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A Step by Step Blueprint for Holiday Email Marketing

Samavia Malik

The holiday season is a pivotal time for you to connect with your customers and boost sales. 

According to Deloitte, holiday retail sales are expected to reach between $278 billion and $284 billion this season. So, it only makes sense to make the most out of this festive season.

You may be thinking sending occasional promotional emails during Christmas is the only way to go about this. However, the holiday season starts with Black Friday, giving you a huge revenue opportunity.

So, email marketing remains one of the most effective tools in your arsenal.

Why? 

Because crafting compelling holiday email marketing campaigns can help you stand out in a crowded inbox, drive engagement, and ultimately, increase your bottom line. 

In this article, we'll explore the indispensable blueprint for holiday email marketing that is sure to make your campaigns shine. From tips to examples, we'll provide you with the insights and inspiration you need to create email marketing magic during the festive season. 

4 Main Insights for Holiday Email Marketing 2023

  1. 80% of people intend to shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  2. People spent $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, which showed 5.8% growth year over year.
  3. Consumers spent a record total of $9.12 billion online during Black Friday in 2022.
  4. 141 million emails were sent on Black Friday in 2022.

4 Quick Hacks to Get You Started With Holiday Email Marketing

Here are four essential hacks to kickstart your holiday email marketing campaigns.

1. Plan ahead

Planning ahead for your holiday email marketing strategy is crucial for several reasons, and here's why and how to do it effectively:

Why plan ahead:

Competition: The holiday season is a busy time for email marketers. According to NRF, 39% of consumers plan to start shopping typically way before the holiday season. By planning ahead, you can beat your competitors to your subscribers' inboxes and grab their attention before they get overwhelmed by other promotional emails.

Content quality: Rushed email marketing campaigns often result in lower-quality content. When you plan ahead, you have more time to create well-thought-out, engaging, and persuasive emails that resonate with your audience.

Testing and optimization: Planning in advance also allows you to thoroughly test your email campaigns, identify issues, and make necessary adjustments. This ensures that your emails are error-free and deliver the best possible results.

How to plan ahead:

Set clear goals: Begin by defining your holiday email marketing goals. Are you looking to boost sales, increase brand awareness, or engage your audience differently during the holidays? Having clear objectives will guide your entire strategy.

Create a content calendar: Develop a content calendar that outlines the types of emails you'll send, the dates and times they'll be sent, and the key messaging for each email. This calendar should cover the entire holiday season, from pre-holiday teasers to post-holiday follow-ups.

2. Maintain a consistent email cadence

One of the major mistakes email marketers make during the holiday season is suddenly increasing the volume of their emails. This sudden leap often results in your emails getting rejected or ending up in spam folders. 

So, consistency is key when it comes to email marketing. Ensure that you keep sending emails regularly to your email list throughout the year and not just when you’re trying to promote your holiday sales.

You can also slowly ramp up your sending until you reach Black Friday and Cyber Monday so that there’s a steady increase in your email volume instead of a sudden spike.

Slowly increase your email sending around the holiday season.

Related: What’s the Best Time to Send Email? Data-Backed Answers

3. Build up engagement

For this holiday season, work on engaging your existing customers. Here are a few strategies to build up your email engagement.

Clean your email list regularly to scrub your list of people whose interest declines in your content over time.

Treat remaining subscribers as your friends and send them targeted emails relevant to their interests. For example, you can track their past purchase history and offer exclusive discounts on their favorite products.

Incorporate interactive elements such as polls, quizzes, or surveys in your emails. It encourages engagement and allows your recipients to participate actively, making the email experience more enjoyable.

Encourage recipients to reply to your emails with their thoughts, feedback, or questions. Respond promptly to engage in a conversation, showing that you value their input.

Nudge customers to share their holiday experiences with your products or services. Feature user-generated content in your emails, such as photos, reviews, or testimonials. This not only engages your existing customers but also provides social proof to potential buyers.

Include social media buttons in your email footer, encouraging them to follow your social accounts. Run holiday-themed social media contests or campaigns and promote them through your emails, creating a cross-channel engagement strategy.

