Check out these 35 strategic holiday marketing tips, and tap into the massive online shopping potential of the holiday season.
Last year’s pandemic holidays saw a record number of online shoppers.
In November alone, ecommerce sales hit an all-time high of $100 billion, and by the close of the 2020 holiday season, online sales totaled more than $188 billion.
If you’re an online seller wanting to reach holiday shoppers during the 2021 holiday season, you’ll face unique challenges, such as:
- Increased brick-and-mortar shopping
- High customer expectations on website UI, infrastructure, and inventory transparency
- Massive competition for online sales.
We’ve got you covered!
This comprehensive guide to holiday marketing shows you everything you need to know to compete for online sales during the 2021 holiday season.
For example: You should launch your campaigns earlier this year than ever before. Find out why and get new timelines below.
You’ll also get tips to help you connect with holiday consumers and increase your sales regardless of how the pandemic does or doesn’t affect this year’s activities.
Bookmark this article now, so you don’t miss out on tips, examples, ideas, and information that can make your holiday campaigns a success!
In this article, you’ll learn how to increase your sales during the holiday season:
How Covid Will Affect Holiday Shopping
The 2021 holiday shopping season may bring a renewed interest in shopping, activity, and celebrations.
Or, as experts predict, the winter weather could put consumers back into pandemic mode.
Until we reach the 2021 holiday season, nothing is certain.
Marketers should prepare to pivot, flex, and change as the season progresses — like they did last year.
Let’s take a look at last year’s holiday shopping habits to help you understand what considerations to include for the 2021 season.
How Marketers Approached The 2020 Holiday Season
COVID’s impact on the 2020 holidays were widely felt across the globe.
Some even called it “COVID Christmas.”
Social distancing, quarantine, and health issues impacted nearly all aspects of long-held holiday traditions.
In-person events, family gathering, religious services, and in-store shopping experienced a steep decline compared to previous years.
Gift-giving was one of the few traditional holiday activities left intact, thanks to advancements in online shopping and delivery over the previous five years.
Analysts wrongly expected that consumers would cut their spending, but correctly predicted that online sellers would get a bigger piece of the pie than brick-and-mortar shops.
Most experts assumed that the 2020 holiday season would be the biggest online sales event ecommerce had ever seen, and they were right.
Consumer Holiday Spending Statistics From 2020
According to a holiday spending report by Consumer Reports, here’s how the pandemic affected the holiday shopping season:
- Online holiday shopping increased by 49%.
- Overall holiday shopping increased a bit:
- A Mastercard report showed a 2.4% increase between November 1st and December 24.
- The entire 75-day holiday shopping season saw a 3% increase in sales.
- Consumers started and stopped their holiday shopping earlier than any other year. The holiday shopping season closed earlier due to shoppers’ reliance on shipping.
- Black Friday and December 12 were the top shopping days.
- December 12 was the last day shippers could guarantee delivery before Christmas.
- Usually, the Monday before Christmas (December 21 in ‘20) is a top shopping day, but last year it wasn’t even in the top ten.
- Consumers purchased different items than they normally do:
- Spending for the home (furniture, home furnishings, etc.) skyrocketed by 31%.
- Electronics sales increased by 6%.
- Clothing sales dropped by 19%.
- Department stores saw a 10.2% decrease in sales.
- The National Retail Federation says the pandemic will cause consumers to spend 20% less on Valentine’s Day 2021.
The surge in online shopping doesn’t mean holiday sales are a slam-dunk for 2021.
The competition for online holiday shoppers will be more fierce than ever.
For starters, you can expect to compete with more local businesses than ever before.
Additionally, many of the national chains and businesses that survived 2020 — brands you’ll compete with for sales — are marketing wizards who were able to quickly pivot to technical and marketing needs when the country went into lockdown and distancing mode.
Although online sales could reach or exceed last year’s highs, ecommerce teams shouldn’t get too comfortable.
You’ll need to outsmart and outmarket your competition to get a piece of those 2021 holiday shopping dollars.
We’ve got you covered!
The tips, examples, and resources below will get you up to speed and competing with your toughest ecommerce rivals this holiday season.
You’ll find out how to improve your messaging, product promotions, campaigns, technical functions, and more.
Holiday Brand Marketing Begins With A Human Connection
This year, like last, brand messaging could make or break your business more than ever before.
