Holiday Email Marketing: All Things Holiday Campaigns For Your Brand

Melanie Balke
November 29, 2021

It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. If you're a business owner, you should always be thinking about the holiday shopping season. It’s one of the busiest times of the year, and it’s also one of the best times to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd.

A photo of holly branches and hot chocolate. Overlaid header text reads, “Holiday Email Marketing: Tips to Boost Your Holiday Sales.”

As email marketers, holiday campaigns are some of the most fun (and challenging) projects. For customers, these emails will be one of many. However, for marketers, these emails can make or break a company’s peak sales season.

So, how do you do it?

How can anyone create email marketing campaigns that stand out amid a swarm of holiday emails?

Today, I’ll be digging into this question, and I’ll even have a few amazing examples to show off along the way! Buckle up and get ready, because we’re about to take a close look at how you can build a kick-butt holiday email marketing campaign.

Why Everyone Needs a Holiday Email Marketing Strategy

As just one of many marketing channels, what makes email marketing special? Why should businesses — especially small businesses with limited resources — divert their resources into a seemingly niche marketing channel?

A sparkly gift box with overlaid header text, which reads, “Why Everyone Needs a Holiday Email Marketing Strategy.”

Well, for starters, email marketing is still relevant. As of 2022, over half of the world’s population has an email account. There are 3.9–4 billion email users out there, and even a small percentage of that market is a huge amount of exposure.

And here’s the best part…

Your email subscribers are a built-in audience for your yearly holiday sales! These customers have already decided that they love your brand enough to hear from you, so use that trust.

Merry Mobile Devices!

Every holiday email campaign also provides a business with plenty of opportunities to touch base with mobile users. Since the advent of the first smartphone, mobile devices have been snatching up larger and larger shares of the market. In some cases, mobile shopping is the majority of a brand’s profit!

A shareable infographic featuring text on a colorized photo of a man using a smartphone. The header is, “Strategy: Mobile Users.” Below this is smaller body text, which reads, “The majority of emails are opened on mobile devices. This means that you absolutely must take mobile design into account as you lay out your online marketing plan. Making or using some holiday email templates can help ease the strain of designing individual campaigns.”

Fortunately, email marketing has you covered. Since 2019, the majority of the world’s emails have been opened on mobile devices.

By extension, this means that people can access your ecommerce store from anywhere. Folks can buy your products on the go, which makes it much easier for you to suggest your products as people go gift-shopping for friends and family.

And, yes! This does mean that you need to spend some time optimizing your ecommerce storefront.

If your site isn’t up to date, then be sure to optimize it before the holiday season begins. This will present your users with the least downtime possible while offering both old and new customers a much better experience during your business’ peak shopping season.

Your Essential Holiday Email Marketing Guide: The Basics

Now that the basics are out of the way, it’s time to start talking about the practical tips.

A photo of downtown Los Angeles with overlaid header text: “Your Essential Holiday Email Marketing Guide: The Basics.”

There are plenty of different ways to boost sales and increase your seasonal customer lifetime value.

These tactics can be used on their own, but the most effective way to create any email campaign is to combine different elements. Mixing and matching these tips can yield amazing results, so don’t be afraid to get creative with your holiday marketing! After all, these are your most basic tips.

(Don’t worry! I’ll bring out some more advanced tricks later.)

Don’t Forget Your Subject Line!

Before I get too far, let me point out one of the most important parts of any email campaign…

A shareable infographic with text over a photo of someone typing on a laptop. The header reads, “The Basics: Subject Lines.” Below this is smaller body text, which reads, “When you're making your holiday email campaigns, pay close attention to your language. Use appealing keywords, but be aware that some of these phrases may result in your message being direct to spam.”

You absolutely must pay close attention to your subject lines. If you want your holiday messaging to really stick the landing, you need to have some attention-grabbing subject lines. Otherwise, you’re bound to get lost in the onslaught of competitors’ email campaigns and coupon codes.

There are certain words that you’ll want to include in your subject lines during the holiday period. These key phrases appeal to every customer’s specific interests — namely saving money — which can help increase your click-through rates. Some of these keywords are:

  • Discount
  • “Free” anything
  • Hot deal
  • Savings

Keep in mind that these words can trigger a spam flag from an email service provider. These are high risk and high reward phrases, so use them carefully.

