Holiday spending in 2019 is projected to increase 4.9% from 2018, according to The Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey, with the average U.S. adult spending $683 on holiday-related purchases.



A whopping 90% of those shoppers plan to visit physical stores to make purchases. How can you ensure they visit your store? Experiential marketing is the key.


What Is Experiential Marketing?


Unlike traditional advertising, such as print ads or TV commercials customers simply look at, experiential marketing invites them to experience and engage with your business in a memorable way. The goal is to make the customer feel part of your brand so they promote it to others and keep coming back to your store.


Experiential marketing has become a buzzword, with some retailers believing it requires immersive experiences like virtual reality technology. But that’s not true. In fact, in today’s increasingly tech-obsessed world, the way to stand out can be to offer a more hands-on experience.


The good news for small retailers: That means experiential marketing is something you can do, too.


Holiday Experiential Marketing Ideas


The easiest way to create experiential marketing during the holidays is the way retailers have always done it: Appeal to your customers’ five senses. Play holiday music, go crazy with holiday décor, use evocative scents and serve tasty treats like cookies or apple cider. Use touchable displays and fabrics to encourage customers to explore the merchandise.


Make your holiday experience unique and relevant to your brand; if you own a surf shop, play holiday surf music instead of classic carols, or plant a Christmas tree in the middle of a sand dune.


Here are some other experiential marketing ideas to get you started.


  • Give away samples: Nothing gets customers to engage with your products like letting them try the merchandise. You can hand out samples outside your store to attract a crowd. Include special offers for discounts if they buy the product.
  • Do a popup shop: A short-term or popup shop generates lots of excitement at any time of year and is a great experiential marketing tactic for the holidays. You could host a popup shop inside a complementary retail store or have a complementary business do the same in your store. Get more tips on how to run a popup shop.
  • Hold in-store events: When customers take the trouble to visit a physical store instead of doing their holiday shopping online, they want to have fun. In-store events such as live music, author book signings, art openings or fashion shows are memorable experiences that will get customers talking.
  • Offer educational classes: Give customers new ideas on how to use your products or make the most of your offerings. Art supply stores can hold painting classes, pet stores can teach customers dog grooming tips, housewares stores can host cooking classes—the ideas are endless.
  • Make it shareable: Unique and memorable events will spark social sharing. You can help it along by creating Instagrammable settings for customers to take pictures or fun moments they’ll want to remember.
  • Give it local flavor: Drawing on the local environment is one way to design an experience. For example, a camping supply store in the Pacific Northwest could use a rough-hewn, cabin-like interior, pine scents and cozy furnishings to craft a fitting setting for its wares.
  • Mix it up: Consumers are hungry for new experiences, so be sure to change your store’s experiential marketing on a regular basis. You can tie these changes to the season, to new product lines or to current events.


Whatever experiential marketing tactic you choose, be sure to promote it in advance, both in-store and online. Create a hashtag for your store and for any special event you’re holding. Use social media posts, email marketing and your website to build excitement about what’s going on at your store.


By making your in-store experience memorable and fun, you’ll boost your holiday sales, too.


About Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.


Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.


Web: or Twitter: @Rieva

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