Retail Best Practices: Nailing your Holiday Marketing

Retail Best Practices for Holiday Marketing

At this point, it’s no secret to anyone that 2020 has been a trying year that has thrown all standard operating procedures out the window. As we head into the holiday season, there is still a lot of uncertainty ahead. Consumers are expected to spend about $50 less per person this holiday season, increasing competition among existing retailers to secure those holiday dollars.

Marketing campaigns need to adapt, along with everything else this year, and follow retail best practices for COVID-19. This year’s best practices will be clearly different (vs last year), since brands are called to take much more complex decisions, affecting both organizational and strategical aspects of the company. From smaller, more manageable advertising messages to addressing the changing consumer preferences, brands need to customize their holiday marketing message for the times we live through.

Holiday marketing in numbers

  • Consumers expect to reduce their holiday spending by 25% this season. McKinsey
  • Brand loyalty is faltering as consumers try new, less expensive brands, and of consumers who have tried new brands, 73% plan to continue using them. McKinsey
  • 45% of consumers are shopping using their smartphone this holiday season. PwC
  • Approximately half of the people that canceled typical travel plans for the holidays plan to spend some of that additional money on gifts. CNBC
  • 39% of consumers say that they are willing to spend more on local brands after the pandemic. Globalwebindex
  • You can discover even more statistics about holiday marketing in this article of ours.


Holiday marketing and COVID-19: What are the latest trends and industry predictions 

Gatherings will be smaller.

People will be meeting in smaller groups instead of throwing large holiday parties this season. This changes the type of decorations required along with the amount that people are willing to spend. Whereas a party for 20 people requires 20 place settings, five gatherings with four people only require four place settings. It’s the small individual changes that will have a large impact on retail spending this holiday season. Marketing should highlight the quality of products over quantity this holiday season.

More events will take place outside.

Because the latest scientific research says that transmission of the virus is less likely in open-air meetings, more holiday gatherings (where weather permits) will take place outdoors than in prior years. This is an opportunity for additional sales of products that would facilitate outdoor gatherings such as outdoor fire pits, tents, lighting, and outdoor furniture.

Corporate events will likely be canceled.

Employers are very cautious about bringing people back into the offices and will likely extend this caution to corporate events. If any of your products might be a substitute for a corporate holiday party, you may want to highlight that in your marketing. 

#11 Creative Retail Best Practices for Effective Holiday Marketing

Despite the new challenges this holiday season brings for marketing teams, implementing these creative retail best practices can help ensure a successful holiday sales season. 

Retail Best Practice #1: Prepare for Digital-First Holiday Marketing Campaign

digital first holiday marketing
Consumers are more likely to opt for eCommerce this holiday season.

Recommended Strategy: 

Consumers are no longer starting their shopping by casually browsing through stores. With all the additional safety measurements in place, consumers start shopping experiences online, either on websites, search engines, or direct emails.

Recommended Tools: 

Digital holiday marketing campaigns should include holiday website updates, direct email marketing, and targeted advertising. 

Cost to Implement: Low

The majority of retail establishments have already made significant investments in their web presence but should continually refine and revise their message based on changing customer attitudes.

Retail Best Practice #2: Prepare a Holiday Crisis Management Scenario

Recommended Strategy: 

If there’s one thing that we’ve all learned in 2020, it’s that we should expect the unexpected. Retailers need to be prepared for another pandemic wave, potential government restrictions, or rapidly changing customer preferences.

Recommended Tools:

Retails must be prepared to have additional supplies on hand and have clearly stated policies for employees and consumers. Additionally, consumers should be quickly informed of any changes to their orders. By using marketing to manage expectations, brands can preserve relationships with their customers.

Cost to Implement: Medium

The costs will depend on what preparations have already been made. Keep in mind that clear communication is a relatively cost-effective way to lessen the impact of any future crisis.

Retail Best Practice #3: Create an Omnichannel Holiday Marketing Plan

Recommended Strategy:

Omnichannel holiday marketing plans include all aspects of a retailer’s business, including online and offline channels. By creating a unified message across all potential points of contact, brands build a solid brand image and gain additional insights into customer behavior.

Recommended Tools: 

ContactPigeon, or any omnichannel customer engagement platform for retailers

Cost to Implement: Low

There is a small investment in your time to set up the platform and a small learning curve, but these platforms make it easy to manage your omnichannel marketing plan.

Retail Best Practice 4: Create a Specific Holiday Category Section

holiday retail best practices holiday categories
Holiday special categories from Macy’s

Recommended Strategy: 

Add a holiday section to your retail website and store, if space allows. Even if you are not selling holiday items, you can highlight items that would make excellent gifts or be used for holiday entertaining. 

Recommended Tactics:

You should work with your existing website manager to add this additional section (and remove it after the holiday has passed). This should allow you to integrate the new content seamlessly. Check out how to plan a user-friendly category page with these best practices.

