SD Holiday Tips Graphic

The Three Ds of Last Ditch Holiday Campaigns: Discount, Discovery, Defend

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are quickly approaching — events that a lot of brands and retailers plan for all year long. Sites like The help consumers find the best deals, and get the most bang for their buck.

But what if, as an online retailer, you’ve been busy doing other things these past few months (like migrating away from Magento 1)? Does this mean you’ve missed the boat? That you’re doomed to have a disappointing 2019 holiday season? Absolutely not. There are some excellent last ditch holiday campaigns you can deploy quickly and easily and be a part of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday bonanza. I call them the three Ds of last ditch tactics: discount, discovery and defend.

First a shout out to Common Thread, a digital sales agency whose report, 103 of DTC’s Holiday Offers, was a source of inspiration for this post. The report includes 180 screenshots of the 2018 Black Friday and Cyber Monday promos offered by DTCs across a wide variety of market sectors.


Holiday shoppers are always on the hunt for a good bargain, and depending on your ecommerce platform, you can take advantage of that impulse quickly and easily. A popular tactic is site-wide discounts, which were deployed by about 44.8% of the DTC brands highlighted in Common Thread’s report. What I like about this tactic is that it’s egalitarian — everyone can benefit from your campaign, whether they’re first time visitors or loyal customers.

And since the point of a holiday promotion is to build trust and breakdown the barriers to purchase, it makes sense to offer it to as many new consumers as possible.

How much should you discount? Over half of the DTC brands profiled by Common Thread offer 20 – 25% off, with the vast majority offering 20%. Discounts that are less than 20%, it seems, fail to inspire customers to take action or accelerate the purchase decision, and it would be a shame to lose conversions due to a below-market discount. Let’s remember the key reason why retailers launch holiday campaigns to begin with: Consumers are in shopping mode, and discounts remove some of the risk of buying from a new brand. It’s an important trust builder.

Besides, all gifting holidays are boon to online retailers in that when you spend to acquire one new customer (in this case via a 20% site-wide discount), you have the potential to gain up to three new consumers to your brand, as we discussed in a previous blog post.

Tiered Discounts and Coupons

Tiered Discounts is another last-ditch campaign that can help you drive conversions and increase AOV. A tiered discount may offer 10% for orders up to $50, and 15% for orders up to $75. In other words, the more the customer spends, the greater the discount. We’ve seen instances where this strategy goes a long way for online retailers who rarely offer discounts.

Or, you can offer discounts on a select set of products once shoppers reach a specific spend threshold, as Pure did last holiday season:

Of course, retailers like Amazon and Verishop offer free shipping on all orders, which is difficult — but not impossible — to compete with. Applied right, however, free shipping can double or triple the basket size of your orders. For instance, let’s say your AOV is $60; you can offer free shipping on orders above $120. Visitors may opt to buy one as a gift and one for themselves! Self-gifting is definitely a thing.

Finally, you can offer incentives for signing up for your newsletter or offer a coupon code that can stack on top of the site-wide discount.

Just make sure you do the math ahead of time. It’s a great to drive AOV and win new customers, but it can be a fine line between spending a bit of money to get a new customer and taking a hit on your margins. And, you don’t want customers to think of your store as a discount brand.


The holiday season is the one time of year when practically all people who shop are deep into discovery mode. Depending on your ecommerce platform, it’s pretty quick and easy to designate a section of your site as a gift guide, which highlights the products in your catalog that make great gifts.

You probably have products in your store that naturally align with one another and would make terrific gift packs. Consider including them into multiple categories (e.g. gifts for Dad, gifts for home) and highlighting them as part of your holiday store.

Ways to Categorize Your Gift Guide

Again, depending on your ecommerce platform, it’s pretty easy to create multiple segments for your gift guide. At a minimum, consider Gifts for Men, Gifts for Women, Gifts for the Home (i.e. non-gender specific) and Gifts for Kids. You can also categorize by personas, say Gifts for Frequent Travelers or Gifts for Gearheads.

If you offer guided selling on your site that’s even better. Holiday shopping can be stressful for people who aren’t sure what to get their loved ones (especially if they’re teenagers!). So, while gift suggestions are a great way to increase sales, they’re also go a long way in alleviating shopper stress.

Finally, you can use a gift guides as a tactic to bump up orders, especially when you offer tiered discounts or free shipping based on spending thresholds. Offering a category of Gifts Under $25 will be helpful for shoppers whose baskets are, say, $10 or $15 shy of discount or free shipping promotion.


Some companies — Patagonia, Away Travel, Allbirds, — are explicitly choosing not to participate in Black Friday/Cyber Monday. These aggressively priced DTC brands are proudly telling the market they have no intention of jumping on the bandwagon, asserting that they strive to offer the best products at the best price every day of the year. Some, such as Patagonia and REI, have taken the stance that they want no part of the consumer hamster wheel.

Personally, I think this is a brilliant marketing strategy because it speaks to the core values of their customers. And if you think about it, it actually allows them to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday because, let’s face it, non-participation is a very real form of participation.

Of course, you don’t want to look like you’re not honoring the holiday season at all, so instead of a site-wide discount, craft some messaging that speaks to your core values, whether that’s mindfulness, sustainability or world peace.

Or, you can link to resources that promote your values, or highlight some sister brands that offer discounts.

Here’s the thing: This strategy just might convert the customer anyway, especially if they share your values and sensibilities.

This strategy also has the benefit of reinforcing that you’re a premium brand, and that discounts just aren’t your style. Holiday discounting often creates an ebb and flow of customers, meaning consumers will come to a site only when they know they’ll get a huge deal.

So, there you have it. It’s not too late to implement some very good holiday campaigns just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

If you’re looking for help implementing any of these ideas or need advice on how to get started let us know!

Phillip Jackson

A multi-instrumentalist, Phillip is an avid collector of vintage guitars, keyboards and amplifiers and has a home studio located in West Palm Beach.