Brands that succeed will have a talent for understanding when to acknowledge the loss and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic — and when to avoid mentioning it.
Overall, marketers will strive for messaging that helps consumers feel better, appropriate to however the pandemic or vaccines change their customers’ reality.
Whether your messaging brings hope, joy, humor, nostalgia, inspiration, a spirit of giving or unity, or the promise of better health, your ability to connect with consumers on an emotional level may be as critical as the quality of the products you sell.
Gimme The (Good) Feels
To connect with audiences, your brand must create experiences that build relationships.
This year, you need more than quality products and services to reach consumers. The tips and examples in this section will help guide you in the right direction.
Tip #1: Show your audience that you understand them.
Ignoring the COVID crisis and the struggles of your audience may give your audience the impression that your brand is oblivious to their struggles.
Last year, 70% of people were willing to shop exclusively with retailers and brands that personally understood them, according to a Redpoint survey.
Make it a priority to acknowledge the crisis and prove that you care about your audience. We share tons of positive, uplifting examples throughout this article.
Tip #2: Create campaigns and messaging that deliver a positive emotional “punch.”
Joy, humor, inspiration, remembrance, and happiness are some of the positive emotions that fit well into marketing campaigns.
Build content and campaigns that make your audience feel any of one these, and you’ll likely earn their loyalty.
Lego’s 2020 “Rebuild the World” ad provides that personal connection while acknowledging the sacrifice kids are making during the pandemic. The under-2-minute video shows children breaking down the walls of their homes to enjoy an adventure through the world of Legos.
Tip #3: Bring on The Joy!
Incorporate joyful moments into your advertising, like this one from Amazon about a young ballerina who triumphs despite the challenges of 2020.
Tip #4: Acknowledge the hardships of your audience.
Many people made unthinkable sacrifices this past year, including essential workers who risked their health, and teachers & students who struggled through virtual learning.
Consider acknowledging the people you admire in your brand marketing.
In the example below, you’ll notice that Aldi does this with a brief message at the end of its commercial that reads “Merry Christmas and Thank You all key workers.”
Tip #5: Sprinkle in some fun.
Finding ways to bring light humor or silliness into your campaigns can be an excellent way to break the ice and connect with your audience.
For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods video “Run, Run, Rudolph” shows a distribution center where products come alive, packing and shipping themselves, in the absence of people.
Tip #7: Use audience-appropriate humor.
If you can connect with your audience through humor, you’ll make instant friends.
For example, Arby’s deep-fried turkey pillow seems like it must be a joke.
The pillow is real and currently for sale on its own website. It was released to promote the brand’s seasonal deep-fried turkey sandwich.
Tip #8: Tell stories.
You can share stories through written content, images, or videos.
Storytelling is an excellent way to form a human connection that audiences crave, and it’s making a huge comeback this season.
For example, the must-see Bouygues Telecom video shows a father and son’s bad-dancing holiday tradition throughout the years.
The video ad puts less emphasis on selling, and more focus on building a heartwarming human connection.
Good storytelling doesn’t require high-quality video, big productions, or even fancy words.
A simple photograph or one-line caption can tell a big story, when it’s done well.
There are countless ways to connect with your audience on a personal level while still keeping a positive attitude and putting the focus on your brand and its products.
Encourage your team to review how other brands are doing this and brainstorm unique and creative ways to help your brand connect on a personal level.
Brands that can elevate their audiences’ state of mind this holiday season will gain their attention and appreciation.
Add A Human Touch To Your Digital Content
With Covid possibly still restricting or minimizing holiday gatherings this season, consider how your business might fill the gap by creating experiences for your customers.
Tip #9: Use live video to interact with your audience.
Give your audience the opportunity to interact with your brand in real time on social media.
Tip #10: Plan a virtual live holiday event.
Virtual events will replace most in-person events this season, so why not plan a live event for your audience?
For example, Kitchn food magazine’s virtual Thanksgiving Food Fest, held on Instagram, features two full days of virtual Thanksgiving activities led by editors, well-known cooks, and bakers.
Facebook and Instagram both provide the platform, tools, and resources you need to promote and stream live virtual events.
B2B brands might consider live virtual events such as webinars or virtual trade shows.
Tip #11: Create an exciting unboxing experience.
