It’s early October and you probably don’t want to think about the barrage of Christmas commercials and awful parody songs that are about to flood the airwaves — but for retailers the holiday season is already in full swing. No matter the size of their business or the products they sell, retailers need to start thinking about how you’re going to engage customers and generate sales from Black Friday to New Year’s Day.

The holiday season is the most critical sales period for retailers of all shapes and sizes. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that holiday sales made up 19.3% of total annual sales for retail businesses. And this year, retailers are set to see holiday sales rise up to 4%, according to Deloitte.


If you already feel behind on your holiday planning, don’t worry! We’ve got a list of the top retail trends for this season — and offer ways to create campaigns and experiences that will definitely get you on your customers’ nice list!

Trend 1: The Lines Between Digital and Physical Will Continue to Blur

Surely this comes as no surprise to you, but your customers will continue to hop between online and physical stores to cross off items on their holiday shopping lists. In fact, Deloitte predicts that digital interactions will influence 67% (or $661 billion) of retail store sales generated during the season.

So what does this mean for brands and retailers? They need to use social media, mobile marketing and email to spread the word about exclusive in-store events, sales and even holiday parties. While customers are in a physical store, encourage them to share photos online or provide feedback on social media.

Last year, Target and Macy’s both did an exceptional job bridging the gap between their digital, store and traditional media channels. Target’s Holiday Odyssey initiative played out across TV, its stores, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other apps. Macy’s also ramped up its Believe campaign by promoting the #macysbelieve hashtag online and in-stores. For every letter the retailer received in its Santa letterboxes, it donated $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

For today’s shoppers, the line between digital and physical is nonexistent, so you need to do everything you can to make sure they have a great, fluid shopping experience.

Trend 2: Brands Will Think Mobile-First

During the 2015 holiday season, mobile traffic exceeded desktop, accounting for about 57% of all online traffic — a 15.2% increase over 2014, according to IBM Commerce research. More than a third (36%) of all online sales also came from mobile devices, a year-over-year increase of nearly 30%.


The mobile momentum will undoubtedly continue during the 2016 holiday season, so you need to prepare accordingly. That means making it as easy as possible for your consumers to find and share information, compare products/prices and learn about what your brand has to offer via their mobile screens.

Some imperatives include:

  • Making sure your site is mobile optimized (or your app is in tip-top shape)
  • Designing emails for mobile screens (responsive design means less pinching and zooming!)
  • Adding local information, such as nearby store addresses, phone numbers and holiday hours in your emails and on your site.

Trend 3: Batch-and-Blast Will Take a Backseat to Personalization and Curation

Let’s face it, we’ve all been bombarded by the slew of retailer emails that tout the same vague messaging and batch-and-blast offers. We know this approach is no longer effective — almost like throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping it sticks. So why do we keep doing it?

Some retailers have led the charge in personalization by tailoring email subject lines, content and offers for specific segments of shoppers. This year, we’ll see personalization and curation reach a tipping point, with retailers creating more tailored and timely mobile push notifications, e-commerce experiences and even in-store service interactions. When you arm store associates with customer data, you help them have more relevant and helpful conversations with consumers, which ultimately can lead to a healthy boost in sales.

Adheer Bahulkar, who is a Partner in the Retail Practice of A.T. Kearney, offered some tips and best practices for delivering personal messages in Retail TouchPoints’ 2016 Holiday Guide:

  • Right Story: Rather than focusing solely on pushing discounts and offers to consumers, get them in the festive mood by creating sharing holiday lookbooks, party playlists and even fun things to do during their holiday break. Your brand should have an overarching story it wants to tell; it doesn’t just have to be about your products.
  • Right Way: Excite your customers and encourage them to spread the word about your brand via social media and mobile. This organic word-of-mouth will help you connect with new customers in a more authentic way.
  • Right Time: Depending on where they are in the buying process, your customers have specific wants and needs. It’s your job to know where they are in their journey and deliver the right messages, information and offers at that time.

Trend 4: Social Will Truly Shine (Thanks to Great Content!)

More than two-thirds of U.S. shoppers say social media influences their online shopping behavior, according to the 2016 Total Retail Survey from PwC. When consumers need inspiration and are looking to get the best gifts for their family and friends, the role and impact of social amplifies.

This year, we’ll see more consumers gravitate to Pinterest and Instagram to learn about the must-have holiday gifts, crafts and even recipes for the holiday season. Brands can capture their attention by publishing immersive visual content that showcases their unique brand story and how their products will benefit consumers’ lives.

But of course, the social media fun doesn’t have to stop there. You can onboard employees in different stores to post photos of store displays, events and shoppers partaking in the seasonal festivities to generate excitement and drive traffic to stores. You can even create a holiday hashtag and get your customers to share their photos. Their contribution will undoubtedly give you a diverse library of images to use for all of your social needs.

It’s Time to Get Holly and Jolly

We’re still in the early stages of the holiday season, so more predictions and trends are bound to emerge. Not to mention, the ideas we shared in this piece are only scratching the surface on the ways you can spread holiday cheer to your customers and drive them to your digital and physical stores.

We’ll be discussing more holiday trends and best practices, and will even spotlight some real-life examples and success stories, so be sure to lookout for those blogs in the near future!

Want to win Christmas? You’d better tailor your marketing efforts geared toward millennials — a group that has 80 million people and $200 million in buying power. Check out our guide Marketing to Millennials: Engaging a Generation of Visual Buyers.