How to Create a Holiday Marketing Strategy to Boost Sales

When the pandemic hit in 2020, global retail sales took a hit. Although more people were shopping online than ever, they typically spent less. 

And retail experts expect this to impact customer spending habits long-term because of the added uncertainty around people’s livelihoods. 

As a result, many businesses have to change their entire marketing strategy, even for the holiday shopping season. Just offering discounts is no longer enough.

So, how can you create a holiday marketing strategy that reliably boosts sales?

This article will teach you about holiday marketing and provide an in-depth walk-through on creating a successful holiday marketing strategy in 2023 and into 2024 using ActiveCampaign. We’ll throw in a few holiday marketing ideas for good measure!

What is holiday marketing?

Holiday marketing involves tailoring your marketing activity to the upcoming holiday season.

It usually includes specific sales and promotions before, during, and after the holiday season. 

Companies promote these discounts through a holiday campaign, using paid ads, email marketing, social media, or even TV. The goal is to earn a piece of the end-of-the-year shopping spree. 

Take a look at Black Friday as an example. Every year, retailers offer huge discounts across products online and in-store. By running these campaigns around holiday periods, businesses hope to increase engagement from existing customers, raise brand awareness, and increase revenue. 

Why is holiday marketing important? 

Holiday marketing is important because it’s the most customer-ready time to increase sales. 

Additionally, with your customers in the spirit of receiving your marketing message differently than they would any other time of the year, you may also increase brand awareness and customer retention.

Sure, holiday marketing is a lot of work. It’s the busiest time of year for many retail and ecommerce businesses. But there are some real benefits to holiday marketing that make it worthwhile. Let’s take a look at what these are. 

Generate more sales 

Retailers expect their sales to increase over the holiday period. Why? Because people spend more during the holidays. They buy gifts, claim discounts, and spend gift cards or vouchers. 

Take a look at how retail sales in the clothing industry increased every December from 2017 to 2021:

graph depicting monthly retail sales of U.S. clothing stores from January 2017 to January 2022
Monthly retail sales of U.S. clothing stores from January 2017 to January 2022

While this graph is specific to the clothing industry, charts for many other retail and ecommerce industries look similar since December is the peak month of the holiday season. 

It’s clear that consumers are looking to buy in the holiday season. By upping your marketing efforts around peak times, you have a higher chance of getting more sales. 

Raise brand awareness and build trust 

The festive season is the ideal time to get your brand in front of new holiday shoppers. 

Look at Walmart, for example. It used influencer marketing to promote its Walmart+ membership ahead of the holiday season. 

an example of influencer marketing on Instagram
Influencer marketing on Instagram (Image Source)

Walmart kills 2 birds with 1 stone. It reaches a broader audience by partnering with an influencer and builds trust with the audience. 

Trust plays a big part in the decision-making process for consumers. 86% of consumers say that they’re willing to pay more for something when it comes from a brand they trust. 

When done right, you can see how holiday marketing can help you reach a wider audience and build trust in the process. 

Develop customer loyalty 

Marketing around the holidays is the perfect opportunity to gain loyal customers by targeting your existing customers and offering unique deals to them.

With automation, you can target existing customers with personalized messaging.

L.G.R World shows how effective this can be. The Italian premium eyewear company used ActiveCampaign’s customer experience automation to send personalized messages to customers. As a result, it boosted customer loyalty, increasing revenue by 143% over time.

So find your own way to use holiday marketing to build customer loyalty. You don’t have to pay per impression or worry about targeting the right people when reaching existing customers through social media platforms and email.

When should you start marketing during the holidays? 

Ideally, you should start your marketing activity at least 2 weeks before the holiday season begins. That means you should plan at least a couple of months in advance—but better late than never.

Holiday sales typically start with Black Friday and Cyber Monday at the end of November in the U.S.

image showing the yearly process of consumer holiday shopping
Yearly process of consumer holiday shopping

How to create a holiday marketing strategy 

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday and all the holidays in between, keep reading to find out our top holiday marketing tips to create a foolproof strategy.

Review your past holiday marketing campaigns 

Start by looking back at every previous holiday marketing campaign. You should use this data to inform your current strategy. 

