This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Making a holiday gift guide for your retail business can boost sales, as some 90% of consumers plan to celebrate the winter holidays—including Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa—according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Learn how to create a retail gift guide to take advantage of this spending season with our simple steps, which include identifying your target market, curating and categorizing products, picking a format and designing it for distribution, and lastly, creating marketing campaigns. Let’s walk through it.
1. Determine Your Audience
Before creating your guide, it is essential to identify and understand the needs of your target audience. From there, you can narrow smaller customer segments down and consider how they search for and discover gift guides.
When thinking about who will read your gift guides, consider your typical shoppers and those buying gifts for your target audience.
Collect Demographic & Behavioral Data
Your POS is a valuable source of demographic data, such as a customer’s age, gender, occupation, and geographic location. For example, you can see which gender and age group shop in-store more often. If you know which groups to target, you can plan your gift guides accordingly. Meanwhile, if you have an online shop, knowing the locations you ship to lets you create specific promotions for them such as free shipping on minimum spend.
Do you have an online store? Use Google Analytics to find data about your site visitors’ gender, interests, and spending habits.
Do Customer Segmentation
Another way to identify your target audience is to segment existing customers into repeat customers, one-time buyers, purchased products, and spending habits. From there, you can create a gift guide by price or product type.
2. Choose Products
After identifying your target audience, the next step is choosing products to include in your gift guides. There are different ways to approach this, but we recommend mixing all the approaches we discuss below.
Review Your Store’s Sales Data
Look at your retail analytics, as it will help you make strategic decisions about product inclusions. Make sure to review your store’s bestsellers, especially those purchased during last year’s holiday season.
Identify Shopping Trends
It’s also important to look at external data, such as shopping trends, because understanding what’s trending in your market lets you create holiday gift guides that are relevant and appealing. Google Trends is a great tool to identify emerging opportunities in your niche.
For example, if gift cards are popular these days, consider offering them at different price points. If essential oils are trendy, consider adding them to one of your gift bundles.
Involve Your Team
Your sales associates—people on the floor—are an invaluable source of buying information. They usually have firsthand knowledge of your customer’s buying behaviors and preferences. Don’t forget to get their insights on which products to include in your gift guide. They can also help you identify cross-selling opportunities that you can apply toward gift bundle creations.
Ask Your Suppliers
If you get your products from different suppliers, ask them which items are popular this season. Aside from helping you figure out things to stock on, you can also double-check with your suppliers how much of their popular items can be replenished right away if you run out of stock. This way, you can decide on your buying strategy—whether to order more or less, depending on factors such as popularity and replenishment timeframes.
Ask Your Customers
Directly asking customers what they are looking to buy as gifts this holiday season (or types of gifts they’d like to receive) is an effective way to know which items to include in your guides. You can do this in-store or online via a survey.
A great customer engagement tip is to place a survey kiosk next to the register or exit when doing in-store surveys. You can also do a feedback survey in digital receipts for a low-cost and touch-free option. Systems like Square offer these feedback collection tools for free.
Once you’ve identified your audience and reviewed the methods we mentioned above, you’ll have a better grasp of the types of products you should include in your holiday gift guide.
3. Categorize Your Guide
Once you have identified your target audience and the types of products you’ll include in your holiday gift guide, it’s time to work out how you want to organize it. Ideally, we recommend creating different categories for gift guides based on price, interests, personality, shopping behavior, and preferences.
When categorizing gift guides, make sure that their titles are unique and instantly convey a solution to a shopper’s pain point. For example, “Gifts for the Cheapskate” or “Gifts for The One Who Has Everything” are catchy phrases that tell shoppers right away which recipients the guide is for.
Here are a few ways you can organize your holiday gift guide.
You can help a lost shopper find just the right thing for their school-age nephew or elderly aunt by segmenting your gift guides by age. Using age as a gift guide category is especially helpful for shoppers searching for age-appropriate products for children. You can also broaden your categories into babies, toddlers, teens, and adults.
Retailers will often have gift guides “for him,” “for her,” or “for baby.” However, a unique approach is to go beyond “women,” “men,” and “babies” and group people into those who are more specific or harder to shop for, such as teachers, bosses, and co-workers.
Holiday gift guides organized by price are appealing to customers who shop with a specific budget in mind, so offer a variety of price points. While many gravitate toward lower-priced categories, don’t forget to include a category for those looking to splurge. Be creative in naming them, such as “budget,” “special,” and “extravagant.”
