Ah, holidays – the time of year all ecommerce businesses are impatiently waiting for. Their long, meticulous preparations will soon repay them with increased website traffic and sales revenue.
But the businesses who are going to be the biggest winners of the holiday season race aren’t just the ones who can simply manage the increase in customer enquiries and product orders. They are the ones who successfully capture the attention of their target audience and convince them to do the holiday gift shopping at their store.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is through email marketing campaigns. Not just any campaigns, though, they have to be creative, eye-catching, designed with the audience in mind, and sent at the right time. And that’s just the beginning.
Below I’ve gathered six holiday email marketing campaign ideas along with examples from brands who’ve managed to stand out in my inbox. Although this is an entirely subjective opinion, read on to find out the reasons why I think these campaigns are worth remembering.
Also, if you’re unsure about how you can make your emails feel and look special this holiday season, check out our latest holiday marketing campaigns guide. There, we’ve gathered some of the most creative ways you can build your list, craft your subject lines, and design your messages. No matter if it is for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Christmas – your campaigns will look great!
Whether you agree with them or not, just let me know by posting a comment below this post. Perhaps you have your own favorite example you want to share with the rest of us? I’d love to see them!
Holiday Email Marketing Ideas
1. Order before [DATE] and have it shipped on time for [holiday name]
Ideally, your promotional campaign should have been running for at least a week before the holiday festivity begins. Naturally, the closer to the big day, the more intensive your marketing efforts should be.
With the holiday just round the corner, some of your prospects might worry whether they’ll have their order shipped on time. That’s why you could make one last attempt to convert them. How? By offering free overnight shipping or running an “order before [DATE] and have it shipped on time” type of campaign.
Subject line: ⌚ Order before 2pm EST for FREE overnight shipping.
Here’s an email I received from Puma, morning before Christmas Day.
It’s a simple message that includes all the usual elements – a couple of banners, a few links to different secondary offers, a navigational bar, and social media icons.
So why is it so good?
If you’re anything like me, you’re usually running a little behind the Christmas schedule and doing the gift shopping at the very last minute.
And it’s not because you’re hunting for special deals, but because you either haven’t found the perfect gift yet or you haven’t realized that December’s passed right in front of your eyes.
This email was designed with this kind of audience in mind. The late shoppers.
It’s not overly complicated and it doesn’t have to be. It quickly communicates the offer that’s going to get you saved if you still haven’t purchased Christmas presents for your loved ones – Free overnight shipping.
The offer’s first mentioned in the subject line, then again in the preheader, and finally in the banner that’s centrally placed in the above-the-fold part of the email.
Besides the main offer, there are four other elements (secondary offers) that have been purposely emphasized. The sale event, gift cards, gift guide, and Holiday FAQ. All of these are crucial for anyone who’s running late with their holiday shopping, and needs to act quickly.
Although this isn’t the only email that I found in my inbox that revolves around the last-minute shipping theme, in my opinion it was the most effective one for the following three reasons:
- It was quick to communicate the main offer, which is the free overnight shipping that’ll get you your order in time for Christmas.
- All elements of the email were used in an effective way – subject line, preheader, and the above-the-fold section all reemphasized the offer.
- It delivered value by pointing the recipient to the offers they’re most likely interested in, e.g. gift cards, gift guide, or the sale event.
To top it off, the use of the watch emoji in the subject line was a nice addition that made the email stand out even more in my inbox.
Another one that did catch my attention was this email from ASOS. However, their animated GIF and the *terrible* dad joke only managed to get them second place in this category.
Lesson for other ecommerce businesses: Remember when and how your audience is going to read your email. Do they have much time to read through it? Or maybe they’re tight on their schedule and need to act fast? Use this information when designing your message and when it’s needed, go straight to the point with your offer.
2. Here’s your [holiday name] to do list
Holidays are a busy period, both for marketers and consumers alike. Most of us are turn back to the good ol’ pen and paper to put together all kinds of to-do lists.
But what can you do with this information as a marketer? For one, you can create a to-do list your audience will actually enjoy checking and going through.
Subject line: Welcome to the Holidays, People.
For this year’s Thanksgiving, I received a neat email from an online retail brand named Bonobos.
Unlike other messages I found in my inbox around this time, this one used hardly any visuals. All it contained was a white to-do list on a dark-gray background.
So why is it so good?
First of all, this email clearly stands out. When scanning my inbox, I actually closed the message first and then had to re-open it, just to take a second look at what I just saw.
