5 Favorite holiday email subject lines that boost open rates

Ready or not—the holiday season is upon us. 

Some marketing professionals may have already started planning for their end-of-year campaigns, but others may be lacking the inspiration. 

Before we dive into some of our personal favorite holiday email examples (including holiday email subject lines), let’s first discuss why these are so important. 

Why your holiday email subject line matters

In most retail sectors, the holiday season drives an average of just over 20% of annual spending. That’s a massive opportunity for not only driving revenue, but continuing to build your brand and develop customer relationships. 

In 2018, holiday retail sales crossed the $1 trillion mark, with the average American shopper spending an average of $846 on gifts—and e-commerce spending in the U.S. hit over $123 billion. 

In 2018, holiday retail sales crossed the $1 trillion mark, with the average American shopper spending an average of $846 on gifts—and e-commerce spending in the U.S. hit over $123 billion.

Source: eMarketer

These numbers are essential for digital and email marketers since they’re directly influenced by the marketing materials sent out during the holiday season—especially emails. 

When it comes to drafting your holiday email marketing campaigns, your message means nothing if your readers aren’t compelled to open it in the first place. That’s why taking the time to craft the perfect email subject line is essential. 

Your subject line is the first piece of information your email subscribers see—it’s your message’s first impression. So it’s critical you don’t take the easy route on this step. 

Here’s the data: Over 45% of your subscribers are deciding whether or not to open your email based on the subject line. According to Invesp, nearly 70% of readers will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone. 

Crafting the perfect holiday email subject line

Your readers are probably expecting to receive a holiday greeting (or other holiday marketing materials) over the next few weeks, so make sure you’re taking the time to craft the perfect holiday email subject lines. 

If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself what type of subject line you’re going for. Yes, there are different types, and picking the right one sets the tone for your entire email.

Types of email subject lines include:

  • Informational

  • Personal

  • Urgent

  • Clever/Catchy

  • A question

  • Scarcity

  • An offer

  • A sneak peek

Types of email subject lines

Source: Campaign Monitor

When it comes to crafting a perfect holiday email subject line, keep these tips in mind:

  • Create something simple and short: The ideal subject line shouldn’t be longer than 60 characters. In fact, many mobile devices only allow for 25-35 characters.

  • Pique interest by using holiday terminology: Use words like “Holiday,” “Christmas,” or “Give/Gift” in your subject lines so your readers know what to expect in the message.

  • Promote your offers: Hinting to your message helps readers decide if your email is worth opening or not.

  • Make readers feel special: Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.

  • Avoid excessive use of caps lock and exclamation points: This will help you stay out of spam.

  • Get creative with emojis 🎅: Yes, they have a time and place—especially in holiday email subject lines.

  • A/B test before sending: You can’t guarantee the success of your holiday email subject lines, but you can test them. A/B testing allows you to test variations with samplings of your email list. The line that performs best is the one you send to the rest of your list.

5 of our favorite holiday email subject lines

So, you know why holiday email subject lines are vital, and you’re armed with tips to craft them. If you aren’t quite ready to hit the ground running just yet, why not take a look at some of our favorite examples to help spark your creative process?

1. Bare Bones

Subject line: Holiday Shopping, Simplified

The content: Keep shopping simple this holiday season.

Why we liked it: This stood out because of its attractive nature—and we don’t mean physically. Think about it: The holiday season can be stressful, so the idea of simplifying things can be extremely attractive.

BareBones email example

Source: Really Good Emails

2. Orly

Subject Line: Black Friday Starts NOW: 40% Off Site Wide

The content: Start your Black Friday shopping and save 40% off products across the site.

Why we liked it: Online shoppers love getting early access to deals on their favorite products. And not having to wait until Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) is a wonderful thing for those looking to get their shopping out of the way before Thanksgiving. 

It’s worth mentioning that while Orly does use caps lock in their subject line, they limit it to the word “now” as a way of emphasizing time—they created a sense of urgency.

Orly email example

Source: Milled

3. Apple

Subject Line: Order last-minute gifts from Apple by December 22

The content: Get your Apple orders in before Dec. 22 to get your gift in time for the holidays.

Why we liked it: This subject line is informative and it creates a sense of urgency as well. It gets straight to the point, and the content within the message only further confirms what the reader already knows (with a little added detail). 

Apple last minute gift ideas email example

Source: Really Good Emails

4. Arrow Companies, LLC

Subject Line: Sew Many Savings – Holiday Pricing Starts Now!

The content: Start saving on your holiday sewing needs.

Why we liked it: This stood out to us thanks to its crafty play on words. Instead of “so,” the brand went with “sew”—something their target audience is sure to get a chuckle out of. They also do a wonderful job of getting right to the point. 

Arrow Sewing Furniture email example

Source: Milled

5. Google

Subject Line: Hey Google, wake me up to Holiday music

The content: Let Google help get you into the holiday spirit.

Why we liked it: For those that use the Google assistant features on their devices, they know the command, “Hey Google” can help them do a variety of things. Thanks to this subject line, readers know they can try several holiday-specific commands throughout their day.

Google home hub example

Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap Up

Crafting the perfect email subject line can be tricky—especially when it comes time to write for the holidays. Marketers understand they have to walk a fine line of sending relevant content and making a profit. So, if you’re still working on writing your holiday email subject lines, keep these tips in mind:

  • Create something simple and short

  • Pique interest by using holiday terminology

  • Promote your offers

  • Make readers feel special

  • Avoid excessive use of caps lock and exclamation points

  • Get creative with emojis 🎅☃

  • A/B test before sending

Need a hand with your holiday campaigns? See what Emma has to offer with these holiday email templates.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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