Kaitlin Kamp
Kaitlin Kamp is a Senior Marketing Intelligence Strategist at Mintel where she combines her passion for marketing with her expertise in research and consumer insights to deliver best-in-class recommendations to Mintel clients.

Your 2021 holiday campaigns are done – now what? Well, it’s time to start planning for 2022. While the good and the bad of holiday marketing are still fresh, consider how to make next year smoother and more effective than the last with these five lessons for your 2022 holiday marketing strategy.

1. Start earlier and keep promotions running longer

The importance of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday shopping season is waning each year, making it important that brands and retailers start holiday marketing well before Thanksgiving, and run promotions throughout the entire season – if not earlier. The National Retail Federation shared that 179.8 million people made online and in-store purchases between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2021, compared to 186.4 million in 2020 and 189.6 million in 2019. 

Consumers are increasingly shopping for gifts online and well before the holiday season. According to Mintel research on holiday shopping, 30% of US adults who had shopped or planned to shop the 2021 holiday season typically shop before thanksgiving, while 42% said they shopped throughout the year to take advantage of deals. Over a third agreed it is not critical to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday because they can get good deals at any time during the winter holiday season.

“The significance of big promotional days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday is changing. They are becoming more like sales events, lasting multiple days and sometimes all month. This tendency to stretch out the deals lessens the impact of these days, and, thus, consumers don’t think it’s as critical to shop on these specific days, even though most realize some of the best deals are indeed available on these days.” – Diana Smith, Associate Director, Retail & eCommerce, Mintel Reports US

Mintel recommends: Holiday messaging in July

Early holiday shopping behaviors may be a blessing for brands and retailers in 2022 that will continue to face supply chain issues that lead to limited inventory and shipping delays. 

Brands with hot-ticket holiday items, such as Apple, Oculus, or PlayStation, run holiday messaging as early as mid-year to remind shoppers to start early in preparation for delays. “Christmas in July” campaigns and steep mid-year promotions will be an option for brands that want or need to get a head start. Large retailers like Amazon or Best Buy should heavily promote and run promotions on gift cards in 2022, as opposed to gifts, in order to soften the delay for products.

2. Don’t forget about Small Business Saturday

Consumers will be shopping with small and local businesses during the 2022 holiday season and larger brands can either be part of the movement or risk getting left behind. According to Mintel Trend ‘Moral Brands,’ ethical and moral brand qualities are fast becoming expectations as consumers look for companies to be charitable, ethical or environmentally responsible at both local and global levels. Taking the moral lead could well become not just the right thing to do, but even the most competitive action to take in building consumer loyalty and driving sales.

Mintel Global Consumer data shows that two-thirds of US consumers try to buy from local companies when possible and prefer to be associated with companies/brands that align with their values (respectively). Mintel holiday shopping research finds that a third of US adults who shopped or planned to shop during the 2021 holiday season planned to shop local or small businesses to support communities. American Express offered a product collection from ByBlack certified small businesses, created a map for users to find local businesses nearby, and offered 10x points on small business purchases.

Mintel recommends: Amplify small businesses

Large retailers with minority-owned brands or product portfolios should incentivize purchases by running promotions on items on Small Business Saturday. Invest in the promotion of these brands with separate marketing campaigns that educate and urge consumers to support local and minority-owned businesses. 

For example, Target could use Small Business Saturday as an opportunity to increase exposure to its Black Beyond Measure brands. Online marketplaces such as Etsy, or gift retailers such as PaperSource, can use the day to feature female or minority artists online and in-store. Amazon could direct consumers to books written by female or minority authors or, even better, direct consumers to small, local bookstores in their area.

Companies without small or minority-owned brands should use this day to amplify other businesses, potentially in the area of their headquarters, whether on social media or through email marketing.

3. Embrace the streaming boom

Streaming is having a moment and shows no signs of slowing down. Mintel research on the US streaming video market shows that three-quarters of consumers use streaming video entertainment. Meanwhile, research on the US media landscape shows that around half of Americans anticipate spending more time listening to podcasts, streaming music services, and watching digital video (respectively). Over-the-top (OTT) streaming services provide marketers with the ability to tell long-form creative stories, with the precise measuring tools of digital channels. As marketers look to gather data in a post-cookie world while still creating engaging content, streaming channels will be a critical tool in marketers’ belts. 

