Creating a Successful Holiday Email Campaign

As a team that seeks to help brands engage with their audience on a regular basis, we know that the holiday season is one of the optimal times to connect with your customers. While people reconnect with loved ones and friends, brands get to reconnect with their audience. It’s a time where they hone in and focus on the importance of their marketing strategies and deliver the best to the customers who continue to support them–hence the season of giving.

As most brands know, email marketing has grown into one of the most profitable ways of generating revenue. It is through email that customers get insights into the latest products, sales, and exclusive offers that separate the average consumer from the dedicated customer. With the holiday season closing in, we want to guide you in your approach to reaching those customers through email marketing.

As all eCommerce businesses know, the days between late November and December can make up a large portion of revenue. In a recent forecast done by the National Retail Federation (NRF), they expect holiday sales to increase by 4.3 and 4.8 percent–going from $717.45 billion, to $720.89 billion. Thus, it is imperative that creative email campaigns find unique and dynamic ways to not only engage with customers but translate that engagement into purchases. Here we are going to review ways your brand can create the ideal email marketing strategy.

Reviewing the Basics

Email marketing has seen a drastic change when it comes to design capabilities, unique concepts, and innovative approaches, but the essentials of that structure are rooted in 4 basic elements:

  1. Simple Subject Lines: customers are constantly flooded with emails and they don’t waste time on messages that aren’t offering something that they want or need. Subject lines need to be able to cut through the noise of the inbox and give customers a clear understanding of what the promotion is. When it comes to subject lines, clarity is more important than cleverness. Here are two examples of both a good and bad subject line:
    1. Bad: From EXPRESS clothing“This Just In: New EXP Core Performance styles”Express does a poor job of communicating exactly what is important in this subject line. They use an abbreviation for their brand, “EXP” which can be unclear to customers who aren’t familiar with their branding.
    2. Good: From STORQ clothing“Black Friday + Giving Tanks”STORQ does a great job of honing in on the theme of Black Friday, while also adding some witty humor to their wording and highlighting their promotion of giving away tank tops with orders.
  2. Clean Copy: similar to the subject line approach, your copy must also be clear and direct. Email copy that is too heavy can overwhelm the customers and your message can get lost. By keeping it concise and centered on the sale or promotion, readers get a quick understanding of the most important information.
  3. High-Quality Imagery: Whether it’s interactive design elements or still photography, the quality of these elements are a direct reflection of the brand–it is the visual story that you tell your audience about your promotion. This can often be the reason that customers click or don’t. Spending the time to develop a high quality visual that represents both the brand and the promotion can heavily influence moving the customers forward in the purchasing process.
  4. Call To Action: If there is anything that is the bare essential for email marketing it is a call to action. After you have communicated your message, direct the customers on what it is they need to do next. If you aren’t clearly telling the customers what the next step is, you’re abandoning them. Here are examples of good and bad calls to action:


    1. Bad: Macy’s makes the sale known to the customers, but fails to drive the reader to the “shop now” button that is tucked away under dark text on the bottom left of the page.
    2. Good: Casper uses a minimalistic approach to their email. Keeping the color scheme simple and isolating the “shop now” button by boxing it with white against a dark background.

Though there are standards to email marketing strategy, creative influence and direction vary from brand to brand. Identity is where a brand cultivates and differentiates itself creatively, and finding ways to reflect that in your holiday campaigns will drive your audience toward purchases.

Being explorative in your campaigns will help you discover and understand how your audience engages with your content and your product. Look at previous emails that have seen successful click-through rates and have generated revenue, to get historical data on your customer’s behavior. Using insights from data, paired with a clearly defined concept, is a strong starting place for an effective email campaign.

Holiday Campaign Tips

The holiday season can be a competitive atmosphere, with all brands trying to stand out in the customer’s inbox. The basic foundation for email marketing is simple, but there are other aspects of your approach that can enhance the success of your holiday email campaign. Here are three areas to focus your efforts on for holiday email marketing.  


