For most ecommerce businesses, the holiday season is the most profitable time of the year. For an average online store, it can account for up to 40% of annual sales. Last year, for instance, from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, the US retailers saw an estimated sales revenue of 135 billion dollars(which is 13% higher than the year before).
Although the holiday season officially starts on the day after Thanksgiving, most retailers start promoting their offers at the beginning of November.
If you own an online store and are looking for holiday marketing ideas, it’s always a good practice to look at what other businesses are doing and which tactics bring the highest ROI.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of them, namely:
- 📣 Social media promotion
- 📧 Email marketing
- 📅 Interactive holiday content
- 🚚 Free shipping offers
Plus, we’ll include popup templates to help you promote special deals right on your website:
This year’s holiday season will be a unique time for ecommerce
Businesses should expect engagement and sales to ramp up, potentially more than normal due to Covid-19 keeping people away from physical stores.
This holiday season will be unique because the pandemic has forced many businesses to close temporarily, while several major retailers have filed for bankruptcy. Brands that previously only had physical stores have moved online, creating new competition. With lockdowns still in effect, online holiday sales are expected to have a higher volume than usual.
So, how are retailers planning to keep up with the competition this year? According to Bazaarvoice, 55% of retailers said they will be investing more in ecommerce website upgrades, social media, and social commerce. Plus, many stores will use innovative solutions such as curbside pick-up operations.
Let’s take a look at some of the holiday marketing ideas you may want to adopt this season.
1. Prepare to invest in social media promotion
In 2019, social media had the highest return on investment for holiday campaigns. Email marketing and targeted online ads follow closely behind.
The statistics isn’t surprising. A study by digital marketing agency ODM Group found that 74% of consumers make purchasing decisions using social media. And given that an average consumer spends 144 minutes on social media, these numbers are expected to grow.
So, what kinds of content do consumers respond to best?
Since it’s the holiday season, the majority of shoppers are likely to be looking for gifts online. If you want to drive their attention, create content about choosing gifts and on the best gift ideas for certain customer profiles. You can follow on from this with exclusive deals on the highlighted items.
One great way to do this is to offer rewards or discounts just for social media followers. Whether it’s a giveaway that is exclusive to your Pinterest followers or a 20% discount code that can only be found on Instagram, exclusive deals can bring great results.
Here is an example of a gift idea offered by Blurb Books, an online service for creating and publishing photo books. To start early with holiday sales, Blurb Books posted a discount code on their Instagram feed that gave their followers a discount on photo books and magazines.
Another great holiday marketing idea for social media is to offer free downloads. Free downloads are the best way to turn social media followers into email subscribers and grow your list. You can then use the power of email marketing to send your holiday offers directly to their inboxes.
The content offered in exchange for an email address is called a lead magnet. The examples of efficient lead magnets are numerous, including:
- Cheat sheets
- Software products
- Online courses
To promote a lead magnet on your social media channels, you can use a simple email capture form:
Generate a form like this one using Getform and then link to it directly from your Instagram bio or Facebook post.
One surefire way to build engagement is to host giveaways. This is a great way to make your audience feel special during the holiday season. Engage customers by using user-generated contests, like and share methods of entry, by hashtag campaigns, or by email submission.
If you want to get attention on social media, it’s also worth offering special products. Good examples are the holiday-themed cups by Starbucks, or unique holiday-related experiences such as a Thanksgiving cooking class, or a Halloween Haunted House adventure. These products or experiences should be ‘Instagrammable’ and easily recognizable as your brand.
2. Craft holiday marketing emails in advance
Email marketing comes in a close second to social media for ROI during the holiday season. And it’s easy to understand why. Holiday email design puts buyers into a festive mood while the content makes gift shopping marathons easier.
Now, here is the question: when should you start sending holiday emails to your customers?
Send your emails several weeks ahead of actual holidays if you want to break through the holiday inbox flooding and get noticed by your customers.
Customers frequently aim to complete their purchases in advance to avoid the holiday rush. So, marketers need to start their preparation at least two months before the actual holiday. The closer it gets to the day X, the more emails your customers receive daily.
Below, we’ll take a look at holiday newsletters that do a great job engaging customers and driving sales.
If you’re collecting data about customer interactions with your website, you know that personalized emails are the most effective ones. Using email segmentation, you can send special offers based on the customers’ interests: previous purchase categories, or sections browsed on a website.
Columbia used this tactic to drive the attention to their Black Friday deals.
Teasers and countdowns
Want to warm up your email subscribers list and prepare them for the big day? Look at the teaser sent by Tinker Watches right before the Black Friday sale. It is a perfect way to remind about yourself, create suspension, and drive people to your website.
Moreover, you can retarget those who opened this email by showing them ads on Facebook or sending them another promo newsletter.
Gift guides and holiday-related stories
Gift guides are always in demand. You can publish them on your website, promote them via social media, and use them in your emails just like BEZAR did:
The only thing that could have improved this newsletter would be a touching Mother’s Day story – motivating the users to spend the day in the family circle. The best emails tap into the emotions related to a particular holiday. If you find a way to incorporate emotions into your holiday marketing strategy, you should definitely do that.