“Digital media, such as SVoD, were already chipping away at the audience for traditional broadcast television before the pandemic, but recent circumstances have fueled a wider adoption of digital media. More time at home, fewer out-of-home entertainment options and a wave of shiny new stimulus-funded tech devices made it easier for consumers of all ages to watch, listen and read more content than before.” – Kristin Boesel, Senior Lifestyles and Leisure Analyst, Mintel Reports US

Mintel recommends: Use streaming content to give power back to consumers

Embrace zero-party data collection via streaming platforms as a way to measure consumer sentiment while still putting control back in consumers’ hands. Use findings from zero-party data collection to inform audience targeting and product features for holiday campaigns. 

Create more sponsored content and fewer ads; for example, Maker’s Mark’s sponsored Roku comedy talk show “The Show Next Door with Randall Park.” Sponsored content allows consumers to actively engage in a brands’ advertising in an enjoyable way, rather than a disruption to the content they are trying to watch, as is with a television commercial or pre-roll video. Food subscription boxes like Blue Apron or food delivery players like Instacart could create sponsored cooking shows for holiday recipes. Popular gift retailers like Macy’s or Target could sponsor a podcast where guests relive some of their best and worst gifting stories.

4. Plan for a physical presence

Online shopping may have skyrocketed during the pandemic, but in-person retail experiences are far from over, especially during the holidays. Mintel research on holiday shopping shows that  94% of Americans who said they shop or plan to shop during the 2021 holiday season reported they were most likely to shop in-store, compared to 83% online. And nearly half said they like to participate in experiences that stores and malls offer during the holidays. Providing an in-person experience during the holiday season increases the likelihood of purchase while also creating opportunities for consumers to share their own experiences with brands across social media platforms. 

This year, Amazon created a holiday-window showcase in NYC and Bombay Sapphire created a Holiday Storefront Series.

Retailers can also consider how to slowly and safely reintroduce experiential retailing again, and what it means in the next normal. For now, keeping it simple, small and ideally outdoors will likely have the most appeal.” – Diana Smith, Associate Director, Retail and eCommerce, Mintel Reports US

Mintel recommends: Direct-to-consumer (DTC) formative experiences

In-person experiences from DTC brands during the holidays not only let consumers try before they buy but also provide meaningful experiences and social connections that consumers will associate with your brand. 

DTC exercise equipment such as Peloton or Mirror could offer free or discounted public classes in existing gyms to provide customers with a formative experience. DTC CPG brands such as AllBirds sneakers or Brightland olive oil and vinegar could host pop-ups in popular department stores that customers will be flocking to for holiday shopping. 

Ensure that holiday marketing goes beyond product promotion brands should include more hands-on experiences such as fitness, cooking, or artistry classes that consumers can participate in.

Image source: Marketing Dive; PR Newswire

5. Become part of the holiday planning and hosting experience

With a longer holiday shopping window each year and accelerated online shopping adoption, brands will need to find alternative ways to make themselves a part of the holiday experience. Avoid resting on laurels as a gift destination and instead create content and products that support consumers throughout the entire holiday season and subsequently, inject your brand into their holiday experience. In fact, over half of US adults that shopped the 2020 holiday season or planned to shop the 2021 holiday season agreed they like it when retailers provide suggestions for entertaining, decorating or gifting.

In 2021, alcohol delivery service Drizly promoted its White Glove Service, which acts as a “go-to beverage butler” for events, providing selection recommendations and delivery service. Offering planning services, on top of gift recommendations in other advertisements, gives consumers the opportunity to lean on Drizly as not only a service, but as a holiday partner.

Mintel recommends: Extend your brand

Mintel Trend ‘Extend my brand’ observes how brands are expanding into new categories and demographics to find new business as well as intrigue consumers. Larger retailers should consider how they can translate the experience of the department store into someone’s home. Sponsored Spotify playlists can include the songs typically played in department stores during the holidays that consumers can use as their party playlist – relieving the need to create their own. 

Provide sponsored how-to videos in collaboration with online influencers or pop culture figures that show consumers how to wrap their gifts, decorate their home, and select gifts like a professional. Food and drink delivery boxes such as Hello Fresh or Blue Apron should consider creating holiday meal kits or curated cocktail kits for easy hosting. 

What we think

The holidays are a pivotal time to connect with current and prospective consumers in meaningful and lucrative ways – but what remains meaningful is always changing. 

In 2022 – as predicted in Mintel’s 2022 Global Consumer Trends – consumers will expect flexibility, corporate social responsibility, and experiences from brands as they continue to navigate more options than ever with a longer shopping window and more channels to shop from.