Many growing retail businesses generate 30% of their annual revenue during the holiday season, according to McKinsey & Co. If your business is one of them, that makes the next 12 weeks your most important time of the year. But with virtually every business vying for the holiday shopper’s attention, what can you do to turn those customers’ heads?

When Does the Holiday Season Begin?

Thanksgiving is considered the official start of the holiday shopping season, but in actuality some 40% of U.S. consumers have already begun their holiday spending spree by Halloween, according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF). This year they’re expected to spend an average of $1,050 apiece, also per the NRF. To capture your share of this bounty, you need to begin your holiday promotions now — if you haven’t already.

15 Promotion Ideas to Grow Revenue

To get started, we’ve poured over dozens of holiday promotion ideas to help you capture both in-store and online shoppers. Here are 15 of the most affordable — and most effective.

holiday promotion ideas
  1. Decorate Your Business

    Decorating for the holidays can put customers in a holiday-spending frame of mind. This is one of the least expensive ways to promote your business and put shoppers in a buying mood. You can even reuse your decorations from year to year to shave costs — providing they’re stored and cared for properly.

    Festive decor reminds customers that it’s time to get ready for the holidays and triggers all the positive associations they have with this time of year. A good approach is to start early in the season and phase in decorations gradually, aiming to peak just after Thanksgiving. However, overdoing certain measures, like playing Christmas carols too early, can backfire, so ramp up slowly.

    Online-only businesses can also put customers in a holiday-shopping mood by decorating their websites and social media channels.

  2. Provide In-Store Gift Wrapping

    Sure, just about every retail outlet does it, but you will score major points with stressed-out clientele if you gift wrap their purchases for free or a nominal charge. The convenience you’re providing may even induce them to buy an extra item or two.

    If you’re feeling creative, come up with some beautiful and unique designs of your own for the wrapping paper and decorations. This can make the customer’s purchase more memorable and — if the designs are related to the type of products you offer — will serve as a subtle and unobtrusive way of promoting your brand.

  3. Offer a Special, Holiday-Only Product or Service

    Providing a holiday-themed product or a product that’s only available for a limited time during the holiday season is an effective way to attract customers and stimulate sales. To generate awareness and buzz, begin promoting the product before it actually goes on sale. This can be done via emails and social media, as well as in-store flyers and signage.

  4. Send Out a Holiday Greeting Card

    Well, yeah, this one’s a bit obvious, but an attractive and eye-catching greeting card in the spirit of the holidays will never be unwelcome. In fact, it will serve as a pleasant reminder of your business to your customers. If yours is the sort of business where you know clients by name, then be sure to add a personal touch by including a handwritten note. Also, be sure to mail cards early to allow plenty of time for them to reach customers. Postal delays are notorious this time of year, and there’s nothing worse than investing a lot of time and effort coming up with a sensational card only to have it arrive after the shopping season has ended.

    In this online era, paper greeting cards that your customers can actually hold and display tend to stand out. But if yours is an online-only business, or all you have for some customers is their email address, don’t let that stop you. Innovative digital cards that make clever use of music and animations can be even more memorable than printed cards. They may even instigate some viral marketing on your behalf, as amused customers tend to share them with others in their circle.

  5. Launch a Holiday-Themed Email and/or Social Media Campaign

    While on the subject of email … spread good cheer and increase awareness for your business with a holiday-themed email and social media campaign. Missives and posts should highlight holiday sales, end-of-year deals and other special offers, but they should also explain why your product is especially relevant for this time of year: Is it something traditional that evokes fond holiday memories? Is it a seasonal favorite that everyone looks forward to? Is it a service that can make your customers’ lives easier during a frenetic holiday season? Your email and social content should emphasize these attributes along with positive customer reviews.

    Be sure to include multimedia content as part of your online campaign. A holiday-themed video, in particular, is a nice added touch. It should be entertaining and on the lighter side in keeping with the season. And while you’ll want to showcase your products, also consider featuring members of your family and staff. This helps to personalize your business and reassure your customers that real, well-meaning and caring people stand behind every item that they buy.

  6. Create a Holiday Gift Guide

    A good gift guide will be well-received by consumers who are short on time and hard up for ideas. And the longer their lists of friends and family, the more likely they are to turn to it.

    To make the guide as useful as possible, organize it by category: for the man who has everything, for the women in your life, special gifts for the kids, Secret Santa crowd pleasers — these are just some of the many ways to group your offerings to target different market segments. Once you’ve created your guide, be sure to promote it through your customer newsletter emails and social media campaigns.

  7. Provide Helpful Holiday Tips

    Looking for more content to use with your social media efforts? Consider your product mix and areas of expertise, and then offer customers and prospects helpful tips and insights based on those. In one sense, this is no different than the content you would ordinarily provide through a blog or a newsletter year-round. But the holidays are a perfect time to address their concerns and interests with a seasonal flavor that caters to their holiday needs.

    So, for instance, a business that sells cookware could offer advice on healthy cooking for the holidays. One that sells electronics could provide some tech tips — because nobody wants to give or receive a gift they can’t get working properly right out of the box. But whatever the subject is, make sure the content includes plenty of search engine-friendly keywords so your business ranks high in your customers’ searches.

    Providing this sort of content promotes your brand and raises your credibility. And since it costs next to nothing to create, you have little to lose.

  8. Support a Worthy Cause

    People like supporting businesses that share their values, and during the holiday season they embrace opportunities to donate to worthy causes. By partnering with a local foundation or charity, you can help them do both. Approaches will vary depending on what you sell, but the most common way is to donate a percentage of each sale to the cause or group you’ve chosen.

