Developing Effective Holiday Marketing Strategies

Last updated on: 2022

Agency Life

It’s no secret that the holidays are the most wonderful (read: lucrative) time of the year for businesses. Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and holiday shopping, retailers experience a sharp increase in sales throughout November and December, with some companies raking in anywhere from a quarter to more than a third of their annual revenue during this two-month period. A brand’s ability to capitalize on the seasonal shopping frenzy is crucial to its overall success, which is why developing effective holiday marketing strategies is so important. 

Let’s look at the pros and cons of a couple approaches for developing effective holiday marketing strategies!

Gift Guides Galore

Pros: If you’re on the mailing list of any brand, beauty or otherwise, odds are you’re familiar with this time-honored tactic. Holiday gift guides help simplify the shopping experience by providing customers with a range of gifting options that may be organized by category, price point, target audience, or sales history. Content strategist Francesca Nicasio characterizes gift guides as “one of the most powerful tools you can have during the holidays” for developing effective holiday marketing strategies. By curating products in advance and limiting the number of choices available to customers, gift guides appeal to those who lack direction, struggle with indecision, or wait until the last minute to complete their holiday shopping (so…most of us). This particular marketing approach tops the charts in terms of both popularity and effectiveness. According to Shopify data, over 45% of customers said they rely on gift guides “to inform their purchases during the holiday season,” and emails containing gift guides “generate 48% higher sales compared to other promotional emails.” Not too shabby, eh?

Cons: Due to their sheer abundance, making a holiday gift guide that stands out from the rest is easier said than done. “Creating a winning gift guide takes more than just rounding up your products and putting them in a catalog,” Nicasio cautions. In order to really drive sales, it must be “thoughtfully curated and marketed.” Check out this article for more on what it takes to make the gift guide marketing strategy truly successful.

Good Examples: When it comes to holiday gift guides, some beauty brands hit the nail on the head. If you’re looking for inspiration, explore The Healthy Hair Holiday Gift Guide from OLAPLEX; you can’t go wrong with giving the gift of good hair. For luxury cosmetics and skincare products, check out bluemercury’s gift guide, which allows you to filter by recipient for added convenience. 

Let’s Bundle Up

Pros: Every brand tries tactics differently, but there’s a clear common denominator: selling things in sets is all about playing the long game. As a beauty merchandising strategy, bundling performs especially well around the holidays — self-care sets are oh-so-giftable, and holiday gift guides make marketing these sets a total breeze. Plus, by offering limited-edition bundles specific to the season, retailers increase the sense of urgency customers feel about purchasing the product before it’s too late. Bundles also sell well this time of year by catering to niche target audiences: Sets for Him, Sets for Her, etc. They’re curated, they’re convenient, and they typically come in cute packaging. What’s not to love?

Cons: Sets are expensive to manufacture — from a retailer’s perspective, that’s what’s not to love. It’s also where playing the long game comes in when developing effective holiday marketing strategies. Lindsay Holden, co-founder of hair care brand Odele, acknowledges the financial risks but adds that if your brand is big enough, the extra cost might be worth it. “We consider these types of programs a marketing investment — a way to build awareness, drive trial, and ultimately convert new people to Odele,” she says. But due to cost concerns and supply chain restraints, holiday kits may not be the best option for newer or smaller brands. Tisha Thompson, founder of LYS Beauty, explains why: “It’s hard enough to get our best sellers stocked and in stores, so do I really want to pay thousands of dollars to air freight holiday stuff to sit on boats for months and months? It [isn’t] worth the stress.” Another major issue is sustainability: gift sets require significantly more packaging than stand-alone products, and added packaging means added waste. “We can’t produce something that’s just going to go into the recycling bin or end up in a landfill the moment someone opens it,”  Minori founder Anastasia Bezrukova said in an interview with Glossy. “So if we made a box, it had to be high quality, so that people will think it’s special and want to keep it.” And what does it take to up the ante on packaging quality? You guessed it — more money and more materials. 

Good Examples: The clean skincare brand Boscia knocks holiday sets out of the park. With a wide range of kits at different price points, customers have access to options without being easily overwhelmed. Boscia also does an excellent job of marketing their gift sets to niche target audiences: take their Airplane Mode Skincare Set for example, which they recommend “for the jet-setter in your life.” The kit consists of five different travel-sized products, all of which are TSA-friendly. Well-played, Boscia. Well-played.

Thinking Up More Holiday Strategies?

Other useful holiday marketing strategies include optimizing for mobile, offering Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), running giveaways, and rewarding loyal customers with unique discount codes. For a more in-depth overview of these holiday sales tactics and more, check out this blog post from BigCommerce.

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