[Updated post from November 23, 2021]
The holiday season isn’t just busy and stressful for brands, but also for consumers. The pressure to select the best gifts for family and friends causes many shoppers to turn to online platforms to research gifting ideas and trends. According to McKinsey, social media influences nearly two-thirds of buying decisions during the holidays, rising to over 80% for Millennials and Gen Z.
This is where holiday gift guides are a retailer’s best tool to redirect some of this purposeful search traffic towards your own website.
In this post, we’re going to cover step by step how to get your holiday gift guide ready for 2022. Let’s begin!
Put simply, a holiday gift guide is a digital or physical publication containing gift recommendations to assist customers in buying the perfect gifts during the holiday season. Holiday gift guides can take the form of a blog post, a downloadable digital gift guide, social media posts, and more, depending on your target audience.
What sets holiday gift guides apart from regular recommendations or gift bundles is that gift guides are curated according to a specific idea or organizing theme. This assists customers in finding the perfect gift according to more niche criteria, which adds value to the shopping experience.
Gift guides are a sophisticated content marketing strategy that can solve a variety of common pain points during the holiday season. They drive traffic to your website, provide inspiration to encourage shoppers to start spending, and get people interested in your brand. In sum, a guide with the perfect gift ideas can be just the thing to get shoppers excited and ready to spend.
There’s a joke that the holiday season feels like it’s getting earlier and earlier each year – and that’s because it is. Thanks to inflation and ongoing supply chain issues during the pandemic, shoppers have gotten a lot savvier about securing sought-after products early, allowing them to spread out their spending and get their pick of the best gifts.
According to 4Over’s recent survey, 31% of survey respondents say they plan to start their holiday shopping in early November 2022, while 23% are planning to buy gifts as soon as they see something suitable.
With shoppers looking for gift ideas earlier than many holiday displays are on the shelves, creating a holiday gift guide can be just the thing to capture interest and demonstrate to customers that you understand their needs this year.
But this doesn’t mean that the last-minute holiday shoppers have disappeared. Last year, 79% of consumers did all of their holiday shopping in the two weeks leading up to Christmas – and 44% left it to the week before!
If you play your cards right, a holiday gift guide enables you to drive engagement from both ends of the behavior spectrum. Be sure to distribute your gift guide early in the season – and consider adding a ‘last-minute gifts’ edition for the harried shopper!
As we mentioned above, many shoppers are watching their wallets this season. Not only are consumers buying early to avoid price increases; they’re also being a lot more discerning about who they buy from and utilizing comparison websites to find the best deals for gift giving for family members and friends.
Gift guides solve these kinds of dilemmas for your customer base by spotlighting offerings such as gift bundles and discounted products at different price points, making it easy to find great gifts within their budget.
A holiday gift guide isn’t just a bunch of helpful suggestions; it’s a sophisticated content marketing strategy to attract new and existing customers to your brand. A gift guide can be sent to shoppers in a variety of different formats, including email, physical mail, social media, and even video. As digital marketing moves in the direction of informative and relevant content, gift guides are a powerful tool for engaging and reactivating format shoppers who need a little nudge to start browsing.
Experience-based spending – travel, dining, leisure – has increased as the pandemic lessens its grip on the economy. According to nearly 6 in 10 Americans plan to travel during the 2022 holiday season, according to the OOH Consumer Insights & Opportunities Q4 2022: Holiday Travel & Shopping Survey.
But this doesn’t mean that product gifting is on its way down. While inflation is hampering spending, 71% of consumers are still planning to shop online this holiday season, with cyber week reportedly set to grow by 12% in 2022. The most popular gift categories for 2022 are reportedly said to be clothing, toys, and technology products.
What does this tell us? Consumers are still looking for gift ideas for their loved ones this year – and a gift guide is a perfect way to turn your brand into a helpful source of inspiration.
Is excess inventory piling up? Only have a few units of one product left? Are sales for a certain collection starting to plateau? Holiday gift guides provide the perfect answer to these common woes by enabling your business to create a gift guide around items you want to clear out of your website.
