Your time-pressed or gifting-impaired customers need all the help they can get this holiday season. As you increase email frequency this month, send an email your shoppers will appreciate: a guide to help them find the perfect holiday gift for customers.

A little ingenuity and some serious thinking on how shopping habits change as the weeks wear on will help you create a gift guide that rises above the rest.


How a gift guide helps your brand stand out in the inbox

In the blizzard of emails that engulfs inboxes from November 1 through New Year’s Day, the gift guide shines like a beacon.

What makes a gift guide essential reading? It showcases your most innovative, unusual, or popular gifting options – you know, the items your subscribers might not find on their own.

It also anticipates the crises shoppers often find themselves in: buying gifts that can ship at the last minute or buying something for someone they don’t know well but still need to impress (anyone meeting the parents for the first time?).


6 tips for better gift guides

A great gift guide gives readers click-worthy ideas they’ll want to purchase. Keep this in mind when choosing the products to feature, creating the email design, and drafting the email subject.

Here are 6 tips to help you do just that.


1. Showcase individual products

Many gift guide emails do little more than provide an image and a link to the actual gift guide, which is hosted on the company’s website.

That’s an easy email to put together, but you’re forcing your customers to click without knowing what they’re in for.

If yours was the only gift guide in the inbox, you could probably get away with this. But when every other brand is sending gift guides, your email needs to work harder to drive clicks. You don’t have to showcase every item from your guide in the email but you should highlight specific items or categories your subscribers are likely to click.

Pro tip: Segmenting your list based on gender, interest, or recent on-site activity can really help you tailor the products you feature in your gift guide emails.


2. Watch out for message and image weight

If every brand manager is breathing down your neck to get more products into your gift guide email, you could end up with a gargantuan message that gets clipped, blocked, or routed to the bulk folder.

The solution: Either cut down on how many products you showcase or create several guides, each with a central theme. If you opt for the latter, set these up well in advance and schedule them to send at key moments (e.g. order by tomorrow to get your gifts in time for Christmas).

Note: Message weight is one of the key factors MailCharts uses to score each email. To see how it works — and how different gift guides measure up on message and image weights, mobile optimization, inbox-friendly subject lines and other factors, get started with a free trial.


3. Drive interest by honing in on different categories

“Gifts for Him” and “Gifts for Her” aren’t too compelling, and they still force your shoppers to do a lot of searching and scrolling for holiday gifts for customers.

The below categories give customers more direction and help you create a compelling product assortment:

  • Hobbies
  • Personas
  • Occasion (the perfect secret santa gifts, 20 stocking stuffer ideas)
  • Holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Solstice)
  • Rooms in a house
  • Fictional characters who remind you of friends or family
  • Friends who just got their first houses
  • Colors
  • Indoor v.s. outdoor
  • Designer or endorser
  • Crisis (last-minute shopping, gifts to impress potential in-laws, cheapie gifts for broke college students)
  • Technical expertise (newbie, expert, early adopter, late bloomer)
  • Price

No matter which categories you use, highlight this in the email’s subject. Every other brand says “Our holiday gift guide is here!” Make your email stand out.


4. Optimize for mobile

Why are we still reminding marketers to make their messages easy to scan and act on with tablets and smartphones? Because so many of them are still sending mobile-unfriendly emails. Yuck.

Talk about missed opportunities! In 2017, mobile revenue grew by 45%, purchases by 34% and average order value by 7% during Sunday to Friday of Thanksgiving week, a survey by Rakuten Marketing said. Plus, mobile page views grew 46% over 2016.

These tips will make your email gift guides as goof-proof on mobile as possible by limiting exposure to fat-finger mistakes.

  • Use large, bulletproof CTAs, which render even if your reader disables images.
  • Link images directly to product pages or a unique landing page. Never, ever, send shoppers to the homepage and make her fend for herself.
  • Link headlines to these pages as well.
  • Use large images and short but expressive copy blocks.


5. Link to major pages on your site

No matter how tempting your product assortment is, some customers still won’t find something that meets their needs. Link to key departments on your website to give these people a reason to click.

You can do so by having a clear header or footer. Another trick is to have a section along the lines of “Can’t find what you’re looking for? Try these categories.”


6. Include essential holiday shopping information

Round out your guide with helpful information, such as shipping deadlines, customer service contact information and hours, return policy, gift cards, and anything else your shoppers need to know when buying from you.

But don’t go overboard with lengthy copy. Punchy, clickable, text links will do the trick.


10 gift guides we love

Sender: Trek

Subject line: The gift they’ll never forget

Preheader: Your can’t-miss guide to giving the perfect kids’ bike

Trek gift guide email 1

This email wins because it combines the product assortment of a gift guide with the recommendations of a personal salesperson and enough how-to advice to help shoppers feel confident about the bikes they’ve selected.

The email design and flow make it easy for browsers to scan the email to look for the right age groups. We also like the use of “We recommend …” to make the product recommendation more authoritative.

Sender: Crate and Barrel

Subject line: Naughty or nice? Gifts at every price.

Crate and barrell gift guide email

Gift guides by price can be either compelling or ho-hum depending on how well they’re put together. This guide gets its message across quickly and easily with a minimum of copy but maximum information.

It’s easily scanned; the images show products as someone might use them, not just glamor shots. Each category is easy to click on because each image is linked to a unique landing page with an assortment of products in that category. We also like the stocking-stuffer list under the main images.

Sender: Curioos

Subject line: Curated Gift Guide #4: For the minimalist, the inner child, the trendy geek, and more!

