Holiday Email Marketing Best Practices


How often should your business send emails during the holiday season? Follow these best practices as you plan your holiday email campaigns.

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Holiday email marketing best practices
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Holiday email marketing best practices dictate that businesses send more email campaigns than usual during the holiday season. The goal: capture customers’ attention and sales when they are ready to spend. Traditionally the busiest time of year, November/December shopping brings in 19% or more of the year’s business for most retailers according to the National Retail Federation. Overall, holiday sales should be higher this year than in previous years, too. According to Insider Intelligence, retail spending is expected to reach $1.328 trillion in 2023, an increase of 4.5%.

Retailers aren’t the only businesses that see increased sales during this time period. Restaurants, caterers, delis, hair and nail salons, landscapers who do holiday lighting installations in their off-season, are some types of service businesses that typically see strong holiday sales.

Although online searches, window shopping and traditional advertising will account for some of that increase, savvy businesses know that holiday email marketing campaigns will give them the highest ROI (return on Investment) for their holiday marketing dollars. That’s because the cost of email is low compared to direct mail and print advertising and response rates are higher. Email campaign response rates skew higher than social media as well.

Holiday email marketing campaigns are so ubiquitous during November and December that your mailings will be competing with dozens of others marketing emails vying for your audience’s attention. Win the battle for customer attention by paying attention to these holiday email marketing best practices:

When to send holiday email marketing messages

This year, marketers like you are challenged with increased competition, delays in receiving inventory and shipping delays that will affect delivery time for orders you ship. Allow for this as you plan your holiday email marketing schedule. Traditionally the holiday emailing season has been from a few days before Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. But in recent years, marketers have started sending holiday promotions in email campaigns earlier in November. People are shopping early because of the well-publicized lack of goods and later deliveries.

How often to send holiday email campaigns

While you do not want to spam, you do want to remain top-of-mind when your customers are looking to buy what you sell. So, you might want to consider more emails than you did during previous holiday seasons. Plan on sending at least one, and possibly two mailings a week to your subscribers. If you notice too many unsubscribes (and you do need to track this), then cut back. If you see a lot of sales, test increasing the frequency. Testing, measuring, and making adjustments is an important key to email marketing success at any season of the year.

Put a direct link to the specific product featured in each email

Once you get your email opened, you have only a few seconds to capture the attention and sales of readers. According to one study, you have less than 3 seconds to catch an email reader’s attention. Depending whose statistics you read, once someone clicks on a link, you have between 7 and 15 seconds to grab a reader’s attention on your website.

So your promotional links need to be close to the top of your email and those links should point directly to the web page for the product being promoted. If you want to include links to other products or services in the body of the email, put them below the current special you are advertising so subscribers aren’t distracted from clicking on the item you are promoting. Use different emails to highlight different products. If you are offering a gift card or discount this also needs to be near the top of the email. For example, the term, Free Shipping, if offered can capture attention and be the trigger that leads to a purchase.

Make sure your store hours, name, web address, and phone number are included

Your subscribers may forward your email to friends they think will be interested in the promotion. Make it easy for those friends to get in touch with you by including all the pertinent contact information in your email promotion. This can go at the bottom of the email. You may also want to include a “subscribe” link there so people who have been forwarded your email can subscribe on their own. Social sharing links are useful on the bottoms of mailings for the same reason.

Test sending emails promotions on Saturday

Consumers tend to have more time during evenings and weekends to read promotional emails and to shop or avail themselves of various consumer services. Many grocery stores or retailers, salons, spas, gyms, and other service businesses are busier at these times than weekdays. Take your email cues from this trend. Test sending them on evenings or weekends and compare clickthrough and conversion rates to mailings sent on weekdays.

Plan your emails well in advance of release date 

Since most email providers allow you to pre-schedule campaigns, take advantage of this feature. You will be busy with the holidays yourself and don’t want to miss important dates when competitors might be contacting your customers. Stick to a deadline and make a calendar for release as soon as you can before the holidays.

Use an email service provider and the professional templates they provide

Gift buyers are in a rush at this time of the year and scan emails quickly to see if they want to read the rest. An eye-catching, professionally designed email can help capture their attention. Email providers generally have attractive holiday templates you can use to save a chunk of time get the attractive emails out more quickly. Email providers know how important holiday promotions are and some of their best templates are offered during seasonal purchasing periods.

Put aside time to test, analyze and track

You should look at your email analytics regularly to see which emails are getting opened and which links are getting clicked so you know which promotions and subject lines work best. You also should look at the bounced emails, and unopened emails. Bounces should be removed often. Subscribers who haven’t opened a promotion in the last 6 months should be sent re-engagement emails to try to reactivate them, and if they don’t engage, should then be deleted. Better to send less to more interested buyers than keep sending to those that never bother to read or open your emails.

Use a popup form on your website to capture non-subscriber email addresses

There will be people who reach your website during the holidays who aren’t on your mailing list yet. Capture their names and email addresses using a popup or slide in subscription form. For the holidays, you might encourage signups with a short promo that reads something like “Be first to hear about our holiday sales. Subscribe today.” The popup or slide in can be set to show up when people land on your website or when they click to close the site. (When holiday sales are over, change the wording on the form.)

The holidays are a time to shine for most retailers and service businesses. Put your best products, best promotions, and best emails out there as quickly as possible to boost your holiday sales.

While you’re at it, plan a couple of more mailings to go out toward the middle to end of December to capture more business during the slow period in January and early February. These email marketing promotions might include coupons to be used in January, notices of January /February sales events, or early Valentine’s Day gift-giving suggestions.

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