Holidays are a golden opportunity for businesses all over the world to boost their sales and drive more revenue.
In fact, one of the simplest ways to set yourself up for success in 2020 is to plan out your sales and marketing initiatives around the key retail calendar dates for the year.
But what are these dates?
To make life easier for you, we’ve listed them all out month-by-month, so that you can start planning your promotional campaigns ahead of time.
January: Happy New Year
The first month of the year is perhaps the gloomiest of them all, with shoppers on the Christmas-comedown.
But there’s definitely an opportunity to lift their spirits with January sales and Blue Monday special offers.
- New Year’s Day, 1st – The beginning of the year for many people brings a chance to start afresh and make New Year’s resolutions they hope to stick to. So, kick off the new year with deals that promote health and wellbeing and find ways to get customers involved.
- Decorations officially come down, 6th – Time to say goodbye to Christmas for another year. Take down your decorations and make room for new stock.
- January sales, all month – The perfect opportunity to shift leftover stock ready for the new year. Customers will be expecting great savings and looking to grab a bargain.
- Blue Monday, 20th – So-called Blue Monday is known for being the most depressing day of the year. This is going to be an important date in your retail calendar for lifting your customers’ spirits and giving them something to smile about.
Prime example: Boost Drinks’ Blue Monday Twitter campaign
Boost Drinks used the power of social media to engage its audience in a competition and unite on the most miserable day of the year.
The concept was simple, but it really got people talking and engaging with the brand, with the messaging, “Forget Blue Mondays and bring on Blue Fundays. Watch this space for the Boost Wheel of Fortune!”.
It’s important to always remember who your audience are and which platform they’d best respond to. A social media campaign on Twitter might work great for one audience but not another.
February: The month of love
Goodbye Blue Monday and hello the month of love.
February holds many key dates but arguably the most important for online retailers is Valentine’s Day.
This is a chance to capitalise on all the loved-up couples out there, while making sure the single among us don’t get forgotten.
- Six Nations Championship, 1st – February isn’t all about love…The first day of the month and the first day of a major sporting event. This is a great opportunity to get your customers involved and social media is the perfect platform here. Create hashtags, run polls and encourage conversation.
- Shrove Tuesday, 25th -
- Valentine’s Day, 14th – The big one. Whatever your industry, Valentine’s Day is a date to be aware of. Engage with your customers and promote special offers. Encourage people to share their stories and plans on social too.
Prime example: Deliveroo’s Valentine’s Day TV advertising campaign
As it’s such a major date in retailers’ calendars, it’s easy to fall into the trap of love hearts and roses, instead of thinking outside the box.
But this is a great chance to really stand out from the crowd and captivate your audience, just like Deliveroo did.
They carried out a “third wheel survey” questioning 200 adults and found out that 37% of couples would actually enjoy having a third person at the dinner table on Valentine’s Day.
They used this research to create a highly effective TV ad and social media campaign #ThirdWheelKevin, offering its customers a “third wheel meal deal”.
The fact that they took a totally different approach to everyone else, and made it funny, meant they really resonated with their target audience and pulled off a highly successful marketing campaign.
March: Hello spring
Spring is here, and with it comes a whole host of new sales opportunities and key retail dates to focus your marketing efforts on.
March signifies a change in mood, as the days become lighter and the trees become greener – it’s the perfect time to take advantage of this new-found optimism among your buyers.
- St David’s Day, 1st – The first big date for your diary celebrates all things Wales. Try to think of interesting ways you could show your support as a business. What industry could you get involved in – Welsh literature, music, food?
- World Book Day, 7th – World Book Day is a conversation every business should be having. It’s a chance to show your customers what inspires you, what you stand for, and even show them a slightly different side to you. Share your favourite books and encourage customers to participate in a quiz or competition.
- International Women’s Day, 8th – This is a very important date for your retail calendar, and an opportunity to celebrate the influential women in your business and worldwide. Demonstrate to your customers what a great company you are.
- St Patrick’s Day, 17th – For retailers across the globe, St Patrick’s Day is an untapped pot of gold. Could you offer a special Paddy’s Day collection, promotion, event? Make sure to utilise the power of social media as there will be a huge amount of buzz around the hashtags #PaddysDay and #StPatricksDay in particular.
- First day of spring, 20th – The start of a new season is the perfect time to launch new products or implement new features – particularly if you’re in the Fashion or Health and Beauty industry. Create hype around these changes in your marketing campaigns and focus on getting loyal customers to share their feedback.
