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How To Make A Holiday Marketing Calendar: Key Dates And Tips

how-to-make-a-holiday-marketing-calendar:-key-dates-and-tips
How To Make A Holiday Marketing Calendar: Key Dates And Tips

If you’re marketing an ecommerce business, the end-of-year holiday season may include your most significant, targeted campaigns of the year. And that’s not likely to change as consumers shift more of their holiday shopping online, giving ecommerce an increasingly big piece of the holiday sales pie.

Even still, holiday marketing efforts extend beyond the end of the year. There are niche events, holidays, celebrations, or observances that may resonate with current or potential consumers happening every day. Read on to get a selection of key dates and tips for building your holiday marketing calendar.

Table of contents

What is a holiday marketing calendar?

A holiday marketing calendar is a tool for planning and executing holiday marketing campaigns. Seasonal or holiday marketing involves deploying campaigns and using tactics and channels to promote a brand, product, or service around specific holidays, seasons, or events.

It is a curated list of holidays and occasions relevant to your business and your customers, mapped out in an annual marketing calendar. This tool can be used to plan each campaign’s promotions, content, channels, and duration.

Why build a holiday marketing calendar?

Beyond marketing during the end-of-year holiday season and other major annual spending events such as back to school, there are many other smaller holidays, events, and celebrations throughout the year. Star Wars Day, Clean Out Your Inbox Week, and National Pet Day are just a few examples of events that may provide valuable micro-marketing opportunities.

Consider your buyer personas and build a holiday marketing calendar around events that are meaningful to your customers and relevant to your business. This can help you create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns that can build brand awareness, increase sales, and strengthen customer relationships.

Notable dates to inspire your holiday marketing calendar

As your target audiences, marketing goals, and offerings differ, so will the holidays you choose to include on your marketing calendar. There are likely many holidays, events, and celebrations that could be an excellent fit for your brand or business, but here are some of the most notable dates to inspire you:

January

With a new calendar year and a busy holiday season wrapped up, January offers us a collective “restart” button. It’s also a great time to reconnect with customers who discovered your business or brand during the holiday shopping season.

  • January 1: New Year’s Day
  • January 2: Science Fiction Day
  • January 15: National Hat Day
  • 1st week of January: National Thank Your Customers Week
  • 3rd week of January: Clean Out Your Inbox Week
  • 3rd Monday of January: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Month long:
    • National Hobby Month
    • Dry January

February

February brings two big single-day events—the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day—but it’s also a time to celebrate Black History Month.

  • February 2: Groundhog Day
  • February 9: National Pizza Day
  • February 14: Valentine’s Day
  • February 15: Singles Awareness Day
  • February 17: Random Act of Kindness Day
  • 3rd Monday in February: Family Day (Canada)
  • 3rd Monday in February: Presidents’ Day (US)
  • 1st Sunday in February: Super Bowl
  • Beginning between January 21 and February 20: Lunar New Year
  • Month long:
    • Black History Month

March

As the spirit of spring arrives, harness budding feelings of renewal to refresh your seasonal marketing campaigns.

  • March 3: World Wildlife Day
  • March 8: International Women’s Day
  • March 14: National Pi Day
  • 2nd week of March: National Sleep Awareness Week
  • March 17: Saint Patrick’s Day
  • March 19, 20, or 21: Spring equinox (first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere)
  • 4th week of March: National Cleaning Week
  • March or April: Passover and Easter
  • Month long:
    • Women’s History Month

April

With the season kicking into high gear, National Decorating Month may appeal to those in spring-cleaning mode, but April is also a month for celebrating mother Earth and holidays like Easter and Passover.

  • April 1: April Fool’s Day
  • April 2: World Autism Awareness Day
  • April 11: National Pet Day
  • April 15: Tax Day
  • April 22: Earth Day
  • April 23: World Book Day
  • April 29: International Dance Day
  • April 30: National Honesty Day
  • 3rd Thursday Each Quarter: Get to Know Your Customers Day
  • March or April: Passover and Easter
  • Month long:
    • Earth Month
    • National Decorating Month
    • National Autism Awareness Month
    • Stress Awareness Month

May

May is a month with a varied holiday calendar, representing a variety of target audiences. Mother's Day in the US and Canada remains one of the biggest spending events of the year, but May is also a time to celebrate Star Wars fans, nurses, and firefighters.

