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The Complete Holiday Ecommerce Email Marketing Guide 2018 [Free Templates With Visuals Inside]

By Reading Time: 6 minutes

Everyone and their aunt knows the holidays always come faster than expected. It might be September now, but it’ll be Halloween and then Cyber Monday before you know it.

When it comes to finding the perfect gift, many of us do it in online, avoiding the hustle and bustle of brick and mortar shops. Online buying is huge around the holidays. According to Statista, consumers spent over $108.2 billion online last season, up 14.7% vs 2016.

This time of year is not just about comfort food and pumpkin flavored everything. It’s about taking advantage of the buying frenzy to drive sales, and email is a great way to get that done. The average ROI (return on investment) for email marketing was $44 for every $1 in 2016.

So read on to find out some holiday email marketing tips, dates to focus on, and new ideas to use for your store!

Bonus: Download our holiday email marketing templates for your Cyber Week promotions, daily deals, shipping deadlines, and more! You’ll find the link at the end of the post.

Effective holiday email marketing

Although email marketing has been around the block a few times, it’s still a leader when it comes to holiday campaigns. In fact, it’s the most important vehicle for both customer acquisition and retention during the holiday season.

No one wants to be that annoying kid in the class constantly reminding everyone of their existence. Luckily, customers don’t mind receiving promo emails from brands they trust. If your brand makes a regular appearance in your buyers’ inbox, they become familiar with you. And familiarity breeds trust, which factors into decision-making when buying.

Even if your email stats give the impression of your subscribers being inactive, your emails are still at work. It’s called the nudge effect. It reminds customers you exist, and can indirectly influence people to visit your store and make a purchase without even opening your email.

You’ve got my attention: a straight-forward nudge from Netflix

To boost the nudge effect, come up with an email subject line worth reading. Make sure it captures exactly what you want to influence. For example, if your subject line reads “$20 off your $75 Purchase! 2 Days Only!”, people may not open the email, but go directly to the site instead. 

According to a study by Smart Insights, when seeing an interesting email in their inbox, nearly 50% of consumers don’t open it, but save the email for later. So don’t be shy, let your audience know about your products and deals, and do it often.

Make sure your store and email promos are mobile friendly. Statistics show that last holiday season, 52% of traffic and 33.1% of sales came from mobile devices. Given the amount of time we’re on our phones, it’s unlikely these figures will drop anytime soon.

Mark your calendar with the major holiday dates

Last year, a sizable portion of consumers did their shopping well before December, with November driving a whopping $50 billion in online revenue.

Source: Deloitte 2017 Holiday Survey

Below is a list of all the dates you should keep in mind for your promotions, deals, and sales. Not all of these will be relevant for your brand and store, so choose the ones you’ll benefit from the most.

October holiday dates:

Canadian Thanksgiving – Monday, Oct. 8
Halloween – Wednesday, Oct. 31

November holiday dates:

Thanksgiving – Thursday, Nov. 22
Black Friday – Friday, Nov. 23 (template below)
Small Business Saturday – Saturday, Nov. 24
Cyber Monday – Monday, Nov. 26 (template below)

December holiday dates:

Hanukkah – Dec. 2- Dec. 10
Free Shipping Day – Friday, Dec. 14 (template below)
Christmas Eve – Monday, Dec. 24
Christmas Day – Tuesday, Dec. 25
Boxing Day – Wednesday, Dec. 26 (template below)
New Year’s Eve – Monday, Dec. 31

Keep in mind that the holiday dates from Christmas to New Year’s are meant to boost post-holiday sales, and most likely won’t be used as holiday gifts. This is, however, a great time for people to spend their holiday money or gift cards.

7 Email Promotions You Can Run for Your Store

The build-up of the holidays is a great opportunity for you to send out different kinds of emails. From date-specific emails, to general emails based on your customers’ needs, the amount of discounts that you’re able to offer, or your ability to fulfill orders.

You’ll find templates for all of these promotional emails at the bottom of this post!

Free Shipping

Offering free shipping is the most-used promotion for online stores. It’s also one of the biggest triggers that push an on-the-edge customer to take the plunge and make the purchase.

