“Christmas creep” is the evocative name journalists have given to the practice of beginning holiday marketing early — October 1st is considered the line in the sand, but Kmart aired a holiday TV ad in September this year, Target apparently declared yesterday Cyber Monday, and I’ve had “9 Good Reasons to Start Christmas Shopping Early” in my inbox already.
This year’s official holiday shopping season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, is shorter than usual, so retailers feel they need to push the envelope. If that means putting Christmas ornaments next to lawn chairs, so be it.
Consumers are going along with it, too. Last year, nearly half of all shoppers started their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, and nearly a third say they’re through shopping at the end of Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving).
Brick and mortar merchants have a quandary. Consumers say they hate Christmas Creep. Even those who do their Christmas shopping early don’t want to hear “The Little Drummer Boy” while they buy Hallowe’en candy, and early Christmas merchandising may cut into sales for other holidays. Hanukkah falls before Thanksgiving this year, so the generally festive “Happy Holidays!” approach may fall a bit flat in some communities. Physical-world retailers may be pushed into discounting early, lure bargain hunters into spending their budget in the fall, and miss out on the chance to sell lots of impulse items to merry people in December.
The holiday website
It’s different online. First, you can create holiday pages which show up in search for people who are looking for holiday stuff — and it won’t bother those who don’t want to look at holiday stuff. Brick and mortar merchants might like to have a special doorway for people who are up for cinnamon and tinsel right now, but online merchants can really do that.
Since consumers largely control the information they receive online, you can hold off on the ads but pull out all the stops for inbound marketing right now if you feel like it.
Here’s what you can do , whether you have an e-commerce component at your website or not:
- Develop a holiday section at your website directed toward your audience. Include ideas and information that will delight your audience, whether that’s a handy toy guide discussing the best choices for toys at different ages (including the ones you make) or a recipe guide using your products. Build onto this section year after year and let it gain value — while competitors’ ads disappear on December 26th.
- Extend the value of your holiday section with social media. Pinterest users are already collecting decorating ideas on their Pinterest boards. Are your products showing up? You can make a connection if you’re creative, no matter what your product is. Dog food? Make a board of holiday treats for dogs. Shampoo? Make a board of festive hairstyles for the holidays. Hand tools? Collect a board of homemade gifts that could be made with your tools. Then share all those things at Facebook, G+, and Twitter. They may not stay around as long, but they’ll draw people back to your Pinterest board and your website.
- Watch your analytics. When holiday-related keywords show up and visits to your holiday section are on the rise, it’s time to bring some ho-ho-ho to your home page. Depending on your product, you might put some festive banners into your slider, create a call-out button for your holiday section, or pull blog posts about gift-worthy products and holiday tips onto the homepage. Since you have data to work with, you don’t have to worry that you’ll be Christmas Creeping your visitors out.
Use the data you collect to partner with your retailers for data-driven merchandising decisions. That’s another benefit of having holiday content at your website — it lets you measure the interest level of your shoppers. Take advantage of the opportunity.