holiday email auto respondersI really dislike holiday shopping. Like really, really hate it. Door busters, crowded stores, disorganized displays, wrong assortments, long lines, heavy shopping bags—no thank you! That’s why I do as much of my holiday shopping online as possible.

According to Deloitte, 47 percent of consumers say the Internet is their favorite shopping destination. This presents ecommerce retailers with a huge opportunity to wow customers with their email marketing. And while many retailers are utilizing email to increase sales this holiday shopping season (55 percent use email as their No. 1 holiday marketing channel, according to Accenture), few are putting enough emphasis on the emails with the highest open rates: close-of-sale auto-responders.

“From the time they place the order till the time they receive the delivery, users are most receptive to your messages,” says the team on The Moz Blog. When you purchase an item online, how many emails do you receive after your transaction is complete? There’s the order confirmation email, the shipment confirmation email and, sometimes, the ‘thank you for your order’ email, all of which, if you’re like me, you almost always open.

Retailers put a great deal of emphasis on delivering these emails quickly, especially during the holiday shopping season when pressure to get your gift to its recipient before Christmas is high. But as far as carrying through the holiday cheer from their initial sends, most are positively Grinch-like.

Take this order confirmation email I received this holiday shopping season. It arrived within minutes of my purchase. I opened it as soon as I received it, and then I promptly closed it and never looked at it again. (At least not until I decided to write this blog, of course.)

thanks for shopping standard

And here’s the accompanying shipment confirmation with the same cheerless language and look:

shipment confirmation standard

These emails were exactly what I expected to receive; they got to the heart of what I wanted to know fast, and even though they were the same confirmation auto-responders the company always sends, I was satisfied. Or at least I thought I was.

Fast forward to last week when I purchased my mother a handbag from Zappos. Zappos, too, sent me order and shipment confirmation emails, but the online shoes and clothing company took it to the next level by re-working standard order and shipment confirmation language to really incorporate holiday cheer.

First, the order confirmation email:

zappos thank you for your order

And now the shipment confirmation email:

zappos your order has shipped

Wow. Two sets of emails from different companies with the exact same message told in very different ways. Like the emails sent from the first company, I opened Zappos’ emails as soon as my phone buzzed. Unlike the first emails, however, I didn’t immediately close or discard them: I kept them in my inbox, I showed them to my co-worker to use as an example of great holiday marketing in a blog she was writing, and I decided to write a blog about the emails myself.

Now, admittedly, I write email marketing copy as part of my job, so my interest in this is probably a tad higher than your common consumer, but there are a few points to be made here:

  1. A few small tweaks can go a long way: In a sea of order and shipment confirmation emails, a few small holiday-related copy tweaks was all it took for Zappos to really stand out. As I alluded to above, I’ve received a lot of order and shipment confirmation emails this holiday shopping season. I certainly appreciated receiving all the others, but Zappos’ emails were the only ones I enjoyed receiving—and talking about.
  2. Auto-responder emails should be great, too: This holiday season, I’ve seen some excellent examples of creative emails that convince me to click through. And while these initial emails are essential to an effective email marketing strategy, Zappos proves the power of close-of-sale auto-responder messages can have on brand reputation and customer satisfaction.

By carrying the holiday cheer throughout the entire email workflow, retailers can stand out in overcrowded inboxes and easily wow customers this shopping season. Don’t miss your opportunity to make a lasting impression this holiday season. There’s still time to tweak your close-of-sale auto-responders before Christmas!

Do you think carrying your holiday message through close-of-sale auto-responders matters to your customers? Why or why not?