Add social media buttons in your holiday marketing emails.

Don't let the engagement end after the holidays. Follow up with your customers after their purchases with thank-you emails, exclusive post-holiday offers, or survey emails to gather feedback. Maintaining engagement post-purchase helps in building long-term customer relationships.

4. Keep up a healthy sender reputation

Maintaining a healthy sender reputation is crucial for avoiding spam folders. There are many things you can do, like:

  • Removing unengaged subscribers from your email list.
  • Sending emails to only those who have opted-in to receive your emails.
  • Sticking to sending one email a day because too many emails a day lead to unengaged customers.
  • Leveraging email personalization so you can customize your marketing emails to match the needs of your customers.
  • Sending highly targeted and relevant emails.
  • Providing an easy way to unsubscribe.

By implementing these four hacks, you'll be well on your way to launching successful holiday email marketing campaigns.

9 Holiday Email Marketing Tips to Boost Your Sales

Believe it or not, you need a strategy to ace your holiday email marketing. That is why we’re going to lay down detailed tips with examples for you to boost your holiday sales.

1. Segment your target audience 📊

Segmenting your target audience for holiday email marketing is crucial to delivering personalized and relevant content to different groups of subscribers. Here are several ways to effectively segment your audience for holiday email marketing:

Several ways to segment your target audience for holiday email marketing.

Demographics

Age: Create segments for different age groups, as holiday preferences and spending habits vary significantly.

Gender: Tailor your email content to male and female subscribers, offering holiday gift ideas that align with their interests.

Location: Consider regional or geographic segments, as holidays and traditions can differ by location.

Behavior and engagement

Purchase history: Segment customers based on their past purchases, suggesting complementary products, or offering loyalty rewards.

Email engagement: Categorize subscribers by their interaction with your previous emails, such as open rates and click-through rates. Target highly engaged subscribers differently from those who rarely open your emails.

Inactivity: Create a segment for subscribers who haven't engaged with your emails for a while, and send re-engagement emails to win them back.

Customer journey

New subscribers: Create a series of welcome emails for new subscribers, introducing your brand, products, and any special holiday promotions.

Frequent shoppers: Recognize and reward loyal customers with exclusive holiday offers or early access to sales.

Cart abandonment: Segment users who abandoned their shopping carts during the holiday season and send targeted reminders or incentives to complete their purchases.

Sensitivity to discounts

Discount shoppers: Identify price-sensitive subscribers and create segments to deliver emails emphasizing discounts, coupons, and bargain deals.

Full-priced shoppers: For those who prefer luxury or premium products, send emails focusing on quality, exclusivity, and unique holiday offerings.

The Black Friday email from Onsen has something for everyone on their list with the 30% discount to kickstart the holiday shopping season.

Take a look.

Black Friday email example from Onsen.

2. Use killer email subject lines 🔥

During the holiday season, people receive numerous emails, and a compelling email subject line can make your message stand out. It can pique curiosity and encourage your readers to explore the content and products, potentially leading to conversions and sales.

How to make your email subject lines enticing

Use emotion and personalization: Connect with your audience on an emotional level. Incorporate words that evoke holiday feelings, such as joy, warmth, and excitement. Personalization, like using the recipient's name, can also enhance engagement.

Example: "John, Discover Joyful Savings Inside! 🎄"

Create a sense of urgency: Urgency can motivate recipients to act quickly. Incorporate phrases like "Limited Time Offer," "Last Chance," or "Today Only."

Example: "Last Chance for Holiday Discounts! Ends Tonight 🕒"

Highlight exclusive offers: Mention special offers, discounts, or deals to show that your email contains value.

Example: "Exclusive 30% Off on Your Favorite Products 🎁"

Tell a story or tease content: Craft subject lines that hint at a story reveal a benefit, or raise a question. People are curious by nature.

Example: "Unwrap the Mystery: What's Inside This Gift Box? 🎁"

Use seasonal symbols and emojis: Incorporate holiday-themed emojis and symbols to add a festive touch and make your email visually appealing.

