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Originally published December 2018. Updated November 2019.

The holiday season is a busy time of year for all digital marketers. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales reached $701.2 billion during the 2018 shopping season, an all-time high.

For email marketers in particular, it’s crucial to design a campaign that can stand out in an inbox flooded with seasonal deals.

Yes, it’s important to rely on best practices like segmenting lists and using an email verification tool, but savvy marketers are doing more to make sure holiday email campaigns go off without a hitch (and deliver a real return).

In this post, we’re taking a quick departure from our normal chatter about influencer marketing to work in some strategies that will help you fortify another important aspect of your overall holiday marketing strategy – email marketing.

Pinterest pin for post 6 tips for launching a successful holiday email campaign

In some ways, it’s like old school marketing meeting new school marketing, but the truth is your influencer marketing strategy, social media community-building efforts, and email marketing campaigns are all part of the same digital marketing funnel. We can’t neglect the importance of list-building and email marketing, especially this time of year… and especially for B2B marketing.

So, here are six actionable (read: doable) strategies you can use to make your email campaigns more effective.

#1 Grab Your Reader with a Great Headline. Keep Him with a Compelling Holiday Email

You’ve done good so far. Your brand awareness campaign was successful enough to covert a looker into a subscriber. But the work isn’t over, because getting those on your list to open your email (consistently) can be tough.

Screenshot of Hubspot Inbound Marketing Funnel

Start with a click-worthy subject line (HubSpot’s got you covered in this article). Not click-baity, but click-worthy. That’s ground zero, before anything else. Now, if you’ve already established your brand a cool, sometimes just adding your name to the subject line is cool enough.

Take a look at the two emails highlighted in the screenshot below. Now, who wouldn’t want to acquire a life-changing skill in 8 hours? Don’t you wonder what that skill could be, and if it really CAN change your life? Forever? In the second highlighted subject line is just from The Hustle, which specializes in all things cool and hip.

Screenshot of email inbox

One thing you’ll also notice about the email from The Hustle is that it immediately stands out in the inbox because there’s a colorful emoji included as part of the subject. Nice.

Which brings me to my next point: Visual design matters. The people on your list are going to be receiving tons of emails in these last few days leading up to the holiday and New Year. After a while, the emails are all going to look the same (assuming they don’t already). That means you have a prime opportunity here to stand out.

When doing so will add to the value of your email, go ahead and incorporate multimedia content like GIFs, images, videos, and other dynamic elements to keep readers engaged and make a positive impression. It’s also worth remembering that most people check their email on mobile devices now. So, optimize your content to work well on a smaller screen by using headers, bullet points, and short paragraphs to help ideas stay organized and focused.

Final thing to add to your general knowledge about email content. Deliver on your promise. If your subject line gets the click, make what your reader finds after that worthwhile. Here’s what we found with that email from The Hustle.

The Hustle Holiday Guide

#2 Promote Your Established Strengths

This may seem like a “Duh!” moment, but it’s worth saying:. The best way for you to differentiate your brand from the competition is to be phenomenal at something. Marketers leverage their “secret sauce” by highlighting special features and promoting different offers such as discounts, personalized service, rewards programs, that sort of thing.

You may have already told your subscribers why you’re special in earlier email campaigns, but people are bombarded with information today. Whether or not we actually see 5,000 branded messages a day like that old stat says, there’s no denying it’s getting more and more challenging to grab the attention of the average internet user.

It’s not a bad idea to remind your followers why they should shop with you, while also sharing this information for the first time with new customers.

#3 Offer Exclusive Deals to Email Subscribers

line illustration about email marketing and email programs

Integrate loyalty programs as part of the shopping experience. Have you ever had the experience of arriving at the store and realizing you don’t have your rewards card? Sucks doesn’t it? That said, you can make a good impression on your followers by offering discounts that are exclusive to certain segments of your list, like past customers or first-time customers only. And don’t worry about whether or not you can get people to join your special club. Customers are happy to join loyalty programs if they believe doing so will help them save money.

#4 Use What Worked Before

Email marketing campaigns during the holiday season often promote discounts and special offers, and the options for the types of special offers you can provide are almost limitless.

Rule of thumb: Use what works.

Lay out your strategy for this holiday season by looking at what worked (and what didn’t work) in your previous campaigns. Leverage past wins by improving on them. Watch your campaigns closely as you run them to figure out what’s working and what isn’t and continually optimize your campaigns to get better results today than you got yesterday.

But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Build new campaigns with the foundations you laid out with successful older campaigns.

Related Post
Download The Shelf’s Step-by-Step Holiday Social Media Strategy

#5 Offer Subscribers Personalized Recommendations

Segmentation is the name of the game in both influencer marketing and email marketing. Email recipients are 75 percent more likely to click on emails from segmented campaigns than non-segmented campaigns. And an important part of segmentation is finding ways to use the data you collect about your subscribers’ past behaviors to make intuitive recommendations about products that may be of interest to them. Super important.

The Shelf’s data-driven influencer marketing platform collects information on an influencer and his or her audience to help THE RIGHT brands shape targeted campaigns. People rely on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest for product discovery. In fact, a recent Bustle poll revealed that Millennial women expect (and want) brands to use Instagram to introduce new products.

line illustration about email marketing and email programs

Influencer marketing currently has a return of nearly $7 for ever $1 spent on campaigns. However, when you’re able to move those audiences further along on the path to purchase… from Instagram and Facebook product discovery mode onto your email list, ROI grows by 5x! No, really.

According to the Direct Marketing Association UK (you can actually read that 2015 National Client Email report here), email marketing delivers an ROI of $48 ( £38) for every $1.28 spent, despite it being the oldest form of digital marketing.

The good thing about product recommendations (or the flip side, customer referrals) is that even if your subscriber doesn’t make a purchase right away, there’s a good chance he or she will move it to a cart or a wish list that gets shared with a friend or family members. And once an item makes it to a shopping cart, there’s a 1 in 3 chance of the purchase actually being completed.

#6 Adjust Your Email Marketing Strategy

Many email marketing campaigns focus on guiding a customer through a journey. The initial emails focus on a pain point, the next few emails explain how your products or service can address that problem. The final messages encourage followers to make a purchase. This strategy may be effective most of the year. However, during the holiday season, you might need to tweak it a bit.

I talked in the previous section about shopping carts. When tracking a campaign, maybe you realize customers are more likely during the holidays to put items in their shopping carts without making purchases. That doesn’t necessarily mean the buyer wasn’t ready to buy!

Nearly 40 percent of abandoned carts are the result of a technical problem with the retailer’s site. So, whether the cart is abandoned because your site crashed or because a shopper’s treating your cart as a wish list, a reminder email can help you recover stalled sales.

Colorfulline illustration of greeting cards


Ideally, brands want to be able to move their social communities onto email lists to strengthen the relationship between the brand and the consumer, create more (stronger) touch points, and to protect the community. Your competitors are going to be doing their best to optimize their email marketing strategies over the next few weeks. So should you.

Remember and implement these six simple strategies to help your holiday email marketing campaign deliver better results for you.

Contributor Bio:

Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

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