For example, let’s say a specific email campaign sold a lot more gift cards than in previous or following years. Examine the copy and creativity, and work to replicate it in this year’s campaign.

If you don’t have any past holiday marketing campaigns, don’t worry. Look at what your competitors are doing to give you an idea of what works.

Outline your goals and objectives 

Ask yourself what your goals are for the holiday season. Is it to improve sales? Increase brand awareness? Reach a new market? 

Whatever you decide, your goals need to be both specific and realistic. That’s where SMART goals are instrumental. 

The SMART framework helps you create objectives that cover all bases, giving you an achievable and detailed goal to work towards.

Here’s a breakdown of the framework: 

illustration showing the smart goals framework
Tthe smart goals framework

Imagine your goal is to increase sales. That’s great, but how do you plan to increase sales? And how will you know when you’ve achieved this goal? 

Here’s how you can turn this goal into a SMART goal:

Increase sales by 20% through Q4 of 2022 by offering holiday promotions through various ad campaigns. 

So, consider using this method when setting your holiday marketing goals. It’ll allow you to create measurable and achievable objectives.

Identify your target market

With so many consumers valuing a personalized digital experience, you need to tailor your marketing plan to what your consumers want. 

But if you don’t know who you’re trying to target, how can you market to them? 

There are a few ways to identify your target audience:  

  • Review your current customer base: What’s the current demographic for your business? Identify who they are by reviewing previous sales, email subscribers list, and social media followers. 
  • Look at your competition: Are your competitors targeting an audience you’re not? Look at what they’re doing to inform who you should (or shouldn’t) target. 
  • Analyze your product/service: Is there a market you’ve not considered targeting before? Review your product or service and consider if you could market it to a new audience.

Once you’ve determined who you want to target, you can check if your marketing strategy matches their wants and needs. Customer experience automation is an invaluable tool here.

By adjusting your marketing message based on customer interactions, you can create a personalized buying experience. 

image showing a personalized customer experience campaign in ActiveCampaign
A personalized customer experience campaign in ActiveCampaign

As a result, your customers will get a better experience, and you’ll have a higher chance of increasing sales. 

Use the right marketing channel

In 2020, there were 256 million digital shoppers in the United States, with the number expected to grow to 291.2 million in 2025. 

graph showing the expected growth of online shoppers from 2020 to 2025
The expected growth of online shoppers from 2020 to 2025

Furthermore, in 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide bought goods and services online—nearly half a billion more than in 2016. 

Taking the world’s population (nearly 8 billion) into account means that over 25% of people worldwide are shopping online. The percentage is far higher if you don’t include people under the age of 18.

This means that the number of online buyers is continuously growing every year. 

But, with so many people using online channels to buy products or services, how do you know which channels you should use to reach your audience? 

Ultimately, it varies from business to business. To give you an idea of the channels out there, we’ve outlined a few for you to consider: 

Social media

Social media marketing involves posting content for consumers to see. It helps you build relationships and nurture consumers through the sales funnel. 

But it only works if you use the right social platforms to reach your target audience. 

Facebook and Instagram are the most popular platforms. It’s 1 of the best ways to reach young professionals between 25-34. This age group makes up 30.1% of its total audience for Facebook. For Instagram, it’s 31.7%

But just because they’re the most popular doesn’t mean they’re right for your business. Depending on your target audience, you might want to consider other options. 

Do some research to find out what platforms your audience uses and focus on creating social media campaigns on these channels.

Search engine advertising

Search engine advertising, also known as pay-per-click (PPC), allows businesses to show ads to targeted audiences.

For example, you can show ads directly to someone searching for a relevant keyword on Google:

example of search engine advertising
An example of search engine advertising

PPC is only worth the investment if you target the right keywords. Update your ads with up-to-date holiday sale prices to drive more clicks and sales.

For consumer products, you can use Google Shopping Ads for market-specific products.

examples of google shopping ads
Examples of google shopping ads

To optimize for the holiday season, make sure to update every relevant product listing with a sale price. You can also run a promotion, offering free shipping over X dollars spent, free gift wrapping, or more.

Email marketing 

Email marketing mainly helps build relationships with existing and potential customers. When done right, it can play a vital role in converting leads into sales. 

