4 Steps to Plan Your Holiday Promos

4 Steps to Plan Your Holiday Promos

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If you run an ecommerce business, it’s important to have a solid promotion plan focused on key moments and holidays. Every holiday is an opportunity to drive sales—you just need to decide how promotional you want to be and if your product assortment can support it.  

For reference, we suggest building out your promotion plan toward the end of the previous year and then keep it YOY with modifications based on your learnings or evolving sales goals. A common mistake companies make is making their promos stronger YOY to keep up with sales, but after a few years, there is nowhere to go without losing more and more margin.   

One rule is to start your promos on the smaller side (example: offering a lower % off) so you have flexibility to ramp up the promo if it doesn’t work at that lower level. Tip: You never want to give away more than you have to in order to close the sale. Think of a promo as a nudge to get someone to convert: Some people need a big push and some just need a small one, so your job is to find that sweet spot where the promo is converting the most people, without giving them too much.  

If you need help planning out your promotions, stick around to see our top four tips.   

Step 1: Decide your appetite for promos and if it makes sense for your brand  

Here’s what we mean by determining your appetite: 

  • Low – Only major US holidays (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Labor Day, Memorial Day, July 4th) 

  • Normal – Everything from “Low,” plus holidays applicable to your brand or service space (additional promos needed to drive revenue) 

  • High – Everything from “Normal,” plus any holiday you can make a relevant promo with  

Once you decide where you fall there, the second part of promo planning is asking yourself whether you have the inventory and product assortment to support your appetite for promos. If you only have four SKUs, that will make it difficult for you to have a robust promo plan that is not stale throughout the year. If you run the same promo all the time, you might as well just reduce the price and compete on the lowest price point.   

Cart_Sept23_CalendarStep 2: Pick the holidays that are right for your promo strategy  

Go through the holiday list below and make note of which ones you want to participate in. You may end up with a cadence of 2-3 holiday promos a month, depending on your promotional appetite and length of promos.  

The holidays below are the most popular, but there are brand or product-specific holidays that may work for you that aren’t listed below. For example, if you’re PetSmart, you would want to participate in National Dog or Cat Day.   

 

January   

  • New Year’s Day - January 1st  
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day - January 16th  
  • Lunar New Year – January 21st   

February  

  • Groundhog Day - February 2nd  
  • Super Bowl Sunday LVII - February 12th  
  • Valentine’s Day - February 14th   
  • President’s Day – February 20th 

March  

  • International Women’s Day – March 8th  
  • Holi Festival – March 8th  
  • The Oscars – March 12th  
  • St. Patrick’s Day - March 17th  
  • 1st Day of Spring – March 20th  

April  

  • April Fool’s Day - April 1st  
  • Good Friday – April 7th  
  • Easter - April 9th  
  • Coachella (Music Festivals) – April 14th  
  • Earth Day - April 22nd 

May 

  • Star Wars Day – May 4th  
  • Cinco de Mayo – May 5th   
  • Mother’s Day - May 14th  
  • Memorial Day - May 29th  
  • Smile Day – May 31st  

June 

  • National Doughnut Day – June 2nd  
  • Flag Day – June 14th   
  • Father’s Day - June 18th  
  • First Day of Summer – June 21st   

July 

  • Independence Day - July 4th  
  • Chocolate Day – July 7th  

August 

  • Back to School Season – Start in late mid-July  

September 

  • Labor Day - September 4th  
  • Oktoberfest – September 16th to Oct3  
  • First Day of Fall – September 23rd 

October 

  • National Coffee Day – October 1st  
  • Halloween - October 31st  

November  

  • Veteran’s Day - November 11th  
  • Single’s Day - November 11th  
  • Diwali - November 12th   
  • Thanksgiving Day - November 23rd  
  • Black Friday - November 24th  
  • Cyber Monday - November 27th 

December  

  • Green Monday – December 10th  
  • Hanukkah – December 7th – 15th   
  • National FREE Shipping Day – December 14th   
  • Christmas - December 25th  
  • Kwanzaa – December 26th – Jan 1st  

Step 3: Decide which promos should correspond with your chosen holidays 

Looking at the list of promo examples, choose ones that work for you and your brand:  

Cart_July23_HolidayGuide_1 copy 2Percentage Off  

Having no threshold (ex. minimum purchase amount), this is the best performing promo as all customers can participate.  

  • Strong Friends and Family promos will be 20-30% off with no threshold and free shipping. If you are starting off, I would recommend starting at 20%.    

  • Putting a threshold on it will increase AOV, but reduce redemptions as less people will participate.  

  • % Offs should be used for e-mail signups for new customers, especially when you are trying to build an e-mail list. You should start these at 10-15% off. 

 

 

Dollar Amount Off (Stock up and Save / Buy More Save More)  

This is a strong promo, but based on what the $ off is and what the threshold is, this promo must have a threshold to participate in.   

  • A lower threshold may create a stronger promo. For example, “Spend $20, Get $10 Off” is more compelling than “Spend $100, Get $20 Off.” 

  • This type of promo will keep AOV but may have lower redemptions as less people will participate since they must spend to a certain amount in order to get anything.  

  • When executing the promo, it’s good to do tiers of “Buy More Save More” as this allows people who don’t want to spend that much to participate, and people who spend more will incur more savings.    

  • For example, Spend $20 Get $5 Off / Spend $40 Get $15 Off / Spend $75 Get $30 Off etc. 

BOGO – Buy one get one FREE 

While this is one of the most effective promos, it’s not cost effective for most products. 

  • Product must have low COGs and high price point, or severe excess inventory that’s not moving and may expire or be destroyed. 

  • Best used for a heavy promo period, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Labor Day. 