Example: "You Better Run 🏃🏻‍♂️Festive Savings Await 🎅🎄❄️"

Keep it short and sweet: Concise subject lines are more effective as they are easier to read quickly. Aim for 50 characters or less.

Example: "Shop Now for Holiday Deals 🎁"

Here’s how Snif piques the interest of their customers with an enticing email subject line: “Free Presents Inside.” There’s no way their subscribers won’t open this email after reading about the free gifts they’ll get.

Christmas email example from Snif.

3. Set up automated email campaigns 📬

Use your email marketing platform's automation features to create workflows that trigger emails based on specific actions or schedules. For holiday email marketing campaigns, you might want to set up workflows like:

  • Welcome series for new subscribers
  • Abandoned cart reminders
  • Upsell or cross-sell emails
  • Personalized recommendations based on previous purchases
  • Post-purchase follow-ups
  • Holiday-themed newsletters

Here’s an abandoned cart email example from Rooted that combines a friendly tone with clean graphics and an enticing CTA button.

Abandoned cart email example from Rooted.

4. Use festive-themed email designs 🎊

Use festive holiday email designs and templates to create a visually appealing experience for your subscribers. 

  • Play around with holiday colors like red, green, gold, and silver while designing your emails.
  • Use seasonal themes like snowflakes, wreaths, or ornaments in the background or as accents.
  • Create interactive elements like scratch-off cards or click-to-reveal surprises to engage recipients and make your emails fun.

How to create a killer holiday email design with Unlayer?

Unlayer is a user-friendly drag and drop editor that helps you to create visually stunning holiday emails within no time. To get started with the editor, follow these steps:

  1. Sign up and log In: If you haven't already, sign up for an Unlayer account and log in to the platform.
  1. Choose an email template: Unlayer offers a variety of email templates to choose from. Select a template that aligns with your holiday campaign's theme and objectives.
  1. Customize your template: Once you've selected a template, you can start customizing it. Use the drag and drop editor to add, remove, or rearrange elements.
  1. Add holiday imagery: Incorporate holiday-themed images, such as festive decorations, winter landscapes, or holiday products, to create a seasonal atmosphere in your email.
  1. Typography and fonts: Experiment with holiday-inspired fonts and typography. 
  1. Export your email: After you’re done designing your emails, you can export them to several email service providers and schedule them to be sent at the optimal time to your audience. 

Design Holiday Emails With Unlayer

Festive Designs. Fully Responsive. White-Labeled.
Email Templates

5. Share holiday gift guides 🎁

Feeling overwhelmed due to not knowing what you want to give your loved ones this holiday season?

Relax!

Because brands can present the perfect solution by sharing the gift guides. These are a valuable resource for your audience during the festive season, helping them find the perfect gifts for their loved ones. 

When creating such a guide, consider including the following elements to make it informative and engaging:

  • Organize your gift guide into different categories based on themes, recipients, or occasions. Some common categories include "Gifts for Him," "Gifts for Her," "Stocking Stuffers," "Gifts for Kids," "Tech Gadgets," "Eco-Friendly Gifts," "DIY Gifts, "Gifts for Christmas," "Gifts for Hanukkah," "Gifts for New Year's," and so on.
  • Provide a variety of gift recommendations within each category. These can include actual products, experiences, or services. 
  • Display the price of each gift item prominently and clearly indicate if any discounts or special offers are available. This helps readers assess the affordability of the gifts and feel the urgency to buy them at a discounted price.
  • Mention any ongoing promotions, discounts, or special offers related to the gift items. This can entice readers to make a purchase.

Check out the below Christmas gift guide email example from Moment, which takes up the challenge of choosing the perfect gift for their customers’ loved ones.

Christmas gift guide email example from Moment.

6. Offer exclusive deals 🤫

The holiday season is a great time to wow your customers with tempting offers. This way, you can keep your customers engaged throughout the holiday season with exclusive deals. 

Offering them exclusive discounts also persuades them to buy and drive more sales for your business.

