10 Marketing Ideas for Getting Early Holiday Shoppers

Discover holiday promotion ideas and tips that will help you improve sales in the season of cheer.

Marketing design
October 1, 2021

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Wondering how to spread the holiday spirit AND make more sales of your products or services? Here are some holiday marketing ideas to help you reach new potential customers.

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and as many businesses know, it’s the most important time to crank up your digital marketing campaigns, including email marketing, social media and many other advertising efforts and improve sales.

Whether it is holiday shopping for oneself or finding the perfect gift for a loved one, from the end of October all the way to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, people shop more during this period.

And, naturally, businesses should try and meet the potential this spending craze can bring to them. How to better improve holiday sales, than with great marketing?

Here are some ideas to get your creative gears working and inspire your next holiday marketing campaign.


Design a user-generated content campaign

At times, the best content that can help you with brand awareness comes from your own customers. The reason for this is that user-generated content is:

  • Relatable: People like seeing their peers use your product and trust them more than a paid advertisement.
  • Building trust: If you see regular Janes and Joes being happy with a service or product, you’ll be more likely to make a purchase yourself.
  • Free (or at least affordable): By simply resharing a photo a customer has shared on Instagram, you don’t need to hire a pricey agency and create cutting-edge ad designs for your paid campaign.

Here is a great example of a user-generated campaign: Starbucks’ red cup.

Starting each December and all the way throughout Christmas, the coffee shop giant starts selling coffee in festive red cups in place of their dark green iconic color and starts the #RedCupContest. They ask customers to share a photo of them or their item, including a limited-time-only red cup for the holiday season on social media and add the hashtag. In exchange, each customer gets a gift card. As of December of 2020, this campaign helped them gather more than 37,000 photos.

Even though the campaign is widely discussed each holiday season and has met controversy before, the tradition continues.

In 2015 the minimal red cup included no festive and Christian imagery, and the brand was accused of pursuing political correctness in place of traditional values. However, instead of the expected backlash, the much-talked-about issue brought them publicity beyond belief.

Reward your loyal customers

As is the tradition in the holiday season, gifts are being given all around the world. The fact that you are a business doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from this: you can reward your most loyal customers with something creative. At the same time, you’ll give incentive to people to buy more, so that they can get to the top of the list of gift receivers.

For example, Marriott Bonvoy introduced a program in which they gave points to customers that stayed in their hotels. They could then use these points to bid on live events and holiday-themed products.

Why does this campaign work so well? Well, first of all, the holidays aren’t just for cheer. They are also about relaxing, unwinding and spending time with family and friends. So staying at a nice hotel fits everything well. Second, people like participating in events and themed products. Finally, customers are more likely to spend more, if they believe they are getting something valuable in return or for less money than expected. Triple win!

Offer free shipping

I don’t know about you, but the lack of free shipping is often a deal-breaker for me. Those couple of bucks can make all the difference when online shopping, and by offering free shipping for people during the holidays, your business’ sales can skyrocket.

One business that did this in the last few years was DSW, an online shoe retailer that has a tier system for members that offers free delivery. The higher the tier, the quicker the delivery speed, all throughout the year.

But, before Christmas, they decided to offer free shipping to non-loyalty members as well. This inspired a lot of people to actually become members and enjoy the free shipping VIP package even after the holidays.

Create a referral campaign to spread the holiday cheer

Referral campaigns are a very successful tool to get you more customers, whether it is the holidays or not. Many companies before have designed a campaign in which you can refer a friend, and both of you get a discount or a free product the first month.

Seeing that the holidays are a time when you connect with people (and let’s be real, need a discount), you can use the topic of spreading cheer and sharing with others as a basis of a referral campaign.

Simply design a nice landing page where you can describe the rules of the game or share a well-designed social media campaign, and let the new leads pour in.

Sell holiday-themed unique items

Surely you have a Coca-Cola polar bear lying around in your house, or have enjoyed the holiday limited-time tastes of Milka chocolate before Christmas. And you’ve already read about Starbucks’ red cup.

If you sell products or even have a service that can fit selling merchandise, why not design holiday-themed unique items that people can buy, or get for free as a loyalty reward? Mugs, calendars, tote bags, hats, new Christmassy tastes of your food products or drinks… Pretty much anything that can be vaguely described as holiday-themed can be added to your usual list of items.

Why would it work, you might ask? Well, people often like collecting things that are unique or available for only a short amount of time. And the exclusivity will create a fear of missing out that will push them into the decision of making a buy.

Here is a wintery exclusive edition of Smirnoff Vodka: tastes of peppermint, and looks like it’s already properly wrapped to be a Christmas gift.

Add a free gift with purchases or run a giveaway

Who doesn’t want something for free? Whether it’s a buy-one-get-one-free deal, or a surprise trinket in your customer’s package when they get what they ordered, a free item can put a smile on their face and inspire them to spread a good word about your company.

In fact, most people share on social media when they receive a gift.

Of course, you need to do the maths right and make sure you’re not losing more than you’re getting. But something small to those who made a big purchase shouldn’t break the bank.

At the same time, you can run a holiday giveaway on social media. Similar to a referral campaign, people will like tagging their friends in a contest where they can all get something for free.

Provide discounts for buying in bulk

Another thing that is important to know about customers’ decisions around the holidays, is that they tend to buy in bulk. Whether it’s the same small gift for everyone or using the same service to buy all the gifts and save on shipping that way, bulk shopping is pretty common.

And not just that: according to NPD Group, 40% of all holiday shoppers will buy something for themselves when looking for presents. So, good news: one more item you can sell!

Meaning, you can offer a discount for bulk selling. You can even take it one step further and make the discount grow as they add more items to the cart.

Offer pre-booking and gift cards

Some businesses thrive during the holiday season. Others have nothing to do with Christmas or Thanksgiving, unfortunately, and they might feel like they can’t improve sales in this period. But there is a marketing solution for them as well.

If you’re, let’s say, a wall painter that will most likely get a lot of requests in spring, you can offer a pre-booking for your customers, so they can be bumped to the front of the line when they need your services. Or, let’s say you’re running a restaurant that will probably be empty on Christmas Eve because people dine at home with their families. A gift card for a good meal is always a good gift, isn’t it?

Excite customers with an advent calendar

Finding an exciting (if small) gift every day as a part of an advent calendar can be a fun holiday activity, especially if each of those 24 days you’ve made a sale.

Purelei, a German luxury jewelry company, has built and implemented this cool idea in the last few years, offering a pre-sale on an advent calendar which is essentially a selection of 24 beautifully boxed and numbered items that you can unwrap day by day.

For 700 euros, the buyers would enjoy 24 pieces of expensive and intricate jewelry, as well as an advent box which can be later reused (and it should be because it is a gorgeous and expensive thing itself).

Use the season of sharing to ask for reviews

Finally, you can use the time of giving to ask for a favor from your customers: to give you a (good) review on social media or rating websites. It’s not necessarily a marketing campaign, but a small step into securing updated reviews that can bring you a lot of new customers.

Social proof is a very important element in making new potential customers interested in your brand, and perhaps your current users will be generous enough to put in a good word for a trusted company.

Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.

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