Upon a closer look, I’ve noticed that this isn’t just a simple to-do list. At least not one that I’d expect to receive from a brand. It’s more of a list I’d create for myself, with added humor – for example, Memorize cousins’ kids’ names – and hyperlinks that’ll help me complete some of the errands, like Get something nice to wear for dinner.
The humor’s spot on. The copy looks like it was written by someone who understands the target audience very well. The email itself is really easy to scan and fun to engage with. Rather unusual, but I actually enjoyed going through all the points up to the very end of the message.
Lesson for other ecommerce businesses: Stand out, be creative, engage your audience, and show them that you understand them well. Consider using phrases, abbreviations, or hashtags they use in their communication to make your marketing messages more authentic.
3. We do holidays our own way
When you hear the name Black Friday, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? It’s probably one of the following: discounts, sales, or free shipping.
Most brands hop on the Black Friday bandwagon with the same approach. To sell more, by offering a better deal than what their competitors offer.
But what you don’t expect is that a brand you like will remind you about the mission that drives them. The mission that, most likely, made you choose them in the first place.
From: United By Blue
Subject line: Why We Picked Up Trash Today
Below is the email I got for Black Friday from a brand that I follow – United By Blue. As you’ll find on their website, they sell responsible durable goods. What does that mean? In a nutshell, they sell products for people who care for the outdoors. And for every product they sell, they pledge to remove 1 pound of trash from the Earth’s oceans and waterways.
Now that you know their story, you’ll also understand where their email’s coming from.
So what’s the email about? It’s a message that explains why for this year’s Black Friday, they decided to do a proper cleanup. Oh, and they called it Blue Friday.
Unlike what you’d expect from a retailer during this time of year, the email doesn’t talk much about their products. Instead, it invites you to learn more about Blue Friday and how to host your own cleanup, and shows you the people who joined them for this wonderful project.
Not so surprisingly, they do also offer a special deal for their customers. But the information about their special sale is only available once you scroll down to the very bottom of the email.
So why is it so good?
This one, again, comes down to understanding your audience and answering the question – why did they choose your brand in the first place?
With United By Blue, the answer is pretty simple. It’s because they make products for people who, like them, care about nature. How can they prove that their mission statement isn’t just marketing fluff? With their actions.
Having organized the cleanup and shown pictures of those who participated in it – which include their CEO and Director of Operations – they said more than any regular marketing newsletter ever could.
What’s more, their message is mostly about getting people to participate or even host a cleanup in their own neighborhood. The information about the sale they’re holding for Black Friday comes much, much later.
To sum up, even though this email arrived quite late, i.e. on Black Friday afternoon, it’s very effective. It managed to capture my attention and got me to read it all to the very bottom, where the information about the sale was placed.
Even though it arrived later than any other message I expected to receive that day, it sure made an impact and made me reconsider what I wanted to order for Black Friday.
Lesson for other ecommerce businesses: This may not work for everyone. But if you know your audience well, then you don’t need to use your main CTA button to lead to the sales page. You can focus on content and carry on with your mission, and your audience will follow you.
Are there any other brands that caught my eye because they were doing holiday marketing slightly different? Not many, but the one that has is certainly worth mentioning here.
The team behind Cards Against Humanity once again proved that they know their audience pretty well. Take a look at the following two emails and see for yourself.
Do you think any other brand would get away with closing down their store or simply collecting money to dig a hole nobody could ever find? I don’t.
As you can see, sometimes you don’t need to follow best practices to stand out. Quite the contrary, sometimes it pays off to be different, especially during the holiday season when the competition levels are at their all-time high.
4. You snooze, you lose! The [holiday name] sale will end soon
Even though holiday sales last for quite long, some of us still have trouble finding something special for themselves or their loved ones. That’s why marketers keep sending them multiple reminders and last-minute emails, hoping to convert them before everyone goes offline to spend some quality time at the dinner table.
What if there was a way to make your email stand out from all the other reminders out there? Apparently, there is.
Like the email from Bonobos, this message doesn’t look much like anything else you’re used to in your inbox. It’s what you usually see when you’re lying in bed, either going to sleep or just waking up. It’s an image that resembles your clock app.
When you look closer at the image, you see that each alarm has a special name. Along with witty names, you also find information about the super sale and early bird discount the brand’s currently offering.
