We usually think about sustainability from an environmental standpoint. However, it’s a far broader concept which applies in many different ways to business.

Sustainability in its original definition simply means ‘capable of being endured/continuing to exist’. When we think about the upcoming holidays, sustainability definitely applies in more ways than one!

For most retailers, the holidays mean one thing: a nice spike in sales! This is very important, as small to medium-sized businesses make between 20% to 40% of their revenue in the last two months of the year. So, it’s hardly surprising that many brands allocate the lion’s share of their marketing budget to this season.

But as any successful merchant knows, it’s important not to view the holidays as just a revenue injection - it’s a time to put your best foot forward. According to Deloitte’s holiday insights, nearly 75% of consumers say that they open to shopping with new brands at this time of year. So, the festive season is a valuable time to pick up new customers, affirm brand loyalty, and set yourself up for a strong start to the new year!

This is where sustainability plays a big role in any great holiday marketing strategy. You don’t just want to be thinking about the weeks leading up to Christmas - you need to be thinking much longer-term. This is the key to getting great value from your marketing spend and reaping the positive effects of the holidays into the New Year and beyond.

What is a ‘sustainable’ holiday marketing strategy?

As consumers, we generally think of holiday marketing as coming into play once Halloween has wrapped, and then finishing up in the New Year. Anything beyond this runs the risk of frustrating consumers. In fact, one of the most disliked parts of the holiday season is the so-called ‘Christmas Creep’ - when retailers try to capture a bigger share of sales by starting their seasonal marketing earlier each year.

While an early start to your holiday marketing might have some short-term gains, they also run the risk of putting off consumers who aren’t yet in this mindset. Why? Because in the past few years, ‘holiday marketing’ has become a year-round occurrence.

Once the linchpin of the winter season, storewide sales are now frequent. ‘Back to School’, Halloween, Mother’s Day and even the Superbowl have become retail holidays in their own right. This makes it a lot harder to pull consumers into a festive mindset on your schedule.

A sustainable holiday marketing strategy uses the festive season to bring customers into a longer-term sales funnel. While the holidays might be the instigator for a campaign, the focus is on rewarding customers who provide repeat business and high engagement.

How do you achieve this? By putting personalization at the center of your strategy instead of targeting customers in one mass group with sales. The key to creating a sustainable approach to the holidays is to think about their festive needs and how your brand can provide the solution.

1. Getting Holiday Customers Onto Your Mailing List

Email marketing is a tried-and-tested strategy for any time of the year, but it’s a really useful tool during the festive season to add some new leads to your mailing list.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s likely that a high proportion of your seasonal traffic is from entirely new customers. So, you don’t want to let them slip away once the new year begins! Ongoing interaction post-purchase is vital if you are going to turn these first-time customers into long-term supporters of your brand.

A great way to retain these customers is to offer a perk in exchange for joining your mailing list or loyalty program. Even a small offering, such as 10% off or free shipping for their order, is a powerful incentive. This allows you to follow up with email campaigns far beyond the holiday season.

2. How-to Guides and Tutorials

Content marketing is one of the most valuable tools at your disposal for the holiday season. When every retailer is out pushing their wares, curating some relevant and useful content that is related to your offerings will boost the perception of your brand.

Gift-buying is a different form of consumption compared with the rest of the year. When consumers are buying for other people, they are likely to be engaging with brands in sectors that they aren’t as familiar with. This means that during the holidays, consumers are likely to want more information about your products.

You can cater to this by producing ‘how-to’ guides and tutorials for your most popular products. This can take the form of blogs or videos that answer any likely questions that prospective customers might have, just like this one we created for our new custom packing tape!

This means that when consumers are browsing your goods online, you can direct them to valuable, relevant content that will help to close the sale.  

The best part? The fruits of your content creation efforts aren’t just going to be felt over the holidays. Customers year-round will benefit from this valuable information. It will help to move people further along the sales funnel and consider your brand as a viable option for their spending.

Moreover, long-form content is a goldmine for boosting your SEO efforts. Domain authority is a major part of moving higher up those search results, and taking the time to curate high-quality content is one of the best ways to improve your ranking!

3. ‘Behind the Scenes’ Social Media Campaigns

During the holidays, consumers are used to having consumer goods (virtually) shoved in their faces in the form of gift guides and special deals. But this isn’t going to help consumers remember your brand: it’s engaging narratives that are memorable to consumers, not products.

Trust is the number one ingredient for inspiring brand loyalty. In fact, 75% of consumers now say that the ‘transparency’ of a brand matters more to them than price. So, to establish a long-term relationship with consumers, they need to get a sense of who you are and what makes your brand unique.

Social media has long been a fantastic tool for creating personal connections with consumers. So, just focusing on your gift offerings will quickly get repetitive - the holidays themselves offer plenty of inspiration for engaging content!

We all know that the holidays are a busy time for all retailers - foot traffic increases, online orders start piling up, and employees themselves are making their own holiday preparations. That’s why it’s an opportune time to show your followers some fun ‘behind the scenes’ content about the day-to-day activities of your business!

Instagram Stories in particular is a brilliant tool to give your audience a more intimate look at how your brand operates. This platform makes it feel as though your content has come from a trusted friend, as opposed to a generic mass marketing campaign. For your new customers particularly, this sets the foundations for a much stronger connection to your brand ethos.

4. An Attractive Holiday Packaging Design

Attractive Holiday Packaging Design Example

While a seasonal packaging refresh might seem like a regular holiday marketing strategy, it has benefits that go far beyond the festive period.

A holiday packaging design both enhances the appearance of your goods and provides customers with a valuable service. For branded retailers especially, it’s also vital that you have something to separate yourself from others who might sell the same products.

Why? Because if consumers have a choice between you and a competitor, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will pick whoever offers those value-added extras! In a highly competitive online market, this gives your brand a real edge.

In eCommerce, consumers don’t get to interact with the item they have purchased until it is delivered. This lag between ordering and receiving is something you can take advantage of as a retailer. Because the moment of delivery is your customers’ first tangible impression of your brand, it’s vital that you make it one to remember.

A memorable unboxing experience is a brilliant post-purchase holiday marketing strategy. Taking the time to gift wrap and attractively arrange products leaves your customer with a lasting positive impression of your brand - one that far outlasts the holiday season.

Curating your brand interactions in this way makes people feel like individuals who genuinely matter to your business, rather than just another consumer. This massively increases the odds of customers making a repeat purchase!

Although it sounds like a major investment, Low MOQs have made custom packaging more accessible to small businesses than ever before. It’s a great way to dip your toe in the water and consider if you want to introduce premium packaging year-round!

The holiday season can bring with it a lot of stress for retailers, but also some unique opportunities. It’s the best time to lay the foundations for a strong year to come by focusing on how you can retain new customers and foster brand loyalty. A sustainable holiday marketing strategy, like those listed above, is the key to capitalizing on seasonal traffic and turning it into long-term growth for your brand!

Beth Owens is the Content Strategist and resident unboxing expert at noissue. Her main areas of expertise are eCommerce trends, sustainability for small businesses, and the art of excellent branding. Her articles have been featured by the likes of Big Cartel, Vend, BigCommerce, and RetailMinded.