Preheader: When was the last time you had a truly relaxing weekend?

Curioos gift guide email

Even hipsters need a little help shopping for gifts, and if you’re shopping for one, you’d probably jump on an email that puts its persona categories right in the subject line. This email is one of eight guides the brand sent out from mid-November through Cyber Thursday, each following the same template: a “Holiday Inspo” headline, image and brief descriptive content.

Subject lines vary between highlighting products and personas: “the King and Queen, the ones with the travel bug, the cool geeks,” “the one who works at home,” and “the ones who love comic books, NYC, cute woodland animals.”

A note on persona-based gift guides: These don’t have to be your own customer personas. Think of the kind of people who might appreciate your products but don’t shop with you now.

Sender: Etsy

Subject lines: Shop for coffee cravers;

Preheader: It’s like caffeine, only better;

Etsy gift guide email

Etsy is a champ at gift guides, partly by using clever categories that give shoppers specific and helpful advice. You don’t get that level of detail and immediacy with a “Gifts for Him/Gifts for Her” organization.

This email combines several guides into one. We love this tagline: “The zombie who doesn’t become human until coffee number four” and the email structure that combines several shopping themes – persona, price or emotion – without creating a monster message.

Sender: Etsy

Subject line: All the gift guides, all in one place

Preheader: There’s something for everyone.

Etsy gift guide email 2

If you need persona ideas to organize your gift-giving categories, look at the wealth of ideas in this guide to gift guides. While the categories might not fit your product lines as neatly as they do Etsy’s, they show you what’s possible when you think deeper about your customers and the kinds of products or services you provide for them. And who among us wouldn’t need help shopping for a beauty guru or vintage time traveler?

Sender: Lily’s Kitchen

Subject line: 🎁 The perfect gift for every pet 🎁

Preheader: We’ve got presents galore in our Christmas shop to suit every pet’s festive

Lilys kitchen gift guide email


Among U.S. consumers, spending on gifts for pets doesn’t rank high enough yet to get called out in the National Retail Federation’s annual holiday spending forecasts. But pet-product purveyors both large (Petco, PetSmart, Pet Supplies Plus) and small (Lily’s Kitchen, PetsPyjamas) are doing their best to correct that with clever emails like these.

We love the gentle spoof of persona-based guides – is your critter a Jolly Holidayer or a Secret Stocking Filler? (What, no “Relentless Tree Destroyer?”) The artwork-based images and subdued colors encourages readers to keep scrolling through the email; it’s a restful break from hard-sell, flashier emails.

Sender: Paperless Post

Subject line: We come bearing (host) gifts.

Preheader: Attend a holiday party, then throw your own—we make it simple.

Paperless post gift guide email

Flowers and a no-name bottle of wine will not do when you have an A-list party on your calendar. This email clearly understands the pressure to rock the host/hostess gift with a collection of gifts, all organized by the kind of host you need to impress. Emails that show their customers they get them are emails that get saved and clicked on over and over.

Sender: Parachute

Subject line: Inside Scoop! What We’re Gifting…

Preheader: Wondering what to give your BFF, your boyfriend, your mom or your dad?

Parachute gift guide email

We picked this email because it shows you how to add some personality and humanity to your emails by featuring the people behind the brand. People love to hear from the folks who work with the products and theoretically know them better than anybody else. The comments sound authentic and convey product enthusiasm convincingly, too.

Sender: The Company Store

Subject line: The Kids Have Been Nice All Year for This…Right?

Preheader: The sleigh is (almost) on the way!The company store gift guide email

This email shows how to do “Gifts for Her/Gifts for Him” effectively with a family theme.

The subject line informs the reader that the email will focus on family products – parent/child lookalike pajamas, kids’ bedding and craft projects and more. A broad category tied to a theme helps the shopper zero in faster on the right products instead of forcing her to keep scrolling and hope something interesting turns up.

Sender: Bloomingdales

Subject line: Tech the Halls with Giftable Gadgets

Preheader: They’ll be amped on these must-have tech gifts.

Bloomingdales gift guide email

Bloomingdales is another retailer that has mastered the gift guide. It uses the same template style from one gift-guide email to another but this template also is noticeably distinct from its regular stream of promotional emails.

What we like:

  • Open, clean design which avoids the boxy layouts of other guide emails and makes the gift images pop
  • Minimal but descriptive copy blocks that give the browser just enough info to want to learn more or buy the right item
  • Subtle bits of animation that add interest to the minimalist design.


Hand-picked subject lines

  • 15 Christmas Gift Ideas For Parents Who Have Everything: Society 19
  • The Paper Source Holiday Gift Guide You’ve Been Waiting For.: Paper Source
  • Find the perfect gift for that weirdo this holiday season!:
  • For the Mixologist on your list: Simon Pearce
  • Extra-Festive Gifts for Jingle Belles and IRL Elves: Bloomingdales
  • Gifts under $50: Spread holiday cheer without breaking the bank.: Food52
  • Shop for coffee cravers: Etsy
  • Free Shipping + Mix and Match for the Ultimate Tea Gift: Republic of Tea
  • Check Out BET’s Black AF Holiday Gift Guide: BET
  • My Beauty Bunny – The Ultimate Cruelty Free Holiday Gift Guide: My Beauty Bunny
  • Want to Win Jessie’s Gift Guide?: Loeffler Randall
  • A Very Salty Gift Guide: Salt Life

Want to see more gift guides? Try out MailCharts for yourself, you can get started with a free trial.

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Happy emailing and good luck with a holiday gift for customers!

Post tags   Email strategy, Holidays