There are various ways to make your special offers emails exciting like:

  • Create a sense of exclusivity: Use language that conveys the exclusivity of the offer. Phrases like "Exclusive Holiday Offer" or "Limited-Time Deal" can make your subscribers feel special and encourage them to act quickly.
  • Offer special discounts: Provide discounts or promotions that are genuinely appealing. This could be a percentage off, a specific dollar amount, or a buy-one-get-one deal. The discount should be substantial enough to entice your subscribers.
  • Set a clear deadline: Create a sense of urgency by specifying a clear expiration date for the exclusive offer. For example, "Offer expires on [date]" or "Limited quantities available." You can also add a countdown timer in your emails for this purpose.

Check out the below holiday email example from Moonshot, which creates a sense of urgency by using the words “Last Day for Holiday Shipping” in their email copy.

Holiday email example from Moonshot.

7. Offer free shipping 🚀

Nothing makes people happy other than saving a few bucks on shipping costs. So, offer free shipping to customers who are making a purchase in bulk during the holiday season, be it Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. 

People usually want to squeeze their budgets. You can offer them free shipping when their purchase reaches a certain price point. This can also nudge them to spend a little extra just to reach that free shipping threshold.

Furthermore, make sure to highlight the offer in your email subject line or email header. Provide a deadline to create a sense of urgency by specifying when the free shipping offer will expire. For example, "Free Shipping Ends on [Date]." 

The below Cyber Monday email example from ModCloth lives up to the task and clearly mentions their free shipping offer and 30% discount with little “beep! boop!” GIF to add some extra fun.

Free shipping Cyber Monday email example from ModCloth.

8. Include clear Call-To-Action (CTA) buttons 👆🏾

Including clear CTA buttons in your holiday email marketing emails is essential for driving engagement, guiding recipients toward desired actions, and ultimately increasing conversions. 

Here are some best practices for creating effective CTA buttons in your holiday email campaigns.

  • Make the CTA button stand out: Ensure that your CTA button is highly visible and distinct from the rest of the email content. Use contrasting colors that align with your email's design, but make the button color pop.
  • Use compelling text: Craft concise and persuasive CTA text that clearly conveys the action you want your recipients to take. Holiday-themed phrases can make your CTA more appealing, such as “Shop Now,” "Claim Your Offer,” etc.
  • Whitespace: Surround the CTA button with whitespace to draw attention to it. Avoid cluttering the area around the CTA, as this can distract from the desired action.
  • Responsive design: Ensure that the CTA button remains easily clickable and visible on smaller screens, such as smartphones and tablets. Test your email's responsiveness to guarantee a seamless user experience.
  • Limited choices: Avoid overwhelming your recipients with too many CTA buttons in a single email. Focus on one primary CTA that aligns with the main goal of the email. If necessary, you can include secondary CTAs with less emphasis.
  • Hover and click effects: Implement subtle hover and click effects (like color changes or slight animations) to provide feedback and reinforce the interactivity of the CTA button.

This holiday email example from Uber is a terrific example of a business putting itself in its customers’ shoes, identifying the holiday hustle and bustle, and providing a solution for it. 

The simple animation in the background keeps the overall email design interesting. Plus, the in-sync CTA isn’t overbearing, which will likely get more clicks from people.

Holiday email example from Uber.

9. Make your emails mobile-responsive 📲

Almost 56% of the online sales come from mobile devices. That’s why it is important to make your holiday email marketing campaigns mobile-responsive.

Here’s how you can do this:

  • Compress and optimize images to reduce loading times on mobile devices.
  • Ensure that links and buttons are large enough and spaced appropriately to be easily tapped with a fingertip. 
  • Use a single-column layout for mobile-friendly emails. This ensures that content stacks vertically, making it easier to read and navigate on narrow screens.

Have a look at the below Thanksgiving email example from Postmates

Responsive Thanksgiving email example from Postmates.

Final Thoughts

Holiday email marketing is a dynamic and impactful strategy for you to make the most of the festive season. By incorporating the strategies we've discussed, you can elevate your email marketing efforts to engage, convert, and delight your audience. 

The accompanying tips and examples provide valuable guidance to help you craft compelling campaigns that stand out amidst the holiday email traffic and drive meaningful results for your brand.

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