- Mother’s Day, 31st – Another major date for March. Mother’s Day is a prime opportunity for creating your own gift-sets, up-selling and building your brand image, trust and awareness. Selling gifts? Plan your sales and marketing strategy in advance to get ahead of the game.
Prime example: Pandora’s Mother’s Day email campaign
Pandora shows us how it’s done with a series of Mother’s Day promotions via a drip email campaign.
They sent out an initial email a few weeks in advance, which offered customers some great gift ideas from their ‘Heartfelt Jewellery’ collection.
This was followed by a second email which focused more on the brand’s special offer for the occasion.
Customers already had the gift ideas in mind from the first email, and then when they received the second email with a special offer for Mother’s Day, they would have felt more inclined to act.
The key here is in the planning. Especially for a major date like Mother’s Day, it’s important to have a clear strategy in place.
April: Easter bank holiday
April is well known for the Easter bank holiday weekend and April Fool’s Day, but don’t forget about Earth Day for a chance to promote your eco-friendliness as a company.
The long weekend brings with it a whole host of sales opportunities for a wide range of retail industries, and the London Marathon is a major event to take advantage of too.
- April Fool’s Day, 1st – A time for jokes, prank calls and party gifts, but also a time for online retailers to have a bit of fun with their audience. Grab their attention and get people talking with a hilarious (yet clever) marketing campaign.
- Good Friday, 19th – The start of the bank holiday weekend. Many people will be in high spirits and getting their food shop in ready for Easter Sunday. Capitalise on this good mood amongst your buyers and make the most of social media engagement.
- Easter Sunday, 21st – Online Easter egg hunts, competitions and special Easter deals will work well here. Think outside the box and try to engage your audience in a unique way. Consider how your audience will be spending the long weekend.
- Earth Day, 22nd – Don’t forget about Mother Nature. Earth Day is a great opportunity to reach all your green-minded buyers. Put greater emphasis on your eco-friendly, reusable and recycled products, and demonstrate your brand values on topics such as Global Warming.
- St George’s Day, 23rd – Celebrate your English heritage as a business and give your audience an insight into your history. Encourage your audience to share their stories on social media.
- London Marathon, 28th – The London Marathon is a huge sporting event with 40,255 runners taking part in 2018. Could you sponsor a runner and their chosen charity or show your support in another way? For example, if you’re in the sporting equipment industry, you could create ‘survival kits’ for the runners or publish helpful articles in the lead up to the event.
Prime example: Hotel Chocolat’s Easter social media campaign
Hotel Chocolat of course celebrated Easter in style with a well-thought-out social media campaign.
The “Beau Bunny” is a recurring campaign for Hotel Chocolat, which makes it memorable and provides a strong brand image.
A well-dressed bunny rabbit hopped about different mystery locations across the country and asked the public to fill out an online form (data capture, tick) and guess the location, in a bid to win an array of Hotel Chocolat products.
The competition ran on their website and across social media, featuring the hashtag #beaubunny.
The campaign generated new leads, loyal fans of the “bunny from the burrows” and great user content. It was a fun, quirky and engaging way to celebrate Easter.
May: Wedding season begins
There’s a huge up-kick in shoppers actively looking for wedding gifts, clothing, accessories and travel accommodation starting in May. Make sure you take full advantage of this by offering helpful information, incentives to buy and promoting your high value products.
As well as the start of wedding season, there’s also two more bank holidays to prepare for.
- Wedding season begins, 1st – The sun has barely peaked from behind the clouds and already the weddings start rolling in. This is a big opportunity for online retailers, whether you’re in the wedding industry or not. Promote relevant gift ideas and consider re-marketing possibilities using social media.
- Star Wars Day, 4th – “May the Fourth be with you!” It’s not exactly a ‘key’ retail date for your calendar, but it’s a chance to have a bit of fun on social media and get your audience involved.
- May bank holidays, 6th/27th – Everyone loves May for two reasons…two bank holidays! As well as a time for going out and enjoying yourself, many consumers will be gearing up to make bigger purchases in anticipation of big discounts from retailers. This is an important date for retailers selling homeware, electronics or DIY tools in particular.
Prime example: B&Q’s “DIY” bank holiday TV advertising campaign
B&Q capitalised on the DIY trend over the May bank holidays with a series of transformation TV adverts focused on bathrooms.
The campaign aimed to further establish B&Q as the leader in DIY home improvement, using their own orange-aproned staff to rescue a family bathroom not currently working for their busy lives.
The “Calm the Chaos” ad demonstrated how B&Q can transform your bathroom to make life as easy as possible.
