Christmas Email Strategy

The Christmas period accounts for one-third of all annual revenue for some brands and retailers.

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Holiday spending for holidays ranging from St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 5), Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and secular events (school, office and social events) can account for 20% to 30% of the average retail company’s annual revenue, according to the National Retail Federation. So, it’s no surprise that email marketers focus so closely on it.

Christmas Email Examples and Subject Lines

An interactive gift finder

We love this email, and not just because we can’t wait to play with the gift finder. This email stands out in the inbox (the preheader’s “fast and fabulous” promise makes us want to see what’s going on inside).

Inside the message, the animation shows us how the gift tool works and what the possible results will look like.

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Treat yo'self!

More than 70% of shoppers say they plan to treat themselves this holiday season. So, having an email that invites a little self-indulgence could work out well! The subject line is “When Santa Gets It Wrong,” so it also would appeal to gift recipients who feel a little short-change by their gift exchanges.

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Feel-good letters for the holiday season

Saying “thank you,” “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holiday” on or around Christmas Day is a feel-good way to let your customers know you appreciate their business. You can write a heartfelt letter – perhaps signed by your CEO – or go all out. We love what Boden did here with clever but understated animation and a simple message.

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Digital gifts delivered right on time

This is a clever twist on the last-minute-gift theme – and a well-designed email that explains how the program works and the benefits for both givers and recipients.

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Help your customers survive the holidays

If you’re like most marketers, you’re planning to ratchet up frequency this holiday season. Dedicate a few of those emails to helping your customers survive the holiday successfully. This holiday party guide is a great example. It solves a nagging question for novice hosts/hostesses but sells at the same time.

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Christmas Email Marketing Strategy

The strategies below aren’t a definitive list you should use to build your holiday email marketing plan. Rather, they are suggestions you can use to extend and add value to your email content and inspiration to help you create messages your subscribers and customers will open, act on, and value.

Feature a collection of products in an email gift guide

Gift guides are nothing new. However, many marketers give them short shrift in email and instead save the goods for their websites.

Your subscribers are looking for help everywhere, and they’re more likely to see your products in an email before going to your website. Gift guides also allow you to spotlight items your shoppers might not find on their own.

Organize your guide by variables that make sense for your brand and guide shoppers without overwhelming them with too many unrelated choices. A few gift guides ideas for you to consider:

  • Price (low, medium and high)
  • Persona (young sporty girls, intellectual men, daredevil college students, bookworms)
  • Interests and ability level (books, games, specific sports, cooking, novice to expert)
  • Product types or categories that cover a cross-section of your merchandise line.

Send "white space" email campaigns

A “white space” email is a message that isn’t overtly promotional and gives your subscribers a little break between sales-oriented messages.

High frequency is as much a part of the holiday shopping season as long lines and fighting over the last $24 TV in the local discount store. While they might hate it, subscribers have also come to expect it. “White space” emails give you a valid reason to be in your customers’ inboxes with something other than a “buy me” message, and buyer’s guides are an excellent vehicle for this.

Different from gift guides, buyer’s guides are set up to help shoppers who don’t know the ins and outs of tricky products. Your goal is to help your customers succeed, and buying the right present that won’t have to be returned is a great focus.

Create a gift-card campaign for before - and after - the holidays

Gift cards are often treated like last-minute, last-ditch efforts for the harried shopper. The people who work with your customers on the front lines, whether at a cash register or computer terminal, will tell you differently. A well-timed word from a salesperson can snatch a sale out of the jaws of defeat when a shopper just can’t decide or sees nothing else she wants.

Devote at least one email earlier in the season to an end-to-end promotion of your gift cards. Promote their flexibility and encourage their use with a step-by-step guide to buying and redeeming them. Be sure to highlight what gift cards cannot buy to avoid disappointing recipients.

It’s also worth noting that gift cards have been the most requested gift for 9 years in a row! Yet, surprisingly, email volume drops on Christmas and the following days. This is your chance to stand out.

For example, many of your subscribers may have received gift cards (e.g. Visa, Amex) that they can use to purchase products online. With their Christmas gifts now unwrapped, it’s likely your subscribers didn’t receive that one item of yours they badly want. With their new gift cards lying around, now’s the time to email them!

Help customers succeed

Your holiday email program might focus mainly on extracting as much cash as possible from your customers’ wallets (don’t be embarrassed to admit this!). But, as we explained in Strategy #2, you’ll do better when you help your customers shop efficiently and accurately.

Emails devoted to customer-service topics offer useful breaks in your promotional cycle. Some marketers include this information in an early season message while most make it a regular section in their holiday templates.

Topics to include:

  • How to buy, give and redeem gift cards
  • Shipping deadlines and policies
  • Contact info and policies for returns, problems and other inquiries
  • Store locator
  • Store hours and policies

Say "thank you"

It’s a simple thing. But not enough email marketers do this. Even though some recipients didn’t buy, at least many of them opened your emails. After a year of saying “Buy this,” a message that says “Thank you” spreads good cheer. And, it might even prompt a lapsing customer to come back and check out your site again.

If you do send a thank-you email newsletter for Christmas, consider upping your creative game to make the other thank-you emails pale by comparison. (Yes, that’s not really in the spirit of Christmas, but business is business, right?)

Devote one message to a sincere thank you for their patronage, for reading your emails and visiting your website. This message can come in many ways – a general message, something over your CEO’s signature, a behind-the-scenes group photo, or whatever fits your company’s brand, voice, culture or customer expectations.

This can be as simple or as complex as you want. However, it can also be a great way to turn your creative staff loose and experiment with things you’ve been curious about (emojis, animation, video, etc.).

When you should your Christmas email campaigns

Similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many companies promote “Christmas in July” (and August, September, etc). Here’s an example Bluefly sent on July 18. While promoting Christmas at different times of the year might be a good strategy, be careful not to pull the “Christmas card” too close to December 25.

Starting in September, all of your Christmas-themed campaigns should focus on the holiday itself. If you send a “Christmas in September!” campaign, your audience probably won’t be as excited when you start running your real Christmas campaigns mere weeks later.

If you can’t wait to start talking about Christmas, send subscribers a sneak peek like Crate and Barrel did on September 21 with their email “Thanksgiving and Christmas arrivals are here.

In a single year, MailCharts received 2,196 emails mentioning Christmas in the subject line.

Based on the our data we know that:

  • 8.15% of emails are sent on Christmas
  • 5% of emails are sent after Christmas
  • 28% of emails are sent in the 7 days leading up to Christmas (12/18 through 12/24)

By timing your Christmas emails correctly and following the above email marketing strategies, your brand’s Christmas email campaigns can stand out from the pack.