Last minute holiday marketing ideas for small businesses

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Maybe you’ve been planning your holiday-themed marketing campaigns since the summer but haven’t seen them convert. Maybe you didn’t put much thought into a holiday marketing strategy at all. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between and are looking for whatever it takes to secure last-minute sales and end the year strong. All are ok!

The good news is there’s no shortage of holiday marketing ideas for small businesses, and we want to lend you a few of our favorites. While these are written specific to retail stores and restaurants, other business owners can easily alter them to fit their own services and objectives.

Holiday marketing ideas for retailers

Surprise shoppers with a mystery discount

Design a mystery deal email campaign that prompts customers to “unwrap” their unique discount code. If you have an ecommerce site, create landing pages for 10, 20 and 30%-off codes, then clone the email so there are different versions that link to each page. Split your mailing list into thirds, then watch the orders roll in. If you aren’t yet selling online, make the coupons redeemable in-store.

Create urgency with a flash sale

Nothing lights a fire under shoppers like a limited-time flash sale. Don’t feel as though you have to offer an aggressive store-wide discount; you can apply it to select categories, like outerwear or stocking stuffers. Then, set up a promotions rule in your point of sale so that all products in the “outerwear” category automatically ring up at 20% off. Don’t limit this to your physical stores — offer the same holiday promotion online.

Consider either extending your hours for the month, or even hosting just a few late-night shopping events. Offer refreshments to make the experience especially festive.

Stay open late

December is busy for just about everyone. A calendar filled with volunteer shifts, kids’ choir concerts, planning, attending and/or baking for gatherings with loved ones leaves little room for holiday shopping, especially when your store closes before many people can even make it there after their workday.

At the end of the holiday season, run a point of sale report that looks at your sales by day and hour. Did the extended hours or late-night events actually generate more revenue? Did the amount of traffic yield conversions worth the extra cost of staff? This data will help you decide if you should repeat or alter for next year.

Offer a gift-wrapping station

Work with a local charity to set up a donation-based gift wrap station in your space. This is a great cross-collaboration opportunity: Their marketing will bring you new potential customers, while yours will attract patrons who may have not otherwise shopped with you but want to support the cause.

Anticipate what shoppers are buying for themselves

Gifts aren't the only thing people are looking for in December. They've got ugly sweater, office and New Year's Eve parties on their schedule, and they need outfits! Home goods that make hosting holiday parties and overnight guests simple and cozy or extravagant and classy are always in need. And don’t forget about self-care items for the time-pressed and stressed customers you’ll likely run into. If you sell any products that serve those needs, be sure to highlight them in your holiday campaigns.

Holiday marketing ideas for restaurants

Host a meal with Santa

Waiting in a long line of mall-goers to take pictures with St. Nick is a Christmas tradition for some, but a nightmare for others. Families will welcome another option for meeting Santa — especially one that gives children more one-on-one time and parents the opportunity to enjoy a hot meal (and maybe some eggnog) as he visits each table.

Put the spotlight on takeout

Some people are still hesitant to eat indoors, and others are so busy this time of the year that they can’t spare time for a sit-down restaurant meal. So if you offer takeout, make that clear across all of your print and digital marketing channels. You can even advertise a special offer that gives customers 10% off their curbside orders when they place one online. Point of sale products like Heartland Restaurant make this easy. And if you’re able to offer curbside pickup, here are a few tips for delivering a top-notch experience.

Offer bounceback coupons

Bounceback coupons reward customers for their purchase and almost guarantee repeat traffic in the new year when sales tend to stall. You can go about this promotion two ways. Either advertise that for every dollar amount a customer spends in December, they receive a voucher to use in January. Or, limit it to gift card purchases. For example, buy a $100 gift card as a gift, receive a $20 gift card for yourself.

Read more: How to turn holiday diners into repeat customers for more tips on turning holiday diners into repeat customers.

Give back to the community

Appoximately 50 million Americans experience food insecurity. How can your restaurant provide resources to those organizations working to help lower that number, while engaging customers? Consider working with a local food bank to hold a week- or month-long food drive that invites people to donate non-perishables when they visit your restaurant. You can even set up a match program: For every item donated, you donate a dollar amount directly to the organization. Another option is to donate a percentage of each check on a designated (and advertised) day directly to the charity.

Promote e-gift cards

Last-minute shoppers don’t have time to come up with gift ideas; your final few social media marketing and email marketing campaigns should highlight gift cards (especially after shipping deadlines have passed). Give customers the option of either emailing their gift digitally or printing so they can still “wrap” it. Then in January, prepare a series of targeted emails reminding customers to put those gift cards to use!

The bottom line: A mix of convenience and charitable elements is key to securing December traffic and sales at your small business. But don’t stop there: Learn how to bring back those holiday shoppers and diners in the new year to avoid the dreaded January slump.