5 Winning Holiday Email Marketing Strategies


Kristina Lauren

September 28, 2023

You know the holidays are fast approaching when your inbox starts filling up with sales emails from every store you've ever shopped at. As a small business owner, you want to make sure your holiday marketing emails stand out in the crowd and actually drive sales. The good news is with some simple holiday email marketing strategies, you can capture attention and boost your bottom line.

In this post, we'll cover five winning tips for crafting holiday email marketing campaigns that convert subscribers into customers. From personalization to scarcity to social proof, you'll discover easy ways to make your holiday emails irresistible.

Plan Ahead With a Holiday Email Marketing Calendar

Plan at Least 6 Weeks in Advance

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, including your customers, so planning ahead is key. At least 6 weeks before the holidays, map out your email marketing calendar. Think about timing each email around major shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and space them out over the season.

Some suggestions for your holiday email marketing calendar:

  • Mid-November: Early bird holiday gift guide. Include hot items at a discount to capture sales from early shoppers.

  • Week of Thanksgiving: Black Friday sneak peek. Tease your best deals to build excitement.

  • Black Friday: The ultimate deal day. Offer a tiered discount structure where spending more means saving more.

  • Cyber Monday: Launch your biggest sale of the season. Time it to go live just after midnight to grab attention.

  • Early December: Share gift ideas for different recipients like kids, spouses, or clients. Include products at a range of price points.

  • Mid-December: Last chance shipping reminder. Highlight items that will arrive in time for Christmas with standard shipping.

  • Week of Christmas: Post-holiday flash sale. Clearance deals on any remaining inventory.

Plan a strong subject line and preview text for each email to capture attention and drive opens. Include eye-catching images of products or seasonal graphics. Keep your content focused but fun, with a good mix of product recommendations and holiday cheer.

Most importantly, test and optimize as you go. Check your open and click-through rates to see what's working—then do more of what’s working.

Craft Engaging Subject Lines for Open Rates

To get those emails opened, you need holiday email marketing subject lines that grab attention. Try something short yet compelling, like:

Open Now: 24-Hour Flash Sale!

Keep it under 50 characters so it displays fully on mobile devices. Mention something enticing like a discount, deal, or limited-time offer.

Once opened, your content needs to connect. Share a story or experience to build rapport. For example:

“Like many of you, the holidays are our favorite time of year. The twinkling lights, smells of cinnamon and pine, and of course, time with loved ones. This season, we’re offering our biggest sale of the year to help you save and spend more time celebrating what really matters.”

Highlight your best deals and promotions prominently. Use images, bold text, or numbered lists for easy scanning. For example:

  • 60% off all toys and games. The perfect chance to find that special gift without breaking the bank!

  • Free shipping on all orders over $50. No coupon needed.

Include a strong call-to-action like "Shop Now" to drive clicks and conversions.

To boost open and click rates, test different subject lines and content on small portions of your list to see what resonates most before sending to all subscribers. Personalize emails with the recipient's name and product recommendations based on their browsing history.

Segment Your List for Targeted Content

To maximize your holiday email marketing success, segment your email list into targeted groups. Sending generic messages to your entire list is inefficient and risks poor open and click-through rates. Get personal with your subscribers by tailoring content to their interests and behaviors.

Divide your list into categories like:

  • Loyal customers: Send exclusive offers and sneak peeks at new products to show them your appreciation.

  • Lapsed customers: Craft win-back campaigns with special discounts and incentives to re-engage them.

  • Prospects: Focus on educating them about your brand and products. Keep messages light and avoid hard sells.

Segment further based on:

  • Purchase history: Send recommendations for complementary or related products.

  • Location: Tailor content for local events or weather conditions.

  • Demographics: Create segments for different ages, incomes, lifestyles, etc. Cater messaging to their unique needs and preferences.

Note that it’s also okay to email subscribers who haven’t been engaging with your emails for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but including some level of personalization will increase your chances of engagement.

