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The Complete Holiday Ecommerce Email Marketing Guide 2017 [BONUS: 9 Templates with visuals inside]

By Reading Time: 7 minutes

Everyone and their aunt knows that 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. And nowadays when it comes to finding the perfect gifts, many of us do it in online stores, avoiding the hustle and bustle of brick and mortar shops. Online buying is huge around the holidays. According to comScore, consumers spent over $63 billion online during the holiday season last year. That’s up 12% vs 2016.

This time of the year is not just about the yummy foods (ah… pumpkin flavored everything) – it’s all 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 Black Friday and Cyber Monday 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 is still a leader when it comes to generating effective results for holiday marketing campaigns. In fact, it is the most important vehicle for reaching new and existing customers during the holiday season.

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

Even though it might look like your readers are inactive based on your email engagement statistics, emails still work for inactive subscribers. It’s called the nudge effect. It reminds customers of your existence, and can indirectly influence people to visit your store and make a purchase. They will do so without ever opening your email.

To boost the nudge effect, come up with a subject line worth reading. Make sure it captures exactly what you want to influence. For example, if a store sends a message with the subject line, “$20 off your $75 Purchase! 2 Days Only!” you may not open the email but go directly to the site instead. Clearly, that email marketing would have been a success.

Take a look at the stats from Smart Insights. The study shows that over 55% of consumers don’t open the email, yet they keep the information in mind for later use.


Source: Smart Insights Developing Digital Marketing Skills report

So there’s no time to be shy, let your audience know about your products and deals, and do it often.

Make sure that your store and the emails you send out are mobile friendly. Statistics show that last year from November to early December, 50% of traffic and 30% of sales came from mobile devices. Given that we spend more and more time on our phones, it’s unlikely that these figures will drop this year.

Mark your calendar with these major holiday milestone dates

These are all the dates you should keep in mind for your promotions, deals, and sales. Take the list with a grain of salt, not all of these will be relevant for your brand and store. Pick and choose the ones you’ll benefit from the most. 


October holiday dates:

Canadian Thanksgiving – Monday, Oct. 9

Halloween – Tuesday, Oct. 31

November holiday dates:

Thanksgiving – Thursday, Nov. 23

Black Friday – Friday, Nov. 24 (template below)

Small Business Saturday – Saturday, Nov. 25

Cyber Monday – Monday, Nov. 27 (template below)

December holiday dates:

Hanukkah – Dec. 12- Dec. 20

Free Shipping Day – Friday, Dec. 15 (template below)

Christmas Eve – Sunday, Dec. 24

Christmas Day – Monday, Dec. 25

Boxing Day – Tuesday, Dec. 26 (template below)

New Year’s Eve – Sunday, Dec. 31

Below is an image that outlines when most people planned their holiday shopping in 2016:


Source: Deloitte 2016 Holiday Survey

A sizeable portion of people did their shopping in November. Last year more than $4.6 billion were spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. That’s no small number, so these two retailer goldmines shouldn’t be ignored.

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, and your ability to fulfill orders.

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

  1. 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.

Plus, it’s also consumers’ most preferred offer from retailers:Source: Deloitte 2016 Holiday Survey


In fact, free shipping trumps fast shipping. Only 13% of consumers indicated choosing 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
  1. Daily Deal or Flash Sales

Daily deals and flash sales are a great way to instill a sense of urgency. 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 go 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 H&M


  1. New Product Launch

Are you 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. Consumers are ready and want to buy. They’re looking for unique gifts, and your new product could be just what they’ve been waiting for.

  1. Deals On Your Hottest Products

One great way to boost sales for your online store is by identifying your hottest, best-selling products and offering them at a better price than usual. You know that people already like the product (proven by being a best seller), so it could motivate them to choose your store over a competitor.

Browse through your products, select the most popular and send out an email campaign announcing that it’s 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 all in a gift guide. You get to showcase some of your most in-demand products and appeal to a wider audience.

  1. Order-By/Shipping Deadlines

Notify your email list of your holiday deadlines. That’ll make it easier for your customers to buy their gifts on time. Keep in mind that a big portion of online consumers do their holiday shopping in November. 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 shippers – just calculate the amount of time it’ll take to produce your items. Check back here for shipping deadlines from UPS, FedEx, and USPS. We’ll update this post as soon as their dates become available!

  1. Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals

One thing is clear for sure – Black Friday is a season, not just a day. Some sales start as soon as Monday before Thanksgiving. Everyone and their mom is expecting great deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the two days that kick off the holiday shopping craze and usually turn up a lot of sales not only nationally, but here at Printful too. The timing is a factor as well. Reportedly, conversion rates on Cyber Monday in 2015 were the highest between 9 and 10pm. Most retailers don’t just focus on one of the days (remember, it’s a season). So it’s up to you which days you want to spend time on. Either way, you should 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 last year:


  1. 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.

Check back here for the 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 precise.

Conclusion: Online shoppers are eager to find the perfect deal

People are buying during the holiday season, and your job is to remind them to buy from you (and give them a reason!). Nobody has the time to browse the web for hours to find the best offers. Take this opportunity to send out frequent emails and re-promote your deals, even if they stay unopened – by reminding your email list that you have great products on sale, you’re nudging the recipient towards your brand and building familiarity. Your list will be glad to hear from you.

So jump on the bandwagon, start planning ahead and map out your strategy. We’ll give you a head start with our free email templates. Happy holidays!

Get Free Templates

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.

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  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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