7 Tips to Guarantee the Success of Your Holiday Programs

The holiday season is practically here, and if you’re in retail, you’re likely all geared up for the coming months. You probably have your holiday inventory ready to go, and you have a number of programs planned out. From seasonal promotions to winter-themed window displays, you know exactly what you’ll implement this holiday season to grab people’s attention and get them to do some of their holiday shopping in your stores.

That’s all well and good, but it’s important to note that planning your programs is just the beginning. It’s one thing to map out what you’ll implement in-store, but putting those ideas into action is a whole other story. If you’re not careful, you may find that the programs you envisioned don’t play out exactly as planned.

That, of course, is the last thing you want during the holidays which is why you need to take steps to ensure that your programs are executed flawlessly. Here are 7 tips to help you do just that.

1. Use the right tools

Remember, technology is your friend. These days, there’s a tool or an app that can help you with all the aspects of your retail programs. Whether you need help scheduling initiatives and communicating your plans to stakeholders or you’re looking to be more efficient with executing and then evaluating your campaigns, there’s an app out there that can help. Explore the market for tools that you can use in your business.

Here are a few ideas:


Timing is critical during the holidays, and if you’re rolling out programs across multiple locations, it can be difficult to keep everyone on schedule. That’s why you should invest in a calendar application that not only lets you schedule programs, but also allows you to share dates and deadlines with relevant people (i.e. district managers, store managers, and staff.)


Planograms help ensure that products are displayed correctly, and they’re a must if you’re executing in-store programs. To make things easier, consider using a cloud-based solution that keeps everyone in sync and lets you and your team access planograms from multiple devices.

A solid communication channel

Still using email, memos, and phone calls to communicate plans and program details? Skip these outdated communication methods and establish a single channel that keeps messages, tasks, and important notices in one place.

Project management software

Improve efficiency and collaboration through project management applications. Plenty of solutions in the market have powerful capabilities that allow you and your team to stay on top of timelines, milestones, and documents, so if you’re not using one in your business, consider investing in a good project management solution for your company.

Audit checklists

Make use of audit checklists to determine whether programs are up to snuff. These checklists keep your requirements in one place so you don’t miss anything when checking compliance.

Companies such as 7-Eleven Australia, The UPS Store Canada, and Massage Envy, are just a few examples of retailers that are using mobile audit checklists — and are benefiting from them. By implementing cloud-based retail audit checklists, they’re able to ensure that programs are executed in time and in full.

Tip: Adopt modern, cloud-based solutions

Whichever tool or app you decide to go with, choose one that’s cloud-based. Solutions that run in the cloud allow users to access information from multiple devices so they can perform tasks no matter where they are in the store.

Cloud-based apps also sync updates in real-time, enabling team members to have the latest version of your plans and documents. This is critical, especially during a time-sensitive season like the holidays.

As David Potts, CEO and founder of order management system SalesWarp says, “Now is not the time to manage from a spreadsheet. This is a crucial time of the year, and every missed opportunity can spell disaster for your customer experience, margins and repeat business.”

“You need real-time tools to make critical adjustments daily and weekly,” he adds. “Your data needs to be strong, current and as always, approached with healthy skepticism. It cannot be useful if it has sat on a spreadsheet for a month. This time of year, your data needs to be like milk and eggs: it’s going to smell bad after more than a week or so.” – David Potts, CEO, SalesWarp

2. Document your procedures and make them easy to understand

Get your procedures and standards on paper and make sure your staff can easily refer to them when planning, executing, and evaluating your store initiatives.

It’s important that your standards and processes are easy to understand, so find ways to make them more digestible to employees. One way to do this is to use photos, diagrams, examples, or templates (instead of just text) to convey your messages. For best results, keep the information in the cloud so it’s easily accessible. 

Time and resources spent planning are wasted if the program is not executed

3. Define your metrics

What do you want to achieve with your programs? Is an increase in foot traffic? A certain amount of revenue? A lift in customer satisfaction? Be clear about your KPIs and measure performance throughout the duration of your campaigns.

