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Article first published October 2015, updated May 2019

The holidays are almost here, and with them comes a significant influx of online spending. Whether you have a holiday marketing plan in place or are creating one now, you don’t want to miss out.

The days from Black Friday to Christmas generate 50–100% more revenue than other shopping days throughout the rest of the year, and each year, holiday e-commerce sales increase by about 10%. The National Retail Federation announced that it expects holiday retail sales in November and December – excluding automobiles, gasoline, and restaurants – to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year. And, this year, Christmas falls 32 days after Thanksgiving and is on a Monday instead of Sunday, giving consumers an extra weekend day to complete their shopping.

There are several ways for brands to connect with customers to drive sales during this busy time of year, but email marketing has consistently proven to be one of the most effective. After all, email marketing brings in an ROI of $44 for every $1 spent. Additionally, email marketing accounted for a quarter of online sales from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday in 2015.

This post will cover trends for the 2017 holiday season, important dates, and steps for holiday email marketing success.

Trends for 2019

Updates in technology continue to influence how we market to our customers. To keep up, it’s important to review the data, understand shifting trends, and plan your holiday email marketing campaigns accordingly.

To help you out, here are a few expected trends for the upcoming year:

Email marketing reaches consumers where they are

Email marketing is a highly effective method to reach people this holiday season. With 57% of email subscribers spending 10-60 minutes browsing marketing emails during the week, you’re likely to reach people no matter where they are.

However, in 2018, retailers sent out fewer email marketing campaigns for Black Friday than had been sent out in previous years.

Source: Digital Commerce 360

The good news is: those who did send out relevant Black Friday campaigns saw some encouraging results, such as 43% of retailers studies seeing an average open rate of 20% or higher.

Go mobile or go home

This season, brands can’t afford to miss out on mobile. In fact, for 2018, mobile devices accounted for 40% of total online sales.

Furthermore, 51% of web traffic during the 2018 holiday season was done on a mobile device. However, desktop traffic did take a dip, accounting for 41% of traffic during the holiday season, compared to 44% in 2017.

If you’re looking to engage your subscribers this holiday season, give them the gift of mobile-friendly emails. Remember, Campaign Monitor makes it easy with our new drag-and-drop mobile-friendly email templates.

Expect shoppers to browse early

Along with the increase in online and mobile shopping comes early shopping. According to a study in 2018 by Credit Karma, the bulk of early holiday shopping began mid-year.

holiday email marketing tips and trends

Source: Credit Karma

However, just because shoppers are browsing before Halloween doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make purchases.

Thankfully, this gives you a nice window for persuading interested customers to shop with you. By leveraging savvy trigger-based emails, as well as personalization, you can make sure you’re targeting browsers with the right info at the right time. If you have a good strategy, you’ll convert shoppers into customers.

Blending of digital and in-store efforts

In the past few years, marketers have talked about how much holiday shopping is done online. Indeed, many have foregone going to the mall in favor of finding gifts on e-commerce sites.

However, many shoppers continue to go to physical stores to get inspiration. According to the NRF, 47% of holiday shoppers say they go to stores to get ideas and inspiration on what to buy.

In this landscape, we expect that brick-and-mortar retailers will marry their in-store efforts with their digital experiences.

Free shipping is important to consumers, and so are return policies

If you are stumped and can’t seem to find the perfect holiday promotion, look to statistics to help guide you. Nearly 85% of online shoppers wait five days for delivery. However, 47% of consumers say free shipping was one of the most important factors during the holiday season.

See the gap you can fill? If email marketing is the most successful method for holiday conversions, and people wait for free shipping deals, you can create a free shipping email promotion, and your customers will love you.

Consumers are also looking for good return policies, especially since they’re buying gifts for other people. According to the NRF, 75% of shoppers checked return policies before making a purchase, and 22% backed out of a purchase because they weren’t into the policy.

Ensure you allow enough time for consumers to make returns. Narvar found a 30-day window for returns is the magic number. In fact, they found that 51% of shoppers said that a short time limit for returns would prevent them from making a purchase, but 53% said that a 30-day window is fair.

Notable dates during the holiday season

Here are this season’s most notable holidays to plan your email campaigns around:

Here are this season’s most notable holidays to plan your 2019 email campaigns around:

  • Fathers Day – Sunday,  June 16
  • Independence Day – Thursday, July 4
  • Labor Day – Monday, September 2
  • Halloween – Thursday, October 31
  • Veterans Day – Monday, November 11
  • Thanksgiving – Thursday, November 28
  • Black Friday – Friday, November 29
  • Small Business Saturday – Saturday, November 30
  • Cyber Monday – Monday, December 2
  • Giving Tuesday –  Tuesday, December 3
  • Green Monday – Monday, December 9
  • Hanukkah begins – Sunday, December 22
  • Free Shipping Day – Saturday, December 14
  • Winter Solstice – Saturday, December 21
  • Christmas Eve – Tuesday, December 24
  • Christmas Day- Wednesday, December 25
  • Boxing Day – Thursday, December 26
  • Kwanzaa – Begins Thursday, December 26
  • New Year’s Eve – Tuesday, December 31
  • New Year’s Day– Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Widen your idea of holidays

While the 2019 holidays above are great ways to amp up engagement between your subscribers and yourself, all sorts of holidays can be used to create fun and interactive email marketing campaigns. Here are a few top holidays that didn’t make the list above, along with some of our favorite “non-traditional” holidays that can be used to create fun and engaging email campaigns.

