Article first published October 2016, updated May 2019
The holiday season is one of the busiest and most lucrative times of the year for many businesses. Last year, holiday retail sales climbed 4%, which led to $658.3 billion in sales, according to the National Retail Federation. With more people buying online, holiday shopping starts earlier and earlier. Start planning your holiday email marketing now to take advantage of this trend.
If you want your holiday sales season to be merry and bright, you’ll need a solid email marketing plan. Fortunately, Campaign Monitor has you covered with this Ultimate Guide to Holiday Email Marketing.
Why email makes the best holiday marketing tool
Holidays—no matter what time of the year—provide an excellent opportunity to reach out to not only current subscribers, but to help generate even more leads by promoting the need to “share” the value you offer to your subscriber’s family and friends.
Emails are made for our mobile world
Your subscribers rely on their smartphones and tablets for all kinds of information, and research shows a growing number of consumers are doing their holiday shopping on mobile devices. In the past four years, purchases made on mobile devices jumped from 3.4% to 36.7%, according to a report by Castor. In addition, a whopping 76% of Black Friday emails and 63% of Cyber Monday emails were opened on a mobile device, according to Movable Ink. In this busy season, we can help you keep your customers up to date and purchasing with our mobile-ready email templates.
Emails offer instant buying options
Research shows 41% of retailers will use “Buy Now” buttons in their email marketing, making it extremely simple for subscribers to make a purchase. By using a call-to-action button in your email, you can highlight a gift, a special offer, or even an event that a subscriber can buy in a matter of a couple of clicks. Keep in mind your customers are just as busy as you are during this time of year, and anything that can speed up their holiday shopping will benefit them, and your business.
Emails can support all of your campaigns
Businesses can use email to promote sales, invite subscribers to holiday events, showcase unique gift ideas or even gift guides—the list is endless. It allows business owners to reach out to customers regularly and stimulate sales throughout the season. Email can also support other marketing initiatives, such as social media sales, contests, and reward programs.
Automation and personalization makes email more effective and efficient
The holidays are busy in every way, so put marketing automation to use by automating a variety of your email campaigns, from welcome emails to offers and reminders. To get ideas, check out these 9 inspiring examples that use marketing automation. Additionally, you can segment your emails to create personalized messages, as personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates.
How to write holiday subject lines your subscribers can’t resist
Use power words
Some words are more attention-grabbing than others. When crafting your subject lines, use these power words:
- Sales-driven: Hot deal, promotion, discount, savings, free shipping
- Timeliness: Order now, limited-time, today-only, last minute, Open now, Exclusive
- Holiday: Good cheer, 12 Deals of Christmas, Season’s Greetings
- Words of gratitude: Thank you, appreciation, your support
Personalize your subject line
, so it’s worth your time to add a subscriber’s first name to the subject line this holiday season. You should also consider other ways you can personalize your campaigns to deliver the kind of experiences your subscribers expect. You can gain heaps of personalization ideas here and use this checklist for success.
Consider adding emoji ⛄🎃🎅🏻
Add a holiday snowman, stars, or a tree to your subject line to grab attention. Brands using emoji in their subject lines have seen a 45% increase in their unique open rates. An emoji is a great eye-catching option to add some holiday flair. Did you know the snowman emoji drives the highest open rates?
Ask a question
Questions are automatically engaging, which is why they’re great for subject lines. Try something like, “Need some gift ideas?” or “Want your gifts wrapped and delivered to your front door?” Turn the content that’s inside your email into a question.
Put your offer front and center
With so many emails hitting subscribers’ inboxes this season, don’t make them hunt for your offer. Feature it prominently in your subject line to capture their attention and get them to open and read the rest of your email. If you offer free shipping, you’ll be off to a good start, as 74% of consumers say free shipping is one of the most important features when checking out online, according to a report by UPS.
Holiday email examples to inspire
Just as there are various holidays to celebrate throughout the year, there are even more email examples out there to help guide your creative process. Below, we’ve compiled a short list to get you started.
Promote your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale
According to data from RJ Metrics, the days from Black Friday to Christmas generate 50–100% more revenue than other shopping days throughout the rest of the year. Birchbox sent subscribers a Black Friday offer a day early, which seems to be the current trend, with offers going out earlier and earlier each year.
Send a holiday gift guide
Despite the fact that shoppers have the internet at their fingertips, many still wait until the last minute to do their shopping. In 2016, sales dropped 3% in November but surged as December came to an end. Last-minute shopping has seen a 6% year-over-year growth, according to RetailNext.