According to the Deloitte 2017 Holiday Survey, 72% of respondents claimed that free shipping was the #1 perk they planned to take advantage of during the holiday season.

Interestingly enough, free shipping even trumps fast shipping. Only 13% of consumers said to prefer faster shipping over free shipping. You’re left with 87% that will take free shipping over any other offer.

Source: Deloitte 2015 Annual Holiday Survey & Deloitte 2016 Holiday Survey

Here are some of the ways you can implement free shipping deals:

  • Applied until a certain date – to stimulate orders on time
  • For an order of a certain amount or more – to stimulate large batch orders
  • One-day only free shipping – to boost sales and add urgency
  • Barter exchange (newsletter subscription) – to build your email list
  • Used on select items –  to boost sales for less popular items
  • Abandoned cart promo – to seal the deal

Daily Deal or Flash Sales

Daily deals and flash sales are a great way to instill a sense of urgency on Black Friday-Cyber Monday. The idea is that you offer one fantastic deal, but make it available for that day only.

The kind of deal is up to you. Here are some ideas:

  • Buy one product, get another for 50% off
  • Pick an entire category to put on sale
  • Free shipping
  • Spend a minimum amount and receive a free gift
  • Deals for pre-selected product sets

Take a look at this flash sale example from Forever 21

New Product Launch

Planning on launching a new product? Be strategic about it and wait until the holidays. Make a big deal out of it and send a dedicated email campaign. Shoppers are looking for unique gifts, and your new product could be just what they’ve been waiting for!

Deals On Your Hottest Products

One great way to boost sales is by singling out your hottest, best-selling products and offering them at a better price than usual. People already like the product, so it could motivate them to choose your store over a competitor.

Browse through your products, select the most popular ones and send out an email campaign announcing that they’re on sale. You could also offer discounted rates for those who purchase multiples.

Bonus: If you have several products that are best sellers, combine them in a gift guide. It’s a fun way to showcase them to a wider audience.

Order-By/Shipping Deadlines

Notify your email list of your holiday deadlines to make it easier for your customers to buy their gifts on time. It’s also a subtle way to remind dormant customers of your existence and nudge them to buy from you.

Holiday deadlines are usually predefined by carriers. All that’s left is for you to calculate the amount of time it’ll take to produce your items. Be sure to check back here for Printful’s shipping deadlines, we’ll update this post as soon as the dates become available!

Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals

The end of November cranks the national holiday shopping craze up to 11, and things get pretty intense here at Printful, too. Check out this video to see how we’re preparing for this year’s peak. Hint: we’ll be focusing on staff, stock, and equipment.

One thing’s for sure – Black Friday/Cyber Monday is a season, not just a couple of days. Some sales start as soon as the Monday before Thanksgiving. Everyone’s on the hunt for great deals – expect increased shopping and prepare desirable offers.

Take a look at an example from Book Depository, which offered special sales throughout the entire week of Black Friday:

So timing and planning is a huge factor. Figure out which shopping holidays you want to spend time on and map out your marketing strategy accordingly. If you’re low on inspiration, browse through this blog post chock-full of Cyber Week marketing ideas.

Last-Minute Rush Shipping

Let’s be honest – who of us hasn’t left their gift shopping to the last minute? We’ve all been there, including your customers. This is why they’ll be thrilled if you can save them the time of dealing with overcrowded stores and get them their gifts on time, too.

Once you know your holiday shipping deadlines, identify your very last shipping day, and send out a blast campaign with an invitation to take advantage of last-minute orders. You’ll most likely have to ship within your country to keep shipping times accurate.

Shoppers are waiting to hear from you

During the holiday season, people are as busy as they can get, making last-minute work deadlines and holiday preparations. So rarely does anyone have the time to browse the web hours on end in hopes of finding the perfect gifts.

That’s where your promo skills come in – take this opportunity to promote and re-promote your deals, and use email as one of your main communication channels. 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 email templates – make sure to download them below. Happy holidays!

This article was originally published in September 2015; it has since been updated.

Get Your Holiday Email Templates

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A self-proclaimed queen of puns with an odd passion for stats and all things UX / marketing. Has zero chill when it comes to overcomplicating… anything. Especially new feature development.
  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

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