The holiday season is drawing near. Amidst the good tidings and cups of eggnog, there will be loads of gift giving, parties, and shopping. What’s a marketer to do when the holidays roll around?

According to a study conducted by the National Retail Federation, 60% of millennials say they “love” holiday shopping. In 2015, Black Friday had the highest revenue of any holiday for 68% of surveyed retailers.

This season, you need email marketing that’s bright, merry, and impactful. That’s why we’re sharing 10 tips with examples for inspiration.

1. Know your dates

The first step to building successful seasonal email marketing is to know essential dates. Holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve fall on the same date each year, but days of the week shift. When you’re building a marketing plan, keep this in mind.
Here are your must-know dates for the 2016 holiday season:

Halloween – Monday, October 31
U.S. Election Day – November 8
Veterans Day – Friday, November 11
Thanksgiving – Thursday, November 24
Black Friday – Friday, November 25
Small Business Saturday – Saturday, November 26
Cyber Monday – Monday, November 28
Giving Tuesday – Tuesday, November 29
Free Shipping Day – Sunday, December 18
Winter Solstice – Wednesday, December 21
Hanukkah – Begins Sunday, December 24
Christmas Eve – Saturday, December 24
Christmas Day – Sunday, December 25
Boxing Day – Monday, December 26
Kwanzaa – Begins Monday, December 26
New Year’s Eve – Saturday, December 31
New Year’s Day – Sunday, January 1

2. Plan out your seasonal marketing

Marketers know that the holidays present a special opportunity to drive revenue. This season, approach the holidays with a solid, thought out marketing plan.

Based on the dates above, coordinate which ones you will send out emails for and what types of offers, content, and imagery each will have. You don’t necessarily need emails for every holiday, but you should be cognizant of which ones you’re going to market around.

Create your email campaigns in advance and decide how you can leverage marketing automation to do some of the heavy lifting for you this holiday season.

3. Let automated emails work for you

Manually creating every holiday email the day before it gets sent can be time-consuming any time of year. This season, you need automated emails you can create now that will automatically send to the right subscriber at exactly the right time. For example, you could create a series of emails to go out around Black Friday and Cyber Monday that begin a week before the date and then drip out every other day.

For example, that automated plan might look something like this:

• Friday – Black Friday Ramp Up email
• Sunday – Upcoming Deals email
• Tuesday – Promo Code for Black Friday email
• Thursday – Happy Thanksgiving email
• Friday – Black Friday Doorbuster Email
• Sunday – Cyber Monday Ramp Up email
• Monday – Cyber Monday Deals email

You can also trigger emails to get sent based on how your subscribers engage with your emails sending different emails and content to people who open and click versus those who don’t. You can learn more about how to set up and trigger these emails in our guide to Getting Started with Customer Journeys.

4. Give the gift of mobile-friendly emails

Today, about 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices. According to our research, email opens on mobile have grown by 30% since 2010. As time goes on, that number will just keep increasing.


Movable Ink reports 76% of Black Friday emails and 63% of Cyber Monday emails were opened on a mobile device in 2015. It’s mission critical that every email you send is not only legible on mobile, but looks amazing as well. If your emails don’t perform well on mobile, you’ll miss out on the chance to reach your subscribers throughout the holidays.


5. Use big, bold imagery

Marketers using big, bold hero imagery are getting results, and the holidays are the perfect time to show off the best of what you’ve got.

For example, Crate and Barrel sent out a sneak peek of Christmas items with a beautiful image of silver and gold decorative trees. The image reminds subscribers to start thinking about the holiday season, while encouraging them to keep Crate and Barrel in mind when it’s time to shop.

6. Send personalized offers to subscribers

Automation and personalization spell out huge results for marketers– 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.


This season, consider how you can personalize your campaigns to drive revenue.

Over the past year, you’ve been collecting data about your subscribers. You know what items they’ve purchased as well as how much they’ve spent. You also might know where they live, how old they are, and what they do for a living. All of this information can be used to create relevant campaigns that hit the right subscribers with the right information at exactly the right time.

For example, Philosophy might send out the following email message to anyone who has purchased skincare products in the past year. Philosophy knows that subscribers who are concerned about their skin will be interested in their new “skin-perfecting duo.”


7. Meet subscribers on social

The best marketing automation programs don’t rely on email alone. Instead, they integrate social media, content marketing, and paid advertising to get the best possible results. This holiday season, integrate your email marketing with social media.

One of our favorite ways to pair email and social media is by uploading email lists to Facebook. You can use these uploaded subscriber lists to run promoted social media campaigns to those who have already subscribed to your list. That way, your social media advertising is targeted to people who are already interested in your brand.

This holiday season, hit subscribers in multiple places. Send compelling emails, and check out Facebook’s Custom Audience Feature.

8. Remind shoppers what they like

The holidays are the perfect time to remind shoppers what they like, and what their loved ones will like. This season, consider sending out helpful gift guides that can help them select presents for friends and family. For example, Sephora sent out the following gift guide to promote its products to subscribers:

Pay attention to shopping carts as well. Online shoppers are constantly filling up their carts, only to abandon them before checking out. It’s estimated that an average of 68% of all online shopping carts get filled– and then abandoned.

Don’t let these shoppers forget their goods. The holidays are the perfect time to make sure your abandoned shopping cart emails are up to snuff. After someone fills up their shopping cart, send them an automated email a few days later reminding them to come get their goodies.


9. Invite subscribers to get to know you in person

Online shopping has become so big that many retailers forget about the power of connecting with subscribers in person. However, if you invite subscribers into your store, they’re likely to make a purchase once they arrive.

For example, Sur La Table hosted a nationwide pumpkin party on September 22. The retailer invited subscribers to the event via email. Sur La Table gave away treats, raffled off cookware, and offered exclusive deals that subscribers could only get by coming into the store.

10. Instill a sense of urgency

As the holidays draw nearer, it’s important to remind customers that they’ll miss out if they don’t act fast. With so many messages demanding their attention, you want your email to be front and center.

One of the best ways to create urgency is to pack it into your subject lines. You need subject lines that remind subscribers they will miss out if they don’t act. Here are some of the email subject lines that retailers have used. Each instills a sense of urgency for the subscriber:

• Hours left for FREE SHIPPING! Plus, White SALE savings!
• Until the end of the year, everything SHIPS FREE!
• Extended hours at YOUR local store
• Santa’s Last Call: 50% Off Express Shipping
• T O D A Y: 50% Off Pillows
• 25% off your entire purchase – today only

Remember, email isn’t over when the holidays end

Remember that the holidays don’t end once Christmas is over. Last year, Sephora sent out an email on December 31 encouraging subscribers to get over the post-holiday blues. It’s a great way to encourage post-holiday shopping and gift card spending.

Emails shouldn’t end when the holidays are over. January is the start of a new year, and you should have plans for your email marketing well after the holiday season and into next spring.

Wrap up

The holidays represent a huge opportunity for marketers, and email is one of the best ways to reach your audience. Be sure to check your calendar, come up with a plan, and follow our tips for a merry email marketing season.