It may seem a bit obvious, but you’ll also want to include some clarifying phrases in your holiday sale announcements. This means that your subject lines should include nods to the seasonal setting. Some key phrases to consider if you want to send the right message with this year’s holiday sales include:

  • Black Friday
  • Cyber Monday
  • Holiday budget
  • Holiday deals
  • Holiday gifts
  • Small Business Saturday
  • Weekend sales

If it’s on-brand, you’ll also want to consider adding an emoji! Studies have shown that up to 45% more people open emails with an emoji. When appropriate, you should also add some personalization.

Always Remember to Test

Something like “Company’s Holiday Gift Guide” is a safe and solid holiday email subject line. It’s reliable, relatable to a wide target audience, and entices customers. However, it’s not the most original subject line. In fact, your customers are probably getting dozens of holiday gift guides in the weeks leading up to the holiday season.

If you want to get more creative, then you’ll need to start doing some A/B testing. This process will let you figure out what the best subject line will be for your promotional emails. These trials can also guide you as you tweak other details of your holiday campaigns, such as your call-to-action or images.

You can also use A/B testing to determine the best deals. For example, one audience may prefer free overnight shipping over a discount code. However, a different target audience might want a discount over free shipping.

Remind Seasonal Shoppers About the Discount in the Call-to-Action

Regardless of what your deals look like, you’ll want to make sure that customers remember them. That’s not to say that you should bombard them with the discount, but you should restate the discount at the end of the email.

In most cases, this means that you’ll be including the discount in the call-to-action.

For example, instead of just saying “Shop Now”, you should try adding a CTA that’s closer to “Get Your 20% Off Now!”

This reiteration is particularly important in Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, where customers are being overrun by different discounts.

Take Advantage of Subheaders

In addition to your subject lines, you’ll also want to keep an eye on your subheaders. These bits of text give your customers a taste of what your holiday email marketing has to offer. In other words, customers may be enticed by a solid subject line, but you need a good subheader to really keep them around!

The Importance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

With the basics out of the way, it’s time to talk about advanced tactics.

A photo of a campaign monitor dashboard with overlaid header text: “The Importance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

These strategic tips will help you turn your holiday marketing ideas into actionable and profitable online marketing. They may not be as direct as improving your subject lines, but these behind-the-scenes tweaks can make a huge difference in your email marketing.

I’ll start this section out by highlighting two of the biggest days in ecommerce: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Even seasoned veterans of the industry shudder at these words, but these two high impact holidays don’t need to be intimidating. In fact, a good marketer sees them for what they are: a fantastic chance to test your upcoming holiday email schedule.

Try Out Some Templates

One of the best times to try out your new (or old) holiday email templates is during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Yes, these are huge “holidays” for retail, but they’re also high traffic days. This means that you can take risks. Regardless of the success of a campaign, you’re still bound to get some traffic on these days. This is what makes these key dates amazing trial periods.

If you’ve seen a holiday email campaigns that are particularly inspiring, consider trying them out during this weekend sales event.

Set Up That Dedicated Purchase Page

Both Cyber Monday and Black Friday are also perfect opportunities to set up the end stage of your funnel.

Regardless of whether you’re a large corporation or a small business, you need somewhere for your email marketing to go. In other words, you need a landing page. This will help you track the success of your marketing efforts, and it’s absolutely essential if you’re going to be doing any holiday email marketing.

Using Your Email Marketing Service

This sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t!

You don’t need to go super hard. Adding some festive colors and a festive banner works well. Even a few seasonal images can add plenty of holiday cheer!

However, if you have a good holiday email marketing tool, you can set up a fancy landing page with just a few clicks. Integrations and add-ons make it easy to manipulate your ecommerce platform and create stunning holiday email landing pages.

Keep in mind that your email marketing tools can only go so far, though!

Be sure that your landing page is on brand. It may be tempting to get whimsical, but maintaining your brand identity is essential to running a business. If your site is usually minimalist, keep the same aesthetic for your email marketing promotions. If you really lean into extravagant designs, then do the same for your holiday email campaigns.

Different Types of Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns

Now that I’ve covered the theory, why don’t we take a look at some examples?

A photo of many gifts with overlaid header text: “Different Types of Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns.”

This holiday season, take a close look at your marketing materials. Evaluate your marketing automation and decide which customers to target. Then, start building!

I obviously can’t tell you how to create a holiday email campaign, but I can help! I’ve done a bit of searching, and I’ve pulled some of the best examples I could find of amazing holiday sales, promotional emails, and holiday email marketing.

The Curated Holiday Gift Guide

Curated holiday gift guides are some of the most common holiday shopping emails. Everyone sends out at least one gift guide as part of their holiday shopping flow, but that doesn’t mean this is a holiday email marketing campaign you should ignore!