The real power of email lies in how you can personalize your marketing message with list segmentation and automation. Segmenting your audience allows you to send targeted emails based on consumer interests and demographics. Automating the process means you can send triggered emails based on their actions.

Soundsnap is a great example. The Cyprus-based company sells high-quality sound effects on a subscription basis.

Email has always been an important channel, but by adding automations, the company increased email revenue by 300%. And that was from just 1 simple automation, recommending packs related to specific sound effects.

image of an email marketing campaign in ActiveCampaign
Email marketing campaign in ActiveCampaign

Overall, it helps you create a personalized and unique customer experience. 

Want some more email inspiration? Look at the dos and don’ts of Black Friday emails

Analyze your top competitors 

It helps to know how competitors are performing in the marketplace. Here’s why: 

  • Guidance: Reviewing your competitors’ actions can give you ideas for your strategy. You don’t want to copy them but draw inspiration from what they’ve done successfully.
  • Differentiation: Ideally, you want to run a holiday promotion or campaign that differs from your competitors—that’s better. If you’re offering the same things, it’ll be hard to differentiate your company and attract new customers—especially if your competitor is more established. So keep an eye on what they’re doing, do something entirely different, or go above and beyond their offers.
  • Improvements: Is there anything your competitors have done that didn’t work out? Reviewing their mishaps shows you what to avoid in your strategy. 

So spend some time reviewing your competitors before you create your strategy. 

Review past promotions from great marketers in your industry to get insight into what works and what doesn’t

Real-life examples of holiday marketing

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples from real businesses. These holiday marketing ideas should give you some inspiration for your digital marketing strategy. 

Hinge: What are you thankful for? 

Hinge is an online dating app. During a holiday email marketing campaign in 2020, the company asked its email subscribers what they were thankful for. 

example of Hinge's email marketing campaign
Hinge’s email marketing campaign

This email campaign is smart. It plays on emotions and sentimentality, which suits the time of year well. 

By the end of 2020, Hinge’s global downloads were up 63% compared to 2019. We’re not saying this is due in full to this email campaign, but chances are it had something to do with it. 

Tesco: No Naughty List

Even though it’s primarily a brick-and-mortar supermarket chain, less restaurant and pub-dining meant record revenues for Tesco in 2020.

It topped the year off with a fitting holiday campaign, “No Naughty List,” that perfectly captured moments of the post-pandemic lifestyle, like doing meetings in bed or skipping a haircut.

example of Tesco's holiday campaign
Tesco’s holiday campaign

TV ads aren’t for every business. In this case, it worked because Tesco is a ubiquitous brand with a large budget. But small businesses with smaller budgets can still learn and apply this to other channels, like YouTube Ads. 


What holidays have the most sales? 

In the United States, Christmas is the holiday with the most sales by far. In fact, in 2020, Christmas reached $777.3 billion in sales. 

Coming in second after Christmas, Labor Day reached close to $33.9 billion in sales, and Mother’s Day came in third with $28.1 billion in sales. The holidays with the least amount of sales were Thanksgiving, 4th of July, and Halloween. 

When should I start a Christmas marketing campaign? 

Beginning Christmas marketing at least 2-3 months in advance works best. This is because the buying process starts a few months before the actual holiday as people search for the perfect gifts. 

By starting the marketing process early on, you’ll be able to show your potential customers that your products are the best options. You’ll be able to nurture them so that when it’s finally time for them to make a purchase, they’ll choose you above competitors. 

Why are holiday sales important? 

Holiday sales should be an essential part of any business’s marketing strategy. This is because consumers have come to expect holiday sales, discounts, coupons, and other promotions over the holiday season. 

Offering sales means that your business will get more exposure online, and more customers who browse your website will make a purchase as opposed to simply scrolling through. If they enjoy your product, chances are they’ll come back for more (even after the holidays). 

Using ActiveCampaign for your holiday marketing strategy 

Like any other marketing campaign, a successful holiday marketing campaign relies on understanding your target audience and sending them the right message at the right time.

ActiveCampaign makes that easy with smart automation tools. If you’re ready to take your holiday campaigns to the next level, the ActiveCampaign holiday marketing toolkit can help.

With our software, you can provide customers with a personalized experience and use our automation to build better relationships and drive more sales.