How to use Holiday Email Marketing to build Customer Engagement

Written by: Chris Donald

Published on: 08-18-2020

Chris is Managing Partner at InboxArmy and has more than 25 years of experience in email marketing

Digital marketing and new tools have opened doors for new avenues to communicate with customers, but email marketing remains the popular channel for customer outreach and relationship building. And the best opportunity to connect with the audience is holiday email marketing. Holiday emails enable organizations not just in building a relationship with the customer but have also shown increasing click through rates and open rates.

So, if you are looking to craft a holiday email marketing strategy, here are a few things to help you get started.

How Holiday Email Marketing Adds Values to Your Business

Several factors drive customer behaviour, but some of these patterns haven’t changed much. A look at the global audience will tell that most of the purchase decisions or business closing have always been higher during essential holidays. And according to research by the National Retail Federation, holiday sales account for 20% of all purchases, amounting to $707.5 billion in 2018 alone.

But while holidays have played an essential role in email marketing, recent events have triggered email marketing to be crucial. The pandemic has impacted almost every business unit and industry, but this impact is not entirely negative. There is a sudden spike in demand for products that are helping people to cope with the pandemic and the long hours of isolation. As the world spends more time indoors and there are lockdowns enforced in several geographies, people are looking to make the most of their time at home.

As per research, the sale of essentials globally is around $40M-$50M. But the ‘new essentials’, like telecommunications, education, office supplies, home furnishing, health and beauty products, activewear and others have seen sales of up to $140M. What this tells us is that buying patterns and consumer behaviour have changed and this is an excellent opportunity for enterprises to tap into. Email marketing will be the gamechanger in this scenario, as the face-to-face sale or other avenues of marketing are now limited.

So, holiday email marketing, especially since the pandemic, will play a key role as:

  1. It provides the opportunity to reach out to the target group and stay relevant
  2. Helps to increase sales as customer interest in the ‘new essentials’ is at its peak
  3. It increases the chances of a purchase or influence buying decision if timed correctly

When to plan holiday emails?

Every country has its major holidays, and see peak sales times. This means that if you are in the United States, the important holidays are during Christmas, New Year and Black Friday sales. In Asia, Chinese New Year will see the best results while in India, this could be around Diwali.

So, to make the best of your holiday emails, you have to know which are the dates that you will be targeting well in advance. This planning helps to create not just email marketing but overall decisions like launching new products, sales discounts and other essential strategies that drive revenue. To know when to email, consider the following:

  1. Where your target audience is located? In case you have a mix of several geographies, ensure you segregate your email list to send out targeted campaigns.
  2. What does your target audience do? This may not always hold ground, but if your target is doctors or medical workers, wishing them on doctor’s day can have an impact. Even though some may not celebrate the occasion, sending an email will help to create a lasting impression.
  3. Religious festivals or cultural holidays: While most brands avoid any religious holidays, it can help to give your emails a personal touch. However, know that you need to be very careful about your campaign audience when sending out these emails, as sending it to the wrong person can be a deal-breaker.

A step-by-step email marketing strategy

Once you create a holiday email calendar for your email marketing, it is time to get down to business. To get the best results, here are a few tips to help you set the right context:

Build your campaigns early

If you are planning to send New Year’s greetings to your contacts, know that most of them will have their holidays planned around that time. To ensure that your customers are reading your emails, you need to create email campaigns early on, preferably 10 to 15 days before the actual holiday. In case you are providing discounts or a sale, start announcing it in advance. In this way, you give your customers enough time to make the purchase.

Segment the list

Not all holidays apply to all contacts, and there’s no point sending the email to the wrong person. So, email list segmentation is essential, for it allows you to send relevant and targeted emails to the right group. In addition to sending the right holiday emails, the new compliance laws require you to send only the relevant emails to your contacts. This means if a particular connection has opted only to receive emails on a specific product or service, you should not be sending promotional or holiday emails.

Choose the right theme

The holiday email is not just a boring newsletter; it should have fun elements that capture the essence of the holiday. Even in professional B2B emailers, the holiday email can have informal content and features. For example, you can wish people trick o treat during Halloween, and explore several design options to get the right response.

