I used to have this belief about my online shop and the holidays.  If I added holiday themed products, customers would line up at the door to buy them.  Just like that.  No holiday marketing needed.

Turns out I was wrong.  Very wrong. 

After I first opened my Etsy shop, I spent the first couple holiday seasons trying out how to work this marketing technique.  I’d add about 50 new holiday designs around the end of October.  And then I’d wait.  

Guess what?  Usually nothing happened.  Sales didn’t go up and I didn’t even experience the wonderful holiday rush that so many online shops talk about.

Lesson learned.  It turns out that it doesn’t matter how amazing your holiday product line is.  If customers don’t know about your products, they won’t buy them.  They won’t even stop by and browse.

In order to make sales around the holiday season, you need to tell customers about your holiday products and all the wonders of your online shop.

Christmas flat lay with red and green props and the text overlay "Creative holiday marketing ideas to grow your online business"

But how do I inform customers that my shop exists, let alone has all of these amazing products to offer this Christmas?

That’s where creative holiday marketing comes in.  The holiday season is a perfect time to renew your relationships with current customers and build relationships with new ones.  You can accomplish this through the holiday marketing techniques that you choose.

Here are some of my favorite holiday marketing ideas that I’ve used over the years (after my first couple of bust holiday seasons) to grow my stationery shop’s holiday sales.  It’s time to take action.  No more sitting and waiting for customers just to show up or click in my case.

Small Business Saturday

One of my favorite kick-offs to the holiday season is Small Business Saturday.  The idea was created by American Express in 2010.  Small Business Saturday is the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  It was created as an opportunity for small businesses to come together and promote each other.

Small Business Saturday is also a chance to remind customers about the importance of shopping small.  Small businesses feed our communities in ways that big box stores can’t.  Customers need to be reminded of this.

Your shop can celebrate Small Business Saturday in lots of ways.  I usually host a special holiday sale.  I also share our small business story through focused posts on social media.

My goal on Small Business Saturday is to go beyond just promoting my shop, though.  I like to partner with other Etsy shops and local artisans to showcase their handmade goods too.  And if they have a sale running, even better.

It turns out that the more small businesses work together to build themselves up the more successful we will all be.  Small Business Saturday is an important reminder of this and a great marketing tool to bring awareness of why shopping small is so important.

Choose a Branded Holiday Hashtag

With the world communicating mostly via social media these days, hashtags are becoming our new language.  They are a way for us to gather together and find one another.  Or at least people with similar interests.

Get your audience to rally around your holiday marketing campaign by creating a branded holiday hashtag.  This hashtag can be used in all of your posts and your customers’ posts.  When one hashtag is used, a simple search of that hashtag allows for all social media posts using those words to be found.

When choosing your holiday hashtag, think of something that is unique and relevant to your customers.  Be sure to do research about your hashtag before committing to using it.

A few years ago, some of my party planning friends were using the hashtag #partygirl on Instagram to share work with each other (and their audiences).  Turns out it wasn’t the most appropriate hashtag to use.

So, before selecting a hashtag check to see if it’s been used before.  And if so, what types of photos and posts was it related to.  You can never be too careful when it comes to branding your business.

Run a Photo Contest

I love pictures.  Especially around the holidays.  I mean who doesn’t love adorable Santa snaps, furry little puppies and freshly fallen snow.

Encourage your audience to share their photos by hosting a photo contest on social media.  Choose a theme for the contest that connects to your product.  For example, as a stationery and celebration shop, I might host a photo contest on the best holiday tablescapes or prettiest homemade ornaments.

Have your audience submit their photos via social media (this is where that holiday hashtag can come in handy).  Be sure to select a prize that will excite participants.  I see a lot of shops offer gift certificates to their stores.  Although this can be fun, you might encourage even more participation by giving away a bigger prize.  Think about something your customers really want this holiday season and make that the prize. 

Find out more tips to making your photo contest successful here.

Create a Holiday Bundle

If you’re looking for another unique way to drive sales this holiday season, you could create a holiday bundle.  Take a variety of your holiday products and make a special collection for customers to purchase.

