The Anatomy of the Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

Learn how to create effective holiday email campaigns that stand out in crowded inboxes and drive conversions.

By Will Blunt ・6 min read
Email Marketing

Online sales during the holiday season are HUGE - we’re talking north of $100 billion a year - and email campaigns are responsible for 20% of all online holiday visits.That’s pretty astounding, isn’t it, considering how much big brands spend on social media marketing and advertising.The real kicker? Consumers who purchase products from an email campaign spend 138% more.I guess it makes sense. The trust is already there - they have either purchased from you before or given you their contact details.But with over 100 million emails sent on Black Friday alone, how do you stand out in the inbox of your prospects?There’s a formula to it. I’ve broken down the best holiday email campaigns and come up with six tips to set you up for the spending frenzy to come.

1. Create hyper-targeted emails

It’s no secret that email personalization is a critical part of email marketing in 2021, with ​​80% of people more likely to buy from a brand that provides a personalized experience.Your holiday campaigns are no different. In fact, with so much additional inbox competition at this time of year, personalized messages become even more important to catch people’s attention.Email personalization all starts with list segmentation. The more data you collect on the people in your database, the better you can segment it into relevant groups and send targeted email campaigns.Then, when it comes to Halloween, Black Friday, and beyond you’ll be armed with the information you need to cut through the noise.One example of hyper-targeted holiday email is to include product recommendations based on interests, previous email interactions, purchase behavior, or website activity.I received the below Christmas email from a local jeweler that I had purchased a gift from before. They personalized the subject line with my wife’s name! Now that’s smart personalization.


Personalized Christmas Email Campaign

2. Use emojis in your subject lines

As I mentioned before, you are in an intense battle for inbox attention during the holiday season. Just about every brand is jumping on the bandwagon and sending sales emails.One way to stand out in your customers’ inbox is by using emojis. On average, subject lines with emojis have a higher open rate than those without. Whether it’s the visual cue that catches someone’s attention or the way emojis soften the mood due to their casual nature, either way, they work.For example, in a study conducted by Return Path, the average open rate for New Year’s promotional emails was 18%. However, when an email included a confetti ball (🎊) or Champagne bottle (🍾), the open rate jumped to 22%. These incremental improvements can be significant.The most common place to use an emoji is at the start of a subject line because it is the first place someone looks. Like this Black Friday email from Vistaprint:


Black Friday Email Campaign Using an Emoji in the Subject LineOr this Christmas Eve email from a local Lebanese restaurant, Teta’s:


Christmas Email Campaign Using an Emoji in the Subject LineHowever, you can also use emojis in the middle of your subject or even at the end. The end placement is more subtle, but it still has the eye-catching color contrast that you’re looking for. Like this email from EatClub:


Christmas Email Campaign Using an Emoji in the Subject Line

3. Make gift shopping easier with gift guides

I mentioned product recommendations when referring to email personalization, but there is more than one way of utilizing this tactic. Gift guides are an excellent way to assist customers in the buying process, especially when Christmas is on the horizon.It’s best to send out gift guides early on in your holiday email schedule so that it gives customers time to make a decision. They’re most suited to the “discovery” part of the buying process - not when someone has already decided on what gift they’ll get.If you have an active blog, you could publish an extensive gift guide on your website - which will also help with SEO. Alternatively, you could include the whole guide in an email campaign.Here is a holiday email campaign from Hims using the gift guide strategy - you’ll notice it has a 25% off gift coupon, too, which will likely increase conversions.


Holiday Gift Guide Example - HimsFor another example, check out this email from Orangewood. I like how it breaks the guide down by customer persona - “The Traveler” and “The Pro” - while it isn’t necessarily a segmented email, it shows they understand who their audience is.


Holiday Gift Guide Example - Orangewood

4. Persuade action with timebound offers

Catching your audience’s attention is one thing, but persuading them to take action is another. Remember, they are inundated with emails, gift guides, product recommendations, and other marketing paraphernalia at this time of year. You need to give them a compelling reason to purchase from your business.You can entice your customers to take action by using urgency and other valuable offers that are only available at this time of year. Timebound sales periods, discount coupons, free shipping offers, and specific shipping times for gift purchases are all examples of tactics you can use to tip the purchase scale in your favor.Creativebug, for example, uses the holiday season to increase subscriptions to their arts and crafts class platform in the email below. The email is Christmas-themed and promotes a very clear and compelling offer at the top - two months off and a 50% discount for life.


Timebound Christmas Email Offer - CreativebugBooktopia, an online bookstore, has taken the “Flash Sale” approach to encourage customers to purchase. The banner at the top of their email is clear and concise, Christmas-themed, and in-built with urgency.


Timebound Christmas Email Offer - Booktopia

5. Include social proof to build trust

Just because someone is signed up to your email list doesn’t mean they trust your business enough to purchase from you. People are naturally skeptical and need to be convinced of the quality of your product or service at every opportunity. In fact, 92% of online shoppers look at product reviews before making a final decision.Yes, having reviews, testimonials, and other social proof factors on your website is critical. But before they even make it to your website, you can also include social proof in email campaigns.For example, Edible Blooms includes a “Happy Customers” section at the bottom of this Christmas email with a small panel of customer photos. It could be the difference between someone clicking or not clicking on your call-to-action.


Social Proof in a Holiday Email Campaign

6. Be conversion-focused

A consistent element of all these successful holiday email campaigns is that they have a focused conversion goal. Basically, they include one primary call-to-action in the emails so that it is super easy for users to know what they should do next - click on the button.Obviously, when it comes to holiday emails, your goal is to encourage customers to visit your online store and shop. So, use that language in the email and repeat it throughout.This simple email from Onsen is a great example. After reading it, the only option you have is to “Shop the Sale” because it’s the “Best Black Friday Ever.” Simple but effective. Using such a straightforward design also optimizes your campaign for mobile users - which, as you know, is a large portion of shoppers.


Conversion-Focused Email from OnsenA subtle alteration to the primary call-to-action being the focus of your email campaign is to reinforce the offer. For example, Furbo is offering $110 off its dog camera in the Christmas email below. This deal is mentioned in the subject line, the top banner, the email's text, and the call-to-action button at the bottom. Repetition of your key message really drives it home and increases the chance of action.


Conversion-Focused Email from Furbo


As you are planning your holiday email calendar this year, have these tips at the front of your mind.How can you segment your audience to provide more targeted offers? Would a gift guide be beneficial to your customers? Could you use emojis, social proof, and a single call-to-action to improve the success of your campaigns?In the end, have a bit of fun with your email campaigns this holiday season, and you’ll reap the rewards!

About the author

By Will Blunt ・6 min read

Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.

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