Just as you’re starting to get slightly nervous that you might miss out on yet another deadline, you find a comforting message, just below the clock app. It says that you can rest comfortably and even sleep through Black Friday, as you can shop with Casper without even leaving your bed. All you have to do is go to the brand’s website and type in the code: SLEEPIN.
Why is it so good?
Casper is a brand that sells mattresses for your bed. Although to some this may not sound very exciting, they’ve managed to make an impact with their marketing communication more than once.
This is one of those examples. What I like about this email is that it fits in so well with what they actually sell. Bed mattresses, clock app, multiple alarms set not to miss an important date, and finally a discount code with the phrase – sleepin.
The email’s relatively short and manages to quickly communicate that you can shop online, without ever leaving your bed. And of course, you wouldn’t want to leave your bed, even if it was for a great sales event like the ones you expect to see on Black Friday now, would you?
One more thing that makes this email campaign even greater is the second newsletter that comes after it. Even shorter, following the same principle, but this time aimed at people who – despite the reminders – managed to sleep through Black Friday.
What’s most interesting about this email isn’t the humor or its length. It’s the fact that they decided to extend the Black Friday sale beyond the one day.
This is something we’ve been seeing more and more often over the last few years. Brands seem to be wanting the Black Friday craze to go up until Cyber Monday or even later in the week.
Personally, I’d watch out not to discourage customers from shopping when prices are at their standard level, but this is something each ecommerce business has to decide on their own.
Lesson for other ecommerce businesses: Make sure each element of your email reemphasizes what you’re actually trying to say. A good design can often help and deliver the message much quicker than words ever could. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about good copy.
5. It’s not all about Christmas, Cyber Monday, or Black Friday
When referring to the holidays, you might be thinking about Thanksgiving, Christmas, or maybe Hanukkah.
But, there are so many other holidays along the way. They may not be as popular as Christmas, but does that mean you can’t tie them nicely with your brand?
Marketers behind the email marketing campaigns for Casper would disagree.
Let’s take a look at some of their more creative newsletters.
Subject line: That extra hour, though.
This campaign is about celebrating the brand’s most favorite day of the year.
Curious what day it is?
It’s the Daylight Saving Time. Because you can sleep in, one hour longer.
And they’re selling mattresses, pillows, and everything else you need to sleep well.
Now isn’t that brilliant?
Besides the idea for the campaign, what stands out about this email is its design. As it’s always the case with this brand, their message looks beautiful.
It’s simple, contains a clear heading – in fact, the whole typography’s really good – and a single call to action button that says “Party on”.
The descriptive, humoristic CTA button is placed next to a discount code and an animated GIF alarm clock that makes the information about the 10% OFF discount impossible to miss.
Then finally, below the main part of the email body, there’s an additional link that lets you “Find a sleep shop near you”. Yup, not a store, a sleep shop.
One more thing worth mentioning about this email is the top bar, located just below the navigational bar.
It’s very subtle. It contrasts nicely with the email body and since it’s in the above the fold section, it’s quick to inform the email recipients about the latest offer.
If anyone’s just skimming through their inbox, there’s a chance they won’t read the whole email but they’ll see that top bar. And if it captures their attention and generates interest, they’ll definitely scroll down to learn more about the offer.
Subject line: New season? New bed.
Now I don’t want to sound like a big fanboy, which I may have just become, but here’s another great email from Casper that follows a similar line of thought.
It’s using yet another special time of the year, although not really a holiday, to promote their products.
In this email, Casper’s using the end of the summer and the beginning of “slumber” as the key idea behind their campaign.
Similarly to the previous message, we’ve got the top bar summing up the main offer (located above the fold), one single CTA button that says “Start hibernating”, and a nice image with flip flops and warm slippers that accompanies the whole offer.
The copy? We’ve learned to expect this kind of copy from them.
A slightly awkward rhyme (Summer, Slumber), “Sleepin’ season”, “Start hibernating” – all of these tie in with what their business is selling.
There’s no “buy now” or “start shopping”.
It’s more creative than this.
Everything is put together nicely. The email’s short and sweet.
Although the offer itself isn’t new or creative – just another 10% OFF discount – the email campaign just looks good and is a joy to observe in the email inbox.
6. Year in review
When preparing their marketing campaigns, most marketers focus on what they’ve got prepared for their customers. Their blow out sale, free delivery, contest, or new line of products.
Less often, they focus on their customers – what they’ve done and what they’ve contributed to.
“Year in review” is one of the less seen campaigns. Perhaps because it doesn’t scream “buy now” and maybe it doesn’t provide a big return on investment.
