It all starts the day after Halloween: Everything everywhere signals that the holidays are soon approaching; that there are decorations to craft, dishes to make, and gifts to buy. Whew! Without a doubt, the holiday season is stressful for consumers.

Naturally, the digital shopper of today has plenty of tools to help ease the pressure wherever they can — particularly when it comes to gift-buying. In 2014, some 55% of U.S. holiday shoppers reported to 1010data that having more choice and inspiration is prompting them to begin shopping earlier in the season.

With holiday shoppers planning to spend an average of $463 on family members this year (an increase over the $458 spent last year, according to the National Retail Federation), there’s tons of opportunity for marketers to start driving holiday sales now. How? Holiday gift guides are a great way to introduce new trends or highlight bestselling products. These visual collections of products facilitate the holiday gift-buying process for shoppers by aggregating everything in one place.

But more than anything, holiday gift guides allow for tons of creativity. From spirited emails to engaging ecommerce experiences, here are four ways retailers can use gift guides this season to spark a bit of holiday inspiration.

1. Create an immersive on-site experience.

Creating a colorful holiday gift guide on-site allows for a lot of flexibility from the retailer’s perspective. Marketers can use an ecommerce site to segment gift collections by the age and gender of the recipient, as well as by price point. This is exactly what J. Crew does each year.


To complement standard stock photos of products (which can be important for showing product details), J. Crew’s holiday gift guide also features charming lifestyle photos of people enjoying various items. This can always be taken one step further by including fan photos alongside standard product shots. Seeing images of a real consumer actually putting items to use invokes a sense of desire in other shoppers, as it puts products into the context of real-world experiences. These action shots help consumers picture themselves using the products.

2. Send a visual, thought-provoking email.

Sending a holiday gift guide via email is a targeted strategy. You’re putting inspiration directly into the hands of people who have opted in to receive news and information about your brand.

Anthropologie, for example, is a brand to watch for their incredibly engaging emails. Their holiday gift guide email from 2014 caters to the Anthropologie consumer – that whimsical, casual persona that loves beautiful things.


The gift collections featured in the email are segmented by those for children, beauty lovers, teachers, and other recipients. It’s an easy way to remind the consumer to pick up a gift for a special someone they might have forgotten.

Because the email subscribers have already demonstrated an interest in the brand, they might be further inclined to shop if there’s a deal offered or some sort of incentive.

3. Create specific holiday gift boards.

One of the things that makes gift-giving so difficult is that everyone has varying tastes. What might appeal to one shopper may not appeal to her father-in-law, for example. Holiday gift guide boards on Pinterest help ease the pressure of figuring out what to buy for a tricky recipient.

On Pinterest, retailers can create several different collections of products. This is particularly useful for publishers or department stores that can cater to a variety of personas, such as “meat lover,” “fashionista” or “wine aficionado.”

Here’s an example from The Kitchn. The image on each pin is a collection of several different products. This makes it easy for shoppers to visualize gifts with a specific recipient in mind. And if shoppers still want to take some time to browse, they can simply save these product collections for later on their own boards.


Marketers shouldn’t forget to utilize Pinterest’s Rich Pins feature when creating gift guides. By adding pertinent details such as price directly on the pin, shoppers can quickly see the cost of an item, and get the updated price if the retailer marks it down. Seeing that information offhand facilitates the process even further for the shopper as it allows them to quickly segment gifts within their price range.

4. Provide a bit more detail with blogs.

Blog posts give marketers a bit more freedom to provide context about the products they’re recommending to consumers. Explain what makes a hat worth buying. Describe why a particular handbag is so special. This is how The Honest Company goes about it.


Every item featured in The Honest Company’s holiday gift guide blog post benefits a different charity, and displaying the gifts in blog format allows them to explain the significance in a detailed manner. This is a great way to reach shoppers who want to know exactly where their products are coming from, and who they are benefitting.

How could the brand facilitate the shopping process even more? By making the products within blog images instantly discoverable and shoppable. Most consumers expect the images they see to be actionable in some sort of way, so marketers need to strive to meet that expectation.

Take charge!

Just 11% of marketers believe that their team is leveraging images “very effectively” across the entire breadth of their marketing channels, according to a study conducted by Curalate and the Internet Marketing Association earlier this year.

If you’re struggling to develop new creative for all of your channels this stressful season, keep in mind that you’re not alone. Stock images, brand editorial photos, user-generated content and images from other brands are all viable options. Rely on these sources (obtaining permission when necessary!) and supply your various channels with inspirational imagery this season and beyond.

Read more: 5 Tips for Creating a Holiday Gift Guide that Boosts Sales