These email campaigns are meant to guide holiday shoppers through the arduous process of picking out a gift. In most cases, they will also come with a special holiday sales code or discount.

Aside from the obvious title, you can also switch your campaign subject lines up a bit with openings like:

  • CEO’s Top Picks
  • Crafty Gifts for Crafters
  • Top x Best Holiday Gift Ideas for y
  • Wonderful Winter Deals for Friends

I want to especially point out the CEO email marketing campaign. It may seem odd to send out an online gift guide that’s allegedly curated by the head of your brand, but this strategy is actually a great way to pull in some mobile shopping traffic. People actually enjoy seeing these email marketing campaigns from time to time. They’re unique and personal. And, above all, they portray your brand as a small business with a real person at the top.

To wrap this segment up, let’s take a look at this example from Straightforward…

A holiday email marketing example from Straightforward. The header reads, “Gift Market.” Beneath this are two banners. According to one banner, the brand will offer free shipping for the season.

This is one of the most straightforward holiday emails out there. It may not be the most creative option, but it definitely makes an impact. The colors are bright and festive, and the meaning is clear.

This is what your holiday emails should look like. You want your brand identity to shine through the coat of holiday season paint.

Last Minute Deals for Shopping Online

If you’re a fan of planning ahead, this may come as a shock…

79% of the population goes to shop online during the last two weeks leading up to Christmas. This means that many customers will be looking for free overnight shipping and expedited orders.

To accommodate this massive chunk of the population, you’ll want to have a last-minute holiday email campaign for the procrastinators.

As you craft these holiday emails, be sure to pay close attention to your language. You want to start offering “fast shipping” instead of (or in addition to) free shipping. This will appeal to the majority of these last-minute email subscribers and help you send the right message.

Giving Tuesday

Created as a way to combat the materialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a special day for any holiday campaign. Regardless of what you may be selling, this particular date is the perfect time to showcase some charity.

An example email campaign from Honey. The header reads, “We're dropping $1 million to help pay for gifts.”

In this example from Honey, you can see all of the hallmarks of a great holiday email marketing campaign. It’s short, straightforward, and visually appealing. Viewers can easily open it and get the entire message without needing to spend more than a minute or so on the campaign.

Before you choose a charity to donate to, be sure to study your target audience.

It may sound shallow, but you want your donations to be something your customers will support. Otherwise, people will avoid purchasing from your store.

Push Those Gift Cards!

(Let me start out by saying that even after your campaigns have wrapped up, this tip will work for your post-holiday emails.)

Gift cards might just be the best holiday marketing tool in your arsenal.

Think of it this way: gift cards are a great idea if you don’t really know what someone wants. You may know the type of gift that someone likes, but trying to find the perfect thing can be difficult. That’s why gift cards are part of the “essentials” section of any holiday email marketing guide.

Jenni’s holiday email marketing examples included this marvelous design for a simple gift card push. It promotes gift ideas, but it also pushes the flexibility of a gift card…

A sample email from Jenni’s with a photo of an orange gift box. The header promotes gift cards, and the CTA says, “Order Now.”

Keep in mind that these campaigns shouldn’t push too hard. You don’t want to make people feel inconsiderate or as if they don’t know their friends and family. Instead, you’re conveying the utility and versatility of a gift card.

Small Business Saturday

For newcomers, there’s a new holiday: Small Business Saturday!

This option is for a different target audience than most people would expect during the holiday season. Rather than appealing to the broadest possible audience, brands taking part in Small Business Saturday are putting themselves out there for the folks who are absolutely sick of Black Friday!

Keep this fact in mind as you make these holiday campaigns. You’re not aiming to attract the largest audience. Instead, you want the most interested audience.

The Holiday Email Marketing Wrap-Up

So, what does all of this mean?

This is a lot of information to cover. It may seem easy to make a successful holiday email campaign on paper, but the holiday season can quickly prove that your confidence was misplaced. If you’re planning on having a lucrative holiday season, then one of your best bets will be to find an email marketing agency to help.

A photo of gift boxes with overlaid header text: “The Holiday Email Marketing Wrap-Up.”

The Email Marketers is always here, and we can be the best holiday email marketing tool that you’ll ever have! In addition to being able to appeal to the whole gamut of holiday shoppers, a skilled agency will also implement and execute all of your marketing automation.

If you’re still looking for ways to improve your email marketing, then don’t forget to check out the rest of my blog! I’m always updating my page with new tips and tricks. You can also drop by and contact me! I’m always happy to help, and I would love to see what I can do for your brand.