B&Q were able to relate to their target audience and boost sales over a busy period for DIY-ers with a slick advert and clear message.
But you don’t need a TV budget to take inspiration from B&Q and achieve a similar marketing campaign around the bank holidays.
June: Summer is here
Time to turn your attention to summer.
For many eCommerce retailers this will mean a pre-summer sale in time for new season stock, and a marketing campaign to attract holiday-makers.
Father’s Day is another great gifting opportunity to take advantage of and social media will play a vital role in reaching your audience and driving up sales here.
- Father’s Day, 16th – Father’s Day is a great opportunity for capitalising on gift-giving and establishing your brand image. Consider your products and audience and decide the best way to get your message across e.g. traditional, novelty, premium?
- Summer Solstice (longest day), 21st – A time for summer holidays and BBQ’s! If you’re in any way related to the travel and tourism industry, you’ll want to ensure you have a strong sales and marketing strategy ready to really make the most of the sunshine season.
- Armed Forces Day, 29th – Get involved with events takings place across the whole of the UK to mark the occasion and pay tribute to the bravery and professionalism of our soldiers on social media.
Prime example: Glenlivet’s personalised Father’s Day Facebook campaign
Glenlivet used Facebook to deliver a highly effective campaign, in order to launch their new ‘Founder’s Reserve’ in time for Father’s Day.
They managed to combine an interactive and personalised experience with the power of social media to engage gift-givers and whiskey-loving Dads.
Users were able to personalise their bottle label and then send as a gift or send a free miniature. The campaign centred around the message “#CheersDad, thanks for everything.”
This award-winning campaign established a new product range with an 11% sales uplift and had Dad’s up and down the country raising a glass to Glenlivet.
July: Amazon Prime Day
The summer is notoriously slow for eCommerce, but there’s plenty of big events and retail dates to take advantage of and centre your marketing efforts around. Avoiding the summer sales slump though means preparation is key.
Planning your campaigns in advance will go a long way in helping you through this particularly difficult month, and Amazon Prime day is definitely a date you want to get involved with, whether you sell on Amazon or not.
- Wimbledon starts, 2nd – Think British! Especially if you’re in the sporting industry, consider ways you can boost particular products and promote the tennis events. Get your audience involved on social media.
- F1 British Grand Prix starts, 6th – Again, this date might not be relevant to every eCommerce business but think of ways to show your support for your favourite team or driver on social media and encourage engagement – especially if you’re in the Automotive industry.
- Graduations and school summer holidays – This time of the month is important to prepare for. Create gift displays on your website for teachers or graduates and consider how you can grab the attention of your target market on social media. Now is also the time to reduce your prices and sell as much holiday stock as you can.
- Amazon Prime day, TBC – Definitely one to be aware of if you sell on Amazon, but they only announce the exact date last minute. Shoppers will be expecting great deals, so give them what they want, and use this opportunity to advertise. Prepare your ads in advance and increase your budget and your bids. Stick to fast-moving inventory that you know is going to sell.
Prime example: Burt’s Bees Amazon Prime Day campaign
Quite literally a ‘prime’ example.
Amazon Prime Day is a key date for your eCommerce diary, with marketplace sellers seeing an 80% spike in their sales in 2017 – and that’s not just from Amazon sales. So, whether you sell on Amazon or not, capitalise on the increased online shoppers looking for deals.
Instead of simply discounting their products like everyone else, Burt’s Bees decided to put together some of their bestsellers into a beautiful gift-set. They took popular products they knew that would sell and used Amazon Prime Day to promote their product bundle.
Think about what products normally appear in the ‘frequently bought together’ section on your Amazon page and bundle together to make it easier and more appealing for potential customers to want to buy.
August: Last taste of summer
Summer is winding down, which means it’s your last chance to sell old stock and start thinking about your new season marketing campaign ahead of Autumn.
You should also be aware that most schools go back early September, so parents and students will be shopping in August and preparing for the colder season ahead.
- Afternoon Tea Week, TBC – Celebrate one of the nation’s favourite traditions and consider how you could get your audience involved on social. You have a whole week of opportunity here – create your own hashtag, run a competition or host a charity coffee morning – especially if you're in the Food and Drink industry.
- World Photography Day, 19th – “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Make the most of this international day and use photos to grab your audience’s attention. Social media would be the best platform to capitalise here and encourage your customers to share their best photos of your products.
- Summer bank holiday, 26th – Bank holidays are a great time to run offers and promotions, as there is a buyer expectation that they’re going to be able to pick up a bargain. Create engaging content based around the bank holiday and drive shoppers to make those final summer purchases.