Cost to Implement: Low to Medium

The effort required may be depending on the complexity of your website and product offerings. 

Retail Best Practice #5: Integrate or Create a Digital Loyalty Program to Boost Retention

Recommended Strategy:

Consumers like to feel appreciated by the brands that they frequent. By adding a loyalty card or multiple purchase discounts, consumers will sense that they are appreciated and are not just contributing to your bottom line.

Recommended Tactics:

Loyalty programs can either be managed internally by in-house experts or outsources to companies. If you choose to manage the program internally, ContactPigeon can help you manage the program’s communications.

Cost to Implement: Low to High 

Again, the resources required to implement may depend on the complexity and awards provided to customers.

Retail Best Practice #6: Include a Holiday- Themed Freebie with Every Order (Online or Offline)

Recommended Strategy:

Everyone likes getting something for free! This year, more than ever, it’s important to surprise and delight your customers. If you want to take this to the next level, you can make the free gifts collectible or limited editions to encourage repeat visits and orders.

Recommended Tactics:

Work with your marketing team to determine which gifts fit your brand image and then determine the budget. 

Cost to Implement: Low to High

The costs will be driven by your predetermined budget. Keep in mind that delighting customers will go a long way this season, and these freebies will probably pay for themselves through customer loyalty and joy.

Retail Best Practice #7: Create and Distribute LOTS of Holiday DIY Content

holiday retail best practices: holiday diy ideas
DIY candy dispenser idea with links to purchase raw materials.

Recommended Strategy: 

2020 has been a year spent at home with lots of extra time on everyone’s hands, allowing everyone to explore their do-it-yourself to-do lists. Use this trend to your advantage by providing DIY content to engage your customers.

Recommended Tools:

Canva, or an inhouse or outsourced designer (freelancer)

Cost to Implement: Low

There is a lot of content online, or you can hire a low-cost freelancer to complete this project for you. 

Retail Best Practice #8: Consider Growth Via Marketplaces

Recommended Strategy: 

Joining other established marketplaces could unlock additional sales channels (such as Amazon, eBay, etc.) to take advantage of these corporations’ holiday budgets and advertising. By selling your products on these marketplaces, you benefit from their traffic, which drives more people to your brand and increases your brand awareness.

Recommended Tactics:

It’s simple to create an account and start posting your products on these sites. 

Cost to Implement: Low

The only investment is when it takes you to post the items you want to sell on the marketplace. Also, be cautious of the percentage commission that may cut into your margins. 

Retail Best Practice #9: Keep Your Operational Costs as Low as Possible

Recommended Strategy: 

With the new lockdown, the store’s sales are expected to be significantly lower than last year, so a retailer should carefully optimize its fixed and variables expenses. This might mean shorter store hours or fewer employees.

Recommended Tactics:

Communication is essential if you are going to change any of your standard operating procedures. You’ll want to make sure that customers are aware of any limitations to your in-store services.

Cost to Implement: Low

This should save you money, but some expenses will be incurred when putting together information and customer communication.

Retail Best Practice #10: Do Data Mining on Your Customer Data

Black Friday peak shopping hour
Monitor trends in past holiday sales such as how traffic volume changes over the hours for optimally timed campaigns.

Recommended Strategy: 

Analyzing the historical transactional data from the previous Holiday Season and Lockdown #1 can provide invaluable insights and knowledge about your customer base. The more you know about how customers have reacted in the past, the more prepared you will be to handle any customer behavior changes in the future.

Recommended Tools:

ContactPigeon, or any omnichannel customer engagement platform that offers customer behavior tracking and predictions.

Cost to Implement: Medium

This will require the collection and interpretation of large amounts of data over a period of time. The holidays are the best time to start the collection, given the expected increase in overall data volume.

Retail Best Practice #11: Conduct A/B Testing of Messaging

ab-testing-email-marketing
AB testing of email campaigns for the best outcome.

Recommended Strategy:

Create multiple versions of marketing material and track your testing results to determine which message works best.

Recommended Tools:

ContactPigeon, or similar campaign tools retailers. ContactPigeon offers multivariate testing of campaigns, where you can determine the percentage of your contacts to test. When a conclusive result has been reached, the winning template will be delivered to the rest of your contact lists.

Cost to Implement: Medium.

There is an upfront cost in designing multiple types of messages, which can be done internally or externally. The results of the testing may require a data analyst to interpret.

Be the Santa of Your Company

Your company needs you to deliver results this holiday season, and creative marketing can help you achieve the end of year results you need. 

With the current economic condition along with the amount of uncertainty, it’s important that you act now before the start of the retail holiday shopping season to ensure that you are position well to succeed this season.

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Joyce Qian

View posts by Joyce Qian
Joyce runs Growth & Strategy at ContactPigeon. On a daily basis, she ponders on different ways businesses, big and small, can grow and achieve success. Outside of work, Joyce loves reading, traveling and exploring her new found home in the ancient city of Athens.