Christmas In July – Which Holiday Promotions Should I Use?


With thousands of online retailers running holiday season promotions, how do you stand out?


You want to start planning and organizing your holiday promotions early, so you can create appropriate goals and projections. Knowing which promotions you’ll host can help you determine your holiday schedule, marketing, inventory, and profits for the season.


But which holiday promotions will make your business stand out during the holidays? Which is right for you?


What is a holiday promotion?

A promotion is any sort of sales or marketing campaign that “promotes” your brand. It’s used to provide additional value to the customer, which encourages the consumer to buy or move further through the sales funnel.


A “promotion” is not the same as a “sale.” A sale is a type of promotion that adds value for the consumer by discounting the product itself. However, it’s important to realize that you don’t need hefty sales that kill your margins in order to stand out during the holiday season.


A lot of companies don’t even host holiday sales. Maybe your margins are already too low, maybe you haven’t seen success with sales, maybe you’re a luxury brand, or maybe your audience isn’t a discount shopper. In these cases, a sales promotion wouldn’t be effective.


Below we present you with other types of popular holiday promotions you can consider to effectively stimulate business for your brand.  



1. Free shipping

Today’s consumer expects free, fast shipping, especially during the holiday season. Research shows that free shipping is the factor most likely to affect customer decisions this time of year. In fact, it’s ranked as the second most important purchasing driver for 86% of customers(second to lower prices).


Free shipping is also the easiest promotion for customers to understand. They know instantly what “free shipping” means, so it’s easy to instantly see the added value with your product. This makes the promotion process frictionless, which encourages a higher conversion rate.


If you’re an Amazon business, it’s time to get involved in Amazon FBA. This will make you Prime-eligible for free shipping, and it streamlines your operational process.  


If you’re not on Amazon, summer is the perfect time to start streamlining your fulfillment and shipping practices. Remember that shipment starts in the warehouse. We recommend implementing an inventory management system like Skubana to streamline the warehouse process. You will also want to work directly with your transport carrier to come up with a strategy for the fastest possible shipping.


If you’re going to offer free shipping, it’s likely going to cut into your margins—especially during the expensive holiday season. You’ll need to take this into account in your budget. Nevertheless, failing to offer free shipping could lose you serious business that could kill your Q4 numbers. Free shipping is a basic, necessary evil during the holiday season.


2. Discount

A discount or sale is one of the most common holiday promotions. This includes a percentage or dollar amount off the original cost of the unit.


There are a number of ways to host this kind of discount promotion. You can host a “flash sale” or lightning deal that discounts your products for a set period of time. This creates a sense of urgency that encourages your customers to buy right away. This urgency can help you avoid the common holiday mindset to “wait and see” what other discounts there are.


You can also use coupons. You can send a coupon code to all of your customers via your email list, or you can offer a coupon code on your website.


You may even want to offer a personalized coupon code that gives a certain percentage off a particular product that the consumer has been eyeing in recent months. This is a great way to personalize your marketing and increase conversions.


Although discounts aren’t a necessity, they’re a common holiday promotion that all businesses should consider. Take into account your budget, marketing, and audience to see if discounting is the right solution.


"Rather than referring a friend after making a purchase,  encourage customers to refer a friend  to the companies they want to receive a gift from."   Click to Tweet


3. Gift with purchase

Your customers are buying gifts for others, so make them feel good with a gift in return.


This can be a physical gift with purchase, like a tote bag if they spend over $75. This is a great way to increase your units per transaction because customers will add more to their shopping cart to meet the minimum threshold to receive the gift. This is a great way to move smaller or less popular goods.


It can also be a gift card. For example, you could give them $25 for every $100 they spend with you. This kind of gift with purchase actually becomes an incentive for customers to spend that money on future purchases, ensuring repeat business after the holiday season is over. Like the physical gift, customers will also purchase more to meet the minimum to receive the gift card.


