategies that can be used when collaborating:

  • Cross-promotions
  • Giveaways
  • Co-branded content

“Partnering with businesses that sell products or services complementary to yours and that have similar clientele is an excellent way for you to expand your reach and get seen in front of more people. Whether you decide to host a webinar or share information on each others’ social media profiles, collaboration is key for getting seen in front of new faces during the holiday season,” Mason says.

How to Ultimately Convert More Shoppers, Even in Economic Instability

Guimond recommends that retailers think like a shopper. Ask yourself if you have the product and delivery experience that facilitates purchase confidence and seamless checkouts. Here are some things brands can do to ensure this:

  • Optimize website and product detail pages. These are common barriers that may cause customers to stray from a page. Incorrect or missing product information, difficult navigation, and checkouts that require login or multi-step processes are all barriers. 
  • Offer easy delivery and return options. This can build shopper trust and loyalty. It not only encourages conversions, but also increases item counts and basket totals. Doing this can even help decrease the amount of returns brands get at the end of the holidays.

The holiday season can make or break revenue goals for any retailer. Follow our guide to help make the most out of this busy shopping period and attract new customers.