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This article was first published November 2015, updated May 2020.

Break out the cake and confetti: It’s time for a birthday celebration. From gifts to parties, birthdays are filled with lots of great things, including birthday emails.

Gone are the days of ecards—Birthday emails are the best way to celebrate. Additionally, birthday emails are one of the most effective emails you can send:

  • Birthday emails have a 481% higher transaction rate than promotional emails.
  • Birthday emails generate 342% higher revenue per email than promotional emails.
  • Birthday emails have 179% higher unique click rates than promotional emails.

To help your business create and send effective birthday emails, we’ll cover what, when and how to send the best birthday emails to help subscribers celebrate by buying your product or service.

Looking for a place to start? Try a template.

You can be automating birthday emails in minutes. Start with our birthday email template, customize it to fit your brand, and set up a simple email journey to send on a subscriber’s birthday.

Try out our birthday email template here.

Try out the birthday template. Customize and edit one of our mobile-ready email templates.

What to send in a birthday email

Birthdays are synonymous with gift giving, so give your subscribers something they can’t pass up. Typically, birthday emails have a special deal, offer, or free gift. Often, these deals can be used online or in-store, and should be easy to redeem.

Here are a few ideas to use in your birthday email:

A can’t-resist coupon

Give subscribers a real birthday treat by offering an irresistible coupon. For example, Birchbox offers $10 off of a $50 purchase in their birthday email. They send the email at the beginning of the month and give the subscriber an entire month to redeem the coupon before it expires.

Mystery savings

Send a mystery coupon to your subscribers on or before their birthday. You can use a tool like Scratch-it to create an offer that enables subscribers to “scratch” a digital card to reveal their 10%, 20%, or 30% discount.

A free gift

Everyone loves freebies on their birthday. Why not give your subscriber a free gift?
Have the birthday subscriber come to your store to claim a free gift, or provide a coupon code to use online. The gift can be something small like a laptop sticker, an appetizer, or service upgrade. You can require a minimum purchase to claim the free gift if that makes sense for your products.

Free shipping or discount

On a subscriber’s birthday, try to clear any obstacle that keeps him or her from placing an order. For example, as a birthday treat, offer to cover shipping and take care of the sales taxes by discounting the item by 8% (or whatever the sales tax rate is in your area.) It’s a simple gesture that could entice a subscriber to buy.

DSW knows the way to their subscribers wallets is through engaging offers—and of course, shoes—so this birthday email strikes a perfect chord:

Fun GIFs

In this email from Outdoor Voices, their marketing team does a great job of staying on brand while also acknowledging a special occasion with this birthday greeting. Here, the GIF adds a lighthearted and celebratory tone to a simple-yet-genuine message. And a discount code never hurt anyone, either. Outdoor Voices proves that you don’t have to do anything super fancy or different from your regular branding—a simple and genuine message goes a long way.

Birthday email best practices

Is it best to send birthday emails on the exact birth date or before? Should you send a follow-up email? If so, when? These are all great questions, so let’s dive in.

Send the offer on the actual birthdate.

More than half (55%) of birthday emails are sent on the exact birthdate. About 38% of birthday emails are sent one to three weeks prior to the birthday. A growing trend is also sending an offer at the start of the subscriber’s birthday month to give them plenty of time to take action and to provide you plenty of time to send a few reminders. Regardless, automated birthday emails are the name of the game.

Send a reminder.

To make sure your subscribers remember to take advantage of their birthday offers, send a reminder email. Reminder emails generate rate increases of at least 20% in open, click-to-delivered, average order value and revenue per email, according to Experian data.

Chandon sent this birthday email out with the subject line, “Birthday Savings End Soon!” a few weeks after I got the initial birthday email.

Use automation.

Even the most organized business couldn’t possibly keep track of every subscriber’s birthday and send an email offer on that day. Fortunately, you don’t have to.

Automation turns what could be a tedious, time-consuming job into a few clicks.

Campaign Monitor customers can use automated emails, which are emails that are automatically sent to a subscriber when certain conditions are met. In this case, when the subscriber’s birthday arrives, an email is automatically delivered to his or her inbox.

Jewelry retailer, Monica Vinader, generates an offer to their customers with jewelry suggestions based on past purchases, and a special “treat yourself” message.

See it in action in this video:

Personalize subject lines and messages.

When you get a birthday card in the mail, the person sending it personalizes it, right? Of course. That’s what makes the card special. You should do the same thing with your birthday emails. Use a subscriber’s first name in the subject line and inside the email message.

Here’s an example below from Omaha Steaks. The subject line was, “Happy Birthday Kim!” The personalization is in the subject line but could have also have been easily used in the preheader, the body copy, or even the CTA button.

Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened and marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns. Campaign Monitor makes it easy to personalize every email, including birthday emails. Take a look at these instructions to personalize your campaigns.

Create a clear call to action.

Every email should have a clear call to action, and birthday emails are no different. Make sure your call to action stands out. Consider using a button like the one above in the Benihana email. Use a color that’s used sparingly for the button color and create an action-oriented call to action for your button. Something like “Claim Your $30 Coupon Now” or “Redeem Your Birthday Gift”, or “Shop Now”.

Keep the message short.

The best birthday emails are short and simple. The message should wish the subscriber a happy birthday and explain the treat. There’s no need for long copy.

Here’s a great example from Wine.com. In less than 20 words, the email accomplishes its goal.

Make it festive.

It’s a celebration. Birthdays are fun, so make sure your birthday emails have a festive feel to them. In the example above from Wine.com, there’s an image of people celebrating with a toast, and the example below from Topshop uses big, bold letters and a fun design. They also include a promo code (promo code has been excluded from this post).

Use a combination of colorful text and images to make your birthday emails stand out. Use confetti, party streamers, balloons, birthday cake, or pictures of people at a party to liven up your email.

If you need help finding birthday images, check out our list of sites to get amazing images for your emails.

Wrap up

Birthday emails should be part of every brand’s email marketing strategy. By automating the process, you can create and send personalized, revenue-generating emails in a snap.

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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