The power of holiday gift guides for small business

Editorial Team

7 min read
Gifts in a wooden gift box

One of the best ways to capture customers during the busy holiday season is with gift guides. These curated lists help relieve shopper stress by narrowing down gift ideas. Since gift guides are tailored to different personas, themes, interests, and price points, they help shoppers decide what works best for both their wallet and their loved ones.

The potential benefits are substantial. One study found that emails featuring gift guides generated a 48% increase in transactions compared to other kinds of mailings, showing that it’s a great way to convert casual browsers into paying customers. Gift guides can also generate word-of-mouth sales since shoppers often share their ideas with friends and family. 

With the holiday season approaching, now is the time to get those gift guides rolling! Marketing studies have shown that about 50 percent of consumers typically start shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa by the end of October. And that number might increase with this year’s inflation concerns. Read on for some tools and tips on creating a great gift guide with all the tools available in 2022.

Create categories that connect with customers

How you categorize your gift guide is an important point of connection with your customers. Remember: your guide isn’t just for your market. It’s also for the people who will be purchasing gifts for your target audience. So you want to create simple and accessible categories that reflect your inventory and customers. You want your gift-buyers to let out a sigh of relief that you have done all the heavy lifting of gift curation for them. 

Start by asking yourself some questions: What products do your customers already love? What does your sales history show about price-point patterns and preferences? How does your brand connect with larger trends that your customers care about? What other practical considerations should come into play, like how well gifts will travel (if you expect to ship them during the busy holiday season) or how likely they are to generate post-holiday exchanges (say, to get a better size)?

Let data guide the way

When thinking through these questions, data is your friend. Clover Tracking & Reporting is a great resource for pinpointing your top sellers. Once you know what customers already love, you can start thinking about which items would make great gifts and for whom. You can even create a separate “Featured” section on your guide to showcase your bestsellers.

Then create categories according to shopper segments, like these:

  • Gender (Gifts for Him/Her)
  • Price point (Gifts under $20/$50/$100)
  • Interests (Best Gifts for Foodies/Music Lovers/Fashionistas)
  • Age/generation (Best Gifts for GenZ)
  • Relationship types (Gifts for Work Colleagues/Dads/Grandkids)
  • Quirky/amusing (Gifts for the Man Who Has Everything – get creative!)

Feel free to get creative in thinking about these categories in relation to your industry. Ideally, these categories will be both broad enough to reach a wide gift-giving population and specific enough to speak to your specific customers’ desires. 

Google Trends is a great tool to research larger trends that your customers care about in your location and industry. Think about how your brand connects with these trends—tailoring your categories and products to what people are talking about and buying makes your brand feel relevant. 

If you want to go the extra mile, you can use what you’ve learned from your data to create gift bundles. The Customers app from Clover’s Customer Engagement tool suite can help you glean not just what your top selling items are, but what your top customers love. This information can help you create product bundles that already have a successful track record. Even better, you can combine the Promotions app to combine your gift guide with promotions tailored to particular kinds of customers.

The last-minute gift guide

With all the creativity and research that goes into creating your gift guide, the last-minute gift guide is a no-brainer. While we know that holiday shopping starts as early as October, shoppers are increasingly shopping in the week before Christmas. Shipping is usually top of mind for last-minute shoppers, who will pay extra to get their gifts on time, so it’s a good idea to combine premium shipping deals with this guide. 

One other consideration to take into account when creating your last-minute gift guide is age. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely demographic to procrastinate with their holiday shopping. So even if your inventory and target audience normally reflect a more mature demographic, if you think their grandkids might shop at your store for them this year, you may want to frame your last-minute gift guide with a younger buyer audience in mind. 

Harness your digital capabilities

While gift guides can certainly be sent through mailers, harnessing digital capabilities will bring you the most bang for your buck. Your website is a great place to start, especially since it connects your guide to your inventory. Customers will be able to see real-time availability, discounts, and shipping details while they shop. You can also include multiple tailored guides on the same page. Check out how creative Crayola got: they include categories by recipient, theme, collection, price, and activities! 

As mentioned earlier, emailing your gift guide as part of a newsletter allows you to activate your client base. One advantage to the email format is the ability to create a “drip campaign”—that is, to stretch your gift guide out over time in weekly installments. This way, your brand and products stay present as possibilities in your customers’ minds while they think about the different kinds of gifts they need to buy. Emails are also a great way to reach those last-minute shoppers with last-minute deals and guides of your own.

Social media is a prime way to reach a wide audience and allow them to purchase with ease. On Instagram, for instance, you can tag the products in your gift guide post and redirect shoppers to your purchase page. Voilá, you just turned a casual scroller into a paying customer. To reduce your effort, you can feature your email newsletter on social media instead of creating fresh content. Or, you can create an Instagram guide to tailor your content to the platform. 

If you really want to stand out, you can create a video gift guide using Instagram reels. With videos you have the potential to make your post both more beautiful and more personal. You also have the option of experimenting a bit by posting videos in your stories and testing how they land. 

For all digital formats, make sure that your gift guide looks great and functions on different devices and platforms. With so many folks shopping on the go, customers should be able to view and access it with ease whether they are on their laptop, tablet, or phone. Also, double check that your landing pages are correctly linked so that customers can make purchases without any extra clicks. A frictionless shopping experience will help create new customers, not just in the holiday season, but in the long term.

Lastly, don’t forget to train your staff to talk up gift guides with customers. As shoppers browse and ask employees for advice, pointing them to an appropriate gift guide is a natural way to land the sale – and provide excellent customer service at the same time.

To learn more about how Clover can help you with your holiday marketing needs, contact a Business Consultant today.


Photo by Dmitry Mashkin on Unsplash

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