When it comes to finding the perfect gift around the holidays, many of us do it online, avoiding the bustle of brick and mortar shops.
Online buying is huge during the holiday season. 65% of our holiday purchases are fueled by the promotions and sales we’ve come across.
In 2018, 7.6 billion email campaigns were sent by retailers during the Black Friday, Cyber Monday weekend alone. Those email campaigns raked in 24% of the total sales during that week.
Holiday email campaigns are a must to drive traffic to your online store during the holidays. So which are the holidays to market towards? In a way, all of them.
The holidays are your opportunity to craft creative email campaigns inspired by the celebrations. Studies show that shoppers who buy products they saw in email campaigns are likely to spend 138% more per order than those who didn’t see email offers. That’s some bulletproof logic right there.
See the end of the year holidays below. Keep them in mind for your email campaigns, deals, and sales. Check our full 2019 ecommerce holiday marketing calendar, too! You’ll learn the history behind every holiday, along with a plethora of tips for content and target audiences.
Now let’s jump into 10 holiday email marketing campaign ideas to get you inspired for creating your own online store promos!
10 holiday email marketing campaign ideas
We scouted our inboxes for some good holiday email campaigns and then turned them into creative sparks for your own awesome promos. Let’s go over why we think they’ll get you results and why you should base your campaigns on them.
1. Send a short and funny Halloween sale announcement
Who doesn’t love a good discount? 75% of consumers report combing through their emails just to find relevant discounts. Offer your customers what they want—a sweet discount wrapped in a fun email they won’t be able to resist. Here’s a Halloween email marketing campaign idea from Postable.
Subject: Humongous Halloweekend Sale 🎃
Why it works
The best part about this campaign is surely the GIF. It gets your attention right after you open the email and radiates this weird graveyard party vibe you just can’t help but giggle about. And that’s good because you want your email campaigns to spark emotion. Be it joy, surprise, or interest—it engages the reader and makes them more likely to read through the entire email.
Once they’re hooked, the customers are directed to the prominent call to action (CTA) button that encourages them to do a bit of shopping. We especially like that it’s contrasting to the email background and clearly stands out from the rest of the content. Read more about designing with contrasting colors here.
Lastly, we like how there’s little text in the email which makes it easy to read and quick to understand. The main offer is well presented, too—in capital letters, centered, and straight to the point.
2. Share a thank you letter with a referral code
Thanksgiving—a family holiday to give thanks, feast, and… shop? The holiday generated $3.7 billion in online sales and ranked as the third heaviest online spending day in 2018.
As unfestive as it may be, smartphones are present both at the Thanksgiving dinner table and on the couch (right there with you finishing your third consecutive slice of pie). It’s the perfect time to swoop into your customer’s inboxes saying thanks for their support and offering a sweet referral deal. Here’s how Ibotta did just that.
Subject: Happy Thanksgiving from Ibotta 🦃
Why it works
First off, you see the giant “$50” and instantly think it must be a good deal. The email has captured your attention so you’ll read on. The content is snappy and sweet—just the right length for a quick read.
We also like that the referral code is clear and stands out in the email. Plus, the header announcement “ENDS TOMORROW” creates urgency to act on the offer while it’s not too late.
Lastly, we think this holiday email campaign’s message was perfectly timed. Imagine, you get an email that gives you a $50 referral code to share with your family… right when you’re most likely with them. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
3. Create an early bird Black Friday sale
Pre-sale announcements are perfect for generating hype around your products. You give your customers some extra time to shop the deals presented in the email campaign.
Retailers focus most holiday marketing activities on the exact day of the holiday. So why not send out a pre-holiday email campaign to stand out? It’ll get your business more exposure in your customer inboxes. See this pre-Black Friday email campaign from Brooklinen.
Subject: It’s Go Time. Black Friday Starts Now!
Why it works
One of the best parts about this pre-Black Friday campaign is the urgency it creates. The GIF is lively and so is the campaign’s message “GO! GO! GO!”. It sets you on a race to be the first one to get the best deals.
What’s interesting is that Brooklinen hasn’t even specified what the deals are. They’re just urging you to shop with them. At this point you can’t even decide if the deal’s worth it or not, you just have to enter their shop and see for yourself.
The last thing worth mentioning is the tone of the email—casual and friendly. It feels as if your friend could have written it. How can you resist such a friendly offer?
Our tip? Place your customer at the center of attention and watch your email campaign click rates increase.