  • Keep in mind that your consumers will come to expect this offer every holiday season, so check to see if you have excess inventory that could support BOGOs in the future, or if this will be a one-time thing.        

BOGO50 – Buy one get one 50% off 

  • Very similar to a true BOGO, just half the discount. This will work better for margin and AOV than a true BOGO, and still offer great value to the customer.  

  • This promo gives you more flexibility with products, as the margin lost won’t be as strong, but the promo positioning and messaging can help, especially if the product is a strong seller.   

GWP - Gift with Purchases 

This is a strong promo that you can get creative with. Plus, it can really drive site sales and move a specific product.   

  • You can do sitewide GWPs: 

    • Get a Free Gift with Any Purchase / Spend $50 and Get a Free Gift 

    • The threshold should be in line with the value of the gift. The more valuable the gift, the higher you can make the threshold and still drive good sales.   

    • When you pair the GWP with a strong product from your assortment, it can become a type of “bundle” and really help move a slower-selling product. 

  • Look for GWPs that complement a product in your assortment:  

    • If you’re in beauty, give a GWP of a mini mascara with the purchase of any eye palette.  

    • If you’re in fashion, give a GWP of a tie with any purchase of a blazer etc. 

  • For GWPs: 

    • Look for products with high value and low COGs.  

    • Look for products that may expire in the next year. 

    • Collateral works well for brands that have cache, plus it works two-fold as Tote Bags, T-shirts, Water Bottles are all marketing pieces in the wild.   

Bundling Good & Slow Selling Products  

This is similar to product-based GWPs, except the products are pre-bundled together at the warehouse versus just being picked together.  

I would only recommend doing this if you have a lot of inventory of all products involved and want it to live on as a normal product SKU until the inventory is depleted. If not, just go with the GWP (above) as it’s operationally much easier.     

  • However, if you do bundle them together at the warehouse and have it live on the site, you would have the flexibility to move pricing down and that could be a strong promo.

Bundling Products - Same Products 

This promo is similar to the above: Just run it as a GWP or BOGO since operationally it will be much easier than actually bundling together.  

  • Once again, the only reason you would want to do this would be if you want the bundled product to live on like a normal SKU.

Buy Now and Get $ or % off on Next Purchase (Bounceback)  

This promo is not as effective as you might think as most customers want instant gratification on their purchase and won’t want to come back later to make another purchase.  

  • The bounceback card redemption rate is also usually pretty low, as customers forget to comeback or lose the code or bounceback card. 

  • I would only recommend using this as a layered promo during a heavy promo time to add to already planned strong promos.

Free Shipping No Threshold 

This may be the weakest overall promo to drive revenue, but it still works. People don’t like paying for shipping, and if you have a free promo and they have a product in mind, that may lead them to convert.   

Free Expedited Shipping  

This promo can be very effective during gifting holidays to ensure that a product gets there on time. Valentine’s Day is good example of this.  

  • Once normal shipping times won’t get the package to the destination on time, you would start a promo of FREE Expedited Shipping that guarantees delivery by the holiday.

Extra Rewards Points  

If you have a robust rewards program, offering 2X-5X points can be a promo that really moves the needle.  

  • Examples: Sephora and Ulta use this tactic quite a bit and get much success.

Flash Sales / Promos  

These are timed promos. They can consist of just discounted items, bundled items (discounted strongly), BOGO’s, etc. You should even layer a GWP with a high threshold to keep AOV up during these sales and keep people buying.  

  • The sense of urgency really works with these sales – anticipation can be built up for the event, and then reminders of it ending can drive additional sales through e-mail and social posts. 

  • It’s a good practice to save some discounted product or promos to add later to the sale (and message it): Either on the second day, or if it is a one-day sale, in the early evening to have people come back and check out the assortment again and possibly make another purchase.   

Step 4: Get your Pre & Post Click Ready  

Your social media strategy is what will help drive your sales. For help on how to create a great promo-heavy social strategy, use our checklist below: 

Checklist  

  1. Come up with a relevant promo strategy for each holiday that resonates with your customer base. 

    • For example, at bareMinerals we did a promo on Superbowl Sunday with eye colors that represented both teams.    

  2. For bigger Holidays (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Labor Day), create SEO-friendly landing pages that can be reused.    

    • These can be used YOY to promote your upcoming promos for those holidays, while building SEO value for promo searches on those days.    

  3. Create graphics for your social media posts. 

    • It’s best to have fresh assets for each holiday; YOY you can optimize based on performance. 

    • It’s okay to have generic site assets for each promo type, so in a pinch, you can just use those assets and re-purpose the messaging as needed.

  4. Schedule social media, display, and SEM posts ahead of time. 

    • Posts, assets, and messaging should all be locked and loaded for the promo.  

    • For longer promos, it’s good to have assets that 1) Announce the sale 2) Remind people the promo is going on 3) Final Day(s) of promo.     

  5. Send out an email to your newsletter subscribers. 
    • For big sales, send out e-mail messaging teasing the sales event (ex. Black Friday/Cyber Monday or Flash Sales); These can be a secondary or third message in any e-mail coming before the sales event. 

    • Always send out at least a text reminder or e-mail on the final day (or final hours) of a well performing promo. This can generate more sales than the original e-mail.   

  6. Add site assets, banners and/or a pop up to your website to alert visitors of the promotion. 

    • The expected impact of the promo should dictate how much site real estate is dedicated to it. 

      • For Black Friday and Cyber Monday whole pages should be built out. 

    • All promos should be reflected on corresponding product pages and category page placements. 

    • All promos should be reflected in the “deals” or sale section and any promo messaging should be in the header or footer.