Holiday Marketing 101: Everything You Need to Know to Win the Season


Sales may have increased over the 2016 holiday season, but as Retail Dive pointed out, this increase masks the fact that many retailers struggled to connect with customers.

Part of this struggle was a result of the American Presidential Election ending so close to the holiday season. Many marketers struggled to find the right tone after such a divisive event.

But the bigger problem was the reliance on deals and discounts to drive sales.

While brands traditionally do a great job telling stories during the holiday season, digital marketers’ efforts seemed to shift in 2016, with many resorting to ‘deals and discounts’ to drive sales.
— Marika Roque, VP of Digital Media Activation at Federated Media

This reliance on deals and discounts may have driven a short term boost in sales, but it likely didn’t help brands build additional loyalty or brand equity — rewards they could reap year-round.

Tip #1: Combine Discounts with Emotional Marketing to Capture Brand Loyalty and Sales

Industry news talks a lot about authenticity and emotional appeal — especially over the holiday period. These are labelled as “good” marketing strategies, while discounts and deals get a bad rap.

However emotional marketing and discounts aren’t necessarily opposites. In fact, combining storytelling with discounts can create a compelling holiday campaign that drives both a short term sales lift and long term loyalty.

Think about it like this: if you create a brand experience that’s fun for consumers, why not target them with personalized discounts or deals while they’re already feeling positive towards your brand?

This is a common strategy with game-based sweepstakes and contests. You create a fun, addictive game. Then hand out coupons as instant win prizes, or send targeted offers that consumers need to redeem to earn more chances to win.

Instead of just sending out a pile of coupons to your email list, suddenly you are using discounts to nurture already engaged customers. And you can bet they’ll be more likely to use your coupon than one of the 20 other coupons sitting in the “promotions” tab of their inbox.

Tip #2: Don’t Aim for One Sale; Increase Basket Size with Targeted Offers

Take your holiday campaign one step further, and use your discounts to increase basket size instead of just capture sales.

I’m not talking about BOGO deals either; those are everywhere during the holiday season.

Instead, send targeted offers based on your consumer’s data. One way to do this is with a product recommendation quiz. Guide consumers to the right product based on their inputs. Then instead of sending a coupon for the main recommended product, send coupons for related products.

For example, if your quiz recommends the consumer purchases a new FitBit, target them with coupons for an additional wristband — not the FitBit. This lets you use the same coupons or discounts you would normally offer — just in a more targeted way to increase basket size.

Tip #3: Encourage Brand Advocacy on Social Media

Word of mouth is still one of the most influential aspects of consumer purchase decisions. Encouraging brand advocacy over the holidays can help bring in more customers — and improve your existing relationships with loyal customers.

Curating brand enthusiasts not only helps boost holiday sales, but it is ‘a gift that keeps on giving,’ with more loyal customers all year long. Brand enthusiasts also ‘share’ their brand passion with their social media friends, which magnifies the brand influence on consumers’ decision on where to shop.
— Jeffrey Neville, VP at Boston Retail Partners

But to encourage brand advocacy, you need to give customers a reason to share.

Adding referral options to your holiday marketing campaigns can help spread the word — but only if you reward customers for sharing.  Keep in mind rewards don’t necessarily need to be financial — if you're running a game-based promotion you can reward referrals with more opportunities to play or entries for your grand prize.

The Bottom Line

Emotional marketing and discounts don’t have to be on opposite ends of the holiday marketing spectrum.

Smart marketers know that combining the two can result in an explosive holiday promotion that drives both sales and brand loyalty.