The reason this happens is shoppers aren’t sure what to purchase for family and friends. If inspiration is what your customers need, give it to them. Create a gift guide that gives subscribers some ideas. Here’s an example of a gift guide from Rip Curl that offers content for girls and guys:
You can send more than one gift guide throughout the season by breaking them into categories. For instance, send a guide that has gifts for under $10 or gifts for moms. Here are a few categories you can use:
- Price point
- Title (Mom, Dad, Boss, Teacher, etc)
- Hobbies or interests
- Age group (Gifts for teens, seniors, etc.)
- Stocking stuffers
- Product type (Electronics, clothes)
Give a gift for referring a friend
You can use the holidays to grow your customer base by encouraging referrals. Give current subscribers a deal if they refer a friend or pay for a subscription as a gift. Birchbox gives its subscribers deluxe samples when they buy a friend a one-year subscription.
Use popular reference in your email
Here’s a unique idea: send an email that connects one of your products to a holiday song or something in popular culture.
For example, La Mer promotes its product through a unique connection to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Send last minute deals
As mentioned above, there are always last-minute shoppers. In 2015, the average shopper had only completed 53% of their shopping list two weeks before Christmas. De Beers, sent subscribers this email to market to last-minute shoppers.
Send post-holiday emails
When the holidays are over, it doesn’t mean you should stop sending emails. Consider sending a few “post-holiday” deals to your subscribers to nab a few more sales and get shoppers who received gift cards to start using them. Sephora sent this email to subscribers in early January:
Tips to create a perfectly gift-wrapped call to action
These quick tips will help any marketing team craft the perfect call to action.
Use a button
Subscribers shouldn’t have to search for a call to action; it should be obvious. A call-to-action button provides the kind of “look at me” display you want. Subscribers can skim right over hyperlinked text, but it’s nearly impossible to do that with a button. Buttons compel subscribers to click them.
Keep the text short
Your call to action message should be short and to the point, as in two or three words like “Buy Now,” “Get the Deal,” or “Save 40%.” For example, MINIBAR uses the simple words “Shop Now” to encourage clicks.
CTA should lead to a landing page or purchase page
When subscribers click on your call to action, where do they go? Traffic should be directed to a landing page or a page where they can purchase the item or service that matches your email offer. The landing page reassures subscribers that they’re in the right place and makes a direct connection to the specific deal that you’re offering. Sending subscribers to your homepage or to a random spot on your website could cost you a sale.
Check out our guide to landing pages for holiday emails.
Jingle-worthy holiday resources
As you create your holiday emails, take a look at these holiday-centric Campaign Monitor resources to maximize your marketing efforts:
- Holiday email marketing trends, dates, and tips you should know
- How to get your holiday email marketing ready
- 4 email marketing tips for the holidays
- 75 email subject lines to light up your inboxes this holiday
- 7 successful email delivery tips for the holidays
Don’t forget these lesser-known holidays
While marketing teams highly promote winter holidays, there are many other holidays that can be used to reach out to your subscribers. They don’t even have to be widely popular holidays to be effective, such as the Festival of Sleep Day or Hug Your Cat Day.
When learning how to write a holiday greeting email, it all comes down to the nature of your brand. Not all brands can make good use of Hug Your Cat Day, but an animal shelter or pet store sure can.
That being said, consider these examples of lesser-known holidays that can be used to create an email.
Giving Tuesday falls during those winter months, where holidays are aplenty. However, we like the idea of sending out a Giving Tuesday email because it opens up the doors for getting people involved, while also offering the opportunity for businesses to grow their presence and benefit financially.
Source: Really Good Emails
Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday also falls in the late fall/early winter months, but is a vital holiday for growing brand awareness, especially for newly established brands. Encouraging readers to shop local isn’t only an act of kindness, but also encourages them to pass on word of your small business and shop your online store.
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day falls in early March and is another great holiday for spreading awareness and bringing in new subscribers through the use of referrals. It’s also an excellent way to encourage purchases so that your brand can donate to a local women’s charity.
Sweetest day falls in mid-October and is a great way to kick off the holiday season! Spreading the love by sharing “Sweet” deals is a great way to kick off the season of spending, and making good use of incentives encourages readers to take action.
Birthdays are great because they are year-round! Moreover, they are celebrated by all of our loved ones. So, depending on the nature of your brand, you can send a birthday campaign or single email with a special something just for them.
Source: Really Good Emails
Membership anniversaries are another often forgotten “holidays” worth celebrating. These fall on any given day—all depending on when a member/subscriber initially opted in to your product or services.
Show them some extra love on their membership anniversary and watch your customer satisfaction rates go up.
Source: Really Good Emails
By using this holiday email marketing guide, you’ll be on your way to creating and sending emails that resonate with your subscribers.
Remember, planning is everything, so don’t wait. With Campaign Monitor, you can get started on your holiday email marketing now.