Your holiday bundle should include products that have a similar theme, feel or use.  Also, you want to select one or two that are a bestseller (to make the bundle worth purchasing) and a few that you want to introduce customers too (or have been sitting too long).

For example, if you have a baking supplies shop, a holiday bundle idea could include a selection of necessities to make Christmas cookies.  Or you could create a bundle to spruce up your holiday kitchen.

There are lots of ideas for holiday bundles.  No matter which one you choose, make sure you price it correctly.  Although you want to give customers a good deal, it’s also important that you don’t lose money.

After you’ve created your holiday bundle, promote it.  Write a blog post showing all of the items that it features.  Share about the bundle on social media.  You could even send the holiday bundle to your most influential customers and have them share about it with their audience.  This cross promotion helps spread the word faster.

Conduct a Holiday Themed Class

Deep down, I love to teach.  Any chance I have to share my expertise in design and creativity I like to take it.

Owning an online shop can make it difficult to host a class in person.  If I had a brick and mortar shop, I would host a monthly class for my customers.  Hosting classes is such a successful marketing strategy.  Customers love to learn and it’s a great way to introduce them to your products.

But, there is a way around this problem.  Hosting an online class via video.

Video is a great way to connect with your audience, promote your shop and find new customers.  Plus, these days, video is shared just as easily as words.

How do I know what to teach?

Imagine that you own a brick and mortar shop.  Your new marketing manager recommends connecting more with your customers by teaching a class this holiday season.

What would you teach the class on?  What would your customers want to learn more about?

If you still aren’t sure where to begin, ask them.  Create a survey on Facebook or in your email newsletter and find out what things they want to learn about.

But, I’m not an expert?

Not everyone can be an expert in all things. You might just know your craft and your audience wants to learn how to decorate a bathroom. Not to worry.

If you want to create a class, but aren’t overly familiar with the topic, you could find someone who is.  Invite them to be a guest in the class with you.  Most fellow bloggers and artisans are happy to share their expertise since it helps expand their brands as well.

Once you’ve filmed your class, there are a couple ways to share it.  The easiest and most free way for your audience to view it is via YouTube.  You can create a YouTube channel for your shop and share the video via social media.

YouTube is also a great way to find new customers.  Your video will come up in search, so anyone looking for a video on that subject will find yours.

You can also link to your video via a blog post.  For your loyal blog readers, this is an easy way for them to find your class.

If you have a Teachable account for your other online courses (this is the more expensive route), you could also include your holiday themed class for free.  A collection of free classes on your Teachable channel will encourage your audience to visit more often and check out your content.

Christmas flat lay with evergreen boughs and the text overlay "Creative holiday marketing ideas to increase sales this season"

Get Personal

Believe it or not, but customers love to hear about YOU.  Customers love to hear a personal angle.  Many people shop small because they love building relationships with the shop owners.  

Help them get to know you better by getting personal.  Share special holiday stories and traditions with your audience.  You can even make a holiday themed video about how you celebrate or sharing special moments from your holiday countdown.

I always love to highlight a product and the holiday story that inspired it’s creation.  And customers enjoy making a special connection with your brand. Especially around the holidays.

Digitally Decorate your Shop

One of my favorite parts of holiday shopping are the Christmas decorations.  I love the holiday music, smell of fresh evergreen, gorgeous baubles on the tree and snowflakes dancing out my window.

Okay, maybe not quite.  But this is what I hope to experience when I’m Christmas shopping.

Bring more of that holiday shopping experience to your customers by adding holiday branding in your shop.  Update your shop’s cover photo to a holiday design.  Change your colors to a holiday theme. And add holiday photos of your products in use.

Most importantly, spread the Christmas spirit through your shop’s branding.

Every year, I encourage customers to grab a cup of hot cocoa and put on the Christmas music when they check out our newest holiday products.  By putting customers in the holiday mood, they’re more likely to make a purchase.

Go Beyond Christmas

Unbeknownst to many, it turns out that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated this time of year.  There are actually many seasons and holidays to celebrate this time of year.  Christmas is just the easiest to market to.