Set up the technologies that will enable you to monitor results. For instance, if you’re looking to increase foot traffic, see to it that your people counters or in-store analytics can give you the data you need. Measuring sales and revenue? See if your POS lets you set sales targets so you and your staff can track how the campaign is doing.

4. Recognize that the holiday season happens in phases

The holiday season doesn’t happen all at once. It occurs in stages — and so does the mood and attitudes of consumers. First, there’s Halloween, then Thanksgiving (and with it Black Friday and Cyber Monday), and then Christmas. People become more purposeful and anxious when they shop towards the later part of the season.

Keep this in mind when implementing your initiatives. Planning and executing your programs according to each phase of the holidays will make them much more successful. According to Bryan Boul, creative director of experiential marketing company IDL Worldwide, retailers must implement programs that “celebrate all of the phases of the holiday season and the emotions of the shopper.”

“Start big and showcase the ‘must-haves’ and trending ideas to draw your shoppers into the store,” he continued. “A few weeks out, become a little more prescriptive. Stage collections and gifting ideas that are targeted for the shopper that now has a ‘shop-for’ list. With only days to go, make sure your impulse items are easy to grab and displayed in full view for the procrastinators that are now anxiously trying to find the perfect, last minute gift.” – Bryan Boul, Creative Director, IDL Worldwide

5. Hold people accountable

Planning and executing your programs involves several people, so accountability is important. Be clear on who’s in charge of what and see to it that each employee is accountable for their part.

The first step to doing this is to communicate people’s responsibilities during the planning process. Don’t just bring up accountability when a task isn’t properly executed or when the program doesn’t go as planned.

And if you can, use data when holding your staff accountable. As we mentioned earlier, you should track the performance and results of your programs so you can keep a close eye on the numbers.

Gaining visibility into your sites also makes them accountable

6. Find ways to motivate your staff

Promoting accountability isn’t the only way to get your employees to execute your programs well. Empowering and incentivizing your staff (especially around the holidays) can do wonders for their performance — and, in turn, your initiatives.

Find ways to keep your employees happy and motivated throughout the season. You could do this through added bonuses, positive recognition, or even small workplace perks such as free food. The key, as Boul notes, is to “give your associates a reason to deliver a great experience and offer the plus-ups.”

“Remember, it’s holiday time for them also, and they are grinding away for you. Treat them well, educate, and encourage the behavior you desire and they will treat your customer and store as if it were their own.” – Bryan Boul, Creative Director, IDL Worldwide

7. Audit the programs to ensure they’re up to your standards

Last but not least, make it a point to audit your programs. Have your district or store managers assess them to determine if they’re up to your standards.  

Be thorough and organized. Conduct the audit from the outside in by starting with the exterior elements of the store (i.e. the parking lot or window). From there, go through aisles and displays by following the natural or logical flow of the store. Avoid jumping from one section to the other as this could result in confusion.

It’s also a good idea to arm yourself with a checklist of what to look out for during your audit so you don’t miss anything.

And to make the process easier and more efficient, consider using a retail audit software. Compared to traditional tools such as clipboards or Excel sheets, modern audit solutions have capabilities that can help you complete tasks faster and more effectively. Most audit applications have features like schedulers, task management, checklists, and reports that can speed up audits and data gathering, so stores can react and make improvements to their programs quickly.

Final words

The holiday season is the busiest — and often the most profitable — time of the year. Don’t let poor execution ruin it for you. Take the pointers outlined above and incorporate them into your holiday programs. These steps won’t just improve the performance of your initiatives, but they’ll help you close the quarter strong and get off on the right foot in the coming year.

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One thought on “7 Tips to Guarantee the Success of Your Holiday Programs

  1. I love that you mentioned the different phases of the season. From a visual merchandising perspective, I’ve found that many retailers tend to focus most of their efforts on Christmas displays while overlooking that the season actually begins after Labor Day. Although the actual “gift-buying holidays” don’t occur until December, retailers can get customers in a festive mood once Autumn starts.

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