Commentary

Holiday Strategy: Think Outside The (Calendar's) Box

You may have noticed a trend: Retailers are throwing up those holiday decorations earlier and earlier every year. No, they don’t just like twinkly decor and festive tunes on loop -- they’re trying to discreetly inch ahead of their competitors and beat year-over-year holiday sales projections.

In fact, one of the largest trends in online sales spikes is on the most unlikely of days:Thanksgiving. Promos typically reserved for Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now opened up and extended into Thanksgiving. Adobe Analytics reported that in 2018 online spending on Thanksgiving Day increased 27.9% from 2017 (which also saw record growth from 2016).

So, run a sale on Thanksgiving?

Well, more profoundly, it means you’re allowed to rewrite the rules of your holiday marketing plan.

It’s all arbitrary, anyway. Black Friday is now online. Thanksgiving is the new Black Friday. Cyber Monday is an all weekend affair. Don’t just lock yourself into playing the hits and expect to stand out.

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Retail is already telling your customer to start their shopping engines, so take some risks and create some unique promotions off the beaten calendar.

So, just run sales longer?

It’s more than just extending your Cyber Monday sale. It’s about rethinking the promotion itself.

Think about what your brand stands for and mix things up. It’s your chance to make your current customers happy, but also capture the attention of new shoppers.

Is your company all about fast service? Maybe give Black Friday shoppers only one hour to take advantage of a really deep discount.

Are your customers socially conscious shoppers? How about letting them decide to pocket their savings — or shift that savings to a charity.

So, who has done this?

The best example of a dramatic rewriting of a holiday promotion was when Patagonia’s CEO, Rose Marcario, doubled down on her mission to be an “activist company.”

Instead of just giving deep discounts and free shipping, she donated 100% of Patagonia’s global Black Friday sales to grassroots organizations aiming to protect the air, water and soil for future generations.

By making a spectacular brand statement, Patagonia was able to raise a spectacular $10 million and signed up 24,000 new customers in just one day.

The year before, outdoor co-op REI decided to “opt-out” of Black Friday with its #OptOutside campaign. So, instead of door-buster sales, it locked its doors and encouraged people to go outside. Online, the campaign became a user-generated aggregate of what customers were doing rather than shopping.

In another good example of a retailer rewriting the holiday calendar, San Francisco-based shorts company Chubbies decided its line of short-shorts for men didn’t get enough play in the cold winter shopping season, so it invented its own holiday: Julyber Monday.

(It must be noted that Chubbies also celebrates its own version of Cyber Monday, aptly named Thighber Monday.)

I think it’s fair to say that if you stay true to the traditional holidays and promote free shipping, maybe a discount, or offer advanced access to deals exclusive to email subscribers only, you’re going to see a lift.

But, if you put a unique twist on holiday clichés, maybe you could help create a whole new holiday tradition.

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