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The ho-ho-holidays are here again! It’s time to ring in the cheer with a new wave of seasonal marketing campaigns.

The major problem, of course, is that everyone else is rolling out their campaigns at the same time. Competition is fierce, so you need to find a way to make your brand stand out.

A Changing Market Presents New Holiday Challenges

Making things more complicated than ever, the market is changing (again). Digital commerce grew by a whopping 34% last year, with mobile traffic being the most important. “Black Friday” has largely been replaced by “Black November,” with shoppers now spreading out their spending over the month — although the week ending with Cyber Monday accounted for 35% of the revenue brands saw for the entire 2017 season.

Plus, brands now have to turn their attention to a new wave of shoppers. Members of Generation Z are arriving on the consumer scene. Along with Millennials, they’re now an important part of revenue streams everywhere.

Because these shoppers are true digital natives, you can’t expect them to scour flyers and newspaper ads for sales — or even watch to television ads. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter are all major players when it comes to influencing these shoppers and driving holiday traffic.

A Successful Holiday Season Takes An Effective Marketing Strategy

In case you’re wondering, it’s definitely not too early to start organizing your holiday campaigns. It takes strategy if you want to make your holiday promotions stand out from your competitors.

Don’t worry — we’re here to show you the most important steps:

Get Your Timing Right.

Timing is everything when it comes to holiday ad campaigns.

Unfortunately, consumers have somewhat contradictory attitudes toward holiday shopping. Shoppers see early holiday sales as blatant commercialism — which they find off-putting. At the same time, about 59% of women and 48% of men start their holiday shopping well before Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

If you’re running a business, this puts you in a tight spot. Push your holiday promotions too early and you’ll raise eyebrows and hear a collective sigh of exasperation from consumers who feel like they’re being rushed. If you wait too long, your competitors will have already lured your customers away.

The solution is easier than you might think.

Holiday shoppers are looking for deals. It’s no secret that most people are operating on limited budgets, and many shoppers go where they find the best deals. As soon as practical in November, start offering promotions on gift items that are designed to grab consumer interest — just don’t market them as holiday promotions!

A carefully selected array of gift items can be promoted as a “Fall Sale.” Then, follow up with a full-blown holiday campaign that’s timely. This year, Black Friday falls on November 23rd, so you can start your formal holiday promotions about a week earlier, on the 16th and go all in right after Thanksgiving.

Go “All Out” With Your Holiday Theme.

Take a little time and consider your brand’s voice and overall values. With that in mind, focus on a specific holiday theme that you can use to guide your promotions — whether it’s one of childlike wonder, rustic nostalgia, traditional, humorous, or something else.

Then commit to it, full-force. Make sure that you:

  • Update your website to reflect the theme as soon as your official promotions start.
  • Do the same with your social media sites, so that everything rolls out together.
  • Update your automated emails to past customers with holiday images, colors, and other indicators of the season to help build excitement.
  • Encourage a sense of specialness about the season, with seasonal shopping bags or bows, gift wrap, unique boxes for gifts, and limited-edition items.

Think those little things don’t matter? Consider how important Starbuck’s annual Facebook reveal of its holiday cup has become. 

Holiday Starbucks Cups

(Liliane Kamikazi/Starbucks)

Every festive touch matters in holiday marketing.

Leverage Your Social Media Power

Use your social media sites to enhance your relationship with shoppers.

Take the time to connect to your viewers through storytelling. Highlight your brand’s commitment as a good corporate citizen through your community efforts around the holidays or simply showcase the office holiday party. The important thing is to remember that the holidays are all about human connections.

Target’s 2017 campaign offers an excellent example of how to do this. The company’s ad on YouTube and elsewhere focused on telling stories about their company mascot, Bullseye, and the children he encounters — and slipped in details about the holiday offers along the way.

Target 2017 Holiday Ad

Use social media as a way to build excitement about what your brand has to offer. You can tease or preview upcoming sales and even offer exclusive deals to your followers. Shoppers love a bargain — and they love the brands that give them out!

Make It Easy On Shoppers.

The easier you make the purchase process, the more you’ll win over your customers’ hearts (and wallets). Embrace the following ideas:

  • Put out different marketing materials that offer gift suggestions. Use “Top 10” lists for Generation Z shoppers and gift guides with product reviews for Millennials. Shoppers hesitate less to purchase when they’re given some direction and encouragement.
  • Encourage self-gifting with two-for-one sales and “gift with purchase” deals.
  • Advertise your shipping policies and deadlines early. There’s a huge falloff in online purchases starting around December 17-18 every year because of consumer fears regarding delivery. Do what you can to ease them if they’re unnecessary.

The holiday season is special, so treat it — and shoppers — with special care. You can’t go wrong if you focus on a great holiday theme, pay attention to the timing of your campaigns, carefully work your social sites into your plans, and make shopping as simple as possible. Do that, and your customers may just swear you’re working directly with Santa to make their holidays bright!

Kelly B&W 500 square
Kelly Shelton
VP of Marketing at

Kelly has over 20 years marketing, sales and customer service experience. He is a champion for small businesses and prides himself in helping them compete and thrive in a digital world. Kelly is currently the VP of Marketing for Boostability, a company dedicated to helping small businesses grow online. He manages a team that is responsible for demand generation, customer messaging and experience, branding, social media and all things marketing. His expertise includes search engine optimization, social media, content marketing, customer communication, lead generation and conversion optimization, to name a few.