Holiday Email Marketing Guide


Besides being the busiest times of the year, the holiday season is the most lucrative period for most online and offline businesses. According to Mastercard SpendingPulse report, which was released the day after Christmas, U.S. holiday retail spending in 2016 increased 4.9% over the previous year, leading to $598 billion in sales. With the rapid development and popularity of internet technologies and smartphones, online retail continues to be the clear winner during the holiday season.

Seeing the trend, more and more online retailers are taking advantage of holiday email marketing to get their holiday sales season merry and bright.

If you’re still new to the online shopping area and don’t have any idea about how to come up with a solid email marketing strategy, you may need some help getting started. Fortunately, this article is going to cover some great creative ideas that you can feel free to rely on for your holiday email marketing success.

Email, The Best Holiday Marketing Tools

Believe it or not, email marketing and automation have become the dominant marketing channel. The ROI of email marketing increased to $44 for every $1 spent in 2016. Additionally, email marketing contributed to a quarter of online sales during the holiday season since 2015.

Emails meet the needs of “mobile age”

Today, most of your subscribers are relying on their mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones, for all kinds of information. Researches also suggest that the number of consumers doing holiday shopping on their mobile devices is consistently increasing in these years. Almost 76% of emails during Black Friday and 63% of emails during Cyber Monday were opened on mobile devices, according to a report by Movable Ink.

Emails offer instant buying options

Since more than 40% of retailers tend to add “Buy Now” buttons in their marketing emails, subscribers can make a purchase simply by clicking on the button. A button, or formally a call to action button, in an email can help grab a subscriber’s attention and encourage him or her to act.

In addition to encouraging a purchase, calls to action are useful for highlighting a special offer, feedback collection, or even an event that enables a subscriber to buy in a matter of a couple of clicks. What you should keep in mind is that not only you are busy during this time of year, so are your customers. A marketing email with a “Buy Now” button perfectly meets their needs for speeding up holiday shopping, therefore benefiting them as well as your business.

Emails support various marketing campaigns

Speaking of the functions of emails, the list is endless. They can be used for inviting subscribers to your holiday events, promoting sales, or even showcasing gift guides, etc. A marketing email makes it possible for you to keep in touch with your customers and to stimulate sales throughout the holiday season.

However, other marketing initiatives can also benefit from emails, including social media sales, reward programs, contests and more.

Tips for Holiday Email Marketing Success

Now that you know why emails are so important for your holiday marketing campaigns, it’s time to decide how to come up with an engaging email marketing campaign that drives massive revenue while delighting your subscribers all season long.

Segment and Target your Subscribers

Data is everywhere, and if you know how to leverage what you’ve collected from your customers, you can make it easier to send successful holiday email marketing campaigns.

Delivering the right message, making use of the right offer and image are all good email marketing practices. However, the premise is that you segment your subscribers on the basis of where they are in your purchase cycle, only in which way can you create customized offers to appeal to their specific needs.

There are a various ways you can segment your email lists for sending the most relevant holiday marketing emails, following are some widely-used email segmentation ideas you can refer to:

  • New subscribers
  • Preferences
  • Interests
  • Location
  • Open rate
  • Inactivity
  • Lead magnet
  • Opt-in frequency
  • Abandoned form
  • Abandoned shopping cart
  • Purchase history
  • Buyer satisfaction level
  • Mobile vs. desktop
  • Type of email account

If you still think the work is tricky and tedious, I would suggest you harness a third-party service like MailChimp or Constant Contact.

Make A Holiday Promotion Schedule

Holidays often coincide with peak sales times. However, in different country, the major holidays vary from each other.

In the case of the US, from early November to early January is the most important holiday season that fuels profits for the whole year.

So, as a business owner, wherever you’re located, collecting a list of the key holidays locally and integrating them into your email marketing calendar should be the first and foremost thing to do before planning an email marketing campaign.

In order to have balanced communication—in other words, communicating with your customers without bothering them with too many messages—you are recommended to create a detailed holiday promotion schedule beforehand. For example, if you look to start a successful email campaign encouraging recipients to visit your website on Christmas, you should know very clearly how many emails you’ll need and when it makes sense to send them.

Write A Compelling Holiday Subject Lines

If you want subscribers to open your holiday marketing emails, your email subject line has to be right and compelling enough.

Use power words. There are many attention-grabbing words you can take advantage of when crafting your subject lines:

  • Holiday: Christmas Offers & Deals, Season’s Greetings
  • Sales-driven: special offer, savings, discount, free shipping
  • Timeliness: order now, time-limited, last minute, exclusive

Personalize your subject line. It has been proven that emails with personalized subject lines come with higher open rate. The easiest way to make your email subject line personalized is adding the first name of your subscriber to it.

