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Holiday Email Marketing Tips and Best Practices

Veronica Covdy

Customer Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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In the Sex and the City movie, Big can’t find his own words to apologize to Carrie for jilting her at the altar, so he plagiarizes love letters from famous men to their paramours. While these missives helped win Carrie back, it was the simple, sweet letter from Big that actually swayed her — and it will be your original words that win over your customers and drive your holiday sales.

Last year, email was the third-highest revenue driver for Cyber Monday, at 24.2% of sales. To lure in your share of the revenue, you’ll need to take a cue from Big: be inspired by others, but ultimately write something from the heart. Here are some holiday email marketing tips to drive great holiday results from your email campaigns.

Start Planning Early

If you haven’t started planning your holiday email marketing campaigns, organizing your email list, and choosing your messaging now, you don’t have a moment to lose. Before you know it, the pumpkins in stores will be replaced by elves. When that happens, you want to be ready to send your missives. Customers are already knocking out their Christmas lists. According to TrendSource, 54% of consumers wrap up their holiday shopping by Cyber Week. Figure out the basics of your campaign: the overall theme, your promotions and deals, and the channels and tactics you’ll use.

Segment Your List

The best way to win over your audience is to make them feel like your email was written specifically for them. While too much segmentation may make it harder to optimize your email for each segment, you can use mass personalization. This creates broad customer segments and puts them together like puzzle pieces, giving you an infinite number of combinations to use based on purchase and viewing history, buying frequency, geographic locations, and other factors.

Mass personalization allows you to build relatively broad primary segments with clear and well-defined actions for each, and then combine them into much narrower segments without needing to specify each micro-segment. For example, if you are an apparel brand, having a "male" segment (that will only include men's fashion in email), a "25-35" segment (which selects patterns and cuts that are a little bolder), and a "lives near beach" segment (which sends more beachwear than parkas) can allow you to send out the perfect swim trunk suggestions without having to actively build out a "25-35 man who lives by the sea" segment.

Write Straightforward Subject Lines

Your subject line is what will hook your target audience. According to Convince & Convert, 35% of emails are opened solely based on their subject lines. On average, people receive 90 business emails each day, so it's very easy for an email to get lost in the shuffle. Additionally, make sure to keep your subject lines straightforward and set the right expectations for your customers.

If you’re offering a Black Friday promotion, use that in your subject line. Also, while it may seem less creative, using the terms “deals” and “sales” in your subject line have been found to boost opens. In general, subject lines should be short (i.e., no longer than six to 10 words), action-oriented, and urgent.

Present Your Offer Right Away

Your email subscribers are going to be wading through a lot of emails this season. In your message, make sure your offer is front and center: bold letters, right at the top. Keep in mind that subscribers may block images (this is a feature in many email service providers), so having a text offer in your email is critical to catching their attention. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use images, but images can’t be the only content in your email.

Provide a Gift Guide

Holiday shoppers may know exactly what they’re looking for — or they may need a few ideas to help get them in the holiday buying spirit. Giving them options, like the best gifts for guys under $25, can help nudge them to the checkout. You can use categories like prices, who the gift is for (Mom, Dad, coworker, teacher), hobbies and interests, age groups (teens, tweens, seniors), and product type for even more targeted options.

Be a Little Cheeky

Connect with your recipients by using a pop culture reference or being a little tongue-in-cheek, if that’s what your ideal customers like. A timely reference, or even a classic holiday reference, can make them smile and get them to click through to your offer. Keep it fun, keep it light, but most importantly, keep it engaging.

Use Urgency

Everyone has a little FOMO, and that extends to holiday deals. Provide a limited time offer, like a sale that ends on Cyber Monday, to encourage your audience to buy now. You can even throw in a free gift or an extra incentive to encourage them to take action now instead of waiting until the last minute.

Don’t Forget Your Footer

The footer of your email is the difference between signing your love letter “See ya!” and “All my love.” Use your footer as the last opportunity in your email outreach to woo your customers by promoting a gift guide on your website, gift cards, or the last order and shipping dates to have your gifts delivered by the holidays.

Your holiday emails are your love letters to your subscribers. You can charm them by tailoring messages to them and being straightforward with your offers. A little humor, a little urgency, and a strong closing in your emails can go a long way to bringing them closer to you.

Are you interested in learning more about how to launch your very own holiday marketing campaign? Check out some of our other pieces of holiday-related content.

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