Media Insights

Marketer’s Guide to Holiday 2021 | Edition 4: Holiday Strategies to Engage Your Customers

Holiday is a crucial time for marketers. Against the backdrop of a highly competitive landscape, we are all seeking to capture demand, drive sales growth, and make this season even more profitable than the last. In 2021, keeping your customers at the forefront of your marketing strategies will be key to delivering a successful season.

Here are a few tips from the Ovative experts on acquisition and retention, setting expectations, personalizing creative, and remembering the context. To learn more about how you can prepare for a successful holiday season, read our latest editions of the 2021 holiday guide on key considerations and trends and how to take action on each of them.  

Build strategies for retention, as well as acquisition 

Often, retailers and brands think of Holiday as a season of acquisition. Because so many people are shopping and open to new ideas, it is an ideal time to capture new customers. What too many retailers and brand managers overlook, though, is the Holiday season opportunity for retention. 

Holiday is a great time to build loyalty among your existing customer base. What can you do to deepen your relationship with these customers? Think about how you can leverage what you already know about your customers to find them, show them items you know they will like, and grow their value by exposing them to new categories. Acquisition strategies can also incorporate a retention component. Can you activate a promotion that incentivizes customers to shop again in a few months? Think about whether there is an add-on item that first-time shoppers need in the future, and then give them a compelling deal for it. 

A strong customer strategy requires both acquisition and retention components. Holiday presents an opportunity to do both types of activities. Ensure that you leverage both types of tactics and tailor strategies toward each objective. 

  

Set appropriate expectations – and meet them 

Customers who trust you are more likely to be loyal customers. Holiday is an important time to build trust among your customers. Remember that it can be a stressful season for customers: they have to find gifts for many loved ones (including those who are difficult to shop for!), manage their gifting budget, and ensure all of their gifts arrive to the right recipients at the right time – all during a hectic time of year filled with events and obligations. Helping customers with a long task list can go a long way toward building their trust, which will likely lead to increased loyalty. 

The fastest way to undermine customer trust, though, is by failing to meet expectations. Most customers will understand that shipping delays will be rampant this year and that inventory will be limited. Be upfront in telling customers what shipping delays they should expect, and clearly communicate any out-of-stock issues. Meet the shipping expectations that you set, and be honest about when an item will be back in-stock. 

  

Personalize your messaging and creative 

Although most people will be shopping at some point during the Holiday season, there are a variety of different kinds of Holiday customers. As you develop your messaging and creative strategy, spend some time thinking about the different types of shoppers your brand or store will attract this season. Then, consider how you can use distinct messaging and creative to reach each type of customer. Different messages and imagery will resonate with different audiences at varying times, and more resonant ads yield higher sales – so develop a strategy that puts the most relevant content in front of the most receptive audience at the right time.  

Some of your customers might be searching for sentimental gifts, while others will be looking for impressive show-stoppers. Some might know exactly what they are buying for everyone on their list, but many will likely need inspiration. Customers who plan ahead will be shopping early in the season, but last-minute shoppers will likely be very grateful to learn about your BOPIS (Buy-Online-Pick-Up-In-Store) options. Consider that many people take advantage of Holiday to shop for themselves, too; a strong deal on something unexpected might be the perfect reward for finishing their Gifts-for-Others to-do list. Creating content for each of these types of shoppers and occasions will maximize the efficacy of your ads. 

  

Remember the context 

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of your customers. Although this second pandemic-era Holiday season might allow for more gatherings and normalcy than last year’s did, there are many people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and will be facing a difficult season. Brands and retailers should keep this in mind and ensure that the tone of their communications acknowledges the emotional duality of this season. People will be excited to see their loved ones in-person and will likely be excited to buy and receive gifts that relate to a less-locked-down world, but there will also be grief, continued apprehension, and building pandemic fatigue. Keeping the reality of customers’ lives in mind as you design digital media and marketing strategies will ensure that you show up authentically. 

Keeping customers at the forefront of your marketing strategies will be key to driving differential growth for your brand during Holiday 2021. As you prepare for this hectic time of year, remember to build strategies for both acquisition and retention, set appropriate expectations around supply, personalize messaging for different types of Holiday shoppers, and remember the broader context in which your customers are living. For more on holiday preparation and execution, download our Marketer’s Guide to Holiday 2021 or connect with us 


Ovative Group is a digital-first media and measurement firm. We bring together the best of media, measurement, and consulting to enable an enterprise approach to marketing that increases our clients’ profitable revenue, strengthens their customer base, and creates sustainable competitive advantage.


Karen Spitzfaden

Senior Manager, Consulting

About the Author

Karen Spitzfaden is a Senior Manager on the Consulting team at Ovative. She brings a customer-centric approach to solving business problems and believes that driving growth requires a comprehensive understanding of what’s going on in people’s lives and in the world. Karen came to Ovative after five years in Consumer Insights at General Mills and five years in nonprofit and public-sector organizations.

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