Why does this work? Because gift guides offer a way for brands to reposition the value proposition of SKUS. With the right copy and some relevant photos, you can build high demand and increase sales for an item that only recently was languishing on the shelves.
Putting together a holiday gift guide from scratch can feel like an overwhelming task. Here are a few steps to reduce stress and create a smooth planning experience:
Looking at historical sales trends to your first step to figuring out which types of products are likely to perform well and would be good to include in your gift guide.
However, it’s important to take note of underperforming as well as high-performing products. If a certain product isn’t selling well, there could be an opportunity to boost its appeal by spotlighting it in your guide or creating gift bundles with more successful products. You could also consider designating them as complementary products when other items within your gift guide are purchased.
If you’re buying seasonal inventory specifically for the holiday season, you need to do some research on what your intended audience will be interested in. What sorts of products are proving to be popular? Are there any overarching trends that are informing purchasing decisions this year? By knowing this, you can select items for your holiday gift guide that are going to resonate with customers.
While sales data gives you a lot of insight into what’s going to perform well during the holiday season. But you shouldn’t limit your research just to quarterly figures. There’s one source of information that’s just more valuable; your customers.
Asking customers for their opinion on different items or bundling selections will give you a good sense of whether they will be a good fit for your holiday gift guide. For example, you could post a series of Instagram Stories asking customers what product from your range they would most prefer to receive as a gift.
This Instagram post by Glossier is asking customers for their favorite combos of Cloud Paint blush, one of the brand’s most popular products. It’s a clever customer survey strategy that helps Glossier learn more about how customers are using their products – and get some inspiration for future holiday product bundles!
Before you start picking out products to feature in your gift guide, hold fire; while it’s tempting to dive right in, it’s important to decide on an organizing theme for your guide(s).
Curation is the key to create unique gift guides that your customers eagerly anticipate each season, so you need to consider this carefully. The true value of a holiday gift guide isn’t the products within, but how they’re marketed alongside each other to give consumers clarity and inspiration. Throwing together a random bunch of products is chaotic and confusing – and definitely won’t make your customer’s holiday shopping any easier.
Instead, you need to zero on exactly which product category, demographic, interests, or shopping behaviors your holiday gift guide is targeting. The more tailored your gift guide is, the more valuable it’s going to be to those shoppers when they’re buying gifts.
Depending on the size of your product catalog, you may want to create multiple gift guides so you can target different consumer segments.
Here are some common strategies you can use to curate your holiday gift guide:
Categories such as age and gender are good ways of organizing holiday gift guides because they enable shoppers to save time and find appropriate product collections quickly. They provide a useful starting point for people who aren’t sure what they’re looking for and need some gift ideas to kickstart their shopping journey.
Here is a great example from Anthropologie, which has created a ‘Gift by Recipient’ section for their website that uses a variety of demographic indicators, such as gender (‘Gifts for Her’) age (‘Gifts for Kids & Babies), and even occupation (Gifts for Teachers’):
If you’re a retailer that stocks products across multiple categories, you can create gift guides arranged by product to assist shoppers who already have a certain category in mind. Common categories include beauty, accessories, confectionary, and children’s toys. By grouping these together, you can cut out considerable browsing time and create some excellent gift bundling opportunities.
David Jones department store has created a ‘Kitchen Companions’ page in their holiday gift guide which includes everything from kitchen accessories to crockery and foodstuffs. Their guide also covers a variety of price points, enabling all shoppers to find something that fits within their budget.
Unsurprisingly, price is one of the biggest determining factors when customers are searching for holiday gifts. Most consumers have a budget, so designing a holiday gift guide around this directs shoppers towards appropriate products that they’re likely to purchase.
Cost Plus World Market has kept it simple by arranging its gift guide with three price categories – gifts under $15, $25, and $50. This makes it easy for shoppers to find gifts that fall within their price range and minimize shopping cart abandonment.
Thematic gift guides use an idea as the organizing focus for the products featured. Themes could include interests, shopping behavior, or even social causes.