Expand your customer reach this holiday season, by creating marketing promotions that target customers who celebrate these other holidays.  Light the candles on the menorah for Hanukkah.  Mark the winter solstice.  Ring in the New Year.

Brainstorm ways that your products can help customers celebrate these different holidays.  For example, if you sell candles, create a style that can be used in a menorah or lit to celebrate the winter solstice.

Not sure how other holidays are celebrated?  Research different holidays and talk with your customers.  Have them share the holiday traditions that they celebrate on your social media pages and how they use your products to help.

Partner with a Cause

The holidays are the season of giving.  This couldn’t be more true in business.  Customers love to give back – especially after they make a purchase.

Partner with a cause that’s important to you this holiday and donate part of your sales to charity.  Announce to customers in your shop cover, email or social marketing that you will be contributing a portion of your profits to the charity you chose.  

Use your marketing strategies as an opportunity to showcase the work of the non-profit.  Write a blog post, share a social media piece or announce in an email sharing about how this non-profit makes the world a better place.

If your cause is locally based, you could also volunteer hours to make your participation even more meaningful.  Everyone can write a check, but getting involved is just as important.  Share your experience with your customers.  It helps them connect with you and your business.  And who knows?  You might inspire them to give to a non-profit in their area.

Write a Holiday Blog Post (or Two)

You know me and blog posts.  They are one of the most effective marketing tools that you have.

Since it’s the holidays, plan some holiday themed blog posts that showcase your products.  Share a DIY project, free printable or other holiday post.

When writing your holiday blog post, make sure that you’re highlighting a product or products.  Blogging is an effective marketing tool only when you are linking back to your products.

Check out some holiday blog post ideas here to use on your business blog.

Host a Holiday Sale

Everyone loves to save money.  Especially around the holidays.

Increase your shop’s holiday traffic by hosting a holiday sale.  One of my favorites is a 12 Days of Christmas sale where you place a different product on sale each day.

But, there are lots of other types of holiday sales that you can host.

Also remember, that it’s okay to have more than one sale.  Over the holiday season, I usually host two sales.  One pre-Christmas and one during the season.  But, choose the right number of sales for you.

Also, keep in mind that sales take some management strategies.  It’s not just enough to decide that week I should host a holiday sale.

Plan ahead.  Make sure that you have enough products and supplies for customers if you have a holiday rush

And promote your sale.  Customers don’t know you’re having a sale unless you tell them.  Often.

Offer Free Shipping

In addition to a good holiday sale, everyone likes something for free.  This goes for most times of the year, though.

Encourage customers to complete their purchase by adding in a free shipping incentive.  You could offer free shipping for all orders or ones over a certain amount.

When creating your free shipping offer, know the kind of shipping that you plan on giving.  For my stationery shop, all of our free shipping offers include regular postal mail.  If a customer wants priority mail, they need to purchase a shipping upgrade.

Also, know how long you can give the free shipping offer for.  Check the USPS website to confirm holiday shipping deadlines.  To avoid disappointed customers, make sure you only offer free shipping up to the date that the package will arrive by Christmas.  

Interested in offering free shipping to your customers this holiday season?  Find out more tips for creating a free shipping offer here.

Final Thoughts…

The holiday season is a wonderful time to make more sales and introduce your shop to new customers.  But you need to go in with a holiday marketing plan.  Trying to promote your shop blindly usually results in disappointment.  And usually very little increase to sales.

A few months before the holiday season, figure out what marketing strategies you want to use.  Schedule your holiday sales.  Decide on a way to promote Small Business Saturday.  Work out the details of your free shipping offer.

Then, automate your holiday marketing.  Create your holiday content now and schedule it if possible.  It’s a lot easier during the chaos of the season if you have your marketing content ready to go.  You will be more on target with your holiday marketing and able to focus on wowing your customers.

Most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate.  Getting caught up in holiday marketing is not very fun.  So, find time to enjoy yourself and spend time with family and friends.  Here’s to a successful holiday season ahead!

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