October 27, 2021

5 Holiday Email Marketing Strategies to Boost Engagement

Reading time about 10 min

Holiday email marketing offers businesses the opportunity to significantly boost their sales. This article shares some key tips and ideas to get ahead of your competition this holiday season.

It’s no secret that the holiday shopping season is huge for both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar stores. For many retailers, 20-30% of their annual sales are generated during the holiday season (according to the National Retail Federation).

Email is a popular choice of channel for holiday marketing campaigns thanks to its strong ROI. And with so much riding on a single shopping season, it’s more important than ever to think strategically about how your holiday email campaigns can stand out in the sea of holiday messaging.

Thankfully, you’ve got friends on the inside! Here are five tactics that you can incorporate into your holiday email marketing strategy to maximize success.

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5 Ways to Boost Your Holiday Email Marketing

1. Send targeted holiday email campaigns using segmentation

A targeted and personalized holiday email will have a much higher engagement rate than a generic holiday email blast. Segmenting your contacts is the most effective way to tailor messages to a customer’s specific interests and buying patterns.

Here are some ideas of effective ways to segment your holiday email marketing: 

  • Interests: Separate subscribers into groups based on previous purchase categories, or sections browsed on your website.
  • Year-round vs seasonal shoppers: Q4 shoppers have a different relationship with your company compared to loyal, year-round shoppers. Consider their needs and motivations so that you can customize the frequency, content, and timing of your next follow-up campaign.
  • Coupon lovers: Identify customers who frequently (or only) purchase with coupon codes to help effectively engage your most price-sensitive shoppers. Similarly, creating this segment will help avoid offering discounts to subscribers willing to purchase at full price.

In the example below, Airbnb not only offered a holiday-themed promotional discount but also included location suggestions tailored to the customer.

Airbnb example holiday email


Further reading: Using Segmentation in Your Email Marketing: A Comprehensive Guide

2. Leverage marketing automation for holiday email success

Reaching the right people, with the right message, at the right time, is the best way to increase email open rates and engagement. And marketing automation is your secret weapon for holiday email marketing.

In addition to sending engaging content, Sendinblue’s marketing automation can be used to support your CRM efforts by smartly cleaning, enhancing, and segmenting your contact lists.

Try marketing automation free with Sendinblue >>

Use these automation strategies to get the most from your holiday emails:

  • Set up abandoned cart automation workflows: During the competitive holiday season cart abandonment is rife, meaning abandoned cart emails are even more important for securing sales.
  • Target warm leads using lead scoring: Leveraging engagement details for customers and scoring contacts helps build consumer profiles to inform segmentation. Sendinblue automatically tracks user actions like clicks or email opens and lets you enable lead scoring based on this data. This way you’ll know which contacts are most engaged and can tailor your holiday email content accordingly.
  • Use a seasonal welcome email: During the holiday period you’ll likely get new subscribers signing up – to maximize on this set up an adapted welcome email with a special discount or holiday theme. This will help persuade the shopper to make their purchase with your company.

In the Black Friday email below, the customer is alerted about a product they’d previously been looking at, along with personalized recommendations. The intriguing “reveal new price” button effectively encourages the subscriber to click through to make a purchase.

Columbia Black Friday abandoned cart email example


3. Build a smart holiday email campaign schedule

To make the most of the holiday season it’s a good idea to start planning your email marketing schedule in advance, leaving enough time to prepare all the different elements.

However, while marketers have heeded the warnings not to wait until the last minute to start their holiday email marketing, some have now taken it too far!

The culture of sending lots of retail emails well before the normal holiday shopping period can cause general email fatigue – sending too early risks your emails being ignored by customers. Now more than ever, timing emails strategically is vital for engaging subscribers.

When is the best time to start your holiday email marketing?

