Holiday shopping is starting sooner. Are you ready? Use these holiday marketing tips to build a winning strategy.
Here you’ll find:
- Why you should start holiday marketing plans now
- How to use social selling tactics to boost sales
- The value of “m-commerce” for holiday marketing
- How to find the best holiday keywords to beat the competition
With fall in full swing, marketers know what that means: It’s time to talk holidays.
Simply recycling last year’s plan would be a disservice to your customers. Reverting to your pre-pandemic tactics because things are “going back to normal” would also be a mistake.
COVID variants have many people still wary of shopping in stores, and inflation is poised to shake up spending habits – now and into the new year.
As a result, making the online shopping experience as joyful, seamless, and stress-free as possible will be a top priority for many brands again this year. Conveying that message will largely be up to marketers.
The question now is: How can you leverage the latest holiday marketing tips and tools to ensure your products or services stand out? We’re glad you asked.
#1 Start your holiday marketing early (like yesterday)
Beginning the holiday shopping season early helps consumers save on gifts. So it’s no surprise 61% of shoppers started in November 2021 — 57% of whom shopped online.
And seems to be happening again, but even earlier this time. Roughly 25% of shoppers began holiday buying in August this year, and another 25% plan to start again in October.
And inflation isn’t slated to halt holiday spending in 2022 — but it’ll impact how consumers shop. For example, 72% will spend less than $500 on holiday gifts. And 51% plan to use online coupon sites and apps to find deals.
So what does this mean for brands? That it’s been time to start your holiday marketing efforts. With holiday sales starting earlier than ever, there’s no time to waste.
Build holiday digital marketing campaigns now and put a focus on deep discounts and bundled packages to attract lean spenders.
…and consider ending holiday campaigns early
One tactic John Ross, CEO of Test Prep Insight, uses is starting and ending holiday campaigns early. We’ll let him explain:
“[Online stores] have gotten pretty aggressive in the duration of their sales, so to beat them to the punch, you have to act early. But to overcome consumer instinct to wait it out for steeper discounts closer to the actual holiday, we place a shot clock on the sales. Using a big, bright banner on the nav bar of your site makes it clear that the sale will end in 48 hours or less, making consumers compelled to act quickly.”
Plus, some shoppers have limited funds during the holidays, so it’s better to get their attention before the holiday season kicks off.
“We’ve experimented with starting sales as early as the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and it’s been extremely productive for us,” Ross adds.
“Just make sure to cut that sale off by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest during Thanksgiving week — you want people to feel that last-minute sense of urgency.”
Pro tip: Google recently published holiday shopping trends worth keeping an eye on in 2022. These include connecting with local shoppers by creating a Google Business Profile and running a local campaign, embracing omnichannel shoppers, and listing your products for free across Google Shopping.
#2 Focus on personalization & authenticity — especially for younger audiences
Email marketing company Mailchimp suggests personalizing recommendations to drive more sales. This way, you can leverage sales data to offer relevant product recommendations, showcase best-selling products, and highlight new arrivals. (Plus, it addresses the dreaded issue of cart abandonment.)
Nurturing relationships is a key marketing component. Personalizing your holiday emails is one effective way to do just that.
And it might be easier than you think: Simply adding each recipient’s name to an email campaign via a token can drive significant engagement (more on email best practices below).
When crafting personalized email campaigns, ensure your messaging is authentic. Millennials and Gen Z buyers respond much more favorably to authenticity than traditional marketing tactics like tease-y ad copy.
At this point, consumers are aware you’re advertising to make profits. But if you can make your promotional emails personable, then that can make the messaging feel more intimate.
It’s easy to play into emotions with holiday ads. It’s a sentimental season that, for many, symbolizes family, reflection, and new beginnings. HubSpot has examples of how emotion works effectively in holiday marketing ads.
Often, holiday ads include messages around giving, nostalgia, and gratitude. Just make sure your campaigns don’t come off saccharine or manipulative. You can avoid this by building campaigns with authenticity at the forefront that speak to real-life situations.
As Adweek explains, video content appeals to emotion and fosters connection, particularly when you leverage creators.
Pro tip: Forbes suggests partnering with micro or “nano” influencers as a way to get your message across authentically. This is especially effective if you find influencers genuinely interested in using your product or service. Rather than scripting the message, simply give them some bullet points to cover. The content should feel natural because the influencer, ideally, is in line with your target demographic.
#3 Send promotions directly to email inboxes
Despite new programs and ad platform features cropping up regularly, email campaigns are still one of the most effective tools marketers have at their disposal. And the holidays are a great time to get creative with your marketing emails.