  • May 4: Star Wars Day
  • May 4: International Firefighters’ Day
  • May 5: Cinco de Mayo
  • 1st Thursday in May: World Password Day
  • May 6: National Nurses Day
  • May 9: Europe Day
  • 2nd Sunday in May: Mother’s Day (US and Canada)
  • May 25: National Wine Day
  • May 30: National Creativity Day
  • Last Monday preceding May 25: Victoria Day (Canada)
  • Last Monday in May: Memorial Day
  • Month long:
    • Mental Health Awareness Month
    • ALS Awareness Month
    • Clean Air Month
    • Lupus Awareness Month

June

June is a month to celebrate fathers, Juneteenth, Pride, and the official kickoff to summer.

  • 3rd Sunday in June: Father’s Day (US and Canada)
  • June 5: World Environment Day​​
  • June 19: Juneteenth (US)
  • June 20 or 21: Summer solstice (first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere)
  • June 21: Indigenous Peoples’ Day (Canada)
  • June 21: International Day of Yoga
  • June 30: World Social Media Day
  • June–August: Tour de France
  • Month long:
    • Pride Month
    • Men’s Health Month

July

July is a hot time for summer sales, vacation spending, and impulse purchases.

  • July 1: National Postal Worker Day, International Joke Day, Canada Day
  • July 2: World UFO Day
  • July 4: Independence Day (US)
  • July 5: National Bikini Day
  • July 7: World Chocolate Day
  • 3rd Sunday in July: National Ice Cream Day
  • July 17: World Emoji Day
  • July 20: National Moon Day
  • 3rd Thursday Each Quarter: Get to Know Your Customers Day
  • Month long:
    • National Grilling Month
    • National Picnic Month
    • National Independent Retailer Month
    • National Blueberry Month

August

August always marks a notable shift as summer begins to fade and back-to-school season ramps up. Back-to-school spending has been growing annually for decades, from $8.4 billion in 2007 to more than $41 billion in 2023.

  • Beginning the 1st Saturday in August: National Farmers Market Week
  • 1st Friday in August: International Beer Day
  • August 8: International Cat Day
  • August 10: National Lazy Day
  • August 12: International Youth Day
  • August 19: World Photography Day, World Humanitarian Day
  • August 26: International Dog Day
  • Month long:
    • Back-to-School Month

September

There are plenty of fun holidays and events to leverage in September, like National Video Games Day or National Indoor Plant Week, but this is also a time when marketers roll up their sleeves for the big fall holiday season—which accounts for over a quarter of annual revenue for many businesses.

  • 1st Monday in September: Labor Day/Labour Day (US and Canada)
  • 1st Sunday after Labor Day: Grandparents’ Day
  • September 8: International Literacy Day
  • September 12: National Video Games Day
  • September 15–October 15: National Hispanic Heritage Month
  • September 27: World Tourism Day
  • September 22 or 23: Fall equinox (first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere)
  • 3rd week in September: Pollution Prevention Week, National Indoor Plant Week
  • A Tuesday in September: National Voter Registration Day
  • September 30: International Podcast Day

October

Come October, fall has arrived, ushering in pumpkin spice latte season and sweater weather. The month ends with Halloween, marking the kickoff to the end-of-year marketing season.

  • October 1: World Vegetarian Day, International Coffee Day
  • October 4: National Taco Day (US)
  • October 5: World Teachers’ Day
  • October 10: World Mental Health Day
  • 2nd Monday in October: Thanksgiving (Canada), Indigenous Peoples’ Day (US)
  • October 16: World Food Day
  • 4th Saturday in October: National Make a Difference Day
  • October 31: Halloween
  • Month long:
    • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
    • National Bullying Awareness Month
    • LGBTQ+ History Month

November

November brings a reason to celebrate your favorite vegan on World Vegan Day or your favorite single on Singles’ Day—a global shopping event. It’s also time for the US shopping trifecta, including Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, that routinely produces record spending levels.