    Your choice of charity should send a message about what your brand stands for and should tie in with your products wherever possible. So a sporting goods outlet might support an environmental cause, while an apparel shop might donate to efforts to end child labor and support free trade. Once you’ve settled on a cause, be sure to promote it prominently on social media and in your newsletter. Your customers will thank you for it and will be inclined to direct more of their business your way.

  9. Host a Holiday Event

    What are the holidays without get-togethers? Hosting a fun, memorable event can help attract customers and generate sales. It doesn’t have to be a costly proposition, either. Some live music, free snacks and a cozy atmosphere go a long way. Arranging for Santa to make an appearance to pose for photos is a good idea, too, particularly if you want to attract customers with children.

    Another lure can be free product samples, which provide a perfect opportunity to promote your wares. You can also attract customers by choosing a theme for your event that’s tied to your business. For example, a bookstore could build one around a book signing, while a toy store could host a game night. Other draws may include a raffle or a chance to meet a local celebrity.

    These events can also be used to collect testimonials from customers, together with photos and videos. One way to do this is to assign a “roving reporter” to tape interviews with members of the crowd about what they like best about your products. Then you can post the footage to your website or Facebook page — but be sure to ask interviewees to sign a form giving you legal permission to do so.

    If you’re an online-only business, consider partnering with a brick-and-mortar business to co-host an activity or host an online event of your own. The latter can be done via Zoom or a webinar platform and can feature a popular personality or speaker, as well as a free giveaway.

  10. Set Up a Contest

    Everyone loves a contest. It could be as simple as a raffle or as complicated as a weeks-long online treasure hunt involving dozens of challenges and clues. The nature of your contest should be tied to the nature of your business and the types of customer you want to attract. Door prizes may be more appropriate for businesses that sell inexpensive items to large numbers of people; specialty stores with more upscale merchandise may favor more elaborate contests that require some specialized knowledge (of music, movies or computers, for instance). But no matter what type of contest you sponsor, use it as a fun way to generate goodwill and increase customer engagement. And be sure to post photos and interviews with the winners in all of your social media.

  11. Offer a Discount

    While the lion’s share of holiday spending is for gifts, consumer research shows 45% of shoppers will also buy items for themselves while making purchases for their friends and loved ones. Discounts are one way to encourage this behavior, such as offering a two-for-one special. It’s also a good incentive for people with large numbers of acquaintances or co-workers to whom they feel obligated to give a present.

    Service-based businesses can make use of discounts by bundling their offerings, too. A spa, for instance, could offer five massages for the price of four, or a dance studio could run a gift special that offers 10 classes for the price of eight.

  12. Give Your Customers a Free Gift

    The holidays are the season for gift-giving, and giving your customers a free gift is one of the most effective ways to get into their good graces. This doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. With a little creativity you can present your customers with something clever and unique that doesn’t cost much to produce. Refrigerator magnets, keychain laser lights and paperweight ornaments might fit the bill, and they can all be used to reinforce your branding and put your contact information front and center.

    Online businesses can also make use of this type of promotion. Including a small gift or free product sample with each purchase you ship will add little or nothing to your mailing costs.

  13. Promote Your Expertise

    If the holidays are a time for people to gather, one way to bring them together is to offer to teach them something they’ve always wanted to learn. Virtual or in-person classes or tutorials are a brilliant way to promote your expertise and products. Your customers will love receiving expert knowledge and inside tips, making this a fun and rewarding way for them to engage with you.

    Of course, you should offer tutorials that pertain to the products you sell, which is what your customers will expect. That means flower shops should teach about flower arrangements, while liquor stores can offer wine-tasting classes. Free samples should also be part of the equation, which — with a newfound appreciation for what they’ve been given — will have customers coming back for more.

  14. Participate in Local Holiday Fairs

    Local holiday fairs offer the opportunity to get in front of new customers who may have never heard of your store or website. Shoppers are drawn to these markets during the holiday season, and it doesn’t take much effort on your part to gain this increased exposure.

    In general, all you need to do is set up and staff a sales booth. This could be as simple as a folding table or a more elaborate kiosk with eye-catching displays. Some markets make this easy by providing different size booths for an additional fee.

    Foot traffic at these fairs can be heavy — especially during peak hours. To stand out and capture your share, dress some salespeople in festive costumes (think: grinches and elves) and station them near your booth to hand out flyers and free samples.

  15. Offer Weather-Related Discounts

    In many parts of the country, winter weather can be an impediment to in-store shopping. An extra incentive in the form of weather-related discounts can tempt people into venturing out in the snow, ice and cold to visit your establishment.

    These discounts can be tied to your products as well as the weather conditions. Apparel stores, for example, could offer a standing discount on winter clothing that takes effect on snow days. Bars and restaurants could do something similar, offering a free hot chocolate or another warm drink whenever the temperature drops below freezing. Even Sun Belt businesses can get in on the act by offering special deals on days when the temperature hits below the average low for the season.

Conclusion

Preparing for the holiday season can be daunting for small businesses, but don’t be intimidated. Yes, the stakes are high and there’s much to do, but if you start early you will greatly improve your chances of success. And by tailoring the above suggestions to suit the particular needs of your business with the help of an ecommerce platform, you can ensure this will be a very merry selling season, indeed.

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Holiday Promotion Ideas for Small Businesses FAQ

How can I promote my small business during the holidays?

There are many effective ways to promote your business during the holidays. These include providing gift guides, producing holiday videos and holding in-store get-togethers. You can also hold a contest, offer free classes and participate in holiday fairs. Special holiday-related discounts, two-for-one sales and free gifts are some other ways a small business can attract customers during the holidays.

What is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is an annual shopping event in the United States that falls on the last Saturday of November. Its purpose is to encourage consumers to shop at and support their local small businesses and communities. According to American Express, which started the event in 2010, Americans spent around $19.8 billion on Small Business Saturday in 2020.