A simple email strategy that drove phenomenal holiday sales

McKenzie Gregory


Where State Pride Meets Quality.

That’s the tagline for retailer Volunteer Traditions, and it couldn’t be more fitting. The popular "Southern-preppy" brand offers a full line of comfortable, quality t-shirts, croakies, koozies and more for anyone who wants to show some pride for their schools and their states. And their apparel isn't just for the 22-and-under crowd; their gear has been sported by everyone from Nashville-born starlet Reese Witherspoon to beloved UT Volunteers football alum Eric Berry.

Though they produce a fairly niche product (their merchandise is largely Tennessee-centric, but they also offer products featuring the other Southern states) Volunteer Traditions has an incredibly devoted following of brand advocates.

“People either get it instantly or have no understanding of the brand,” founder Mason Jones explained. “But the people who support us don’t just like the brand – they love it. Which has been huge as we continue to grow and develop a larger fanbase.”



Incorporating best practices into stellar design

“Along with things like social media, one of the primary ways we stay connected to our audience is through email,” Mason said.

And to optimize those communications, Advertising Manager Bert White always stays up-to-date on all the latest email marketing best practices. As a result, the brand consistently creates email that reflects the high quality of their products.

"When I design our emails," Bert noted, "the squares are meant to be easily adaptable to social media. It's a 'kill two birds with one stone' strategy that gives us high-quality content for both our emails and our social media channels. It looks great on both platforms and requires less design work!"

From obvious things like a that tile-heavy, mobile-friendly design to flashier elements like animated GIFS to more subtle strategies like having their models looking at their CTAs (people have the tendency to follow the gaze of others), the brand always produces emails that are ahead of the curve. And their efforts truly pay off – their emails average around a 40% open rate!



A holiday marketing strategy that drives big-time sales

That focus on quality design and solid strategy extends to their holiday marketing, as well.

“Like most retailers,” Mason said, “the holidays are huge for us. We’re extremely popular with the college-aged crowd, but a lot of the time it’s those college students’ parents who are the ones actually buying from us. So making sure we cater to that audience and capture those shoppers is essential for our holiday sales.”

So the Volunteer Traditions team brainstormed how they could best use email to drive sales and achieve their holiday goals – both in-store and online.



Using smart segmentation to promote in-store deals

Though many brands focus their Black Friday deals on online shoppers, Mason finds that getting people in the door of their Nashville headquarters leads to the biggest sales for his brand.

“On Black Friday, we keep the focus on getting people in our physical store for our best deals. We find we can sell more to people on that day when they’re face-to-face with our product – especially those parents we work so hard to win over during the holidays."

So for Black Friday this year, Volunteer Traditions segmented out their local subscribers and sent them an email promoting the in-store event. And for those who don't want to fight the Black Friday crowds, they included a teaser for their Cyber Monday campaign to keep them tuned into their inbox.




Driving online sales by offering early Cyber Monday access

While Black Friday was all about in-store sales, Cyber Monday revolved around online shoppers. The team decided to entice potential shoppers by offering all their best deals a little early, sending their Cyber Monday promo email on Sunday night when people were likely scanning their phones while lounging around the house.




The results are in...

And their strategy killed it! The Cyber Monday email alone drove over $100,000 in sales on Sunday and Monday. And thanks to our Shopify integration, the Volunteer Traditions team was able to track exactly which purchases resulted from that email – an easy way to see the concrete ROI of their efforts and identify what works for future sends.



The takeaways

1. Develop a clear holiday marketing strategy ahead of time. Long before the season began, the Volunteer Traditions team had mapped out a plan for tackling their holiday goals.
2. Know your audience and segment accordingly. By analyzing their data to learn more about their audience, Volunteer Traditions knew they’d get more bang for their marketing buck by restricting their Black Friday sale to their physical store and then following up with a digital deal for Cyber Monday.
3. Integrate your tools. Emma's Shopify integration helps Volunteer Traditions track the ROI their emails and adjust their email strategy based on concrete data about what's working.


About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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