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The Complete Holiday Ecommerce Email Marketing Guide [BONUS: 8 Templates Inside]

By Reading Time: 6 minutes

Online buying is huge around the holidays. According to comScore, consumers spent $53,3 billion online during the holiday season last year, up 15% from 2013. So for online retailers, the holidays mean more than family time and delicious food – it’s time to think about sales.

Last year email marketing drove 17.7% of online sales, so now is an important time to plan your email promotions accordingly. In this guide we’ll give you tips, dates to focus on, and 7 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.

Holiday Email Marketing Basics

The good news is that people are already in the mood to buy. They’re planning their gifts, hunting for bargains, and want to know about unique products. Statistics show that people don’t mind receiving emails from brands they trust. If your brand regularly emails customers, then they become familiar with you, which breeds trust.

Emails still work for inactive subscribers, even though it might look like your readers are inactive based on your email engagement statistics. It’s called the nudge effect. It reminds them of your existence, and nudges them towards action (in this case, going to your website and buying from you).

So don’t be shy, let your audience know about your products and deals, and do it often.

With all the sales potential, it’s important to plan ahead. Don’t leave your email marketing plan to the last minute. Take a look at our editorial calendar for some pointers.

Major Holiday Dates 2015

These are all the dates you should keep in mind for your promotions and sales. You don’t have to target all of them, just the ones that are most relevant to your store and your audience.

October holiday dates:
Canadian Thanksgiving – Monday, Oct. 12
Halloween – Saturday, Oct. 31

November holiday dates:
Thanksgiving – Thursday, Nov. 26
Black Friday – Friday, Nov. 27 (template below)

December holiday dates:
Cyber Monday – Monday, Nov 30 (template below)
Hanukkah – Dec. 6-14
Free Shipping Day – Friday, Dec. 18 (template below)
Christmas Eve – Thursday, Dec. 24
Christmas Day – Friday, Dec. 25
Boxing Day – Saturday, Dec. 26 (template below)
New Year’s Eve – Thursday, Dec. 31

Below is an image that outlines when most people planned their holiday shopping in 2014:

Deloitte When People Shop
Source: Deloitte 2014 Annual Holiday Survey

A sizeable portion of people did their shopping in November. Last year $2 billion dollars were spent on Cyber Monday, so Black Friday and Cyber Monday shouldn’t be ignored. However, sales continue right up to Christmas, so make sure you keep a good pace throughout the entire season. More and more shoppers are waiting until the last minute to do their shopping in hopes of scoring the best deals.

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

You can send out different kinds of emails during the build-up of the holidays. 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 pushes an on-the-edge customer to take the plunge and make the purchase.

Plus it’s also consumers’ most preferred offer from retailers:

Kissmetrics Free Shipping

Source: KissMetrics Blog

In fact, a survey conducted by comScore and UPS revealed that 83% of consumers are willing to wait a few extra days for delivery if the shipping is free.

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
  • Setting a minimum price for free shipping – to motivate people to buy more

Last year, BeHappy offered free shipping for the week of Black Friday.


2. 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, buy another for 50% off
  • Pick an entire category to go on sale
  • Free shipping
  • Spend a minimum amount and receive a free gift

Take a look at this flash sale example from J Crew:


3. New Product Launch

If you have a new product you’re planning to launch, wait until the holidays. Make a big deal out of it and send a dedicated email campaign. Remember that consumers want to buy. They’re looking for unique gifts, and your new product could be just what they’ve been waiting for.

Startup Vitamins recently came out with new embroidery hats, a sure hit for the holidays.

Startup Vitamins hats

4. 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 people to choose your store over a competitor.

Take a look at which product is 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.

5. 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. 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!

6. Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the days when internet buyers (and buyers everywhere) are expecting huge deals. These two days kick off the holiday shopping craze and usually turn up a lot of sales. Amazon reportedly sold more than 18 toys per second on Cyber Monday last year, and that was just for purchases on mobile.

Many retailers don’t just pick one day to focus on. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals have become a weekend-long thing, as people start to shop on Thanksgiving and continue even a few days after Cyber Monday. 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.

Here’s an example from Birchbox, which had an extended, 48-hour Cyber Monday sale:

Birchbox Cyber Monday

7. Last-Minute Rush Shipping

There are always procrastinators who leave their holiday shopping to the last minute. They’ll be thrilled if you can save them the time of dealing with overcrowded stores and get them their gifts on time, too.

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: Your Customers Want to Hear from You

People are buying during the holiday season, and your job is to remind them to buy from you (and give them a reason!). Send out frequent emails, 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.

There are a number of emails you can send this year, you just have to plan ahead and map out your strategy. We’ll give you a head start with our free email templates. Happy holidays!

Nora covers all things ecommerce for the Printful blog. She appreciates good dad jokes, new books, freshly baked cookies, and evening jogs.

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