One of the biggest advantages of thematic gift guides is that brands can make them as broad or niche as they’d like. Nordstrom curated a ‘last-minute gifts’ guide on social media that was released four days before Christmas in 2020. This enabled them to target less organized shoppers with offers across a range of product categories.
Thematic gift guides also give you plenty of room to get creative with product recommendations. For example, Pottery Barn has added a ‘gifts that give back’ section which includes items where a portion of the proceeds are donated to charity, or the option to buy a donation to a charity as a gift on someone else’s behalf:
Creating a holiday gift guide of bestselling items is a safe bet because these products already have a proven track record. Moreover, high demand is a form of social proof that gives your customers confidence that an item will make a great gift.
Etsy has created best-seller gift guides across multiple categories to assist customers who are struggling to choose the perfect gift:
A truly successful holiday gift guide doesn’t drive sales during the holiday season; it also encourages new customers to shop with your brand year-round.
It’s important to remember that gift shopping involves two parties: The person buying the gift, and the person receiving it. While you might have secured a conversion from the former, it doesn’t guarantee that the recipient of the gift is going to shop with your brand in the future.
In sum, you need to provide some low-hanging fruit to tempt those gift recipients to check out your brand for themselves. Otherwise, this is a huge missed opportunity to add more long-term, loyal shoppers to your customer base.
Sephora looks beyond the holiday season by including discounts and free product redemption coupons with its holiday gift bundles. Their Perfume Discovery Collection, for example, sets up future sales opportunities by including a ‘scent certificate’ which can be redeemed on a travel-size version of any perfume in the set. Bringing them online or into a physical store for this redemption boosts the odds of them buying other items, thus increasing conversion rates.
Once upon a time, the holiday gift guide was synonymous with giant catalogs sent out to customers’ homes. But today, brands have a whole roster of options to choose from, such as:
As the examples in this article show, it isn’t always necessary for brands to host gift guides as formal publications; a series of well-curated social posts with high-quality images can drive traffic to your website successfully, so long as you have a well-thought-out distribution strategy.
As expectations for omnichannel shopping increase, it’s a good idea to release your gift guide across multiple channels. For example, you could create an email campaign around your gift guide that directs to a landing page where shoppers can download your gift guide in full. Printing gift guides to distribute to customers is an expensive strategy, but can be a great way to stand out from all the noise online.
When putting together a holiday gift guide, you can’t only think about which products will sell the best; you also need to make sure that you have enough units to fulfill orders.
Spotlighting a product in a gift guide helps to boost sales. This means you need to ensure a consistent supply of that SKU to meet demand. If items in your gift guide sell out quickly, this is going to annoy your target audience and result in lost sales. So, if there are certain products where you cannot guarantee replenishments, it’s not a good idea to put them in your gift guide.
Once you’ve decided on what products are going to be in your guide, you’ll need to think about the best way to manage fulfillment of those orders.
For example, it’s quite likely that customers perusing your gift guide will end up buying multiple items featured. To speed up the picking and packing process, it’s a good idea to store these SKUs in the same area of your warehouse and minimize warehouse travel times.
When products are selling quickly, it’s also important to make sure that your e-commerce platform is properly synced with your inventory management system. Otherwise, you could end up selling units that you no longer have in stock, resulting in disappointed customers who require refunds.
After going through so much effort to curate and format a holiday gift guide, it’s vital to get it in front of as many eyes as possible to ensure a solid ROI. Homepage banners, regular email promotions, and longtail keywords all help to drive traffic towards your gift ideas from search engines and social platforms.
This landing page by skincare brand Origin is a great example of how brands can bring together their holiday offerings in one place. The page contains best-selling seasonal products, free gift-wrapping offers, and even a web chat to get personalized recommendations.
Creating a holiday gift guide isn’t just about choosing trending or best-selling products; it’s also about ensuring that your gift guide is curated in a way that streamlines the shopping journey for shoppers and positions your brand as the most convenient option during the holiday season. It’s also important to tailor the appropriate e-commerce fulfillment strategy to ensure that you fulfill those online orders in the fast, hassle-free way that your customers expect. By following these tips, you can create an engaging holiday gift guide that boosts conversions and fosters customer loyalty.
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