Prime example: Aristocrat Bags World Photography Day social media campaign
A really simple yet effective example of a brand making the most of World Photography Day, was Aristocrat Bags’ social media competition.
They created a clean-looking graphic with the messaging “unpack your best travel photographs to win travel goodies”.
The social media campaign not only capitalised on the hashtag #WorldPhotographyDay, engaged their audience and captured their details, but it also increased their brand awareness with over 14,000 likes, 347 comments and 105 shares on Facebook alone.
This is a really easy retail date to get involved with, as with minimal spend on social media you have the potential to reach a highly engaged, much wider audience and generate leads off the back of it.
September: Say hello to autumn
The leaves are changing colour and summer fun is finally coming to an end in place of hats and scarfs. There’s a brand-new school year as well as a brand-new season to centre your sales and marketing initiatives around.
- Back to school, 3rd – Most parents and students will have already done their back-to-school shopping, but there’s always going to be those unorganised people running around last minute.
- From a marketing perspective, consider what campaigns your audience would respond to the best. Sell homeware? This could be the perfect opportunity to run a campaign targeted at University Freshers.
- Autumn begins, 23rd – Promote your new season collection across your website and social channels. What initiatives could you try to reach new audiences during autumn? Take this opportunity of a brand-new season to think outside the box with your marketing efforts.
Prime example: Absolut Vodka Autumn advertising campaign
Known for their creative marketing campaigns, Absolout Vodka position their alcohol as the drink of the season.
For a recent autumn campaign, they used elements that remind customers of the season like acorns to form the shape of their infamous bottle.
Other ads included images of pumpkins, witches and moons carved out of ‘wood’, preparing customers for Halloween the following month.
The ads used warm tones of orange and brown to leverage memories of time spent with friends and family, and open-fires ahead of the Christmas season.
Absolut Vodka relies on simple messaging and traditional imagery to reflect their brand’s longevity.
Use autumn to remind your consumers of the warmth that can come with the season and demonstrate to them how your products can fit into their lives.
It’s also a great time to raise your brand awareness with well-designed ads that are memorable.
October: Trick or treat?
A month of pumpkin-spiced lattes and fancy-dress parties. Halloween is a key retail date for October, with retailers releasing their spooky-themed items early on.
As well as Halloween, October is a time to really enjoy traditional Autumnal activities and capitalise on the general culture of your audience staying in more often.
- World Animal Day, 4th – A day to celebrate the animals. It’s a chance to get your customers involved by encouraging them to share photos of their pets on social media. Also show your support as a company to local animal charities.
- Clocks go back, 27th – Give your audience a friendly reminder that the clocks will be going back, and make sure your eCommerce business is all working to the correct time.
- Halloween, 31st – If you sell food and drink, fancy dress or seasonal decorations in particular, you can really make the most of this key retail date. Prepare a marketing campaign in advance to promote any themed products or party decorations you offer. As Halloween draws nearer, consider running a promotion and amp up your social media activity too.
Prime example: M&M’s Halloween Instagram campaign
M&M created a series of engaging social media posts, relevant to their target audience, and posted on Instagram and Instagram Stories.
They clearly know their target audience well and have a good understanding of the kind of content they want to consume, with a “Fall starter pack” and easy “caramel apple pops” recipe.
As well as developing a special range of Halloween flavours, colours and packaging, M&M thought outside the box by providing their audience with another use for their product in the form of a delicious recipe.
If your products are very visual, Instagram would be an ideal social media platform here and a great place for reaching the 18-24 year old market.
November: Black Friday madness
There’s no doubt about it, the Black Friday weekend is a huge opportunity for all retailers. It’s critical that you plan your strategy way in advance and anticipate a surge in website traffic.
Autumnal celebrations are taking place up and down the country and the nation remembers and honours those who sacrificed themselves in two world wars.
- Movember, all month – Encourage your team and customers to join in with Movember and update on social media throughout the month. Collect donations and create a competition for the best tash. It’s a great way to raise money for charity and get your audience involved too.
- Bonfire Night, 5th – Fireworks, hot chocolates and bonfires. Bonfire Night is chance to raise awareness on social media with a creative campaign and eye catching graphic or image. Make use of relevant hashtags too.
- Remembrance Sunday, 11th – Show your support for our veterans on your website and across social. Encourage your customers to share their stories and show your audience how you plan to get involved as a company.
