Unwrap success: 20 holiday promotion ideas for small businesses

The holiday season is a bustling time for shoppers to splurge on gifts, festive decor, and seasonal treats. It’s also a golden opportunity for growing businesses to boost sales.

However, with retailers collectively pouring $2.5 billion into holiday advertising each year, standing out in a crowded marketplace is no small feat.1 Businesses must not only plan early but also offer compelling promotions that capture attention and wallets.

In this guide, we'll explore 20 holiday promotion ideas that’ll give your business a competitive edge this festive season.

  1. Early bird discounts

    Early bird discounts are more than just a popular holiday sale idea. They're a strategic move that injects a sense of urgency into the shopping experience. By setting a deadline for discounts, you can increase immediate sales and gain better control over your inventory before the holiday chaos sets in.

    To make the most of this strategy, clearly define the discount period, then use every tool in your marketing arsenal — social media blasts, targeted emails, and in-store signage — to ensure shoppers mark their calendars.

  2. Holiday bundles and gift sets

    Holiday shopping can be stressful. Luckily, bundled products and gift sets offer customers a one-stop solution while driving up average order values and revenue.

    To curate seasonal bundles and gift sets worth putting under the tree, consider:

    • Pairing complementary products: Think beyond items — your bundle should offer a complete, memorable experience.
    • Using eye-catching and festive packaging: Holiday-themed designs, ribbons, and eco-friendly packaging can make your bundles stand out.
    • Setting competitive pricing: Highlight savings to make the gift set more enticing than individual products.
  3. Flash sales

    By drumming up excitement and urgency, flash sales are a common strategy for encouraging immediate sales.

    Drive shoppers to your flash sales by:

    • Selecting high-demand products: Choose items that are popular but also have enough stock to meet the increased demand.
    • Setting time limits: The effectiveness of a flash sale often lies in its time limit — the shorter, the more urgent.
    • Promoting your flash sale across channels: Use social media to create buzz before and during the sale, and don't underestimate the power of a well-timed "last chance" email.
  4. Limited-edition items

    When designing limited-edition items, ask yourself: What embodies the holiday season for your target audience? Is it a festive flavor, design, or product that solves a specific holiday-related problem?

    As you market your unique seasonal-themed products through social media, influencers, and emails, highlight their features and benefits while emphasizing limited availability.

  5. Gift cards and e-gift certificates

    Secret Santa and White Elephant can feel intimidating when you don’t know recipients well or if the clock is ticking. Enter gift cards: flexible and convenient, they’re a popular choice for holiday shoppers tired of scouring for a gift.

    To promote your business’s gift cards, consider:

    • Offering discounts on bulk purchases to incentivize larger orders.
    • Emphasizing their versatility in your marketing.
    • Creating holiday-themed designs.
  6. Social media contests

    Social media contests can amplify your holiday campaign ideas and seasonal-themed products — all while engaging your existing followers and attracting new ones.

    To maximize the impact of your social media marketing efforts, design contests that encourage participation, such as photo submissions or holiday trivia. Make sure to select prizes that resonate with your target audience, like seasonal bestsellers or exclusive discounts.

  7. Social media Stories and Reels

    Short-lived content on Instagram Stories and Reels is perfect for delivering time-sensitive content that captures attention.

    This holiday season, consider using them to showcase:

    • Limited-time offers, flash sales, and doorbusters: You can even add compelling visuals and countdown timers to boost engagement.
    • Behind-the-scenes sneak peeks: Give your audience a glimpse into your holiday preparations, whether it's decorating your store, packaging gifts, or even a fun office party.
    • Customer testimonials: Share heartfelt messages from happy customers to add authenticity and trust to your seasonal promotions.
  8. Festive email campaigns

    With every retailer trying to draw attention to their sales and seasonal offerings, you must be strategic with your email campaigns.

    Use these email holiday marketing ideas to stand out in your customers’ inboxes:

    • Craft compelling subject lines that pique interest and encourage opens.
    • Use a festive and mobile-friendly design.
    • Segment your email list to deliver targeted messages, such as a special offer for loyal customers.
  9. Decorate your physical and online storefront

    There’s a reason retailers like Macy’s invest in spectacular storefront decorations every year: They’re great visual cues that not only get customers in the holiday spirit but also signal that your business has unique offerings for the season.

    For brick-and-mortar stores, consider designing window displays featuring seasonal specials or a themed photo spot for customer selfies. Meanwhile, you can jazz up your online storefront by uploading holiday banners or switching to seasonal color schemes.

  10. Collaboration with other local businesses

    When it comes to finding new customers and boosting revenue during the holidays, partnering with other local businesses for cross-promotions can be a win-win opportunity.