4. Announce an unexpected Black Friday deal
The average discount on Black Friday worldwide is around 55%. And it’s the one day of the year when customers expect nothing but major discounts.
So what better day to surprise your customers and not give them any deals? In fact, why not ask them for money? Let’s take a look at the email campaign Cards Against Humanity ran for Black Friday.
Why it works
Asking for cash and giving nothing in return is a tricky campaign to run. But it works if you’re a reputable brand and it ties together with your brand voice and the holiday you’re promoting it around. You might just get away with it… and collect $71,145 like Cards Against Humanity did.
Want to go with a similar Black Friday promotion for your store? Make sure it suits your brand. If your brand voice is usually happy-go-lucky, then this campaign will come off as weird or even rude.
If your brand voice is similar to Cards Against Humanity, then go for it! Take inspiration from the main idea of the campaign—do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. For example, when everyone’s sending out emails with “Black Friday special—get 40% off”, you could send something like “Black Friday who? Enjoy 0% off of your purchase!”.
5. Set up a sale countdown for Cyber Monday
Some people can’t wait for Cyber Monday to come (yes, even more than Christmas). The holiday raked in 16 million shopping transactions in 2018, surpassing Black Friday with 14.8 million. Talk about intense shopping sprees…
Check out this fun Cyber Monday email campaign Udemy sent out and see what ideas you can take for your Cyber Monday shopping extravaganza.
Subject: Just hours left of our biggest sale!
Why it works
When it comes to getting someone’s attention, yellow’s a good choice. The scattered objects perfectly illustrate that the sky’s the limit for learning new skills.
The contrasting color of the CTA button and the offer to shop $10 courses are both clever ways to lure in customers. Presenting your most affordable service or product is a good strategy to catch the customer’s interest.
The digital timer at the bottom of the email creates urgency. Similar to Ibotta’s announcement header, the countdown pushes to act while it’s not too late.
If the first part of the email didn’t convince you—Udemy has placed some of their courses in the bottom to spike your interest. They’ve also added the before and after sale prices so you know how much you’re saving, and good customer ratings as an extra push.
Looking for more Cyber Week promo material? Browse through our blog chock-full of Black Friday, Cyber Monday marketing ideas.
6. Do a bold Boxing Day sale announcement
Long before Black Friday, Boxing Day was the most anticipated shopping day of the year in countries of the Commonwealth (it’s still big in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
Historically, Boxing Day was the first weekday after Christmas Day when household employees were given Christmas boxes as presents.
Fast forward 200 years and the holiday has turned into unsold Christmas product chaos. Most retailers find themselves with extra stock after the holidays, so to offload the surplus, they hold clearance sales.
It’s not the case with online stores selling print on demand products with no stock limits… but your customers don’t need to know that. You can offer “everything must go” deals as it’s an industry standard and people expect that. Or you can also do a no-muss, no-fuss sale, like Amaroso.
Subject: 25% off starts NOW!! Our Boxing Day sale has come early?
Why it works
Amaroso’s forward “SALE” and highlighted “25% off storewide” offers are bold and that’s why we love them. Honestly, sometimes that’s all a customer needs to know. There’s a sale, you get % off, now shop—that’s it. Not every email campaign you send has to include an ode to explain the sale.
From the color psychology perspective, the red color they used is spot on. Bonus points because they included gold—it’s the classic Christmas color scheme.
Red is the most intense color and can provoke the strongest emotions—energy, alertness, power, sensuality. And you want your email campaign to create an emotion the customer acts on. In this case, get excited and shop while on that high.
7. Offer a free shipping bonanza
Giving free shipping is the most-used promotion for online stores. It’s also one of the biggest triggers that push customers to make a purchase. According to the Deloitte 2018 Holiday Survey, 72% of respondents claimed free shipping was the #1 perk they planned to take advantage of during the holiday season.
Here are some ideas on how to include free shipping in your holiday email marketing campaigns:
- with a certain expiry date or time;
- on orders over a certain amount;
- for an email exchange;
- on specific items.
Or you can delight your customers with free shipping—no strings attached—and just give a promo code without any order minimums! That’s exactly what ban.do did.
Subject: last deal! FREE SHIPPING + MORE
Why it works
The email’s like an explosion of bubble gum and happiness. The color scheme ban.do used for the email radiates calmness, peace, and optimism. It’s the absolute contrast to the Amaroso’s high-energy email campaign we looked at earlier.
Both campaign color schemes work great to evoke an emotional response for the customer. Ban.do’s email is successful because it sets the shopping mood to fun and relaxing.