Emoji could be helpful. You can consider adding a holiday snowman, a Christmas tree, or stars to your subject lines for grabbing subscribers’ attention at the first glance.

Ask a question. Turning your email content into a question is great for subject lines as they are naturally engaging. Try something like “Want your gifts wrapped and delivered to your front door?” or “Need some gift ideas?” Trust me, you’ll be surprised by high open rates.

Put your offer front and center. Instead of making subscribers hunt for your offer, just feature it in your subject line in a prominent place so as to generate their interest in the email content.

Give Free Shipping

As a retailor, you have been fighting for attention within the inbox all the time.

Fortunately, in addition to offering limited time discounts, you can move people off the fence and over to your checkout page by giving time sensitive free shipping. More than 74% of consumers showed willingness to open an email or even make a purchase with retailors who launch free shipping activities.

Send A Holiday Gift Guide

Gift guides stand out from a number of true approaches to developing engagement with subscribers over the holiday season.

There are many different ways to create your own gift guide campaign and I strongly recommend you to consider running a combination of multiple concepts into one campaign for maximizing your email marketing effort.

The teaser guide

Simply put it, this guide is a poster or teaser, which indicates what your subscribers are going to find on the site. No detailed description is offered but a minimal product-type gift guide.

If the recipients read your newsletters regularly and appreciate what you’re offering, you just need to cater to their likes and help them find the best gift easily. By either structuring the gift guide so that it reflects the categories in the site menu or emphasizing certain categories as gifts are both advisable ways.

The theme guide

As users are usually searching for multiple person and character profile, you can also structure a gift guide based on different customer behavior. Facilitating their search in accordance with the passions and hobbies of the recipients can provide valuable support for the buying experience.

The price range gift guide

Whether or not you admit it, you have a budget in mind for every gift. Guiding the purchase by dividing the products by price as well as just type can provide a good shortcut for encouraging purchases.

  • “Small gifts”, perhaps under $20 or $50
  • Mid-range gifts
  • Important gifts

Create Real-time Content

Sending real-time, relevant email content has been proven the best way to increase value and responsiveness of your email efforts. You can use emails to show some major concerns for holiday shopping, including changes in inventory. Instead of delivering the moment-in-time experience, which is what you’re doing now, real-time content gives subscribers a more realistic experience.

Adding a dynamic countdown timer to your marketing emails for the purpose of creating urgency is a great idea, particularly during the holiday season. It is helpful for promoting your sales, shipping deadlines, and more.

Build Responsive Design

With more than half of subscribers opening their emails on a mobile device, it is indispensable that your holiday email marketing campaigns should be adapted to responsive design. To embrace responsive emails, you can consider some best practices like:

  • Design in a single column so that it looks flawless even on clients like Gmail app.
  • Design with finger target in mind.
  • Make the CTA tappable and keep its size at larger than 44PX.
  • Add moderate white-space to help readers easily skim through your email content.
  • Keep a clean header.
  • Don’t crowd links together and if possible keep text links in different row and convert them to buttons for mobile view.
  • Keep your phone number tappable for mobile so that users can call no matter when they need directly from a single tap.
  • Limit the length of the subject line in less than 30 characters.
  • Restrict the height of your mobile emails, as subscribers like to skim through shorter emails else they skip reading.
  • Test your responsive email design and make sure it is compatible across the major email clients.

Create A Perfect Call to Action

It happens sometimes that you’ve written great copy and used beautiful images, but your click-through rates are still lower than expected. Improving the calls to action in the emails you’re using could be a way out of it since many results gave further support the effectiveness of buttons over text links.

Research shows that most people, instead of reading emails word-for-word, tend to scan them quickly. Due to this, a call to action button stands out to skimmers, compared to a text link that often gets overlooked.

To create a perfectly gift-wrapped call to action button is not easy. First and foremost, you should keep the call to action message short and to the point. Two or three words are enough to encourage clicks without compromising the button design, like Shop Now, Save 50%, Get the Deal, etc.

Where subscribers will be led to when clicking on your call to action button? Well, you could consider this suggestion—the landing page or a page where the email-matched item or service located. The page, by displaying a direct connection to the deal you’re offering, reassures subscribers that they’re coming to the right place and can make a purchase right now and right here.

Wrap up

With this holiday email marketing guide, you will be on your way to creating and sending successful holiday marketing emails that resonate with your subscribers. Always remember that planning everything ahead is already half success.

But as you know that traffic spikes might cause website to crash if you’re hosting with an unreliable web hosting provider or your hosting account comes in insufficient storage or bandwidth, and this in turn could run your holiday season completely. If you’re really taking serous about your holiday email marketing, getting benefits of a paid email marketing software or tool is a good option. But if you don’t budget for such service, migrate your business website to a highly reliable platform, for instance, Bisend, as soon as possible also helps.