6 tips for creating a holiday email marketing plan

The time for holiday email marketing plan creation is, well, right now. The period from November through December is a critical touchpoint for all businesses, from retailers to restaurants.

The National Retail Federation says consumers plan to spend $1,007.24 during the holiday season this year, which is a 4.1% increase from the $967.13 they said they would spend last year.

If you want to get your piece of the holiday revenue pie, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

We've created this handy guide to help you create a holiday email marketing plan that drives engagement and revenue. Read on for tips and tricks that ring in the holiday season.

6 ideas for designing a standout holiday email marketing plan

There are several holidays to take advantage of during the November-December sales run, with many businesses seeing up to 30% of their annual sales occur during this period. And, according to Deloitte, consumers start early, with most shopping occurring in November.


To start, let’s get familiar with all your email marketing opportunities coming up in 2018:

  • Thanksgiving (November 22)
  • Black Friday (November 23)
  • Small Business Saturday (November 24)
  • Cyber Monday (November 26)
  • Giving Tuesday (November 27)
  • Christmas (December 25)
  • ...and more!

Each year, these holidays get even better for e-commerce. Last year’s Cyber Monday was the best-performing in history, with $6.59 billion in online sales.

And Shopify’s data lets us know that email is king of these holidays, beating out other channels in effectiveness by 15%. 

Image: Shopify

With everyone scrambling to get those holiday dollars, how will you make your emails stand out? The answer is simple: By ensuring that they represent a conversation with your customers, not just a holiday email blast.

Here’s how to get that holiday love flowing:

1. Focus on segmentation.

Especially during this season, everyone's inboxes are stuffed with retailers trying to get to know their customers better. It's important, yes, but also vital that, they maintain relevance with your reader. If you haven’t already, segment your list into groups based on interest or demographic to get the most impact from your holiday sends.

Here are some ideas of groups you could focus on targeting: 

  • VIPs: Send them an extra-special holiday discount as your gift to them.


  • Frequent email openers: They’re engaged, but they might need a nudge during the holidays. Send them emails that “extend” the holiday just for them or offer them a special incentive to purchase, like the following:

Image: Shopify


  • Targeted demographics: Defining your customers by behavior, age, gender, and other characteristics important to your business can help you better match your offers to their needs.

2. Provide valuable content. 

Yes, everyone loves a holiday sale, but your goal as a marketer should look beyond the approaching season. Ultimately, your goal is to build a relationship that will keep your customers loyal and buying all year long.

Be thoughtful about sending the kind of content that would be helpful to your customer—include holiday content that can help them lower their holiday stress level, sort through their gift list, or make their shopping easier in some way.

A holiday gift guide is a great way to specifically address your customer's needs with your brand's solution. 

Image: Really Good Emails


You can also offer easy-to-use gift cards that take the worry out of what to buy. This is a bonus tactic for restaurants since going out to eat is a nice treat after a long day of shopping. Or, consider pre-organizing gift ideas by recipient or cost to make choosing easier: 

Image: Really Good Emails

You could also sort by type of gift—tech, home goods, creative, and more. No matter how you choose to organize your guide, you’ll be providing a service to your subscriber while also presenting the value of your product at the same time. 

This underscores that mutually-beneficial relationship you’re building, setting it up to continue moving seamlessly into the new year. 

3. Include your customer on the gift list.

The key to engaging content is to focus on the gift-givers, too, and not just the individuals on their shopping lists.

People appreciate being given the go-ahead to pamper themselves during the frantic lead-up to the holiday season.

Image: Campaign Monitor

Last year, about 22% were reportedly interested in treating themselves for the holidays in addition to family and friends on their list, be sure you don’t miss out on marketing to this group of customers. 


4. Leverage the relationship. 

If you’ve been building a strong relationship with your customers, the holidays are a perfect time to leverage that connection and stand out from the crowd.

REI Outfitters did this with their ground-breaking #OptOutside campaign that’s continuing into this year.

In a bold move, they closed their doors and Black Friday and encourage stressed-out holiday shoppers to also ditch the mall in favor of the great outdoors. 

Image: Pinterest

REI’s tactics paid off and the campaign resulted in digital sales that rose 23% and a 9.3% increase in total revenue.

This email campaign was so successful that it created an annual tradition, and each year they see increased engagement and cause awareness. 


5. Be playful.

While the holidays are supposed to be fun, but we all know how stressful they can really be. 

Engage with your subscribers using polls, games, and humor to connect with them on a personal level and boost your results at the same time.

People appreciate being able to wind down and stop thinking about their shopping lists for a few minutes, and you can make things merry by doing a giveaway or other fun interactive activity.


6. Be clever with your sales send. 

Everyone is sending email marketing emails around the holidays — everyone. In fact, $3 billion was spent on marketing emails in 2017 during this holiday period.

With people receiving an average of 122 pieces of email in their inboxes on an average day, imagine how that holiday influx must have motivated customers' “inbox zero” resolutions.

The point is, it’s particularly important to earn your spot in the inbox at the holidays. If you’re going to send a sales reminder, make sure you do it with charm and a dash of interest, like these forward-thinking examples:

Image: Really Good Emails

Postable takes advantage of the post-holiday hustle by giving a discount code for thank-you cards.


Image: Really Good Emails

Meanwhile, Stance shows how their product can be appropriate for any holiday event. 

By crafting a holiday email marketing plan that speaks to your audience, engages with them on meaningful levels, and provides them with value, you’ll be off to a great start this holiday season.


Wrap up

Your customers are getting swamped by sales emails at this time of year. Make sure yours stand out from the crowd using our tips and tricks.

Make sure you segment your audience first to take best advantage of your frequent purchases and so you don’t miss out on reengaging the slow-to-act crowd before the holidays get in full swing.

Make your emails about more than sales. 

Provide actionable, valuable content aimed at making your customers’ lives easier.
Come up with fun ways to connect — like contests, polls, and surveys — all while growing your list through social engagement.

When you get down to the wire and you just have to send that sales email (because, ultimately, you do) then do it with a bit of wit and wisdom that will help your brand stand out better than Rudolph’s shiny nose on a dark winter’s night.

About the Author

Lane Harbin

Lane Harbin is a senior content marketing manager at Emma. When she’s not geeking out over email marketing, she enjoys binge-listening to podcasts, catching up on the latest tech news, and constantly rearranging her living room.

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