E-commerce growth is dependent on a number of marketing strategies and channels, including but not limited to email and SMS marketing, paid advertising, and a stellar social media presence.
We witnessed a lot of e-commerce companies and marketing teams focus their efforts on paid marketing activities, which are expensive, time-consuming, and lower on return. And although we’re not here to knock paid advertising, there is an alternative, less expensive option available: creating a marketing calendar that utilizes less expensive marketing channels during your peaks throughout the year.
In this blog post, we’ll go over:
- Why you need a four-peak strategy (and what that is, if you’re not sure)
- The major holidays you should create marketing campaigns around
- And a bunch of lesser-known holidays you can get creative with
Let’s dive in!
The Four Peaks Theory
Most e-commerce businesses rely on a two-peaks revenue model, which means twice-a-year revenue spikes. This also means that they have a two-peaks content calendar that helps to spike marketing campaigns. Usually, these spikes center around the BFCM & holiday season and early- to mid-summer (think Memorial Day and July 4).
As you might already guess, spikes in revenue twice a year isn’t going to cut it. During those revenue lull periods, many marketers convince themselves that there is no natural story or narrative they can take advantage of to encourage people to purchase.
That’s how the Four Peaks Theory helps.
What is the Four Peaks Theory?
The Four Peaks Theory is a model for year-round growth based on the four quarters of the year. With this model, you create a calendar that drives revenue through storytelling and imperative to purchase during:
- The traditional holiday season
- Major gifting celebrations
- Cultural moments
- And product events
Besides the major holidays during Q4 (winter holidays) and Q3 (summer holidays), calendars will look a little different from brand to brand. Depending on the brand, some holidays will make sense to sell around, and others won’t.
Ultimately, your goal is to align with your customers’ needs and provide them with what they want. Your strategy is two-fold:
- Identify existing high points
- Spend the “off-season” planning for the next peak
Your peaks should alternate between two holidays and two cultural moments. To get your calendar started, let’s take a look at the major holidays every brand should sell around.
Major Holidays for Your 2023 E-Commerce Marketing Campaigns
Your peaks should be broken down based on the four quarters of the year. In each of those four quarters, your peaks should align with one or several holidays.
Q1 2023: The First E-Commerce Peak
New Year’s Day
At the start of the year, the focus is on one big idea: new beginnings. New year’s resolutions inspire some of the best marketing ideas, especially for brands in health, wellness, and sports. This time should be used for product launches and brand awareness campaigns that attempt to retain customers from the holidays and attract new customers.
Valentine’s Day is a great holiday to help jump-start first-quarter sales. While many of the industries you might already know see plenty of action (jewelry and hygiene brands), other brands in the sporting goods, apparel, and beauty industries also see upticks in sales.
Don’t limit yourself to shaping campaigns around romantic relationships. Friendships, self-love, and familial relationships are all reasons to celebrate as well.
Q2 2023: The Second E-Commerce Peak
From Easter baskets filled with goodies to new spring collections, April sparks a spring fever among customers, making it a great time to campaign. This family-forward holiday should promote new spring collections featured by your brand or special discounts on Easter weekend.
More and more shoppers are understanding the importance of shopping with businesses that prioritize sustainability. In addition to promoting products that connect with Earth Day, introduce sustainable, eco-friendly packaging or gift wrapping with every purchase. Also consider donating a percentage of your Earth Day proceeds to an environmental foundation.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are great times to express gratitude for our parents, and giving thoughtful gifts is one way to do so. The fact that these holidays are back to back creates an environment that’s crucial to the success of a Q2 peak.
Like Easter, Memorial Day signals the start of a new season, and for those customers who live through long winters, the beginning of summer is a great time to celebrate. Kick off the summer season with a sale offering discounts on all your summer must-have products, or run a Memorial Day weekend flash sale for customers looking to stock up on seasonal essentials.
Q3 2023: The Third E-Commerce Peak
Keep the summer celebration going by offering discounts, sales, free gifts, and the opportunity to earn loyalty points. Many people consider this time of year to be “Holidays in Summer” (think Christmas in July), so leverage American independence pastimes—such as backyard BBQs, pool parties, and beach cookouts—in your campaigns.
Back to School
Heading back to school isn’t exactly a holiday, but the end of the summer is a great opportunity to bring in customers. Create back-to-school shopping guides geared toward products kids need, such as school supplies and new clothes.
If your target audience is made up of parents or adults, create campaigns around the idea of parents getting more time to themselves. Skincare, beauty products, or items related to relaxation are great to leverage in this situation.
As summer comes to a close, this is a great time to leverage your inventory to create an overstock campaign that offers heavily discounted items to drive sales.