If you sell multiple products, make your brand stand out by creating holiday bundles that provide a delightful unboxing experience. Remember to make them camera-ready for social media!
For example, a simple finishing touch like stickers and cards with festive brand messaging can make your products stand out.
Tip #12: Build online communities.
If your brand hasn’t built an online community, group, or forum, consider creating one on a social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit.
Tip #13: Pump up the user-generated content. #ShareMe
Use contests and giveaways to encourage your audience to share your content with their friends and followers on social media.
Need ideas for user-generated content campaigns? Get tips, instructions, examples, and more in our Ultimate Guide to Reposting on Social Media.
With most people forgoing events and in-person gatherings to stay safe this year, brands have the opportunity to fill in some of those gaps by adding a human touch to their holiday marketing campaigns.
How To Use Social Media To Engage Holiday Shoppers
Below are tips and resources to help you build relationships, raise brand awareness, boost engagement, and sell products on social media.
Tip #14: Learn to create engaging Stories on Instagram and Facebook.
The Stories format is a wild success for brands on Instagram, and is catching on with Facebook audiences as well. Stories allow you to promote products, events, and more using a fun and interactive format.
Find out how to use all the tools and features of Stories formats, plus get creative ideas, engagement tips, and view tons of examples, in the following Sharelov guides:
- Ultimate Guide to Instagram Stories for Business
- The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Stories Stickers
- Ultimate Guide to Instagram Stories Highlights
Tip #15: Schedule your posts strategically.
Publish your posts when they’re most-likely to get the highest engagement from your audience.
We analyzed hundreds of reports and expert opinions to bring you the best time to post on the top four platforms – Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn.
You can discover tips and ideas for posting around work-from-home schedules, plus tips and ideas for engaging your audience, in the following Sharelov guides:
- Best Times To Post On Instagram
- Best Times to Post on Facebook
- Best Times To Post On Tiktok
- Best Times To Post On LinkedIn
Tip #16: Use social media advertising to reach new customers.
Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok provide advanced audience targeting so you can quickly reach people that fit your customer profile.
You can learn all about advertising on different social platforms, and view step-by-step guides, in Sharelov’s advertising guides:
- Facebook Advertising Handbook
- The Complete Guide to Instagram Ads
- Complete Guide To TikTok Ads
- All You Need to Know About Advertising on Pinterest in 4 Easy Steps
Tip #17: Jump on the TikTok bandwagon!
TikTok’s intention to “Make Your Day” works thanks to all the users who post videos that spread joy through dance, challenges, and music. TikTok is an excellent match for this holiday season, because it allows people to unite through creativity (with a large helping of “silly”).
Find out how to create engaging content for Tiktok in our Marketer’s Guide to Brand-Building on TikTok.
If TikTok’s not your thing, check out the Instagram version, called “Reels,” an Instagram format that lets you create short-form videos similar to what’s on Tiktok.
Tip #18: Check your social media analytics daily.
Checking your insights daily can help you respond to the unique demands of the holiday season.
Good news! Social media analytics interfaces have become more intuitive and informative over time.
We’ve got several guides to help you understand how the analytics work on different platforms — and how you can use them to increase your sales and engagement.
- The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Analytics
- The Ultimate Guide to TikTok Analytics for Brands
- The Complete Guide to Pinterest Analytics
There’s an even easier way to access analytics, especially if you like to check them daily (which we recommend, especially during the holiday season).
Sharelov’s got the most visual, quickest, easiest social media insights on the planet.
You can quickly view, analyze, and share Instagram and TikTok insights with your team and clients from within your Sharelov dashboard. Why not sign up for a free trial right now?
Tip #19: Get your social media specs and size requirements in advance.
Posting media with the best sizes and specs for each platform will help your content look its best.
You can access updated platform suggestions in our Complete Guide to Social Media Image Sizes.
Tip #20: Engage with your audience daily.
Responding to comments and reviews helps build trust and connection with your audience.
You can learn all about how to generate engagement through comments, how to manage the commenting systems, and how to respond to comments in our ultimate guide here:
Although the guide is focused on Instagram, you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks to boost your engagement on any social media platform.
Tip #21: Learn to work Instagram.
Instagram’s platform provides countless tools and features to boost your holiday sales on its platform.
