The 2022 Holiday Planning Guide for Retailers

Inflation, supply problems, and labor shortages can’t keep you down. Here’s how to deliver holiday happiness and revenue all year round.

Economic uncertainty and changing consumer behaviors are exposing a complicated reality. For retailers, it’s never been more important to deliver excellent customer experiences alongside competitive prices on in-stock products. But even in a best-case scenario, a major shift in consumer sentiment is likely. What does that mean for retailers as they prepare for the 2022 holiday shopping season?
“Inflation has finally caught up to bullish spending, with consumers buying fewer items from fewer retailers. This likely isn’t a temporary mindset, but instead a signal of a larger consumer behavioral shift towards value and convenience. For retailers to address this, it’s not about physical versus digital, but rather finding ways for channels to work symbiotically to attract and retain loyal shoppers.”
– Rob Garf, VP and GM, Retail at Salesforce

As companies try to drive profitable growth by optimizing their promotional calendars, they’re asking one question: How can we attract new shoppers and keep existing customers coming back for more? This year, retailers will focus on developing data acquisition strategies, bridging the physical-digital divide, and building stronger business partnerships. But on a larger scale, they’ll need to put as much investment into the post-purchase experience as they do the path-to-purchase, pairing test-and-learn strategies with proven revenue drivers like flash sales and special promotions.

Here we share the insights and strategies you’ll need to prepare for your peak demand events, from the holiday shopping season to door-busting special events.

Chapter 1: Activate data to acquire and engage loyal customers.

Customer data is the fuel that ignites loyalty — and growth.

In 2022, ecommerce may not repeat the record-setting growth of 2020 and 2021. Nevertheless, tightening margins mean it’s never been more important for retailers to lean into digital to dial up their customer acquisition strategy. Simply running a website isn’t enough: Today, it’s data and personalization that transform new customers into loyal shoppers.

Exclusive experiences drive loyalty.

Retailers are counting on loyalty programs to help them collect first-party data before Google, and other tech platforms, stop supporting cookies in 2023. But to grow loyalty membership in a year when customers are likely to shop less and from fewer retailers, retailers must make the data-for-rewards exchange worthwhile. To do this, they must evolve their programs so they appeal to shoppers’ logical and emotional needs. How? By going beyond transactional arrangements and focusing on member experiences. This is especially important as retailers compete for wallet share from younger generations: Millennials and Gen Zers value exclusive access to limited products and experiences nearly two times more than Gen X and Baby Boomers.
“Millennials and Gen Zers value exclusive access to limited products and experiences nearly two times more than Gen X and Baby Boomers.”
– Connected Shoppers Report, Fourth Edition
Salesforce, 2021

This looks like:

  • Early access: Giving members the chance to shop Black Friday deals before Black Friday ensures they have access to products that are likely to sell out (while avoiding crowds, too).
  • Free expedited shipping: Nothing says stress like realizing you’ve forgotten a gift when the holiday is two days away. Help members be holiday heroes with complimentary overnight shipping so they save time and money.
  • Exclusive events and products: Keep it festive online and in-store with a members-only holiday shopping party that includes a trunk show, limited edition products, or one-night-only deals. Consider online waiting rooms for blowout digital events.
  • Gamification: Stay top-of-mind (and keep them coming back) by rewarding members for taking actions beyond transactions. That could be earning badges for downloading an app or leaving a product review.
  • A net zero focus: 78% of customers say environmental practices influence their decision to buy from a company, so look for retailers to reward loyalty members when they engage in environmentally friendly behaviors. At Starbucks, for example, loyalty members earn points when they buy with reusable cups. And at Kiehl’s, customers who bring empty containers back to the store earn rewards.

Test the waters in the metaverse.

The metaverse is among the most exciting ecommerce innovations, and shoppers are riding the trend: This year, 49% of shoppers said they would purchase non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a digital asset that represents something unique or scarce stored on a blockchain. Whether that looks like a virtual version of a real-world item or a digital collectible, 47% of shoppers said that the appeal of gifting an NFT is that they want to give a gift that might increase in value. Even more interesting is that 42% said they would be more likely to buy a physical product if it came with a digital twin.

NFTs aren’t the only way to play in the metaverse, however. Look no further than online gaming, where players buy digital skins to give their avatars a unique look. The market for virtual clothing, accessories, and cosmetic add-ons is impressive: In fact, digital skins account for an estimated $40 billion per year. Even fashion brands are getting in on the action, with one high-end retailer leading the way with a winter-themed digital world where visitors could try on, buy, and wear apparel — only online, of course.

Connect customer data.

The average retailer uses 44 different systems to engage with customers across digital and physical touchpoints. If you’re wondering why that matters, put yourself in the place of a time-starved holiday shopper who has repeated her question to three different customer service agents. Shoppers feel the disconnect caused by internal data silos: In fact, 54% of customers say it feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information.

The pressure is on retailers to deliver the personal and consistent experiences you want your brand to represent. Companies that do this well unify customer profile data across channels, from social media to stores, enabling efficiency. Employees from any department can view data in real time on one screen. Communications stay up-to-date and accurate, avoiding repetition, no matter how a customer chooses to interact.

Operationalize data and intelligence.

While 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, only 32% of retail executives say they have the full ability to turn data into personalized prices, offers, and products in real time across channels and touchpoints. For retailers, using their data to connect the dots between social media, website, and app experiences is getting more complicated. However, investing in the information infrastructure to pull it off is worth it: Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to add new customers and 6.5 times more likely to retain them.
“Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to add new customers and 6.5 times more likely to retain them.”
– State of Marketing, Seventh Edition, Salesforce, 2021

Here’s why: Retailers that do this well are able to anticipate their customers’ needs and preferences — removing friction during a busy time of year. Using data to personalize shopping journeys makes it easier for customers to find the products they want and check out with the payment options they prefer. This looks like:

  • Customized site search and product sort: Embed AI into search dictionaries to surface the most relevant term and customize the order in which they appear based on behavioral and customer data. That makes it faster for your customers to find the products they want — like seeing a landing page of headset images after only tapping “he” in the search bar.
  • Related product displays: Engage your customers with relevant recommendations and watch conversion rates increase. If a shopper is searching for a new gaming controller, for example, it makes sense to display related products, like batteries, alongside. That also gives shoppers the chance to create their own gift bundles and takes an otherwise time-consuming merchandising effort down to a few clicks.
  • Intelligent product bundling: Customers who buy wrapping paper might also need tape, ribbon, and gift tags. By analyzing past purchase behavior, you can pre-configure product bundles that increase units per transaction.
  • Relevant post-product messaging: Personalized emails are a great way to cater to busy holiday shoppers — for example, when that out-of-stock gaming console becomes available just in time for holiday delivery.
  • Staying top of mind: Deepen customer relationships by going beyond the buy button. Show you care about their satisfaction by inviting them to rate their purchase or their experience with customer service.

Next: Chapter 2: Remove friction from complex shopping journeys.

Shopping has never been more convenient for customers. But for retailers, it’s never been more complicated.
See how:
  • Headless architecture keeps you agile across digital channels
  • New payment technology offers more flexibility
  • Optimizing mobile and social meets customers where they are

More Resources


Get timely updates and fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.