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Holiday Email Marketing

Last Minute Holiday Email Marketing Tips


Email can drive between 8% and 33% of online and in-store sales annually. That’s a wide range. So, how do you push your numbers to the high end – particularly over the holidays? This is the million-dollar question – actually, billion-dollar. The National Retail Foundation estimates that holiday sales for the 2018 season could exceed $720 billion.

First, it’s good to know that it’s not too late to prep for holiday email marketing. Overall planning may start in June or July, but that’s often around technology optimization, which requires more lead time.  Email marketing strategies can be implemented in an agile, real-time basis.

Work Smarter. Be Efficient.

Marketing departments are often highly siloed, and email is just one tool in a multi-tactic arsenal. Be proactive and re-establish (or establish) relationships with all your marketing channel partners: traditional advertising, print, catalog, paid social, affiliates, search, product listing ads, and retail stores. Collaborate with channel partners and creative teams to provide a cohesive message this holiday season.

Partner with your creative team to ensure your email creative aligns with your other channels. Where possible pick-up and adapt creative treatments and copy from other channels and optimize to fit email.

Our brands see that at least 50% of subscribers are opening email on a mobile device. If this describes your subscribers think “Mobile First” when designing email. This approach influences subject line length, font and image size, location of call to action buttons/links, and the use of alt text. When brand guidelines allow, use live text instead of fonts embedded over an image. This paves the way for changes on-the-fly by the email team and is friendlier for mobile devices.

Now is the time to plan, build and code the extra email templates or modules for use during the holidays. Consult with your merchandising teams on how they prefer to present products and categories within an email template (hero, 2×2 or 3×3 grids/blocks, etc.)  Develop a set of pre-coded email templates or additional modules for use during holidays. All partners should agree to stick to these pre-coded templates for efficiency. It’s all about speed to last minute changes and the ability to be responsive to changes in product, price, promotion, and creative direction.

Easy Wins

  • Acquisition: Collect new email subscribers who come to your site by implementing Lightbox, pop-ups, and strategically placing the email sign-up at the top of your nav bar. But be sure your web team tests and monitors web traffic associated with these tactics and that the tactics are capturing customers and not deterring from the shopping experience.
  • Don’t Lose a Sale: Fine tune your abandon cart and abandon browse triggered emails. Consider updating timing, creative, promotional offers, and subject lines.
  • Post-Purchase Emails: Encourage additional purchases: self-gifting, impulse buys, and gifts of gratitude (unplanned purchases).  In 2017 we developed a “treat yourself” email campaign for a high-profile brand that had record open and click-through rates and drove significant sales volume. Rather than sending a holiday email on Dec. 25th, the brand sent an email the day after Christmas, encouraging subscribers to splurge on a gift for themselves.

Consider post-purchase product recommendations powered by predictive analytics or artificial intelligence. If possible, include relevant content blocks pulling from social media, blogs, or your content management system.

Getting Your Email in the Inbox

Both IP warming and domain warming should start now in anticipation of larger and more frequent send volumes in November and December. As your holiday send volume increases in frequency and volume, sudden spikes can cause email providers (like Gmail or Yahoo) to throttle the delivery of email to the inboxes of your subscribers.

Clean your lists. If you plan to start emailing inactive subscribers – contacts you haven’t communicated with for 9 -13 months – consider investing in a list cleansing service. Alternatively, consider a win-back or reactivation series for this segment. Include a specific call to action, creative, and an offer.

Getting Your Email Opened and Read

Year-end pressure to meet revenue projections leads to increased mailing frequency, which can overwhelm and repel subscribers – the opposite effect you want. Use your subject line testing learnings from 2017 to see what resonates with your subscribers. In addition to pushing a promotional offer and leveraging FOMO (fear of missing out), tap into other emotions like trust, exclusivity, curiosity, excitement, fascination, and gratification.

Make it Easy!

Make promo codes easy for customer to add-to-cart or purchase in-store. Use live text instead of text embedded in an image for promotional codes. Alternatively, add the promo code in the URL that will populate the subscriber’s check-out if your website has the technology. Retail stores should consider using add-to-wallet mobile coupons.

Expect Change

No matter how well-baked holiday your plans are remember that things will change. Be prepared to pivot quickly. Expect promotional offers, products, prices, creative to change daily.

Fight Battles You Can Win

Be prepared to explain “why” to leadership — why sending extra emails to 24-36 month lapsed subscribers or sending 6 emails to your entire active email list is counter-productive. Come armed with the acquisition cost of an email subscriber and the lifetime value of a subscriber. Show leadership the cost of the unsubscribe and what having emails diverted to the SPAM folder will cost the business.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

Holiday email peak sending is Monday, Nov. 19 – Friday, Dec. 21.  Know your brand’s holiday ship cut offs for standard, 2nd day, and next day delivery. Remind your subscribers when shipping cut off nears and work with your logistics team for shipping offers to off-set rises in shipping costs for last minute shoppers.

2018 Fourth Quarter Major Shopping Holidays and Key Dates

Pre-Black Friday: Starting Mon, Nov 19
Thanksgiving: Thursday, Nov 22
Black Friday: Friday, Nov 23
Small Business Saturday: Sat, Nov  24
Cyber Monday: Monday, Nov 26
Cyber Monday Extended: Tuesday, Nov 27
Giving Tuesday: Tuesday, Nov 27
Hanukkah Starts: Sunday, Dec 2
Hanukkah Ends: Monday, Dec 10
Green Monday: Monday, Dec 10
Free Ship Day: Friday, Dec 14

Aisling M.

Aisling is the Senior Manager of Email Marketing & Strategy at LiveArea. She is responsible for leading innovation in email strategy, best practices, and operational excellence. Aisling has more than 13 years of ecommerce and email marketing experience working with brands such as Proflowers, Harry & David, HSN brands, Motorcycle Superstore, and Discover Financial Services, as well as the email service provider BlueHornet (Mapp).