  • November 1: World Vegan Day
  • November 8: National STEM Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day (US), Remembrance Day (Canada)
  • November 11: Singles’ Day
  • November 13: World Kindness Day
  • November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance
  • 4th Thursday in November: Thanksgiving (US)
  • Friday after Thanksgiving: Black Friday
  • Saturday after Thanksgiving: Small Business Saturday
  • Monday after Thanksgiving: Cyber Monday
  • Tuesday after Thanksgiving: Giving Tuesday
  • Month long:
    • Movember
    • National Healthy Skin Month
    • National Gratitude Month
    • National Native American Heritage Month

December

The end of the year has arrived packed with time-honored holidays alongside newer marketing opportunities, such as National App Day and Free Shipping Day.

  • Late November or December: Hanukkah
  • December 11: National App Day
  • 2nd Monday in December: Green Monday
  • Mid-December: National Free Shipping Day
  • December 21 or 22: Winter solstice
  • Saturday Before Christmas: Super Saturday
  • December 24: Christmas Eve
  • December 25: Christmas Day
  • December 26: Boxing Day
  • December 26–January 1: Kwanzaa
  • December 31: New Year’s Eve
  • Month long:
    • National Human Rights Month

Tips for creating a holiday marketing calendar

  • Plan ahead
  • Consider intent, consumer behavior, and expectations
  • Adjust for local markets
  • Support with operational readiness
  • Measure, analyze, and adjust

Plan ahead

It takes time to build a strategic list of holidays and events along with the campaigns to support them.

Launching holiday campaigns too close to the holiday itself can cause undue stress and mean you miss out on traffic from early shoppers. According to the recent Shopify-Gallup Holiday Shopping Pulse survey, 41% of respondents said they plan to start holiday shopping in October or earlier. Start your holiday marketing planning as early as possible and ideally plan campaigns by the quarter preceding each holiday.

Note that some holidays may not fall on a consistent date. Ramadan, for instance, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and culminates in Eid al-Fitr, but it spans different dates every year according to the Gregorian calendar.

Consider intent, consumer behavior, and expectations

The end-of-year holiday season remains the biggest push for holiday marketing efforts, but consumer behavior during this season is changing.

Not only are consumers starting to shop earlier, but getting a deal is more important than ever. In a survey for Shopify, 72% of consumers said they’re more likely to shop during BFCM this year to get more for their money. They are expecting brands to deliver the deals, with 71% saying it’s important for a brand to communicate with them about their offers ahead of BFCM.

Support the development of your holiday marketing calendar with relevant research and a thorough understanding of your buyer personas to craft timely campaigns and messages that will resonate.

Adjust for local markets

Many holidays have global appeal, while others are more regional. Research local markets before launching a holiday marketing campaign in multiple countries or regions.

Mother’s Day, for example, falls on different dates in different countries. Christmas is a winter holiday in the Northern Hemisphere and a summer holiday in the Southern Hemisphere.

If you have a global business, adjust your messaging, translate your copy, use appropriate images, and adjust your offers to suit different markets.

Support with operational readiness

Shipping and returns have become a high priority for consumers and a defining part of the customer experience—most say they will stop ordering from a business after a late delivery. Particularly for busy shopping holidays or seasons, marketing campaigns need the support of efficient supply chain management, reliable shipping, and high-quality customer support.

Measure, analyze, and adjust

As with all marketing efforts, measure and analyze all relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) during your holiday campaigns. Effective KPIs are measurable, timely, actionable, and related to profitability. For a Valentine’s Day social media campaign, for example, you might look at how many website visits your ad or post drove. With performance data in hand, you can pivot and adjust your holiday marketing strategy as needed.

Holiday marketing calendar FAQ

How do I create a marketing calendar?

To create a marketing calendar, include important dates like holidays, product launches, and industry events that are relevant to your business. Build long-term campaigns and short-term strategic initiatives around those key dates yourself or use specialized marketing calendar tools.

What are the biggest holidays for advertising?

Businesses spend the most advertising dollars during the end-of-year holiday season, which includes major holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

When should I start holiday marketing?

Start holiday marketing efforts as early as possible, because consumers have been starting end-of-year holiday shopping earlier in recent years, with 41% saying they’ll start shopping in October or earlier. Other holidays may require shorter production timeframes and less lead-up marketing. Valentine’s Day, for example, tends to see shopping much closer to the actual holiday itself.

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This originally appeared on Shopify Plus and is available here for wider discovery.
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