Once you’ve segmented your list, develop targeted content and subject lines for each group. Personalize email content with the recipient’s name, location, or other details. Your subscribers will appreciate the customized experience.

To optimize your efforts, start by focusing on your 2-3 most valuable segments. You can then build from there over time as your resources allow. Regularly analyze the performance of each campaign to see what’s working and make improvements.

Segmenting your email list and tailoring content is well worth the effort. It allows you to strengthen relationships with your customers, reactivate dormant subscribers, and convert more prospects into buyers.

Optimize Design for Mobile and Make It Festive

The holidays are the busiest shopping season, so your email marketing needs to stand out. Optimize your emails for mobile devices since most shopping now happens on smartphones. Go festive with your design to spread holiday cheer and boost engagement.

Optimize for Mobile

With smaller screens and limited attention spans, mobile-friendly emails are a must. Use a simple, clean layout with lots of white space, large text, and minimal clutter. Images should be high quality but compressed in size. Test how your email displays on different devices to ensure all content is easy to see and interact with for the best experience.

Make It Festive

Nothing says “holidays” like festive colors, graphics, and wording. Incorporate red and green colors, Christmas trees, stockings, wreaths, or other traditional holiday symbols. Animated GIFs with falling snow or twinkling lights also help set the mood. Use holiday-themed language like “Season’s Greetings”, “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” in your email subject line and content.

  • Keep your message positive and upbeat. Focus on warmth, togetherness, and generosity.

  • Suggest gift ideas or highlight deals to spur gift shopping. But don’t make the entire focus about buying and spending.

  • Personalize when possible. Address customers by first name and reference their interests or past purchases. People appreciate personal touches during the holidays.

  • A friendly, informal tone is perfect for the holidays. Speak conversationally as if talking with a friend to make a connection.

  • Double-check for any spelling or grammar errors before sending. Even minor typos can reflect poorly on your brand, especially this time of year.

Optimizing for mobile and adding festive flourishes are simple ways to spread extra holiday cheer to your email subscribers. With higher engagement and response rates, your holiday email marketing will be poised for success.

Analyze Results and Learn for Next Year

The end of the year is a perfect time to review your email marketing campaigns and make improvements for next season. Analyzing what worked and what didn’t will help you start the new year off strong.

Open and click-through rates

See how many people opened your emails and clicked links or buttons. Aim for open rates of 15-25% and click-through rates of 3% or more. If rates were lower, revisit your subject lines, content, and call-to-action placement. Consider A/B testing different elements to optimize for next year.

Sales and revenue

Did your holiday email campaigns actually result in sales? Check your site analytics to see if email subscribers visited your site and made purchases after receiving your messages. See if particular campaigns or promotions were more effective at boosting sales. Focus your efforts on the strategies that moved the needle.

List growth

Review how many new subscribers you gained over the holidays. Run contests, giveaways, and promotions that offer an incentive for people to join your list. Make it easy for shoppers to sign up on your site and social media. Aim for list growth of at least 2.5% year over year. More subscribers means more potential customers for your holiday campaigns.

Surveys and feedback

Send a post-holiday survey to get feedback directly from your subscribers. Ask what they enjoyed about your campaigns, what could be improved, and what other kinds of content or promotions they’d like to see. Take the time to read through responses and make changes to give readers more of what they want next season.

Analyzing the performance of your holiday email marketing and making improvements will ensure next year’s campaigns are even more successful. Focus on the metrics and feedback that matter most to boost open rates, click-through rates, sales, and subscriber satisfaction.

Turn subscribers into customers this holiday season with Scalero

With these simple but effective holiday email marketing tips, you’ll be well on your way to having your most successful holiday season yet. But if you’re still looking for a little more guidance, our team at Scalero is here to help. From designing to templating to automation, we can help craft your holiday campaigns from scratch and strategize with you on your entire existing lifecycle marketing program.

Reach out to us to get started!

Join our mailing list

Get your fix of marketing, design and automation tips, all written by industry experts. +1 510-394-2442San Francisco, CaliforniaMexico City, MexicoCopenhagen, Denmark