Holiday Gated Content Series Part 3: Promotional Strategies

It’s time to turn up the heat because consumer expectations are going to be high this holiday season! With hopes of deep discounts, earlier start dates, and wow-worthy offers, this holiday season is sure to be the biggest one yet. But with the stakes being so high, plus all the competition out there, how will your brand stand out against the thousands of other competitive offers your audience will encounter?

There’s only one way to win over your customers this season; by whipping up piping-hot promos baked to perfection! 

If you’re a little behind on holiday prep work, now is the time to start rolling out some sweet promotional strategies. To achieve optimal results during this race-to-the-finish time of year, here are a few things to consider as you gather all the ingredients.

Longer Promotional Lead Times

With shifting consumer behavior, we always recommend launching as early as October and running promotions much longer than just Cyber Weekend. To use our client portfolio as an example, last year, we saw:

  • 22% increase in online revenue from November 1st through 15th
  • 9% decrease in online revenue from November 16th through 30th

Clients who adjusted for the earlier sale times in 2021 saw stronger growth in Q4 than their counterparts. Here’s another example of how earlier and longer promo times can win you sweet results: 

  • Client A started their promo three days earlier than in 2020 and saw a 115% growth in their Cyber Weekend revenue. 
  • Client B shortened their promo period from five days in 2020 to only two days in 2021 and saw a 30% drop in revenue.

Deeper Discounts

With all the ever-increasing competition, we recommend clients run discounts greater than 30% off to stay competitive in today’s marketplace.

Our clients who ran longer and deeper discounts (with heavy discounts listed in ad units) saw stronger returns for their promotional periods. On the other hand, clients who did not offer competitive discounts and were only live Thursday through Monday of Cyber Weekend saw minimal transactions.

Alternative Promos

When you offer alternative promos, such as free or priority shipping, you’ll grab and hold the attention of your audience. Our data from the 2021 holiday shopping season indicates that consumers tend to purchase earlier or shop primarily for curbside pickup due to fear of delivery issues. In fact, one in four online transactions was click-and-collect (curbside pickup) in 2021.

Our recommendation is to include free, guaranteed, or priority shipping to mitigate shipping concerns.

Lead Generation and Audience Growth

Take advantage of holiday interests and gather first-party data ahead of peak periods so you can launch lead generation and audience-building tactics with holiday messaging right now. It’s extremely important to ensure an email runs for the promotional periods so you gain as much attention to your brand as possible. If you don’t send those promo emails, you’re missing out on big opportunities to gain revenue.

If you don’t have a lead generation component live or a strong organic presence, these are a must.

Increasing Your Ad Budgets

Your holiday ad budget shouldn’t look like it does the rest of the year. During the holiday shopping season, you’ll need to increase your spending to get your brand noticed by users amongst the sea of competitors.

We recommend increasing Google budgets by 45% and paid social budgets by 30%. This adjustment in your advertising budget will keep your brand top-of-mind during this highly competitive time of year.

Channel Diversification

Our clients who ran three or more paid advertising channels saw year-over-year (YOY) increases in 2021 (both in Q4 as a whole and during their peak promotional seasons). Additionally, clients who ran programmatic efforts saw an average increase of 92% YOY in total sitewide revenue growth. Hint: If you’re not actively running programmatic advertising, we can help with that, too! This is a vital channel for long-term growth.

It's worth noting that our clients who paused or diminished their budgets on channels saw big dips in YOY performance, with an average decrease of 31% during Cyber Weekend.

Staying Competitive

These days, it’s hard to compete against big-box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, and Target – but it can be done! All you need is to serve yourself a slice of CAKE. Here are some of our chef’s kiss secrets to staying competitive:

  • Mobile-friendliness. Make sure your mobile site is top-notch, as mobile drives essentially 50% of eCommerce sales.
  • Payment alternatives. Consider implementing “Buy Now, Pay Later” tools and one-click checkout.
  • Easy application of promos. Utilize auto-price cuts in ATC or on PLPs rather than forcing consumers to apply the promo code at checkout.
  • Countdown banners. Use a countdown banner on your site so shoppers can clearly see when the sale ends.
  • Organic tactics. Use organic tactics leading up to the promo period (such as story countdowns and teasing what’s in the sale) to drive excitement over the promo.
  • Increase email distribution. Increase your email distributions during peak periods to reach abandoned cart users, past purchasers, and last-minute buyers.

Planning Your Promos 

With Q4 well underway, here are a few Q4 can’t-miss dates to put on your calendar. Make sure you’re planning your promos around these red-circled dates.

  • November 24 – Thanksgiving Day
  • November 25 – Black Friday
  • November 26 – Small Business Saturday
  • November 28 – Cyber Monday
  • November 29 – Giving Tuesday
  • December 1-23 - Holiday Shopping
  • December 18-26 - Hanukkah
  • December 24 - Christmas Eve
  • December 25 - Christmas Day
  • December 31 - New Year’s Eve
  • Jan 1 - New Year’s Day

While you’re scoping out your holiday marketing calendar and making sure to hit all the important promo dates, don’t forget about these shipping deadlines, too:

  • USPS Priority Mail Express: Next day, ship by Thursday, December 20th
  • Priority Mail: 1-3 days, ship by Sunday, December 18th
  • First-Class Mail: 1-3 days, ship by Saturday, December 17th
  • USPS Media Mail: 2 to 8 days, ship by Thursday, December 15th
  • USPS Retail Ground: 2 to 8 days, ship by Wednesday, December 15th

Sweet Holiday Promo Ideas

Now that we have all the messy work out of the way, let’s chat about a few fun ways to spice up your holiday promos and get your brand’s name out there this season!

Spinning Wheels

Have shoppers try their luck on your wheel of fortune. When they arrive at your site, they can spin the wheel for the chance to win special promos, such as percentage discounts or mystery gifts.

Free Gifts

Speaking of mystery prizes, a free gift with purchase is a super sweet way to entice consumers to spend a certain dollar amount to get a little extra something.

Friends and Family Discounts

Consider offering a promo code that’s only available to loyal customers who want to offer a special deal to their friends and family members. 

Repeat Purchase Discount for Current Customers

Remember, you’re trying to get new customers, but you also need to show your loyal people some love, too. Special discounts for repeat purchases are a great way to show shoppers you’re appreciative of their continued business.

Loyalty Program

Take a page from your favorite coffee shop and offer a loyalty program that rewards shoppers for coming back time and time again.

Discounts for Email Subscribers

This is a sneaky (but rewarding) way to get your customers to give up that all-important contact information so you can add it to your database and nurture leads throughout the season.

Value-Added Consultation

If you’re an expert in what you do, offer certain audience members access to your knowledge when they book an appointment.


Lean on buy-on-get-one free promos to entice shoppers to make purchases. Offer that extra incentive like “a little something on us,” goes a long way during the most wonderful time of year. After all, it’s the season of giving!

Perfect Your Holiday Promo Recipe with a Little Help from CAKE!

We’re here to help you make the holiday season sweet! For more information about our services, contact the team at CakeCommerce.