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10 Holiday Email Marketing Campaign Ideas You Must Try in 2020 [Free Email Templates With Visuals Inside]

By Reading Time: 10 minutes

When it comes to finding the perfect gift around the holidays, many of us will do it online this year to avoid brick and mortar shops.

Online buying has always been huge during the holiday season. 65% of our holiday purchases are fueled by the promotions and sales we’ve come across. 87% of shoppers purchase gifts during holiday sales specifically to take advantage of the deals.

But as a result of the global pandemic, online sales have spiked and ecommerce experts predict they will increase even more this holiday season compared to last.

Holiday email campaigns are a must to drive traffic to your online store during the holidays. In 2019, 116.5 million emails were sent on Black Friday and studies show that shoppers who buy products through email are likely to spend 138% more than people who don’t receive email offers. That’s some bulletproof logic right there.

See the holiday calendar for 2020 below. Keep the dates in mind for your email campaigns, deals, and sales. Check our blog post on the 2020 ecommerce holiday marketing calendar, too! You’ll learn the history behind every holiday, along with a plethora of tips for content and target audiences. 

2020 ecommerce holiday marketing calendar
Ecommerce holidays, 2020

Now let’s jump into 10 holiday email marketing campaign ideas to get you inspired for creating your own online store promos!

Bonus alert! We prepared 10 holiday email templates you can download for free. Use them for your holiday promotions, daily deals, shipping deadlines, and more! You’ll find the link at the end of the post.

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 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 Designmodo.

Subject: 🐙🎃👻 Happy Halloween! Get 30% off Designmodo Shop and Market

Halloween holiday email campaign by Designmodo
Halloween holiday email campaign by Designmodo

Why it works

This Halloween email campaign is simple and straightforward, and that’s why it’s effective!

Be concise and clear with your email campaign like Designmodo here—list the discount in the subject line. You’ll get better open rates if you showcase your deal right away. And in the email itself, go for a simple illustration that doesn’t take away attention from the deal.

We also 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—centered, well-structured, and straight to the point.

Pro tip! Instead of giving a deal with a percent off, offer money discounts. Customers like to know exactly how much they’re saving and research suggests that people fancy money-off deals even more than free shipping. So this is what your next campaign might sound like—“use code ‘party’ to get $5 off of all t-shirts”.

2. Share a thank you letter with a referral code

Thanksgiving—a family holiday to give thanks, feast, and… shop? The holiday online sales passed the milestone $4 billion mark in 2019, with sales up to 14.5% compared to the year before.

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 during these challenging times and offering a sweet referral deal. Here’s how Ibotta did just that.

Subject: Happy Thanksgiving from Ibotta 🦃

Thanksgiving holiday email campaign by Ibotta
Thanksgiving holiday email campaign by 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 in person or at an online party. 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!

Early bird Black Friday holiday email campaign by Brooklinen
Early bird Black Friday holiday email campaign by Brooklinen

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 a Small Business Saturday deal

Every year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving people are encouraged to shop at their local businesses. Small Business Saturday is a smaller, more relaxed shopping alternative to Black Friday.

A lot of entrepreneurs have the wrong impression that Small Business Saturday is only for brick and mortar shops, but as an online business owner you’re also part of the movement! Use this opportunity to showcase your online business, like the family-owned tea brand Blooming with Joy did.

Small Business Saturday  holiday email campaign by Blooming with Joy
Small Business Saturday holiday email campaign by Blooming with Joy

Why it works

Similar to Designmodo, Blooming with Joy has gone the ‘’less is more’’ route and they’ve nailed it. You only need to take one quick glance at the email to know what they’re offering you—a $10 discount on all purchases worth $50 that will end on Cyber Monday.

Remember how we previously said that a money discount works better than a deal with a percent off? Blooming with Joy knows this well and that’s why they offered it.

5. Set up a sale countdown for Cyber Monday

Some people can’t wait for Cyber Monday to come (yes, even more than Christmas). Cyber Monday shoppers spent $9.4 billion in 2019, surpassing Black Friday with $7.4 billion.

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!

Cyber Monday holiday email campaign by Udemy
Cyber Monday holiday email campaign by Udemy

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?

Boxing Day holiday email campaign by Amaroso
Boxing Day holiday email campaign by Amaroso

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. Nowadays, 75% of shoppers expect free shipping even on orders under $50.

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 did.

Subject: last deal! FREE SHIPPING + MORE

Free shipping holiday email campaign by
Free shipping holiday email campaign by

Why it works

The email’s like an explosion of bubble gum and happiness. The color scheme 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.’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, 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

Christmas gift guide holiday email campaign by Vans
Christmas gift guide holiday email campaign by Vans

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.

Pro tip! Add a “Christmas gifts” category in your online store for the upcoming holiday season. It’s an option for your customers to browse present worthy products. And you can also link the Christmas Gifts category to your holiday gift guide 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. Remember that the holidays are a busy time for the post offices and some packages might get stuck, so let your customers know upfront that delays might occur.

Don’t confuse the shoppers with various calendar screenshots and dates—simply share the deadlines with your customers. Here’s how Asos took care of informing their customers about the holiday shipping deadlines:

Subject: Free Holiday Shipping Ends In Two Days

Holiday shipping deadlines email campaign by ASOS
Holiday shipping deadlines email campaign by ASOS

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 Rifle Paper Co’s New Year’s discount offer. Instead of just offering a discount, they also included a New Year’s gift guide with items like calendars and planners to get organized in the next year. 

New Year holiday email campaign by Rifle Paper Co
Happy New Year holiday email campaign by Rifle Paper Co

Why it works

Simply put, we like the idea of the NYE-themed discount, especially if it comes with a practical gift guide that makes it easier to find the right present.

 We at Printful are also fans of gifts that encourage us to become better at time management and planning. What a better time to receive such a gift than on New Year’s Eve!

There are many ways you can play around with NYE discounts. This season, you can do a $21.21 or 21.21% off for specific products (or all your products!).

If giving discounts isn’t your jam, you can offer your clients free shipping until 21:21 (PST) or for orders over $21.21. To create urgency, you can also create an email campaign with a 21h 21min 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 2020

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.

Una specializes in third-party logistics and knows Printful's Warehousing & Fulfillment services from A to Z. She enjoys digging deep into marketing psychology and developing her creative writing skills.


  1. Chase, Data-Backed Marketing at ReSci

    This is a great, data backed guide- thanks for all the cool infographics too.

    NRF survey data found that 9 in 10 shoppers said something convinced them to make a purchase that they may have been hesitant about (either in-store or online).

    Of those who said they were swayed, 64% said it was by an offer of free shipping and 50% said it was due to a limited-time sale or promotion; 33% said it was the ability to buy online and pickup in store.

    Shipping is definitely important!

    Just wrote a similar guide around trends/data-backed tips for the 2017 Holidays. Check it out and let me know what you think! (Linked it on “website”)

    Chase from ReSci

  2. Finnich vessal

    Thank you for a great post, Una Savcenko! It’s crucial to understand the finer points because it’s one thing to say email marketing has a huge ROI and quite another to really make your email marketing work!

    Segmentation helps marketers better tweak their content and get amazing results. Instead of a one-email-for-everyone, segmentation helps you understand the prospect’s journey and address special pain posts.

    Thanks for the post again!

    1. Una Savcenko Post author

      Hey, Finnich. You’re right about user segmentation—targeting your customers based on their relationship with a product/service is an important aspect of getting the most out of your email campaigns! And I’m happy you enjoyed my post! 🙂

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