If you haven’t built a sizable audience on Instagram yet, we can help you get up to speed with the following Instagam guides:
- The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags
- 22 Tips to Create the Perfect Flat Lay Images for Instagram
- 4 Steps to Mastering Instagram Video Marketing
- 15 Ways to Get More Instagram Followers
- How to Write the Best Instagram Captions
Holiday Marketing Ideas For Brands
From campaign launches and promotions to ordering, logistics, and technical needs, you can expect customers to take a quick pass if their shopping and purchasing experiences don’t meet their expectations (remember, the competition is huge this year).
Tip #22: Offer free shipping.
90% of consumers say free shipping is their #1 top incentive to shop online more often. Orders with free shipping average about 30% higher than those without. 58% of consumers will add more items to their cart in order to qualify for free shipping.
Tip #23: Provide fast shipping.
According to the results of a study by Digital Life Index, fast shipping is the #1 reason consumers choose which brand to shop with.
Tip #24: Get your product videos and how-to content ready.
31% of people are more likely to buy from brands that provide educational materials such as product videos and how-to content.
Tip #25 Offer gift wrapping.
Last-minute trips to buy gift-wrapping supplies are more of a challenge this year, so make it easy on your customers by providing gift-wrapping services with their purchase.
Tip #26: Package products together in holiday-themed bundles.
For example, EatGourmet’s “Old Time Coke Snack Pack” packages several products together to increase sales and provide a visually appealing holiday package.
Tip #27: Promote gift card sales.
After-holiday returns will be a bigger challenge this year, since many people won’t want to go to brick-n-mortar stores to make a return.
Many gift recipients are unsure or hesitant when it comes to shipping returns. You can solve this problem by encouraging your customers to purchase gift cards.
Tip #28: Provide a wide selection of product suggestions.
Use data from your customers, emails lists, and website to curate personalized suggestions for shoppers.
Holiday Marketing Campaign Tips
Here are a few tips to help you elevate your campaign strategies this season.
Tip #29: Send pre-season thank-you cards.
Send out “Thank you for being a customer” cards to connect with people who’ve purchased from you during the year. You can include incentives and discounts as a thank you.
Tip #30: Take advantage of social shopping.
Shopping on social media has developed rapidly over the past several years, with services such as Facebook and Instagram shopping and Instagram Live Shopping (plus TikTok shopping on the way).
Don’t restrict your social media campaigns to promotions — you can sell directly on these platforms!
To learn more about how to use all the features and tools on Instagram, check out our ultimate guides here:
Tip #31: Add some holiday cheer to your profiles and website!
Add a festive touch to your social media profiles and website, and while you’re at it… make sure that all your profiles are consistent in messaging and branding.
Consistent profiles help build trust with customers and reassure viewers that they’ve reached the right place.
Find out how to create an Instagram bio that engages new viewers.
6 Tips to create the perfect Instagram Bio
Tip #32: Use email campaigns to tailor messaging to different generations.
You can cater to the types of content, style, and products favored by different generations when you use segmented email campaigns. Email marketing campaigns are an excellent way to boost sales during the holiday season.
Adding a festive appearance to your branded content and profiles perks up your appearance. Remember to use the tools and resources from all your platforms to accelerate your holiday sales!
Check Your Back End
Get ready for high-traffic and sales this season by giving your website, shopping experience, and content a technical check-up.
Tip #33: Up your mobile-friendly game.
By now, your site is hopefully mobile-friendly so that people can enjoy browsing and purchasing your products from their phones and devices.
Talk with your technical team about any pending updates, and ensure that your mobile versions are prepared to handle heavy traffic.
Tip #34: Strengthen your technical response time. Make sure that your backend team is prepared to flex to new demands and problem-solve as quickly as possible.
Tip #35: If you’ve been procrastinating on polishing your website’s UX, do it today.
Many businesses have spent the past months scrambling to adjust the usability of their websites while also trying to meet inventory demands.
If your user experience has taken a back seat to technical issues, inventory challenges, and crisis management — now is the time to give a little more love to your overall user experience.
A Unique Opportunity For Marketers
Holiday seasons present unique opportunities for brands that are willing to flex their marketing muscles and create unique, targeted campaigns.
Approach your campaigns with sensitivity to build relationships with consumers, and strengthen your marketing tactics and sales experience to increase your sales this season.