Holiday promotional emails
Promo emails are the most popular type of emails during the holiday season. Depending on what you’re selling, you can be promoting a sale, a seasonal collection, or a particular product.
Below is an example of Murad’s Black Friday email, focused on promoting the brand in the context of the upcoming holidays.
The secret sauce of a successful holiday promo email? A clear call to action. Notice how Murad emphasized the invitation to shop, yet provided alternative paths for customers who’d prefer checking best sellers or new products instead.
Abandoned cart emails
If you own an online store, you know how high shopping cart abandonment rates are. When you’re unable to prevent abandonment while a customer is still on your website, it’s a good practice to send abandoned cart emails to remind about the items the customer was considering.
The ultimate goal of those emails is to convince people to come back to your store and complete their purchase. During the holiday season, the best way to do it is to alert potential customers that they may be about to miss out on time-limited deals, or guarantee free shipping times.
Notice, this email by ITALIC can be used both as an abandoned cart email and a reminder about the deal ending soon.
3. Implement interactive holiday content
The holidays are about celebrating and your content should reflect that. It’s all about radiating the festive spirit to your shoppers!
One proven holiday marketing idea is to use interactive content to engage your customers. Some of the best formats of interactive content are:
- Advent calendars
- Video content
Everybody loves quizzes. For customers, they are entertaining, and they provide real value. For you as a website owner, quizzes boost engagement and increase time on site. And holidays provide a lot of opportunities for quizzes of any kind!
For example, you can use quizzes to help customers choose a perfect gift for someone they care about. Or, if you are in the financial services industry, for instance, you can use calculators to help customers choose the right service or a credit card.
Place the quiz on your website and promote it via popups, social media, or a newsletter. We’ve talked about quizzes being a great lead generation tool for ecommerce, but in this case, they are aimed directly at increasing sales during a holiday season.
Advent calendars are another popular holiday marketing idea that works well for ecommerce. Such a calendar with a countdown to Christmas and other holidays enables customers to open a new window each day and find deals and surprises. It encourages them to come back and unlock a new day on the calendar. You can even add in a giveaway – meaning shoppers can submit their details in return for the chance to access a prize or special deal.
If you have a holiday-themed product collection, a special offer, a quiz, or any content you want to drive your customers’ attention to, the best way to do it is by using popups on your website. There are many ways to design popups, but the simplest way is probably by featuring multiple links on it.
Display such recommendations after a visitor has spent a few seconds on a webpage: that indicates they are interested in your content and more likely to respond to your calls to action.
Videos have a powerful capacity to tell a story about your products and communicate a certain sentiment. Video marketing statistics show that people tend to remember video more than any other content – and enhanced usage of video is one of the hottest ecommerce trends.
One great example of using video as a key tool in special holiday-themed marketing is H&M’s impressive “Come Together” campaign. Make sure to watch it if you need to get into the Christmas spirit!
This short film features Adrien Brody as a train conductor. The train is stuck in a snowstorm, and the conductor and passengers decide to throw a Christmas party together. Videos like this one help create a recognizable style that sets businesses apart during a busy holiday season. They also get people talking about the advert itself – doing your marketing for you.
Of course, you might not be able to invite Adrien Brody to be a part of your campaign, but even a simple stop-motion video featuring your products will do a better job at piquing your customers’ interest than a still image.
4. Offer free shipping and easy returns
Free delivery is often viewed as a must-have, rather than a nice perk. In fact, the lack of free shipping is one of the key reasons for shopping cart abandonment. This appeal makes it a frequently used promotion method, particularly during holiday seasons.
Over 70% of the US online shoppers claim the choice of free shipping greatly impacts their ordering decisions.
In addition to free shipping and delivery, consider offering easy returns. To make sure your customers know about the offer, place a sticky bar at the top or bottom of the page using one of Getsitecontrol templates.
Free shipping works best for holiday shopping compared to other periods because most customers are in a purchase mode – that is, they are in the right phase of a buying cycle.
The same applies to the free return policy. Studies show that around half of U.S. and Canadian online shoppers avoid buying from online retailers who do not offer free returns. Holiday shoppers appreciate generous return policies as it builds trust in the product and protects them from the fear of missing out.
Since easy returns of holiday gifts are by now a standard part of ecommerce, retailers need to master several crucial points:
Make the returns policy clear and easy to find on the website.
Ensure that you have internal resources – manpower and space – dedicated to processing returned items during holidays.
Prepare your business by predicting the volume of returned items – order management software can help here.
Prepare your holiday marketing strategy in advance
It’s time to plan ahead if you want to lock in early buyers during the upcoming holiday season.
Retail experts believe that ecommerce sales will improve due to the pandemic. For you as a business owner, that means one thing: customers will be looking for irresistible offers. Prepare your sales promotion strategy and get ready for increased demand.
Nick Shaw is the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Brightpearl, a leading provider of inventory, warehouse and omnichannel retail software. He is responsible for Global Marketing, Sales and Alliances for the leading retail inventory management software provider.
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