Shopify reports that consistent email marketing converts better than other channels, and it’s the method 80% of businesses use to generate new leads and create loyal customers. Take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in your email campaigns to provide special offers and a little extra purchase incentive.
Emails that get the best open rates often include elements like:
- An eye-catching subject line
- A hierarchy of content (with the most important info at the top)
- A mobile-friendly design
- A strong call-to-action (CTA)
- An interactive element
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with appealing visuals. Data shows more than half of marketers use GIFs in email campaigns.
#4 Use social media to drive visibility & sales
As we’ve mentioned before, more than 75% of companies that use social selling outsell the competition that doesn’t. Social commerce is on the rise, due to a handful of factors that include the pandemic and the growing trend of people searching and shopping via their smartphones.
Live streaming and conversational commerce (chatbots and live chat) are two ways brands are experimenting with social media holiday shopping. Roughly 76% of brands using social commerce say it’s an important company initiative.
But it’s not just the consumer packaged goods industry banking on social commerce. Here’s a look at others finding value in it as well from 3Q Digital:
We know what brands have to say about social media shopping, but what about the shoppers? According to Essence Global, 80% of consumers surveyed are likely to buy on social media after watching a livestream or participating in an online chat.
The social commerce market speaks for itself, which is nearly $475 billion as of 2020, with an expected 28% growth rate between 2021 and 2028.
What’s motivating shoppers to purchase via social media? Here’s a look at the top reasons driving social purchases:
- Ratings and reviews
- Promotions and discounts
- Product pages
- Payment and shipping options
- Engagement before sales with the brand or influencers
Social media platforms for holiday marketing
Social media is no longer just for socializing — it’s for holiday shopping. TikTok, Reddit, and Facebook even have guides showing brands how to build a holiday content marketing strategy for their platforms.
What’s more, TikTok shares that its community is actively looking for promotions and deals for gifts. But instead of approaching your campaigns with the mindset of “creating ads,” try to start by crafting content that inspires.
After all, TikTokers are more than twice as likely than other social media users to look for fashion and beauty inspiration.
They also look for ideas for products that make life easier, travel destinations and decor. Best of all, their holiday shopping doesn’t end with the holidays: the app also claims 29% of TikTok users continue shopping after the holidays end, and another 21% get a head start for next year’s gift shopping.
Here’s a holiday promotion schedule Reddit built for marketers:
However, just because TikTok users are more likely to do holiday shopping on social media doesn’t mean others aren’t worth your time.
Here are a few examples to inspire your holiday marketing ideas.
Create a post where users can purchase items displayed in the video or photos you post, like in this Instagram post from @shopfrances:
Paid social ads
Use Facebook to promote specific products or lines (with a discount):
Holiday giveaway posts
Not every post has to be a “buy now” promotion. Another goal of holiday marketing is to build brand awareness. One option is showing holiday spirit by giving away freebies:
Pro tip: Don’t forget to use hashtags to boost visibility and yield more views and engagement.
Live streaming events
Nothing is more personal than real-time engagement with prospective customers. Live streaming connects brands with consumers, giving them an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about your products before they buy.
“Live shopping” is a growing trend: though TikTok waffled on rolling out this feature in the U.S., they recently announced they’re moving forward with it.
#5 Don’t sleep on holiday marketing via text
It’s one reason brands are investing more in SMS (short messaging service) and MMS (multimedia messaging service) text marketing. If you’re already building an email list, consider doing the same for your SMS list.
A report from mobile marketing platform Attentive shows over 4,000 brands using its SMS service generated over $830M in revenue during 2021’s Cyber Week alone. That’s at least hundreds of thousands in sales for a single week.
What makes holiday text marketing successful is that consumers willingly sign up for SMS programs. Attentive’s brand partners saw more than 8.5 million sign-ups during last year’s Cyber Week. That’s a 61% year-over-year (YoY) increase from 2020.
What likely helped fuel this growth were the sign-up forms and landing pages brands built to promote Cyber Week deals for new SMS subscribers.
#6 Build holiday-specific landing pages
Where shoppers land after clicking on your ad can make or break your chances of a sale. Your sales page should be colorful (consider using holiday-themed colors or a fun Santa graphic) and have easy-to-spot deals and CTA buttons, like this one:
Another option is to create an evergreen sales and events page you update year-round with new deals. This way, it’s already ranking for related keywords and generating backlinks (and traffic) from various sources.
If you don’t offer deals throughout the year, then hide it using a temporary 302 redirect (vs. a permanent 301 redirect).
Otherwise, create one-off sales pages for Black Friday and Cyber Monday before shoppers begin browsing for the perfect gift.