By listing guides by price, you help make purchasing decisions easier for shoppers because they don’t have to calculate or guess how much they’re spending for a person’s gift—and in turn, help you sell more.
You can also categorize your products based on the recipient’s hobbies or personality, especially if you offer a wide range of merchandise. Gift guides such as “gifts for knitters,” “gifts for those who work from home,” or “gifts for the fitness enthusiasts” are great examples. This type of category works even better if your shop caters to a specific market. For example, a store that sells cooking equipment can put out gift guides such as “gifts for those who don’t cook” and “gifts for the chef who loves gadgets.”
We particularly recommend mixing these segments and strategizing how to come up with a personalized gift guide. Once you have selected your products, you can mix and match lists. For example, a crafts store could market knitting sets in lists targeted toward “crafters” (personality) and “under $20” (price).
Create a list of “best all-around gifts” and “top last-minute gifts” to appeal to a busy or last-minute shopper who wants to make a quick decision. Suggest your gift cards for the easiest purchase of all.
Take it a step further by creating gift bundles within each gift guide category. Getting a bundle of items that complement each other is a type of cross-selling idea but offered at one retail price. This makes the buying decision faster, easier, and more convenient.
4. Pick a Format
After categorizing your products into different gift guides, it’s time to create the actual gift guide to show your customers. As you plan on creating your own, determine the best format for your guide. There are many gift guide formats such as printed guides for in-store distribution, printed flyers or brochures for direct mail, online catalogs, landing pages, social media posts, and videos. Include your gift guides in your holiday display ideas.
Deciding which content format to use for gift guides depends on the following factors:
- Your audience: Find out where your target audience usually looks for holiday shopping gift ideas. If your target audience spends more time on mobile devices, investing in digital gift guides is better.
- The platforms where you will market your gift guide: If you make a gift guide selection in-store, it is better to create posters for display and distribution. However, if you plan to push your gift bundles through your email list, a dedicated landing page in your ecommerce store would be a better fit.
- Your niche or industry: If you’re in a visual niche, your gift guide may not need as much text as one in a niche where information plays a more significant role in driving conversions. In this case, you might need to exert more effort in a holiday display in-store or have an excellent curation of photos for a catalog.
Your customers will likely view your gift guide on different channels or platforms, so you’ll want to make sure that your guide looks great no matter what.
Treat your physical and digital storefronts as one. After all, phygital (physical + digital) retail is no longer a buzzword. It is how consumers discover and shop from brands and the way retailers should be marketing their products. Be sure to include omnichannel strategies into your holiday gift guide creation.
Here are our suggestions based on the content format you will be going with.
In a primarily digital world, you will be surprised that direct mail is still effective in bringing in sales, with 93% of direct mail clients reporting a year-over-year sales increase in 2020. Since this is not the most cost-effective option, consider sending postcards instead of full-blown catalogs to your customer base. These postcards can include a separate campaign URL or, better yet, a QR code they can scan to view your gift guide, along with links to purchase.
Create your online catalog from the perspective of someone viewing it on a mobile device. As such, make your catalog readable, easy to scan and download, and full of visual imagery to attract customers to purchase. Also, make your links easy to click.
If you use Shopify as your ecommerce platform, you can use an app like Shogun to create a custom landing page that features information about your holiday gift guide.
When creating landing pages, remember the following:
- Make it mobile-responsive. Avoid cluttering the whole screen.
- Be specific with category and gift guide labels.
- Provide a seamless way to navigate to other categories or gift guides.
A popular way to publish a gift guide is as a blog, and one way to present your products better is by following a listicle format. Provide more details about each of the products and categories and link to the appropriate product pages.
Tip: Maximize viewing of your online catalog, landing page, or blog post by linking it to your email campaigns and social media posts. (We will discuss this more in the marketing campaigns below.)
If you have resources to spare, consider creating a video gift guide or partnering with an influencer to promote your gift guide. Video content can help in traffic and engagement. If you have limited resources, consider creating videos using Instagram reels and TikTok.
5. Design Your Guide
After you decide on your gift guide format, the next step is to design your guides. You must present your products in a way that evokes emotion and inspires customers to action (shop). Remember that gift buying is an emotion-driven venture for shoppers—so use words and photos effectively.
Use Catchy Headlines
Gift guide headlines should speak directly to the customer. A well-written one hooks your target audience and entices them to browse.
