Pre-Holiday Planning: The Catalyst for Holiday Success [VIDEO]

By Katie Wilder |  Oct 27, 2023 (5 min read)

Advertising | Marketing | Strategy

As October’s brisk winds bring a change in the leaves, they also signal the imminent arrival of the festive season. For digital marketers, this month is a pivotal time to lay the groundwork for holiday campaigns. This article delves into the importance of early preparations, illustrating why a head start can set the stage for success. We’ll explore the significance of anticipating shifts in consumer behavior, the perils of last-minute planning, and the art of crafting a meticulous marketing calendar that could be the difference between average results and a winning holiday season. Join us as we unravel the secrets of effective holiday marketing planning.

Why October Isn’t Too Soon to Plan

The digital marketing landscape is ever-evolving, and with the holidays being a peak time for consumer spending, businesses that position themselves earlier tend to gain a competitive edge. Here’s why:

Anticipating Consumer Behavior

Every holiday season comes with its own set of consumer trends. These trends can be influenced by various factors like cultural shifts, technological advancements, economic scenarios, or even world events. The emergence of a global trend, like a specific product craze or a new social media challenge, can change the direction of consumer interest overnight.

Starting in October allows brands to:

  • Conduct Market Research – Early planning provides ample time for surveys, focus groups, and studying purchasing patterns. This insight can be the difference between a hit campaign and a miss.
  • Engage with Customers – Using platforms like social media or email marketing, brands can seek feedback on potential holiday offerings, giving a sneak peek and gauging interest.
  • Test and Learn – Brands can roll out mini campaigns or advertisements, gather data on their performance, and fine-tune their major holiday campaigns accordingly.

Avoiding the Last-minute Rush

As the saying goes, haste makes waste. Last-minute campaigns, more often than not, suffer from a lack of oversight, lack of coherence, and can even lead to logistical nightmares.

Benefits of early planning include:

  • Detailed Review and Iteration – Campaigns can be reviewed by different teams, be it creative, legal, or management, ensuring that it is polished and effective.
  • Alignment with Broader Strategy – With extra time on hand, campaigns can be aligned perfectly with the brand’s broader objectives, ensuring a consistent brand voice and message.
  • Contingency Time – If things don’t go as planned, starting early gives brands the breathing space to modify campaigns or fix issues.

Inventory Management

The holiday season for e-commerce brands means heightened sales. But this can turn into a double-edged sword if inventory management is neglected.

Starting early allows businesses to:

  • Analyze Previous Sales Data – Understand which products were hits and which weren’t. This retrospective view can guide stock decisions for the current year.
  • Engage with Suppliers – Ensure that high-demand products are adequately stocked. Early engagement can also lead to better pricing negotiations.
  • Implement Technology – Use inventory management software to automate restocking processes, predict stock-out scenarios, and handle returns efficiently.

Better Stake in Ad Space

As holidays approach, the digital space becomes a battleground. Every brand is vying for the consumer’s attention, leading to skyrocketing ad costs.

By initiating campaigns early, brands can:

  • Lock-in Prime Spots – Whether it’s the top ad slot in a search engine or a prime-time TV ad, early birds get the pick of the lot.
  • Negotiate Better Deals – With the rush being comparatively less in October, brands can negotiate better rates for ad placements, potentially saving a considerable sum.
  • Optimize Creatives – Starting early gives brands the luxury of A/B testing their ad creatives, understanding which works better, and then investing more in the effective variant.

Crafting the Perfect Holiday Marketing Calendar

A marketing calendar acts as the backbone of your holiday strategy, ensuring that every campaign is timed perfectly and no opportunity is missed.

Steps to Craft a Winning Calendar:

  • Outline Key Dates – Start with the basics. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Eve, and Boxing Day are givens, but also consider other shopping days specific to your target audience.
  • Backtrack from Major Days – If you have a sale starting on Black Friday, when will you start the promotional content? A week before? Two weeks before? Decide the build-up.
  • Allocate Resources – Decide on the budget, manpower, and tools for each campaign. Having this mapped out ensures smooth execution.
  • Flexibility – While it’s essential to stick to a calendar, it’s equally important to be adaptable. Monitor campaigns and be ready to pivot if something isn’t working.

Case Study: Target

Target has consistently been at the forefront of crafting compelling holiday marketing strategies. Their success during the holiday season, particularly Black Friday and the month leading up to Christmas, can be attributed to a combination of early planning and responsive execution.  Check out some of their past initiatives.

  1. Execution:
  • Innovative Ad Campaigns: Target’s holiday advertisements have always stood out, often featuring catchy music, dynamic visuals, and a sense of inclusivity. Their TV spots and digital ads reflect the diverse range of shoppers they cater to.
  • Collaborative Collections: Target often teams up with high-profile designers and brands to release exclusive collections during the holiday season. For instance, in previous years, they’ve had collaborations with Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Hearth & Hand, offering exclusive holiday-themed items.
  • Drive Up & Same Day Delivery: Recognizing the need for convenience during the busy holiday season, Target has promoted its “Drive Up” service, allowing customers to place orders through the app and have them delivered to their car. Additionally, their acquisition of Shipt enables them to offer same-day delivery for thousands of items.
  • Mobile App and Digital Deals: Target has enhanced its mobile app to cater to holiday shoppers. Features such as in-app deals, early access to Black Friday sales for RedCard holders, and interactive store maps help shoppers navigate stores during the busy holiday rush.
  1. Results:
  • Increased Sales & Revenue: Target’s meticulous holiday planning and its focus on omnichannel experiences have typically translated into increased sales during the holiday season. In particular, their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales often see significant surges due to their early promotional activities and exclusive deals.
  • Growth in Digital Engagement: By enhancing its mobile app with features tailored for the holiday season, Target has seen growth in app downloads and engagement. Services like Drive Up and Same Day Delivery, when heavily promoted during the holidays, have not only increased sales but have also received positive feedback, resulting in higher customer satisfaction ratings.
  • Operational Efficiency: With early planning and data-driven inventory management, Target has been able to minimize stock outs of popular items during the holiday rush. This ensures that most customers find what they’re looking for, leading to a positive shopping experience and reduced potential for lost sales.

Target’s holiday success is a testament to the power of early planning, combined with adaptive execution. Their strategic foresight, coupled with their commitment to customer satisfaction, ensures they remain a top choice for holiday shoppers year after year.

Wrapping Up

The proverbial saying, “The early bird gets the worm,” has never been more fitting. In the hyper-competitive digital marketing landscape, early preparation is often rewarded with better audience engagement, increased sales, and a stronger brand reputation. For businesses, this ‘worm’ translates to a larger share of the holiday sales pie, greater brand visibility, and lasting customer loyalty.

While October may seem like just another month in the calendar to many, for digital marketers, it’s a goldmine of opportunities. It’s a call to action, a reminder that behind every successful holiday campaign is a trail of meticulous planning and foresight. So, as the leaves begin to fall and the air turns crisp, it’s time for brands to gear up, strategize, and lay the foundation for a successful holiday season. Get planning, because December’s festive frenzy is just around the corner, and success favors the prepared.

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