The best timing for emails can vary significantly based on industry and target goals. Here are some factors to consider when building your holiday email schedule:

  • Your buying cycle: Determine when to start sending emails by working backward from the holiday using your average time to purchase. Then allow yourself a week or so on top of that. For instance, if your buying cycle is typically 1-2 weeks, start sending emails between December 4th and 11th to target Christmas shoppers.
  • Use logic: Shoppers still navigate the typical purchase funnel during the holiday period. Build campaigns to respect their stage of the buying cycle, starting by creating product awareness, then focusing on specific product features and benefits, and finally offering a promotion or incentive to secure the sale.
  • Follow up: After the holiday, follow up with a post-purchase email campaign designed to plant the seeds for future orders.

This example holiday email below offers a promotional discount in the post-Christmas period, by playing on the idea of buying the present you wish you’d received. 

To best prepare for the lash-minute sales rush, check out this article on planning for Green Monday.

Moment example post-holiday email


How many emails is too many?

It’s also worth considering your sending volume during holiday campaigns. If you’ve been quiet over email this year, don’t send a big wave of holiday emails all at once!

It’s better to start small and ramp up your efforts as the holidays approach. A good rule of thumb: don’t increase your year-to-date email frequency by more than 3X during the holidays. Otherwise your emails will start to look like spam, which can result in unsubscribes.

With the right schedule in place, you’ll have a solid plan for how and when to tackle your holiday email campaigns. This strategic planning will also lay the groundwork for the holiday emails that you’ll need to design.

4. Focus on holiday email content

Up to this point we’ve focused on the behind-the-scenes work you should be doing to improve email engagement. Now it’s time to build the holiday emails that will take center stage. The following tips will help you create emails that are sure to engage your audience.

Use fun, festive email designs

Consider how you can adapt your email design through imagery that evokes the holiday season. This doesn’t mean you should completely abandon your brand – instead it’s a chance to play around with your standard format to get subscribers’ attention.

In this holiday email, for example, Starbucks have kept their iconic green color while opting to add some red for a touch of festivity. 

Starbucks holiday email design


Need some inspiration? Sendinblue gives you access to over 25 responsive holiday email templates when you create a free account. You can then customize these to make sure they fit your brand.

Spend time on your email subject lines

Get your subscribers to open your holiday email by using attention-grabbing subject lines. To get you started we’ve compiled these lists of great examples, along with some top tips:

Provide value

When you send an email, you’re making a request. You’re asking the recipient to take the time needed to open, read, and (hopefully) act. To make it worth their while, you need to provide something of value. If your emails don’t pass the “what’s in it for me” test, then you need to go back to the drawing board.

One way you can do this in your holiday emails is by sharing useful information. Sure, subscribers want exclusive deals, but that’s not the only valuable thing you can offer. Use your emails to communicate important information like the last day for shipping in time for Christmas, when Black Friday promotions end, or when your inventory is running low on popular products.

During the peak of the holiday season, it’s also important to differentiate your brand from competitors. Think about what’s expected from your competitors and in turn what your business has to offer that they don’t.

5. Know what works for your audience

A good basis for your holiday email campaign is to focus on what you know has previously worked well for your audience. If possible, begin by looking back at data from previous years, including opens, clicks, and conversions. 

Try to work out the main reasons why certain emails were successful and reuse the same strategy. This might be the promotion offered, the subject line, segmentation, email timing, or another factor. And don’t forget it’s just as important to work out why something didn’t go well so you can avoid it for next time. 

Track your performance

It’s equally important to monitor the performance of your upcoming campaign, focusing on a measurable goal. For example, you might be aiming for higher conversion rates than average, or to beat last year’s sales.

Your efforts will be useful in understanding how your campaign performed compared to previous years, as well as informing future strategy. Not only this but monitoring your campaign metrics can help you identify any issues and address them as quickly as possible. 

With a marketing platform like Sendinblue, you can use email marketing analytics to accurately monitor performance in real-time to know exactly what’s working and what isn’t. 

Start preparing your holiday email marketing campaigns today

By following these tips you can help your business capitalize on the opportunities that the holiday period offers. For more ideas on how to best conduct your holiday email marketing, be sure to check out our other articles:

Download our 2022 holiday marketing calendar for a list of important dates and helpful tips for every month of the year! ⏬

2022 Holiday Marketing Calendar
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