The best holiday email marketing: Subject lines

McKenzie Gregory


It’s that time again, guys. The holiday season is (almost) officially upon us, which means retail marketers everywhere are bracing themselves for what’s sure to be their most stressful three months of the year.



We want to help ease your holiday woes, so every week this October, we’ll dive into the top email marketing strategies that worked last season. That way, you can develop a solid plan to help you hit your goals and drive more sales than ever before.

First up? Subject lines, the key to boosting your open rates as inboxes quickly get more crowded (and therefore more competitive). These were some of our favorites from 2015.



Lyft – "Free zombie delivery, divine discounts, and your October in review"

The content: The month in review, along with need-to-know Halloween info (like their zombie delivery service and big events happening that weekend)

Why I liked it: Leading with the most out-there element of the mailing – “Free zombie delivery” – helped capture my attention as I was scanning through my inbox.




ModCloth – "Open, if you dare…"

The content: A promotion for their most festive Halloween apparel and accessories

Why I liked it: I’ll almost always open an email with a subject line that ends with an ellipsis since it makes me itch to find out what’s inside. Plus, who can resist a dare?




Nordstrom – "Let us show our thanks"

The content: A Thanksgiving/ Black Friday promo that featured this fantastic GIF



Why I liked it: You can’t go wrong with a simple, straightforward “thanks for your loyalty” email – especially on (or around) Thanksgiving.



Kate Spade – "30% off starts now! (sunday is the new cyber monday)"

The content: An announcement that Kate Spade was beginning their Cyber Monday sale a day early

Why I liked it: By opening up the floodgates on Sunday instead of Monday, Kate Spade stayed a step ahead of their competitors and the sea of “Cyber Monday starts now!” subject lines that landed in inboxes the next day.




Rosetta Stone – "Missed Cyber Monday?"

The content: An extension of their Cyber Monday promotion

Why I liked it: On the other side of things, extending your offerings beyond Monday helps keep people interested even after the big day is over. And for subscribers who are busy or traveling, it helps address their holiday shopping FOMO.



Class Pass – "Unlimited Classes. One Gift."

The content: An explanation of why ClassPass would be a great holiday gift

Why I liked it: This mailing is all about serving up the value of their product – something that begins with the subject line and extends throughout the rest of the campaign.




Warby Parker – "Looking for the perfect present?"

The content: A promo for Warby Parker gift cards

Why I liked it: Why yes, I am looking for the perfect present! In this mailing, Warby Parker drew me in by addressing a pain point they knew many of their subscribers (including me) would be facing.




Mouth – "Hanukkah Gifts: 20% Off Today! Oy To The World…"

The content: A sale on Hanukkah gifts

Why I liked it: There’s more than one holiday in December, gang. Speak to your entire audience by promoting sales and sending mailings that celebrate all of them.




Apple – "Just the right gifts, just in time.”

The content: A “last chance!” reminder for the procrastinators out there

Why I liked it: Chances are, a good amount of your subscribers will wait until the very last second to finish their holiday shopping. Remind them more than once of the date they’ll have to order by if they want to get their gifts on time.




What subject lines worked for you guys last holiday season? We’d love to hear about them, so share away in the comments!


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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