Email Strategy

Strategy can often be one of the most overlooked aspects to a quality email marketing campaign. Strategy requires research and analysis that lends to a full understanding of how your audience interacts with your brand digitally. 40% of customers check their device within 5 minutes of waking up and 30% check their device 5 minutes before going to sleep.  This alone shows the importance of hitting your customers with an email in their most active hours.

Not only must strategy be effective in timing, but also in approach. Not every person on your holiday email list is the same. Buyers cannot be grouped generally, but rather they must be congregated into categories based on a variety of actions. This idea is known as segmentation–where different emails are sent to different customers based on their behaviors. Segmentation allows you to:

  • Categorize customers behaviors in a variety of ways including purchase history, search history, or amount spent.
  • To direct messages at a more specific audience.
  • Reach a more diverse customers base.

Take a look at this example from Ivory Ella, an online clothing shop.

Ivory Ella uses the “almost purchaser” approach–one that is common for retailers because it targets the customer who has opened an email but hasn’t made a purchase yet. This type of segmentation focuses on those who are engaged with the content but haven’t committed to buying. By reinforcing them with more content that they have read, it can encourage them to move forward with a purchase.

Segmenting customers is also effective in allowing your emails to reach a more diverse audience without your content being “too general”. It shows your audience that you recognize the differences in their interests and habits, and want to cater to them individually–delivering an experience that is relevant and more likely to convert to a sale.


Email Creation

We’ve already discussed subject lines, but we can’t express enough how important and essential they are to your email strategy. Without it, your email ends up in the trash with all the other poorly written emails.

Subject lines vary, but they can deeply influence whether your audience moves forward in purchasing your product. Subjects lines, like calls to action, have creative freedom, but those decisions must be made with brevity and clarity in mind.

For example, look at the subject line for this email done for our partner Old Time Candy:

Old Time Candy focuses on communicating with the customers the importance of the extended sale. Not all brands offer extra time for their customers to purchase their products after its final calls on Cyber Monday. Old Time Candy took advantage of that extra time and allowed customers to receive 30% off select items for a longer period. The subject line was clear and self-explanatory, giving customers the direct answer by providing images of some of the items that were included in the sale.

Subject lines are the first thing that customers will see in their inbox, it can be the make or break when it comes to your audience even opening the email. Striking the balance between creativity and clarity can be tough, but once you find the sweet spot, you will see improvement in your open rate.

Similarly, email creation is the opportunity to explore different designs. In the same vein of segmenting, email design should have the customers in mind and direct that design toward a particular demographic. Factors to consider when creating a layout for an email are:

  • What kind of visuals do we want to implement? Still photography or moving image?
  • Does our color scheme match our brand identity?
  • How can we tie design to the specific product(s) that we are promoting?


Email Promotion

Call to action, though a traditional and essential element to email marketing, it is not exempt from creativity either. Using the call to action in a way that reflects your brand’s style or montra shows direct correlation between the brand itself and the action you want customers to perform.

Here is an example from Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI):

REI’s brand is known for adventurous outdoor exploration and their call to action was simple, “Join Us Outside”. REI didn’t focus on a sale, but rather the brand, and drawing a connection between their audience and their brand values. Rather than pushing a product or sale, they encouraged audiences to get outside using their #OptOutside hashtag and their direct call to action.

Some brands can focus more on the messages, but the product at the end of the day is the reason customers come to the site. Questions to consider when thinking about the promotional aspect of your emails might be: “what is a popular item that rarely goes on sale?” or “are there new products that you are debuting?” If so, how can you align the message to that product? For instance:

  • Sell your most popular item that day.
  • Create VIP sale for your email subscribers only.
  • Find overstocked items and create buzz around them with a limited time only.  

By aligning the message with the product, customers will directly correlate the brand identity with the item and the promotion.

Our Call to Action for You

The holiday season is a time when most companies make a majority of their revenue for the year. With their call to action, they need to break through the noise of the inbox and stand out. Give yourself the gift of success by spending the time to create engaging and authentic emails. Reward your customers this holiday season and show them that their business is important to you. The call to action is simple: strategize, create, promote. With this, your brand will find ways to engage with your customers and see bigger numbers this season.

Our creative and marketing team here at Gauge has experts who focus on these strategies and want to help you reach your customers during the holidays. Chat with us!

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