For Australia’s dynamic, resilient and innovative retailers, peak season is fast approaching. It’s an opportunity to inspire shoppers, increase sales and continue recovering post-pandemic. A ‘gift guide’ is a powerful way retailers can leverage peak season to showcase products, inspire shoppers and stay top of mind.

However, a truly effective peak season gift guide is more than a collection of products in a catalogue. It must be planned, curated and marketed strategically. Here’s how retailers can create a gift guide that builds interest and sales from pre-Black Friday to post-Christmas and the Boxing Day sales.

Start with data

One of the most reliable ways to understand which products should make it into a gift guide is through data. Through data from a POS system, retailers could generate reports on their ‘top sellers’ and use it to identify items that would make for great inclusions. Ideally, gift guides should appeal to multiple demographics. Through POS systems like Lightspeed, retailers can surface and segment valuable data, including customers’ purchase history, demographic information, contact details and more. For example, by segmenting customers according to gender, retailers can curate ‘gifts for him or her’ collections.

It’s also a good idea to look at market and consumer trends. What styles or activities are popular among consumers? Are there any trends or products that everyone is talking about? By understanding what’s exciting people, retailers can promote the products that could be in high demand. Retailers should also seek feedback about popular items from team members on the shop floor, and even loyal customers – after all, it’s them who must be convinced. When they feel like a business values what’s important to them, their loyalty is likely to grow as a result. This could be through social media polls or anecdotal in-store feedback based on casual questions about what they’re planning to buy for the holidays.

Categorise products

How products are arranged and categorised can make or break a guide, so retailers must do their due diligence. There is no correct answer when it comes to categorising products; it depends on the business and its customers. However, homewares retailers could break it down by bedroom, kitchen or living room. It could be based on a shopper’s personality such as ‘The tech collector’, ‘The reader’, or ‘The fitness fanatic’. Or it could be based on budget, like AUD$25, AUD$26-50 AUD or AUD$50+. The easier it is for shoppers to find something relevant to them, the more likely they are to purchase.

While all of us have ambitions to shop in advance, it can become a last-minute rush. Cater to that urgency. Often, the customers who benefit most from gift guides are those shopping for last-minute presents. Retailers can help them out by spotlighting easy-to-buy, crowd-pleasing or well-stocked gifts. And, if all else fails, gift cards are convenient for last-minute shoppers and flexible for their recipients. Meanwhile, bundles are a great way to upsell, by collating products that could be even more popular when grouped with others.

Ensure it looks great

Whether it’s a landing page, a PDF guide, a printed flyer or something else entirely, customers will be viewing a gift guide on different channels or platforms. It must look excellent on all of them. When creating a digital gift guide, ensure it’s responsive and compatible on desktop, smartphone or tablet. And if it’s a physical in-store asset, it should be printed on high-quality paper and in professional format. Think matt or gloss card, rather than standard A4 printer paper. And it must contain original, high-quality images of the products featured. For those with bigger budgets or more time, video can be effective in gaining traffic, views, and engagement.

Who to target and how to promote

Gift guides must appeal to existing customers, prospective customers and those they’re purchasing for. For example, retailers selling pet accessories shouldn’t just target pet owners but those with friends or family who have pets. Targeting these ‘gift-givers’ requires separate tactics, for example avoiding using jargon or industry-specific terms.

The final step is getting it in front of shoppers on all the channels they frequent. Email is a great way to preview the guide and provides an excellent opportunity to embed images, videos and promote key offers or products. SMS, meanwhile, is a great way for retailers to alert existing customers by sending a notification straight to their phone. And don’t forget social media like Instagram which is an excellent way to promote snippets or certain products, especially those that are visually appealing or might appeal to the demographics who use the platform, like Millennials and Gen Z.

Peak season seems to grow in importance every year, and 2022 is no different. This season retailers must ensure they’re equipped to give their customers the best experience, products and offers possible. Gift guides go a long way in doing exactly that.

Simon Le Grand is senior director of marketing at Lightspeed.