The holidays are a special time of year for marketers. It’s a time when shoppers are actively seeking to spend money that they have, and even some that they don’t. There is no other time of year when you are nearly guaranteed a sale if you play your cards right.

Knowing that, every player is looking to rethink the rules of the game or widen the playing field. So here are some tips to help brands see the holiday shopping season a little bit differently:

Know Who You’re Working For

Most of the time, we’re working for the gifters, and they are clearly looking for help. Searches for ‘brands like,’ ‘stores like,’ and the ever-elusive ‘cool gifts,’ are all up more than 60% year over year during the holidays.

This is a time of year where shoppers are extremely open to trying new things. 61% of them claim to be open to buying from new retailers, and about half of those actually go through with it. With that level of openness, you’d think that brands would capitalize on it, but we’re failing the gifters.

As gifting is widening, more than half of shoppers plan to purchase gifts for their friends or coworkers. Interestingly, 63% of those same gifters intend to buy gift cards, and it’s safe to assume that a healthy portion of that is indecision. That indecision is opportunity, especially for the brands that can be surefire gift hits – think Ferrero Rocher, Crown Royal or Ralph Lauren. It’s our job to capture discovery before it becomes indecision, understand the opportunity and convert it to sales.

Keep in Mind That the Holiday Shopping Calendar Is Expanding

Historically, Black Friday was the kickoff for holiday shopping. Now it’s more like halftime. According to Google, 42% of holiday shopping is completed by Cyber Monday night.

According to research carried out by NRF, shopping begins as early as September for nearly 20% of consumers, who are learning to game the holidays. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see data in the coming years on how Prime Day in July contributes to the holiday shopping season too.

Considering Alibaba has made its global ambitions clear this year by grabbing Prime Day headliner and American treasure Taylor Swift, to open Singles Day (11/11), which they want to be yet another can’t miss date as shoppers spend their gifting money wiser and sooner.

Likewise, paydays, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, gift returns and exchange days and days when new resolutions turn into purchase, make up an expanded holiday calendar full of opportunities for brands to win.

To be visible and ready for purchase at those key moments, we preach that brilliant basics for eCommerce be in place around the same time you put your kids back in school.

See the Holidays as an Opportunity to Set a Tone

Yes, this could be an Amazon-holiday season. They’re pricing 20% below other online retailers on average in key product categories, according to a study by Profitero. And as a result, 42% of consumers plan to buy most or all of their holiday gifts on Amazon.

Right now, shoppers are more loyal to the marketplace and the deal, than the brand. It would be troubling if that were to continue, but some bold brands are taking matters into their own hands. Nike, Best Buy and Wayfair are looking to compete on experience, expertise and convenience to capture shoppers.

At a time where traffic is inherently higher, discovery is at its peak and everyone turns a blind eye to their spending discipline, it’s up to us to reframe our thinking from one-time sale to life time value of a customer and see the holidays as an opportunity to reintroduce brands to consumers.

The holidays are a special time of year, and if we go in with a different strategy, they could potentially be the gift that keeps giving well into the year ahead.

Author: Ali Amarsy, SVP, Global Product Lead, Publicis Commerce

The original article was published on MediaPost.