    For instance, a coffee shop and a bookstore could run a joint promotion where a purchase at one store grants a discount at the other. Alternatively, you could co-host holiday events like a Christmas market or a New Year's Eve party.

    Shared marketing efforts, such as social media shoutouts or joint email campaigns, can also amplify both businesses’ reach.

  11. Charitable initiatives

    The holiday season is a time for giving, and involving your customers in charitable efforts can add a meaningful angle to your campaign. For example, donate a portion of each sale to a chosen charity or offer a discount to customers who contribute to a cause.

    When selecting a charity, choose one that aligns with your brand values and resonates with your customer base.

  12. Countdown calendar or promotion

    Want to keep customers engaged from Black Friday to New Year’s Day? Consider a holiday countdown calendar or promotion.

    For example, you could:

    • Promote a different discount or product daily via a virtual advent calendar on your website.
    • Launch weekly promotions focusing on different product categories or customer segments, giving them a reason to return for more.
  13. Thank-you gifts for loyal customers

    The holiday season is a time for gratitude, and acknowledging your existing customers can not only encourage them to return for more but also deepen their loyalty.

    Show that you value your customers by offering them:

    • Small thank-you gifts, such as a handwritten card
    • Exclusive discounts on future purchases
    • Early access to new products
  14. Virtual holiday events

    Just because your customers are scattered worldwide doesn’t mean you can’t share holiday cheer. Virtual festive events like webinars, workshops, or live Q&A sessions offer a unique way to deepen customer relationships.

    For example, a kitchenware business might host a holiday baking workshop showcasing their holiday-themed product line.

    To ensure success, make sure to:

    • Promote the event well in advance across all your marketing channels, including social media and email
    • Consider offering exclusive discounts or giveaways to attendees to incentivize participation
    • Incorporate interactive polls and quizzes into your virtual event
  15. Customer story features

    Sharing customer stories during the holidays is a powerful way to build trust and foster community around your brand. Warm and fuzzy testimonials provide social proof and strengthen your brand's emotional connection with its audience.

    To collect these stories, you could run a social media hashtag campaign asking customers to share their experiences. Alternatively, feature a "Customer of the Month" on your website or in your newsletter.

  16. Create a gift guide

    When shoppers are in a rush to find the perfect gift, they may not have the patience to walk through every store or sift through dozens of product pages. This is where curated holiday gift guides can help.

    Use these tips to create an effective and appealing gift guide:

    • Categorize products clearly: Whether organized by theme, price range, or target recipient, well-defined categories can help shoppers navigate your offerings.
    • Focus on visual appeal: Use high-quality images and concise descriptions.
    • Promote your guide: Social media, email campaigns, and in-store displays are great places to start.
  17. Upgrade shipping options

    With half of shoppers at least somewhat concerned about shipping delays during the last few holiday seasons, it’s clear that reliable shipping can set businesses apart.2

    Consider offering both expedited and free shipping. The former ensures timely delivery, alleviating customer anxiety, while the latter can be the deciding factor for budget-conscious shoppers.

    Make sure to promote these shipping options prominently on your website and through marketing channels, as well as follow these additional holiday shipping best practices.

  18. Mystery discounts

    Want to add more excitement to your holiday promotions? Look no further than mystery discounts, where you offer customers an unknown discount amount until they take a specific action.

    Easy ways to implement mystery discounts include:

    • Interactive online tools: Use spin-the-wheel or “pick a box” widgets on your website.
    • Scratch-off cards: Offer them in-store or include them in shipped packages for a hands-on surprise.
    • QR Codes: Place these in your store or on social media, leading customers to a mystery discount when scanned.
  19. Employee picks and recommendations

    With employees being the face of your business, involving them in promotions can add a personal touch to the shopping experience.

    To do this, you can feature employees' favorite products as holiday gift recommendations, then design special sections in-store or online to display their picks.

  20. Post-holiday offers

    Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean it’s time to put your marketing to rest. Extending promotions beyond the holiday season can help you maintain sales momentum into the new year and keep revenue flowing.

    You can:

    • Run a post-holiday clearance sales to move leftover inventory
    • Offer special discounts to returning customers as a thank-you for their seasonal purchases
    • Promote upcoming events to keep your audience engaged

Unwrap success: Your ultimate source for creative holiday promotion ideas

In the world of holiday promotions, creativity and planning are your greatest allies. Mix and match these ideas to craft a unique strategy that suits your business best.

While these ideas will help you attract shoppers to your online and offline storefronts, you’ll need to optimize the rest of their shopping experience to ensure they convert – get started by checking out these retail tools for small businesses.

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