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It’s December and both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us — which means the end-of-year holidays are practically here and 2020 is nearly behind us. But before we get a fresh start in 2021, one challenge for brands remains: capturing consumers’ spend on gifts, which is expected to reach $189 billion online and as much as $767 billion overall.
But between deals in October and canceled celebrations, this is no ordinary holiday season. Which is why we’ve put together eight pandemic-friendly ideas that will engage customers and increase loyalty for the year ahead. (Plus, a little inspiration from some popular holiday songs.)
Keep in mind that December is much more than Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. There are a number of holidays throughout the month that brands can use to directly connect with a broader base of consumers. Hanukkah, which takes places this year from December 10 to 18, and Kwanzaa, which will be celebrated from December 26 to January 1, are two examples. Include these holidays in your December campaigns to be more inclusive and reflect changes we’ve seen throughout the year.
But December offers other occasions to connect with consumers, too. Take the winter solstice on December 21, for example. For the right brands — say, a clothing brand with sweaters, hats, and mittens, a sporting goods brand with sleds and ski gear, or a home goods brand that sells hygge items like candles and blankets just to name a few — this is an ideal moment to celebrate the official start of winter in marketing campaigns. But if the winter solstice isn’t the right fit for your brand, fear not.
Instead, consider one of the many lesser-known and sometimes offbeat December holidays to pique consumer interest. The list includes (but is not limited to!):
These holidays are clearly more niche and therefore limited in both relevance and appeal, but brands shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone anyway. Instead, find the right opportunity to zero in on an unconventional holiday to encourage customers to shop.
Check out our ultimate holiday marketing calendar:
A long-lost but extremely thoughtful way to connect with customers is by sending greeting cards -- as in snail mail greeting cards. We are experiencing high rates of digital burnout and tactical experiences spark tons of joy. Sending a handwritten note, whether that be stand-alone or including in the box of an order, are the kinds of experiences that turn shoppers into loyal customer advocates. In 2019, for example, digital marketing agency the Hive created a self-care advent calendar, which served as a holiday card from the agency and was also sold online to raise money for charity. It’s a great example of spreading cheer, building loyalty, and cementing relationships — all for a good cause.
Instagram has more than one billion monthly active users who crave visual content. Why not give them what they want with an Instagram-worthy holiday window? You’ll have to kick it up a notch if you want consumers to photograph and share images of your installation — but if you do create a true visual masterpiece, they likely will. Here’s the best part: It’s contact-free, so not even the pandemic can stop it. Just remember to be authentic to your brand in the execution while also offering shoppers some festive fun.
Another element to consider: Visits to Santa will be more complicated this year. A branded, photo-worthy scene in which consumers can pose alongside Kris Kringle can go a long way in winning over the hearts and minds of parents who want to give their kids a joyful experience while also limiting their contact.
One pain point this time of year are gifts. Specifically, what to buy that hard-to-shop-for relative who seems to have everything and/or like nothing. This is another opportunity for brands to come to the rescue with gift ideas. For example, boutique fitness brand the Class has aggregated gift suggestions for a number of personas, like the “Nester,” the “Seeker,” and the “Mama,” as well as by price point. They’ve even included free gift suggestions, noting, “Showing love doesn’t have to cost a thing.”
By compiling your most gift-worthy products and dividing the list up by potential recipients, you’re offering a value-added service for customers in an unconventional season that may be even more stressful than usual. Plus, with family gatherings limited, consumers may be compelled to purchase tokens of affection for the relatives they won’t be able to see in person this year. That’s a great opportunity to position your brand in front of them as a helpful resource.
Let’s not forget email marketing. It’s a powerful tactic year-round, but during December, it gives brands an additional opportunity to remind recipients about products they’ve browsed — including previously out-of-stock items that are available again and upcoming holiday deals. Including special holiday discounts outside the traditional Black Friday to Cyber Monday window is another way to encourage shoppers to convert.
Don’t forget: The end of December is an ideal time to highlight last-minute gift ideas, as well to focus on consumers who may not have gotten precisely what they wanted with even more suggestions for self-gifting and end-of-year clearance items.
For more information on email best practices after the holidays:
Another tactic we advocate all year long — December included — is retargeting. This digital marketing strategy allows brands to target consumers at scale using first-party data from their actual online behavior, which is part of the reason retargeting campaigns generate high click-through rates (CTR) and conversions.
Plus, they enable advertisers to personalize ads based on the products consumers viewed — including the items they have been pondering as gifts. That’s why it’s perfect to use throughout the season to remind customers about potential gifts and to create a sense of urgency with calls to action.
Despite the unconventional nature of the season, consumers are still shopping for the holidays this year. In fact, they set new records in 2020, spending $9 billion on Black Friday and $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday. As the season continues, there are still plenty of opportunities for brands to engage holiday shoppers and we’ve got your back.
Originally published on December 11th, 2020, last updated on June 16th, 2022.