This holiday email campaign gives customers two whopping reasons to shop with the brand—free shipping and a free product for orders over $30.
The “FREE” sign works well to draw attention. Who doesn’t enjoy stuff for free? On top of that, ban.do offers a freebie if customers spend over $30. That’s a good sales tactic to encourage even more purchases.
8. Share a Christmas gift guide
To calm your customers in their time of gift despair, send them a Christmas gift guide. It’s a way to put your products right in front of the customers, so they can make a purchase and be finally done with Christmas shopping.
There are two types of email gift guides you can make—with displayed products and without products, just linking to the store.
The guide with displayed products works well to offer an instant product browsing experience. The gift guide without any products creates mystery and may gather more clicks to your store. Let’s see the gift guide email Vans sent out:
Subject: The Vans Holiday Gift Guide
Why it works
We like this email because it’s just fun. Vans has created a little story wrapped in a bold cartoon. There’s a lot going on with the person in the trash can and the bunny sliding on the skateboard, but that’s what makes the email so interesting.
Vans links you to their store with a CTA button “Shop gift guide” and that completes the message perfectly. A graphic email like this doesn’t need product showcases, otherwise, it could end up looking busy.
Clear focus points, like the CTA button here, doesn’t needlessly confuse the customer with too many options. Here we see just two—enter the store or close the email.
9. Inform them about the holiday shipping deadlines
Last-minute Christmas shopping got you cornered? We’ve all been there and it’s not a good place to be. To help your customers buy their gifts on time, notify them of your holiday deadlines.
The holiday shipping deadlines are set by the shipping carriers. We add our order fulfillment time on top of those deadlines and finalize Printful’s order deadlines (bookmark the page, we’ll update it as soon as we get the carrier deadlines!). The dates in our order deadlines are the last days to place an order to get it in time for Christmas.
All that’s left for you to do is share the deadlines with your customers. It’s not an easy job as you don’t want to confuse your customers with various calendar screenshots and dates. Here’s how Asos took care of informing their customers about the holiday shipping deadlines:
Subject: Free Holiday Shipping Ends In Two Days
Why it works
We love the brevity of the copy. Less information means less opportunities to get distracted from the main CTA. In this case—shop now to get your goods on time for Christmas.
Usually, just the one button works best because it gets all the attention. The Asos’ email has three CTAs and it’s not a bad move. The three CTAs are Asos way of capturing whatever your interest is—be it to shop for items on sale, gifts, or party outfits.
Lastly, we have to mention the “snow joke” in the email. It made us chuckle internally so we approve. We addressed how valuable it is to connect with your customers even if just for a chuckle. It’s a way to build positive brand recognition.
10. Give a special New Year’s discount
“New year, new me” is the kind of attitude most people set for themselves when the New Year approaches. It’s the perfect time to reach out to your customers with relevant shopping suggestions.
Don’t want to get involved with your customers’ aspirations? There are many other content ideas you can use in your emails. Send out a greeting message, a new product launch or a themed NYE sale. Let’s take a look at Lord & Taylor’s clever New Year’s discount offer.
Subject: Special Email Exclusive Offer Only for You — Happy New Year!
Why it works
Simply put, we like the idea of the NYE-themed discount. This way, you’re celebrating the upcoming year and presenting your customers a discount that has added emotional value. Meaning, it’s not just a discount, it’s a gift to celebrate the New Year!
There are many ways you can play around with NYE discounts. This season, you can do a $20.20 or 20.20% off for specific products (or all your products!).
If giving discounts isn’t your jam, you can offer your clients free shipping until 20:20 PST or for orders over $20.20. To create urgency, you can also create an email campaign with a 20h 20min sales countdown to celebrate the upcoming year.
Use whichever idea you find the best for your store and products. Focus on the main message so your customers have a clear understanding of the email content and what they have to do after reading it.
Over to your holiday marketing plans for 2019
People are as busy during the holiday season and rarely does anyone have the time to browse the web for hours to find the perfect gift.
That’s where your email marketing skills come in. Take this opportunity to reach out to your customers and showcase your deals.
Use the holiday email campaign ideas we compiled in this post and create effective promotions. Even if your emails stay unopened, you’re making a connection with your customers.
So get busy, start mapping out your email marketing campaign strategy. We’ll give you a head start with our free holiday email templates with visuals—download them below. Happy holidays!
This article was originally published in September 2015; it has since been updated.