The holiday season is one of the busiest and most lucrative times of the year for many businesses. Last year, holiday retail sales climbed 3%, which led to $626.1 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

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 2015, 48% of traffic came from mobile devices. In addition, a whopping 76 percent of Black Friday emails and 63 percent 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 button, or 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.

Email content ideas are abundant

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 on a regular basis and stimulate sales throughout the season. We have examples and content ideas for your holiday emails later in this guide.

Automation makes email more effective and efficient

The holidays are beyond 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. Check out these 9 inspiring examples that use marketing automation.

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

Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. In other words, it’s worth your time to add a subscriber’s first name to the subject line this holiday season.

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 the importance of free shipping to holiday shoppers jumped from 34% to 42% in 2015.

Holiday email examples to inspire

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

One of the biggest reasons shoppers wait until the last minute is because they aren’t sure what to buy. With just two weeks left in the holiday shopping season last year, 44.8% of shoppers said they were still weighing gift options.

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 offer girls content for girls and guys content for 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 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
  • Color
  • Product type (Electronics, clothes)

Give a gift for referring a friend

You can use the holidays to grow your customer base. How? 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.

Here’s a unique idea: send an email that connects one of your products to a holiday song or something in popular culture.

La Mer promotes its product through a unique connection to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’

Send last minute deals

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

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 next to 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, Shop Now, Buy Now, Get the Deal, Save 40%

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 of 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 home page or to a random spot on your website could cost you a sale.

Check out our guide to landing pages for holiday emails.

Wrap up

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. Get started on your holiday email marketing now.