CHRISTMAS IN JULY Marketing Strategy

For most people, the summer months recall laying out on the beach, family vacations, or kids running through the sprinkler in the grass, eating pop-ups. But if you work in retail, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas.

Of course, its bigger than Christmas, it’s the entire Holiday Season, which, in the US starts at the beginning of November, right after Halloween, and runs through New Years Day. At which point we start thinking about the gym. While Christmas is the heavyweight of the holiday season, there are other major holidays like Hanukah and Kwanza, as well as the Canadian Boxing day, and even dedicated shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, the list goes on.

The holidays are the most important time of year for most retailers, so getting your marketing right this time of year is more important than any other.

Key Statistics

Some statistics about shopper’s behavior can be helpful in planning a marketing strategy for the holidays.

  • 40% of consumers start holiday shopping before Halloween. Even if you aren’t hanging garland in mid-October, you should still start stocking shelves and ramping up your SEO efforts to make sure these early shoppers can find you online.
  • 66% of customers do research on purchases of less than $50. We generally assume that big-ticket items like technology or luxury items will be well-researched, carefully considered purchases. However, most customers know that at the holidays even small purchases add up, so they are taking the time to research everything. This is another good reason to double-down on your SEO efforts to make sure you show up when shoppers start Googling.
  • 48% of shoppers made an impulse purchase last year, and more than 70% bought gifts for themselves during the holidays. #treatyoself. Sometimes its an impulse, but often shoppers plan to buy things for themselves during the holidays to take advantage of holiday offers. Seize this opportunity with “Treat Yourself” campaign or a more subtle BOGO offer.
  • 63% of shoppers want to use online wish lists for gift shopping, and 54% use recommendations from retailers to purchase gifts. Many shoppers are lost when it comes to deciding what to buy for their picky nieces and nephews or weird uncles, or worse, the Secret Santa at the office. Put together gift guides or in-store displays highlighting great gift options for the hard-to-shop-for people in our lives.

The Timeline

The good news: You still have several months before the holiday season begins. The bad news: you’re already behind. The experts agree, there is no way to plan far enough ahead for the holiday season. If (like most people) you’re just starting out for this year, here is your timeline:

6 Months Out

First, you need to start making decisions about inventory and submitting order to suppliers, and you need to start planning the marketing campaigns and messaging. Start deciding on your offers and putting together the campaign plan, including which channels to target and what creative assets you will need. Your final product should be a calendar of events, along with a list of all the assets you need to build, such as emails, in-store promotional materials, website graphics, and social assets.

3-4 Months Out

Now it’s time to start producing all that content. Start submitting requests to your creative team early so they have time to make sure they have all the information they need to get started on production. It’s also a good idea at this point to sit down with the creative team and talk with them about the marketing team’s goals and visions for the overarching campaign, as well as any sub-campaigns. This extra context helps the creative team deliver higher quality assets, with less time needed during review and approval.


The holiday season lasts about 2 months. While all the prior planning you’ve done is crucial, once the campaign is launched, don’t just set it and forget it. Take this time to experiment with A/B testing, especially in digital assets where you can pivot quickly. Also, collect data on everything you can. Even if you don’t have time to do much with that data right now, it will come in handy for next year’s planning.


Sit back and take a breather. Ok, now start planning for next year. After the season ends take an hour or two as a team to do a post-mortem of the campaign to take a look at the data collected during. Also consider the planning time too. Did you have enough time? Was the team scrambling up to the last minute? How can we do better next year?

Holiday Tips & Tricks

Finally, here are some general tips to keep in mind for the holiday season:

  • It’s not just Christmas! Be mindful of other holidays and traditions celebrated during this time of year and factor their dates into your campaign calendar.
  • Creativity is key. Your customers are being inundated with holiday advertising. To get their attention, you need to stand out in the crowd.
  • Double down on SEO and PPC. As we saw above, shoppers start researching early, and they are looking for a lot of information. Make sure you show up in their search results.
  • Don’t forget retargeting or ‘empty cart’ emails. These are great strategies year-round, but they are especially effective during the holidays when you know more people are actively looking to make purchases. Once they’ve found you or selected items to purchase, don’t let them slip away!

The holidays are one of the biggest challenges and most exciting opportunities for retail marketing and creative teams each year. Understanding your customers and starting your preparation early will set your creative team up for success this holiday season.