Take things to the next level by producing SEO content that’s more personal and natural and less promotional, but equally attractive and targeted to holiday shoppers as a way to boost organic traffic and foster brand trust.
You can even create a gift guide that’s free to download (in exchange for an email or SMS subscription):
Pro tip: Publishing in-depth guides as part of your holiday marketing strategy also improves your ranking potential, thanks to Google’s new helpful content update.
#7 Stay on top of your technical SEO
Onsite SEO and paid ads drive traffic — if a promotion goes viral, there can be a huge influx of traffic at once. The question is, can your site handle a large surge of your target audience coming all at once to purchase your products or services?
The only way to know for sure is to check your technical SEO.
Start by analyzing your site’s performance and load times. If URLs are too slow to load or buggy with poor user experience, you’ll be sure to lose new customers in a flash. Make sure to avoid this by keeping the technical side of your site running smoothly.
When auditing your site, make sure to check:
- Load speeds across mobile and desktop devices
- CTA buttons and forms
- Issues with page indexing
- Pages that are duplicated or outdated
- Broken external and internal links
- Lack of SSL certificate (or other page security measures)
- Missing or inaccurate canonicals
- Confusing website architecture
This can be a lot to take on, especially if you’re doing everything manually. These tools can help speed up the process:
- Screaming Frog: A tool (with free and paid versions) to audit a site’s technical SEO and identify deep-rooted issues
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights: Finds underlying problems decreasing site performance (e.g., code issues, site architecture, etc.)
- WebPage Test: Scores your website load times and provides ways to improve speed
#8 Get creative with long-tail holiday keywords
So, we’ve got good news and bad news.
The bad news is you’re not just competing to steal shoppers’ attention from retailers, e-commerce stores, and other competitors in your industry. You’re also competing with brands and publishers that have adopted direct-to-consumer (DTC) models.
Data from BrightEdge shows retailers are losing their share of e-commerce keywords — from 70% owned in 2020 to 57% in 2022. Brands now occupy 23% (up from 18%) and publishers have 11% (up from 4%).
More generic phrases like “Thanksgiving gift ideas” likely won’t help you cut through the clutter. These terms are also too competitive, decreasing your visibility, while increasing your CPC (cost-per-click rate).
The good news: You have options. You can expand your holiday SEO opportunities via long-tail keywords. It’s also wise to do a little digging with tools like Google Trends to find the most popular searched terms for your holiday campaign.
For instance, we can turn a broad term like “Christmas gifts” to “Christmas gifts for grandparents.” When you search for the 5-year trend for this phrase, you see there are spikes every year, showing great potential.
But don’t stop there — find other opportunities in the related queries box:
You can see breakout terms for key phrases for other loved ones, like “What to get dad for Christmas” and variations like “Gifts for grandparents who live far away.” Use these queries as ideas to create a gift guide, product bundle, or PPC ad creative that attracts these shoppers.
Pro tip: Our specially designed ConversionIQ platform helps marketers determine which keywords are driving the most conversions (and to identify who those customers are), It makes ad management a breeze and simplifies identifying your top and lowest ad performers, along with tons of other metrics. Learn more here.
#9 Brush up on the latest holiday marketing resources
Many of the big names you already trust for business-related products and services also have helpful guides for holiday marketing and sales. Here are a few to get you started.
Facebook & Instagram (aka Meta)
If you’re not advertising on Facebook, now’s a great time to explore this option. Not only do they have a huge platform teeming with potential customers to show ads to, but their data and advertising advice are top-notch.
Not only that, but you can easily create ads that are shown on both Facebook and Instagram, and get a consolidated report of performance on both platforms. Here’s Facebook’s holiday marketing guide, and Instagram’s guide to best practices for the season.
The latter can analyze your website’s customer experience to tell you how your performance stacks up against others in your industry or retail category. Google also published a 2022 guide to driving sales for retailers and brands.
When it comes to free resources, HubSpot has no shortage of materials. They recently released their State of Marketing Trends Report 2022.
It’s got 50-plus data points from more than 1,500 marketers, along with information on industry trends, important insights, and strategies to make the most of your 2022 holiday initiatives.
Brushing up on the latest resources, getting creative with ad platforms and messaging, personalizing where possible, and staying on top of social media trends will keep your efforts in good standing through the 2022 holidays.
But what if you’re not confident in running a holiday marketing campaign? Or just don’t have time to manage all the moving parts yourself? If that’s so, then schedule a call with a marketing expert at HawkSEM to see how we can build and grow your holiday marketing campaign for you.
This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2021.