While some people will miss the summer, many others will be excited about fall. Get the word out by emailing subscribers to create exclusivity and give them first dibs on your new fall catalog.
Q4 2023: The Fourth E-Commerce Peak
Halloween is a great time to sell Halloween-related products while also getting shoppers excited for the upcoming shopping season. Even if you don’t sell Halloween-related products, you can play off Halloween puns and lore in your marketing during this season.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday
Black Friday, Cyber Monday (BFCM) is the Big Game in e-commerce, and the secret to success is to start early and fire through as many channels as possible. You can begin creating campaigns as early as September and run promotions through email, SMS, and social media.
Using retargeting campaigns, remind shoppers about upcoming discounts and specials offers so that by the time BFCM rolls around, your work is essentially complete and you can sit back and watch the sales come in.
Although many shoppers complete their holiday shopping by BFCM, last-minute holiday shoppers are a large part of your buyer pool, so be sure to offer them last-chance opportunities to get discounts on holiday gifts.
The Full 2023 E-Commerce Marketing Campaign Calendar
We’ve just listed the holidays that every brand should create campaigns around. But plenty of other non-major holidays are worth considering as well. Depending on your brand, you might even consider some of the lesser known (sometimes bizarre) holidays.
Here’s a full list of holidays for each month and the target audiences that align with them:
- New Year’s Day, January 1: All audiences
- Science Fiction Day, January 2: Fans of the sci-fi genre (books, movies, games, and comics)
- National Sticker Day, January 13: Artistic people, families with kids
- National Hat Day, January 15: Anyone who wears hats
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 16: Americans
- National Cheesy Socks Day, January 21: Quirky sock lovers
- Chinese New Year, January 22: The East Asian and Southeast Asian communities; people around the world who follow the Chinese zodiac
- National Pie Day, January 23: People in the U.S. and pie lovers all over the world
- National Compliment Day, January 24: All audiences
- National Spouse’s Day, January 26: Couples
- Black History Month, throughout February: People around the world
- Groundhog Day, February 2: People in the U.S. and Canada
- Grammy Awards, February 5: Music lovers
- National Pizza Day, February 9: All audiences
- Super Bowl LVII, February 12: National Football League (NFL) fans
- Galentine’s Day, February 13: Parks and Recreation fans; female friends everywhere
- Valentine’s Day, February 14: People around the world
- Singles Awareness Day, February 15: Single people
- Love Your Pet Day, February 20: Pet owners
- Family Day, February 20: Canadians
- Presidents’ Day, February 20: Americans
- National Retro Day, February 27: Anyone who enjoys feeling nostalgic
- National Grammar Day, March 4: Language enthusiasts
- National Dress Day, March 6: Fashion enthusiasts
- International Women’s Day, March 8: Supporters of the movement
- Holi Festival, March 8: Hindus across India and other South Asian countries
- Oscar Night, March 12: Film lovers
- National Pi Day, March 14: People passionate about math
- St. Patrick’s Day, March 17: People of Irish descent, especially in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand
- International Day of Happiness, March 20: All audiences
- First Day of Spring, March 20: People in the Northern Hemisphere
- April Fools’ Day, April 1: People in the West
- Easter (Holy Week), April 7-10: Christians in countries where Easter is observed
- National Sibling Day, April 10: Siblings
- National Pet Day, April 11: Animal lovers in the U.S.
- Coachella Festival, April 14-23: Music and arts lovers in the U.S.
- Earth Day, April 22: People who support environmental protection
- World Book Day, April 23: Book lovers
- International Dance Day, April 29: Dancers
- Honesty Day, April 30: People in the U.S.
Download our free 2023 E-Commerce Campaign Calendar!
- Mental Health Awareness Month, throughout May: People in the U.S.
- Brothers and Sisters Day, May 2: Brothers and sisters
- Star Wars Day, May 4: Star Wars fans
- Cinco de Mayo, May 5: Mexicans; Mexican Americans
- National Space Day, May 5: All audiences
- Europe Day, May 9: Europeans
- Mother’s Day, May 14: People in the U.S., Canada, most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, the Philippines, and South Africa
- National Love a Tree Day, May 16: People in the U.S.; nature lovers
- Victoria Day, May 22: Canadians
- National Wine Day, May 25: Wine lovers
- Memorial Day, May 29: Americans
- National Creativity Day, May 30: All audiences
- National Smile Day, May 31: People around the world
- Pride Month, throughout June: People in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies
- National Doughnut Day, June 2: People in the U.S.; doughnut lovers; people with a sweet tooth
- World Environment Day, June 5: People passionate about saving the environment
- Best Friends Day, June 8: Friends around the world
- International Children’s Day, June 11: All audiences
- American Flag Day, June 14: People in the U.S.