You can even explore several free themes online and opt for templates that are available with your email marketing tool. However, don’t just send a template as it is, make sure you are editing it to match your branding.

Create content that connects with the audience

Holiday email campaigns like any other email marketing need to have compelling content that the audience will love. This ensures that your emails have a high open-rate and also the right outcome. The best way to do so is to understand what the client needs, and not be too pushy or salesy. For example, the current crisis had led to job losses, and the purchase patterns have changed. In such a scenario, creating email campaigns that provide tips to use your tool better or a gifting guide can make much more sense. In any holiday email, EMPATHY is the fundamental emotion to harness.

Launch exclusive discounts if possible

If you are targeting holiday emails for driving revenue, providing a sale or discount offer is a great option. The major holidays have driven the maximum sales for companies. As per research, 27.3% orders on Black Friday are driven by email marketing, and an average shopper spends $850 on holidays. So, strategize for exclusive deals and discounts depending on each customer behaviour and lifecycle to get amazing results.

Moreover, make sure your Call To Action (CTA) is compelling and time-bound. This strategy increases the chances of purchase since limited-time discounts are highly enticing and no one wants to miss out on a great offer!

Optimize for mobile

Smartphones are booming, and roughly half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. This means that if your emails are not optimized for mobile, you will be losing out on your key audience. According to Adobe’s holiday sales recap showcased that mobile accounted for 60% online traffic and 40% online holiday sales.

To optimize your emails for mobile, a simple checklist would be:

  1. Selecting email templates that are optimized for mobile. This means the images and the icons used are responsive and resize as per the screen on the mobile device.
  2. Optimizing images to be attractive but not too heavy in terms of size
  3. Creating content with short sentences to make it easy to read on mobile screens

There are several other ways to optimize for mobile, and most email marketing tools have mobile-optimization as a key feature.

Add your social media presence

The holiday email marketing strategy should also fit in with your overall digital marketing strategy, and most of your audience spends a significant amount of time on social media. So, it is worth considering to add social media buttons to your email. As most shoppers look at online profiles and reviews before making a purchase, adding social buttons creates value and helps your audience connect with you on several channels.

Send out test emails before the actual

Finally, once your email campaign is ready, don’t just shoot it out. Make sure to send out a test email internally. Make sure all the links are working, and images are loading correctly. And if there are any typos, this is the opportunity to correct them. This helps to create a check and stops any wrong information from going out to the audience.

Additionally, once the emails are sent, track the metrics like open rate, successful deliveries, bounce rate, etc. This helps to understand whether the email is having the right impact on your target audience.

How to plan your holiday emails?

As we discussed earlier, there are many email options for a holiday, and each has its own impact.
So don’t just send one email and expect the results to start flowing in. It is important to send out multiple email campaigns depending on the strategy you’ve opted for. For important events and discounts, you can create campaigns like:

Save the date / Heads up on upcoming discounts

These are emails that announce an upcoming sale or provide a heads up for a holiday season offers. Also called the ‘teaser’ email, the whole idea is to get the customer excited about what’s coming.

Email on the actual holiday

Starbucks has always done a great job connecting its products with customer emotions, and it does so in its holiday emails too. It has done a great job with the subject line also, which is what gets the high open rates.


No flowers, but all of the chocolate

Seasons greeting with the discount code

Here’s an example of how a holiday email can not just be strong sales but also driving customer engagement. Campaigns that do not push the deal and instead drive interaction are more likely to lead to higher success. This example showcases how the user is not tied in to buy from storEdge, and are being given a gift for just filling out a demo form.


Turbo Charge Your 2020 Holiday Email Campaigns

Although half the year is already behind us, the holiday season is still something your audience is going to look forward to. The first half of the year has seen massive disruption due to the pandemic, but everyone has their eyes set on the holiday season. So, start planning your holiday campaigns today, and use these tips and recommendations to build out email campaigns of your own.

About Author

Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies. For more information follow him on linkedin

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