- Use active voice
- Use power words
- Describe products in a way that they can see the benefits
Use High-Quality Product Photos
The quality of your product photos has a massive impact on how your audience perceives your merchandise. Master DIY product photography and apply photography tips to level up your photos if you need to save on resources.
Design With an Omnichannel Perspective
When designing your gift guides, remember the following:
- Digital gift guides should be responsive.
- Make sure it looks great on all channels—website, social media, and email campaigns.
- The layout should be clean—with white space—to avoid overwhelming customers. Learn how to create landing pages that convert.
Tip: Use tools like Canva to create holiday gift guide infographics and PDFs. You can print them or make them into flipbooks and upload them onto your website.
6. Create Marketing Campaigns for Distribution
Now that you have created your holiday gift guide, it’s time to ensure it reaches the right people. It’s always best to combine physical and digital retail approaches to ensure your marketing campaigns have maximum impact and reach a broader market.
Here are some tips to help you market your gift guide to the right audience.
Leverage Social Media Exposure—Share, Share, Share
Thirty-one percent of US consumers use social media to find products. We are sure that holiday shopping would not be any different. Promote your holiday gift guide through your social media channels and engage with your followers. Engagement exposes you to a mix of existing and potential customers and will encourage them to check out your holiday gift guide.
Enable Social Shopping
If you haven’t already, consider enabling shopping on Facebook and activating shoppable Instagram posts. Using shoppable posts reduces friction for buyers and will be another direct revenue stream for your retail business. Your social media followers can click directly on an image to open up product pages and purchase items from your holiday gift guide.
Work on SEO
Make it easy for your customers to find your gift guide by implementing an effective SEO strategy. SEO plays a big part in retail marketing—even if you operate a brick-and-mortar store. For example, implementing local SEO strategies helps you get discovered within your community. You don’t have to implement a full-blown SEO marketing campaign with paid ads if you are not versed with it yet. Just remember the fundamentals of SEO and execute the following best practices:
- Do keyword research
- Add tags to your images
- Utilize strategic linking
- Focusing on user experience (make website pages mobile-responsive, have your store show up in Google Maps, etc.)
Create Email Marketing Campaigns
Email is still one of the most effective marketing methods available. Compared to social media marketing, email gets you nearly five times more buyers than other marketing channels. Most people on your list are more likely interested in what you have to offer, so the chances of purchasing are high. You can also create personalized campaigns by segmenting your list and sending them personalized gift guides to increase the chances of conversion.
Sending a series of email campaigns promoting your holiday gift guide will likely increase conversions. Some ideas for email marketing campaigns include:
- Highlighting holiday shopping information and deadlines
- Showcasing particular products from the gift guide
- Showing gift guides by price or budget and persona-based gift guides
- Mentioning different payment options and additional services such as gift wrapping
- Sharing customer reviews
- Indicating sale or limited-time offer in subject line
- Including last-minute gift ideas
Tap Into Other Local Businesses or Influencers for Collaboration
Check-in with other local retail business owners and ask if they want to collaborate on creating and promoting a holiday gift guide. You add more options for your customers and increase your store’s exposure by tapping into other businesses’ audiences.
Partner with businesses that have a similar target audience. For example, if you sell women’s beauty products, teaming up with a spa, fitness gym, or yoga studio could be a good combination.
If you are doing online promotions, partnering with an influencer to help promote your gift guide is a good idea. Start brand awareness campaigns by way of hashtags and encourage user-generated content (UGC).
Offer Special Discounts or Limited-Time Offers
Running limited-time offers encourages shoppers to buy products or bundles from you instead of from the competition. It will also motivate customers to buy earlier in the season when they know the discount offer will no longer be available later.
According to the NRF, 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween every year. By creating and distributing your holiday gift guide earlier, you’ll attract more shoppers that might buy from another retailer.
The NRF forecast sees growth of between 8.5% and 10.5% in 2021 holiday sales over last year, so you must take advantage. Learning how to create a retail gift guide is a must—whether it’s a brick-and-mortar shop or an ecommerce store.
Holiday gift guides attract high-intent shoppers (those who are actively looking to buy something), boost sales revenue, and promote your brand. While they are effective as a marketing strategy, you must first ensure your retail holiday gift guide is well-crafted, personalized for your audience, and strategically distributed so that it can reach your market at the right time.