At the same time, from my experience at least, it’s one of the most engaging types of campaigns.
Is it going to work for everyone? Probably not.
It should work for brands, services, or SaaS platforms that customers really care about.
It’s not just about summarizing the products someone bought over the year – that wouldn’t work unless these products meant a lot for the customers.
Well, let’s see what it’s all about :).
Subject line: Thanks! Because of you…
Sevenly is an online retailer, that runs charity-themed campaigns and gives back part of their profits to those in need.
As you can read on their website, they pledge to donate $7 per purchase in their 7-Day Campaigns and 7% from their cause-themed collections.
So, every time you buy from them, you get that instant positive feeling that you’re doing something good.
The challenging part is that, over time, you may feel less motivated to help out in this way. Especially if you’re not seeing the direct outcomes, like what the money’s been invested in.
To counter this, Sevenly came up with this idea to send out a “thank you” campaign that summarizes just how much the brand and all of those who’ve participated in their campaigns, have contributed over the year.
As you’ll read in this email, in 2017 they’ve raised $4.9 million in donations, 1.7 million people helped them out, 2.4 billion free impressions were made for their selected causes.
Why is this email so good?
There are several things that make this email special.
It’s the idea behind the campaign. Summing up all the milestones can definitely help the customers feel that they’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
The sender’s name, aka “from” name, also stands out. In your inbox, it says the email came from “Your Friends at Sevenly”.
If you’re trying to build a community, that’s definitely one way to do it.
As for the design, the email looks nice. It’s not overcomplicated, but the point of this campaign was to provide information to the recipients and thank them for their contribution. It’s not meant to sell.
So, although I can’t say much about the design, it seems to fit with the goal of this campaign.
Subject line: Everything you need to know about your year in music
Now, there are two emails I really want to show you.
Both of them were sent by Spotify, in different years – 2016 and 2017.
The idea behind them was to summarize everything the Spotify users have listened to over the year. The number of minutes, most popular songs, favorite genres, and so on.
By doing so, they wanted to engage the users, make them reminisce on the things they’ve listened to in the past and have fun analyzing it.
And I think they succeeded in this.
In fact, I remember that we’ve had lots of fun sharing the results with our colleagues over the last two years.
I bet it was similar in your office or among your friends, too.
Why are these emails so good?
First of all, I want to emphasize the differences between them.
Except for the most obvious – one’s in English (sent to my colleague), the other one is in Polish (that one’s mine).
The idea behind them was slightly different.
The 2016 one summarized and placed everything in the email. The 2017 one directed you to a landing page where you could have generated the results once you’ve logged in to your account.
I guess the newer one is better for Spotify in terms of activating their users and getting them back to their site.
The other one, however, is more complex and I appreciate it more, mainly because it used dynamic content to personalize the experience for their users.
Other than that, both of them are very nicely designed.
The more complicated one especially, given how different the results could have been for each individual of their customers.
I have to say, aggregating this amount of data and using it to personalize the content for their user – great. Making it pretty at the same time – awesome.
I’m sure this idea could work just as well for other brands. In fact I’ve seen Grammarly, Google Local Guides (example below), and Tripadvisor send out similar “summary” emails.
Unfortunately, they still have a lot to improve, if they want to be as engaging as this inspiring email from Spotify.
What else should you try for your holiday marketing campaigns?
Marketers try different approaches to deliver value to their audience. Depending on who they’re communicating with, the tactics they pursue will vary.
Here are a few more examples of email marketing campaigns that, in my opinion, worked pretty well. Without going into much detail, take a look at how effectively they’re using animated GIFs and product recommendations based on the price range.
Your next step
If you want to learn a little more about running successful marketing campaigns during the holiday season, we have something you might like.
We’ve prepared a Holiday Marketing Campaign Guide, where we’ve gathered tips on how you can build your email list and make your newsletters more effective this holiday season.
Want to learn even more? Watch the Great Holiday Marketing Campaign Ideas webinar recap!
And here’s a surprise for you :)!
If you’re planning your holiday marketing campaigns, make sure that your communication’s synced across your online marketing channels. To help you make this process easier, we’ve actually developed an app that helps you create animated social media posts with ease.
Check out Beam, promote your brand and stand out on social media this holiday season!
Holiday Marketing Campaigns: 35 Tips
Make the most of the holiday sales season! Download this guide and learn 35 tips for running effective holiday marketing campaigns using social media, paid advertising, marketing automation, and more!