Learn more: Free Gifts – How To Offer The Gift-With-Purchase


4. Refer-a-friend

Referral sales are one of our favorite types of promotions. These help improve your social rating, boost your brand awareness, and encourage a higher rate of conversion. Customers trust their peers’ reviews more so than any other testimony, so having a direct refer-a-friend is a great way to gain new leads.


Most refer-a-friend promotions happen after the sale. A customer purchases from you; you offer $15 off their friend’s first purchase; in return, the customer gets $15 off their next purchase as well.  


However, despite the benefits of a refer-a-friend program, these tend to be less popular or successful during the holiday season. Most customers don’t want their friends and family knowing where they’re shopping for their gifts. (Half the fun is the surprise.) Also, once they’ve purchased their gifts, they aren’t interested in buying any more.


Instead, if you want to utilize the refer-a-friend promotion, do so before the sale. Rather than referring a friend after making a purchase, encourage customers to refer a friend to the companies they want to receive a gift from.


For example, you want to get a new pair of shoes from your favorite online shoe store. You “refer” your husband to the company, so he knows where to buy you shoes—and he even gets a discount on it. In return, you get the shoes—and you get a discount to use after January 1.


This is a great way for businesses to optimize on the gift-giving tradition while also setting yourself up for future purchases and clientele next year.


5. Early bird offer

An early bird offer makes some sort of discount or deal ahead of the typical holiday sales. This encourages customers to purchase from you early before the mad rush of the holiday promotion season.


Consumers have limited purchases during the holiday season. They usually know how much they want to get or spend on each person on their list; once they reach that limit, they stop purchasing. It becomes a race to reach and convert customers. So you want to offer the best possible deal as early as you can to encourage customers to buy from you.


If you run an early bird offer, make sure you let customers know that this will be your best promotion all season (assuming that it is). This will make sure they don’t wait for the next holiday promotion to see if it’s better. If you make it known that the early bird deal is the best, it increases the exclusivity and urgency drastically.  


Note that if you do your holiday early bird too early, people will likely not be in the mindset to do their holiday shopping yet. If you do it too late, it’s no longer an “early bird” sale, and you’re thrown in with other holiday promotions.



6. Gift guide

We love the idea of mixing a downloadable with a coupon. Create a downloadable gift guide that directs your target audience to possible gifts their loved ones would want—both from your company and elsewhere. Include a coupon within the guide as further incentive to download—and to reward loyal customers who follow your gift guide.


A downloadable gift guide has a number of parts to it:

  • Customers will give you their emails in exchange for the downloadable, which you can use to build your email marketing list for the holiday season (and beyond).
  • You’re providing strong value to your customers, which increases brand loyalty and conversions.
  • The guide will generate interest in your products if you include your own (and partner) products in the guide.
  • You can offer a coupon on the inside that will encourage them to purchase the suggested items, which improves sales and conversion.


7. Giveaways

Host a giveaway or sweepstakes, which creates buzz around your brand during the holiday season. For example, you can run a photo contest where people tag themselves using your product for a chance to win a gift card.


Giveaways are also a great way to spotlight your community. You create a social atmosphere around the giveaway, which can help build your brand loyalty and spotlight the lifestyle of your brand.


Make sure that you properly market the giveaway ahead of time and throughout the promotion. These sorts of promotions require strong social proof and involvement in order to work well.



Buy one, get one is a common promotion during the holiday season. It plays on the holiday idea of “giving”—you can buy one for a friend, and get one for yourself. The brand is giving back to you for giving to your friends.


Despite its popularity, BOGO can be a major margin killer. It usually works best for large brands that have significant sales and can absorb that type of loss in exchange for an increased number of units sold.


If you’re going to incorporate BOGO in your holiday promotions, make sure you have the inventory and margins to keep up with it.   



When planning your holiday promotions, make sure you consider your budget and goals. What do you want to get out of the Q4 season? How would each holiday promotion contribute to your objective metrics?


You also want to make sure you don’t run too many holiday promotions, which can dilute your offers. You especially don’t want to run multiple promotions at once time, which can create internal competition.


Which promotions will work for your business this holiday season? How will you see exponential growth?

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