  • Daylight Savings
  • Groundhog Day
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Easter
  • April Fools’ Day
  • Earth Day
  • Armed Forces Day
  • Parents Day
  • Grandparents Day
  • National Pet Day
  • Boss’s Day
  • Sweetest Day
  • Belly Laugh Day
  • Presidents Day
  • Science Fiction Day
  • Festival of Sleep Day
  • World Nerd Day
  • Organize Your Home Day
  • Kid Inventors’ Day
  • Penguin Awareness Day
  • Handwriting Day
  • Opposite Day
  • Awkward Moments Day
  • Fun at Work Day
  • Best Friends Day
  • Girlfriends Day
  • Relaxation Day
  • World Smile Day
  • Day of the Ninja
  • Ugly Sweater Day
  • National Clean Up Day
  • Comic Book Day
  • Be Late For Something Day
  • World Emoji Day
  • Say Something Nice Day
  • Honesty Day
  • Space Day
  • Star Wars Day
  • International Goof Off Day

Email campaigns for non-traditional holidays

Need a little extra help coming up with non-traditional holiday email campaigns? Here are just a couple of ideas to help you get the juices flowing.

Opposite Day – Sephora

Makeup giant Sephora made excellent use of opposite day for their 2014 email campaign featuring the chance for Beauty Insiders to pick something out of their ordinary to sample. This is a great way to incorporate this oddball holiday into your email marketing strategy.

Opposite Day is a great opportunity to send an email campaign that delights

Source: Pinterest

National Dog Day – Poppin

Poppin did an excellent job of incorporating this non-traditional holiday into their email campaign. They sell office supplies, but who doesn’t love to celebrate dogs? By using this adorable puppy model on their email campaign for national dog day, even this office supply shop is making the most of the day.

National Dog day is an overlooked holiday for some email marketers, but not for Poppin

Source: Poppin

Does email marketing work during holidays?

Email marketing not only works during the holidays—even during those “non-traditional” ones—but it can bring in some serious revenue for brands. In fact, studies show that consumers who purchase products through an email are likely to spend 138% more than those who don’t receive email offers.

Can I send holiday email marketing cards early?

When it comes to sending your holiday email marketing cards, it’s a good idea to send them a little early so that your subscribers have time to prepare for whatever it is you may have to offer. This is especially true if you’re planning to have a special holiday promotion, free download, or video post.

However, these emails can be overlooked if they’re sent too soon. So, instead of sending one-off holiday emails, it’s best to send a multi-email campaign.

Here’s a really simple email journey that could be used for a holiday campaign:

holiday email tips and trends

Steps to holiday email marketing success

Now that you know what is trending this holiday season, it’s time to decide how it all fits into your email marketing strategy. Here are some steps to help you create the engaging email marketing campaigns to drive massive revenue and delight your subscribers all season long.

Step 1: Pick your promotions

Each company has success with different types of promotions. The promotions that will be more effective will often depend on what products and services you offer.

The holidays you decide to celebrate and promote are largely up to you. You can use past data about open rates to tell you what your customers respond to best.

Step 2: Create a holiday promotion schedule

This holiday season, you want balanced communication. That means keeping in touch with your customers without sending them with too many messages. For your holiday email marketing efforts to work, you need to create a detailed holiday promotion schedule.

Sit down and think about how many emails you’ll need to send out to be successful this season. For example, if you want to create an email campaign encouraging people to visit your site on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, think carefully about how many emails you’ll need, as well as when it makes sense to send them.

Step 3: Break down tasks

The holiday season is notoriously busy, so it’s essential to make sure your team is organized. Who will write the copy? Who will segment the lists? These are decisions you need to make now before the season gets too hectic.

Step 4: Decide on success metrics

No email marketing campaign is successful without the measurement of metrics. Before you start sending emails, think about how you’ll measure success. Do you want engagement rates that are higher than average, or will you be happy if your holiday emails see the same rates as emails sent out at other times of the year? Our reporting on lists & segments makes it super easy to see how parts of your list are performing so you can make improvements as you go.

Step 5: Execute

All hands on deck! Time to execute. This one is self-explanatory, but it’s an important step that involves good copywriting, seamless design, and thoughtful organization.

To craft perfect emails, these resources can help:

Step 6: Analyze

You’ll need to analyze your performance metrics throughout the season. How do they compare to last year’s holiday season? How did they compare to similar metrics at other times of the year? It’s only through analysis that you’ll be able to understand how you did, and where you can improve and shape your strategy for next year.

Tips for holiday success

  • Send save the date emails for any live events. If you’re holding a live event, send a save the date email before providing formal details. This will ensure that people put the date into their calendars. The holiday season is incredibly busy with many parties and festivities, so send save the dates before calendars get filled.
  • Consider the latest trends. Online and mobile shopping are trends that are here to stay, and they’re worth paying attention to this holiday season. Make sure emails look good on any device, and that people can engage with your site from their mobile phones.
  • Make your campaigns cross-platform. You may be focusing on email marketing, but the most effective campaigns are cross-platform. If you’re announcing a sale via email, make sure to share the same information on social media, as well.
  • Personalize your campaigns. This season, retailers will do everything they can to gain the attention of their subscribers. To compete, make sure your campaigns are as personalized as possible, targeting your audience with the right messages to make them take action.

Wrap up

There you have it– the holiday marketing trends, dates, and tips that will help you create compelling email campaigns this season.

Using the information in this blog post and your skills as a savvy marketer, you’ll have the power to make it an awesome holiday season with email marketing.

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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