- Black Friday, 29th – A key retail date for your calendar. There’s a lot to prepare and plan for in advance so get to work early. A whopping £1.4billion was spent online on this day alone in the UK in 2017, making it a truly golden opportunity for online retailers. Align all your sales and marketing efforts to take full advantage of the massive influx of online shoppers in order to reap the sales rewards.
- St Andrew’s Day, 30th – Promote all things Scottish! How about creating a Scottish trivia quiz competition that you can share across social?
Prime example: Cards Against Humanity Black Friday advertising campaign
This is a really interesting example of how one brand decided to go against what everyone else was doing in order to stand out, and it certainly worked.
Considered a rather rebellious brand in general, Cards Against Humanity decided to actually increase their prices for the Black Friday weekend. They took the risky approach of adding an extra $5 to all their products and amazingly Amazon gave it the green light.
The crazy ‘sale’ was widely shared on Twitter and Tumblr and was even the top Reddit post at the time and covered in worldwide press.
Their extremely unconventional pricing model worked in their favour because it raised the stakes even further in their battle against consumerism. This Black Friday stunt made sense to their audience and therefore not only earned them a ton of exposure but sales too, even at the higher price point!
It’s definitely not going to work for the majority of eCommerce businesses, but a great takeaway from this example is to think outside the box and not always follow the crowd.
It’s important to always consider what will your target consumers respond to best when designing a campaign around a key retail date such as Black Friday.
December: Merry Christmas!
It’s Christmas…the busiest shopping period of the year for most online retailers, and great news for sales if you can get your strategy right. Following on from the Black Friday madness, there’s also Cyber Monday to prepare for and winter officially starts.
As the year draws to a close, it’s time to celebrate how far you’ve come as a business and put your plans in place ready to do it all over again in 2020!
- Cyber Monday, 2nd – Continue the Black Friday buzz with Cyber Monday savings. Use social media to promote your offers and coupon codes, and drive people back to your site. Once they’re on your site it’s your job to keep them there, so consider different techniques here. What’s going to encourage them to make a purchase? And what could be a potential barrier for them?
- Winter Solstice (shortest day), 22nd – Officially the first day of winter. Tailor your marketing and advertising around this colder season and get your audience excited for Christmas on social media.
- Christmas Day, 25th – Think gift giving – creating your own gift-sets is a really easy way to drive more Christmas sales and ultimately sell more products too. What incentives to buy could you provide your audience? For example, a gift-wrapping service, personalised messages or free delivery. Remember to anticipate the influx of sales and make sure you have the staff and stock to cope – you don’t want to let your customers down – and there’s always a flurry of last-minute shoppers needing next day delivery that they can rely on.
- Create helpful gift-guides and engaging content to provide value to your readers and drive additional traffic to your website. Get your calls-to-action right here and always keep in mind the buyer’s journey to best cater to their needs.
- Boxing Day, 26th – Advertise your post-Christmas discounts across your website and social media platforms. It’s important to be ready for shoppers looking to grab a bargain in the Boxing Day sales and items in time for New Year’s Eve – so, no time to relax just yet.
- New Year’s Eve, 31st – Celebrate the new year on social and think of ways to get your audience involved. Promote your new season stock with a strong marketing campaign and remember to give yourself a big pat on the back for making it to end of another successful year.
Prime example: Waterstone’s Christmas gift-guide marketing campaign
Well-known bookselling giant, Waterstones, made the most of the gift-giving season by creating a beautifully illustrated, interactive gift guide.
The interactive guide featured a Winter Wonderland scene with categories including ‘stocking fillers’ and ‘festive reads’ to help the buyer pick the perfect gift for their loved one.
This campaign took a simple idea and means of promoting their products at Christmas and set itself apart with an exceptional design and user experience.
As well as helping their audience to find the perfect gift, they created a digital marketing campaign that was unique and highly creative, meaning people wanted to share it with their friends and come back to it as a reliable source for great gift ideas.
If you don’t have the budget to produce something as well-designed and interactive as this, consider how you could create useful and shareable content that your audience will benefit from at Christmas.
You’re now fully equipped with all the key dates you need to know as an online retailer. It’s important to be aware of these dates throughout the year, but remember that not all of them will be relevant to your eCommerce business.
Make sure to prepare your sales and marketing strategies well in advance around the dates that can offer your business the most opportunity, try to think outside the box and prioritise your initiatives so you can allocate your budget effectively.
How are you taking advantage of these key retail dates as an online seller? We’d love to hear about your marketing plans, sales experiences and any new ideas – please leave a comment below.