Thanksgiving Email Strategy

Thanksgiving once was a day to spend with family and friends. Enter the Internet, where stores never close unless the site crashes.

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Goodbye, “Thanksgiving,” hello “Gray Thursday.”

Thanksgiving once was a day to spend with family and friends. Enter the Internet, where stores never close unless the site crashes. Then some big-box stores began opening at midnight, then 8 p.m., then 4 p.m. Has your email strategy evolved to keep up with your customers’ changing holiday shopping habits?

Keep these Thanksgiving stats in mind as you create your Thanksgiving marketing plan:

  • 21% of consumers said they would shop on Thanksgiving Day 2018, up from 19% in 2017 (via the National Retail Federation).
  • On Thanksgiving Day, 60% of shoppers say they’ll start before 7 p.m., and early shoppers expect to spend more than those who start later, at $128 on average (via Deloitte).

Thanksgiving Email Examples & Ideas

Show your gratitude

Thanksgiving can be a great occasion to let your creative team exercise its muscles. That’s why we picked this Boden email. It combines a variation on the “Thank you” message (see the email strategy No. 3 farther down on this page) with a subtle free-shipping promo on top and a 30% discount in the image.

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Sweet, funny and purposeful

We love how Barkshop structured this email. It leads with the promo, appears to distract the reader with sly copy that satirizes Thanksgiving survival habits, but then moves smoothly to the payoff, repeating the offer at the bottom. It’s sweet, funny and purposeful all at once.

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Calm before the shopping storm

This email scores high on the helpfulness meter, which makes it relevant and valuable to harried customers. The lead copy focuses on the benefit of ordering out instead of leading with the desired action – free delivery. The neutral tone of both copy and image reinforces the relaxation message.

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Playful and promotional

Winc has fun with the Thanksgiving survival email format, but the playful tone doesn’t distract from the business at hand – selling more wine, and from labels that you won’t find in the wine aisle of your local Kroger or Albertson’s. Adding some blog posts and social-media content also boosts the discovery focus of this email.

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Great copywriting never fails!

How do you tie a variety of products that seemingly have nothing in common to the holiday you want to promote? With great copy, of course. This Bloomingdale’s email does that quite nicely, thank you. Bloomingdale’s sends several Thanksgiving-themed emails before the holiday, so it has the creative flexibility to explore alternate approaches.

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Lead-in for Black Friday

Although Thanksgiving is now a bona fide shopping day (in-store and online), it’s still an excellent lead-in to Black Friday. This email, the second T.J. Maxx sent on Thanksgiving, uses the clever line “Shop TJ’s in your PJs” and an easy-to-remember promo code to prod sofa-bound shoppers to start hunting deals.

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Thanksgiving Content Strategy

Here are four email strategies that can help you ace your Thanksgiving email planning.


Let culture guide you, but also look at the data

Thanksgiving Day is associated with family gatherings and the religious (but non-denominational) aspect of giving thanks. That distinguishes it from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where the focus is squarely on scoring deals.

That’s the cultural. Now, consider the data part. Analyze historical traffic and email data from your last Thanksgiving Day to understand what your audience is doing.

Did they click on your emails and browse or buy? Did open rate meet expectations but not click rate? That signals high interest but low intent.

Thanksgiving is still emerging as a shopping holiday. Summarize the insights you draw from your analysis to show how Thanksgiving email activity and shopping behavior reflect or differ from the days that follow to help others on your team understand what’s going on and to avoid making disastrous tactical decisions.

Remember the "thanks" in Thanksgiving

Don’t overlook the chance to say, “Thank you,” even if your Thanksgiving emails are all about deals and discounts. Dedicate one email out of your Thanksgiving-weekend plan to thank customers and wish them a happy holiday.

You can send only a Thanksgiving greeting, with no promotional content, or attach a greeting to your standard promotional email. Use the next strategy to decide which approach you should take.

Move “lean back” browsers to “lean forward” buyers

Knowing your data can help you decide what kind of promo to send. Let’s say your brand sends only a nonpromotional “thank you” email on Thanksgiving. But, your data shows your customers browse and buy in sizable numbers on Thanksgiving. Not including an offer could mean you’re losing out on sales.

Consider A/B testing your Thanksgiving email. Send a nonpromotional “thank you” email to half and a similar message with a promotion attached as a secondary message. (See the email examples above for some steal-worthy ideas.) Use the results in your Thanksgiving plan for next year.

Note: Analyze the impact a Thanksgiving offer might have across the five-day weekend to determine whether it poaches sales from the rest of the long weekend.

Increase visibility for more clicks

As with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving Day email volume can flood inboxes. An early-morning email could get lost in the shuffle, while a late-afternoon message could miss the activity window after things settle down.

If you send a promotional campaign in the morning, consider resending it in the afternoon to those who didn’t open or click the first time around. Revise the subject line, especially if the original one was time-sensitive.

However, know that everybody else is tacking “Last Chance!” and “Final Hours!” onto their emails. So. look for another way to stand out.