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It isn’t just sleigh bells you want to hear ringing this holiday, you want registers ringing too. The National Retail Federation has some good news for you. Retail sales in November and December are expected to increase by 3.6% this year, resulting in $655.8 billion in sales, according to the National Retail Federation. That breaks down to an average $834 spent per shopper.

Email marketing will play a major role in driving those sales for your business. In fact, last year, email marketing accounted for a quarter of online sales from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.

Here’s a 20-point holiday checklist to use throughout the season to make the most of your email marketing.


Don’t wait for Spotify to start offering holiday music to prepare for the season. Here’s a list of things to do now:

1. Make signing up so simple even a reindeer could do it

During the holiday season, you’ll have more eyes on your website and social channels, so make sure visitors can easily sign up for your email list no matter where they are. Be sure to include relevant fields in your sign up form that you can use to power automation and personalization beyond just first name.

Use an easy sign up form, add a subscribe button to your website, and add a sign up form to your Facebook page.

2. Hang a welcome stocking in the inbox with care

You probably already have an automated welcome email created that goes out as soon as a subscriber joins your list, but you may want to make your email a bit more festive just for the season.

Consider changing the color; add jingle bells or a wreath, and a holiday greeting. You can also stuff digital stockings with a discount towards a first purchase or offer the ever popular free shipping.

3. Prepare for merry mobile customers

Last year, 48% of traffic came from mobile devices. In addition, a whopping 76 percent of Black Friday emails and 63 percent of Cyber Monday emails were opened on a mobile device according to Movable Ink.

Make sure your website and emails look sharp on mobile devices. To do so, use responsive email templates that adjust to every device and provide users with a great experience.

4. Make a Yuletide email calendar

Take a look at the important dates during November and December and start making an email marketing plan. Think about what kinds of emails to send and when, and consider using marketing automation to send the right message to the right person at the right time. Using automation can make your email campaigns much more targeted and efficient during this busy time of year for you and your subscribers.

5. Check your contacts like you do holiday lights

Every year you break out the holiday lights and look for busted bulbs or lights that don’t work, right? Do the same with your email list. Any subscriber that hasn’t opened or clicked on a link in your email in a year should be removed. A smaller list of engaged subscribers will help you have better engagement and improve your deliverability.

6. Give shoppers the gift of inspiration

Before the craze of the holiday season really sets in, create a gift guide that you’ll send to shoppers. You can even schedule it to send ahead of time.

The guide should highlight your most popular products and provide links to each, like this guide from Sephora:

Emails for The Big Four: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday

Just about every business sends emails on or around the four big days of the holiday season. Here are a few things you can do in advance to capitalize on these days:

7. Have your elves create holiday promotion emails in advance

Santa and his elves would never wait until Christmas Eve to create all the toys and you shouldn’t wait to create your holiday promotional emails either. You can create your emails now and schedule them to send on specific days or you can create a customer journey using marketing automation and send your emails out based on triggers you determine. It’s incredibly powerful and a huge time-saver, plus it ensures the right person, gets the right message at the right time.

Here’s a great example of a Black Friday email from Campaign Monitor customer, Guess, that can be made in advance:

8. Say thanks

A few days before Thanksgiving, send subscribers an email that thanks them for being great customers. Include a small discount, or a perk like free shipping to get them primed for holiday shopping.

9. Deck the social media halls with news of your holiday sales

Give fans a preview of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales on social media a few days early and encourage them to sign up for your email list to get the deals in their inbox.

10. Offer a Black Friday deal so great St. Nick couldn’t pass it up

Cyber Monday is often billed as the biggest email marketing holiday, but research shows Black Friday emails are opened 38% more than Cyber Monday emails, according to Movable Ink.

The reason behind the high open rates is likely due to the expectation of big savings – so don’t disappoint. Give your subscribers a deal they can’t resist.

11. Spread holiday cheer with a Cyber Monday extension

Black Friday may be the reigning champion of holiday email, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect Cyber Monday.

Create and send a deal on Cyber Monday, but consider giving subscribers one extra day to take advantage of the sale, like this online beauty shop does with this email:

12. Don’t be a Grinch; don’t just ask for money on #GivingTuesday

Last year, donations hit $116.7 million on Giving Tuesday. Of course, many of the emails that non-profits send on or around this day will ask donors for money, but more than that can be done.

Email a link to a blog post that explains how donations are used, send an email that features someone your organization helped, or share an infographic on social media that gives shoppers alternatives to typical gifts like this non-profit does:

The Final Stretch

As December draws to an end, you’ll want to make a final sales push. Here’s what you should cross off your checklist:

13. Send cart abandonment emails to busy shoppers

Try to close more sales by reminding busy shoppers about the items they put in a digital shopping cart but didn’t purchase. Consider adding an incentive, like 10% off. If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you might consider the Fresh Relevance integration to help you send abandoned shopping cart emails.

14. Encourage shoppers to put a gift for themselves under the tree

Last year more than half of all shoppers splurged on gifts for themselves, according to NRF, so encourage shoppers to do a little self-gifting. Or, create a promotion that gives the gift giver a little treat like Birchbox does with this email:

15. Offer free shipping as a jolly incentive

Sixty-one percent of shoppers abandon their carts because the final costs, like shipping, are too expensive, according to research from Baymard. Consider offering free shipping to boost sales. If you can’t offer free shipping to everyone, segment your list and email the offer to only your VIP subscribers.

16. Rock around the Christmas tree with a social giveaway

Consider using a tool like Wishpond to create a giveaway on social media, like giving away small gifts twelve days before Christmas. To enter require fans to fill out a quick form that asks for their email address. It’s a great way to engage fans, and add names to your email list for this season or next.

17. On Dasher, on Dancer….on Procrastinators

Last year, 90% of shoppers still had gifts to buy as of December 15, according to NRF. Create a campaign that targets those last minute shoppers. Consider reusing that gift guide that you made early on with a message that’s specific to holiday procrastinators.

18. Host a final Holiday sale

Invite shoppers to your store for a final holiday sale. Make it special by turning it into more of an event with music, eggnog, and festive pictures . Email an invitation, create an event on Facebook to promote it, and send a reminder email the day before to encourage everyone to come attend.

19. Don’t hit the holiday brakes, send a New Year’s email

Consider offering one final promotion for the New Year. You might encourage shoppers to buy the ultimate New Year’s dress, share party tips, or convince subscribers to make a “glad the holidays are over” purchase for themselves with a 15% off coupon that you send.

20. Pour a cup of eggnog and review your email metrics

Once the season comes to an end, take a minute to review the campaigns you sent and analyze which ones were the most effective. You can use this information to improve your email marketing efforts next year.

Wrap up

There you have it, a 20-point checklist that will keep registers ringing all holiday season.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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