- National Flip-Flop Day, June 17: People who appreciate a good flip-flop
- Father’s Day, June 18: People in the U.S., Canada, most European countries, India, China, and Japan
- Juneteenth, June 19: Americans
- First Day of Summer, June 21: People in the Northern Hemisphere
- International Yoga Day, June 21: Yogis; fitness and well-being enthusiasts
- National Selfie Day, June 21: Anyone who’s into snapping a selfie
- Glastonbury Festival, June 21-25: Party people
- Social Media Day, June 30: People on social media
- Canada Day, July 1: Canadians
- Independence Day, July 4: Americans
- World Chocolate Day, July 7: Chocolate lovers
- National Ice Cream Day, July 16: Ice cream lovers
- World Emoji Day, July 17: Emoji enthusiasts
- National Moon Day, July 20: Americans; science enthusiasts
- International Day of Friendship, July 30: People around the world
- The first day of school, date depends on location: Students; teachers; parents
- International Cat Day, August 8: Cat moms and dads; animal rights supporters
- Book Lovers Day, August 9: Book lovers
- National Lazy Day, August 10: All audiences
- Son and Daughter Day, August 11: Parents
- National Nonprofit Day, August 17: Nonprofit organizations; volunteers
- World Photography Day, August 19: Photographers; art lovers
- Poet’s Day, August 21: Poetry and literature lovers
- International Dog Day, August 26: Dog lovers
- Summer Bank Holiday, August 28: People in the U.K.
- Father’s Day, September 3: Australians
- Labor Day, September 4: Americans and Canadians
- International Literacy Day, September 8: People around the world
- National Grandparents Day, September 10: People around the world
- National Video Games Day, September 12: Video game enthusiasts in the U.S.
- National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15: Hispanic Americans
- Oktoberfest, September 16-October 3: Germans; fans of Oktoberfest
- International Day of Peace, September 21: All audiences
- First Day of Fall, September 23: People in the Northern Hemisphere
- European Day of Languages, September 26: Europeans; language enthusiasts
- World Tourism Day, September 27: Travel enthusiasts
- International Coffee Day, October 1: Coffee lovers
- World Vegetarian Day, October 1: Vegetarians
- World Teachers’ Day, October 5: People around the world
- World Smile Day, October 6: People around the world
- Canadian Thanksgiving, October 9: Canadians
- World Mental Health Day, October 10: People around the world
- National Make a Difference Day, October 28: People in the U.S.
- Halloween, October 31: People in the Western world
- National Native American Heritage Month, throughout November: Native Americans
- World Vegan Day, November 1: Vegans
- Bonfire Night, November 5: U.K. audiences
- Melbourne Cup, November 7: Australians
- Veterans Day, November 11: Americans
- Remembrance Day, November 11: Canadians, Australians, and British people
- Singles’ Day, November 11: Chinese people
- Diwali, November 12: Hindus around the world
- International Men’s Day, November 19: Men and boys
- National Tie One On Day, November 22: Americans and cooking enthusiasts around the world
- Thanksgiving, November 23: Americans
- Black Friday, November 24: Bargain hunters; holiday shoppers
- Small Business Saturday, November 25: All audiences
- Cyber Monday, November 27: Bargain hunters; holiday shoppers
- National Sock Day, December 4: Anyone who wears socks
- Hanukkah, December 7-15: Jewish community
- Green Monday, December 10: Holiday gift shoppers
- National Free Shipping Day, December 14: Holiday gift shoppers
- First Day of Winter, December 22: People in the Northern Hemisphere
- Super Saturday (or Panic Saturday), December 23: Holiday gift shoppers
- Christmas Eve and Day, December 24-25: Christians; people in countries where Christmas is a public holiday
- Boxing Day, December 26: People in the U.K., Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand
- Kwanzaa, December 26-January 1: Black Americans; people in the African diaspora
- New Year’s Eve, December 31: People who follow the Gregorian calendar
Download our free 2023 E-Commerce Campaign Calendar!
Plan Your Marketing Calendar with SmartBug
Planning your marketing calendar is about strategy, planning, and creative perspectives on marketing around the holidays. When you work with SmartBug’s team of e-commerce marketing professionals, we can help you boost revenue throughout the year by delivering well-timed, delightful content that converts.
Plan out your marketing calendar with a SmartBug Klaviyo expert: Contact us today!
About the author
Ryan O’Connor was formerly SmartBug’s Director of E-commerce Growth, product manager, and sales director. He enjoys helping readers learn how to solve big business challenges through consumer psychology within the constantly evolving e-commerce landscape. Over the past 10 years, Ryan has helped 1000s of DTC brands navigate challenges to grow fast through intelligent marketing. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, having launched his own e-commerce stores from the ground up. Read more articles by Ryan O’Connor.
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