Why You Should Start Planning for the Holidays Now

It’s easy to assume holiday promotions are the exclusive territory of big-box retail.

Christmas discounts and $25 gift cards have nothing to do with art. The problem is that anyone who sells online knows that the holidays affect everything you do - in any industry.

Whenever you’re reading this, you should already be planning for holiday sales no matter what you sell online. For two reasons.

First, there are more holidays than you’re remembering. Second, even if you don’t celebrate, others may be hoping to buy your product or art as a gift.

Why miss the holiday rush when all it takes to participate is a bit of planning?

“The Holidays” Includes Far More Than You’re Picturing

First things first: which holidays are we talking about?

You might hear “year-end holiday” and think about one particular holiday. But we live in the era of the holiday season. If you put off your planning much longer, the season will arrive faster than you can say, “I forgot about that day!”

No matter what you buy or sell online, chances are you’ve seen holiday deals encompassing any of the following. Here they are with their relevant 2019 dates:

  • Thanksgiving: Thursday, November 28
  • Black Friday: Friday, November 29
  • Small Business Saturday: Saturday, November 30
  • Cyber Monday: Monday, December 2
  • St. Nick’s: Friday, December 6
  • Hanukkah: Sunday, December 22 through Monday, December 30
  • Christmas: Wednesday, December 25
  • Boxing Day: Thursday, December 26
  • Kwanzaa: Thursday, December 26 through Wednesday, January 1, 2020
  • New Year’s Eve: Tuesday, December 31

Zoom out even more and you’ll have Halloween (Thursday, October 31), seasonal search spikes for non-holiday related sales (jewelry and engagement rings in October, knitting supplies and seasonal décor in November), and costume and fashion sales for Halloween that begin as early as September. Depending on what you sell, the holiday season may already be upon you. You just didn’t know it.

The good news is that it’s not too late to get ready. In fact, now’s the perfect time!

Why You Need to Plan for the Holidays, No Matter What You Sell

It’s not just the size of the holiday season that matters; it’s the fact that the holidays are so powerful that many consumers build their yearlong spending habits around this singular event.

The National Retail Federation points to two big seasons in retail: back-to-school and the winter holidays.

“Great,” you might think. “But I don’t sell retail holiday trinkets. I make art and I sell it online.”

But consider the shopping impact of an entire season of shopping: the winter holidays are the only season in which the average consumer spends four digits of their money, at about $1,007 per consumer. As CNBC notes, a huge - and increasing - chunk of that money is spent online. No matter what you’re selling, it helps to know when your customers might have their wallets out, even if you’re not selling Christmas wrapping paper.

The holiday season doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The months of October through December still represent a quarter of the year, after all; there are bound to be some seasonal trends that might be worth thinking about in advance, even if you don’t explicitly plan for holiday sales.

If customers already plan their spending around the holiday season - independent of what they might actually buy - we should notice those trends reflected across a wide breadth of markets.

(Try it: Search Google Trends and you’ll see the distinct holiday-heartbeat of upticks around December for the term “art.”)

Whether or not you or I feel particularly artsy around the holidays isn’t the issue. It’s that even if you don’t have an explicitly holiday-related theme at your shop, you might still expect to see more customers around the holidays.

Let’s look at some other trends that emerge come winter:

Jewelry. According to one report, “searches for personalized jewelry start ticking up in October.” Birthstone jewelry searchers “peak in early December.” Jewelry is an obvious holiday gift, but it’s worth noting that the custom jewelry season begins months in advance, especially for items with a big price tag.

Décor. Holiday-related décor will see an obvious bump during the winter season, but décor in general also sees increased activity. The same report finds “self-care essentials,” “blackboard-painted elements,” and other home décor as special attractions during the holidays. Décor sellers tend to notice that the searches accelerate during October, peaking in early November - far ahead of Christmas.

Knitting and home crafts. Knitting and home crafts are popular as gifts during the holidays. Like décor, these crafts tend to trend the best in November, rather than December, highlighting the need to prepare for sooner rather than later.

How to Plan for the Holidays - Today

With the above in mind, what are some strategies you can incorporate as soon as today to get your holiday season into gear?

Build holiday offers that fit neatly into customer budgets. As you shop for yourself this year, you’ll notice $25, $50, and $75 holiday deals everywhere - because these numbers tend to fit the budgets customers set for themselves. If you offer items that are traditionally below or above these price points, how might you fit within them? Could you offer a bundle of three $10 products for $25? Maybe you can manage a one-day 25% off sale for all items over $100?

Capitalize on gift trends. The time to spot holiday gift trends is now - not in mid-November when most online retailers have already positioned themselves. Browse the curated content at sites like Good Housekeeping or The Spruce, and remember: it never hurts to check in with Google Trends.

Review your best-selling products from the previous holiday season. You don’t have to copy last year’s strategy item-for-item, but it helps to get insights into what your specific customers actually want. Was there an item that sold more than you thought? Less than you thought? How can you prepare for the holiday rush, and what items can you include that you otherwise wouldn’t have included, if not for holiday planning?

Don’t forget to review the holiday rush calendar to get a sense of where your production should be at every stage of the season. This includes a list of everything from brainstorming to content marketing to promoting your shop on the most active days during the season.

Dan Kenitz

Freelance writer based in Wisconsin. Dan's previously written for Grasshopper and GoToMeeting.

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