Holiday Email Tips

2021 Holiday Email Marketing Strategy and Optimization

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Online shopping during the holidays breaks new records every year. That’s why you want to keep optimizing your holiday email marketing strategy. Because of all the methods out there to corral online shoppers, email marketing is always reliable and effective.

Last year, holiday shoppers broke records on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On Black Friday in 2020, US consumers spent over $9 billion online. And on Cyber Monday, they spent $10.8 billion. In 2021, expert forecasts predict consumer demand over the holidays will be even higher.

A 2021 survey of B2C email marketers found 77% agree that their Black Friday emails produce a significant return on investment (ROI). This data comes from a new Pathwire report called Email Is the New Black [Friday]. The report surveyed businesses of all sizes from six different B2C verticals. 

With so much revenue in play, and with holiday email campaigns being such an effective driver of customers, it’s critical to optimize your holiday email strategy for all subscribers this season.

The problem is, lots of other businesses are doing this too, and email inboxes overflow during the holidays. So how do you stand out?

Jump to a section in this article:

How to optimize holiday emails

In this post, we’ll explore several ways to improve your holiday email campaigns and overall strategy to increase engagement, conversions, and your bottom line before the year comes to a close.

Holiday-themed welcome series

Surprise new customers and subscribers this season with welcoming holiday emails.

When optimizing your email strategy for the holidays, your welcome series is one of your best ways to engage new customers and prospects and to sustain that connection into the following year. 54% of email marketers identified it as the most engaging type of automation. 

Since a welcome series see four times the open rate and five times the click-through rate of any other marketing email, make sure you spruce yours up for the holidays.

If you can start teasing out your holiday promotions early, do so to help motivate subscriptions. Include it in your call-to-action (CTA) on your subscriber sign-up form, add it as a banner on your website, or even use your social presence to gain subscribers.

With welcome emails playing such a hefty role in brands’ email ROI, make sure yours is fully up to snuff for the new subscriber opportunities just around the corner. This can mean things like including a free gift, injecting personality, and much more. 

Holiday email list segmentation

Are your subscribers lumped together in one tangled list?

You’ve probably heard the marketing saying, “It’s all about reaching the right person with the right message at the right time, and with the right media.” That sounds great, but how do you do it? Since email marketers aren’t in the business of mind reading (usually), email list segmentation can work wonders, especially over the holidays. 

In 2017, Mailchimp found that segmented emails achieved 14.31% more opens than non-segmented, as well as 100.95% more click-throughs and 9.37% fewer unsubscribes.

With the proper analytics and reporting in place, you can segment your list by simple things like age and gender, all the way down to more granular characteristics like geolocation and the devices your subscribers use to read email. You can also segment by browsing behavior, shopping behavior, cart profile, and average order size. Just keep in mind, people are buying lots of gifts over the holidays, which means they’ll be shopping for others.

Segmenting your list by geolocation can be seriously powerful. Gathering this piece of information is as easy as adding a ZIP code to your purchase or opt-in form.

For the holidays, you can also create segments that will be uniquely effective with holiday email campaigns. For instance, you can target people who like to shop early, those who wait until the last minute, folks who’ve downloaded specific kinds of gift guides, and people who, based on their location, are on the edge of a shipping cutoff date. Get specifics on how to implement these hyper-segmentation strategies.

Set up a preference center

If you don’t have the right data to segment your list, introducing a preference center gives subscribers the chance to segment themselves for you! 

True, it also gives them the chance to unsubscribe. But that’s inevitable, especially during the holidays as brands worldwide ramp up their email sending frequency. While you can’t retain every subscriber who’s thinking about leaving your list, you can greatly reduce the number of unsubscribes by integrating an email preference center into your process.

An email preference center is a landing page the subscriber arrives at after they hit the unsubscribe button. The page allows them to take a variety of actions: update their email address, change the frequency of the mailings, and even opt-out for good.

Do you have multiple email lists? Tons of different products? During the holiday season when you’re hitting the email sends hard, let your subscribers tell you when and what they want to hear about through your preference center.

By leveraging this strategy, you can deliver hyper-customized campaigns and mitigate unsubscribes. You might even boost your open and click rates in the process. Win-win.

Re-engage inactive subscribers

The holidays are a good time to get inactive customers and dormant subscribers interested in your brand again.

Create a re-engagement campaign for the holidays to see if some of those people are still active and in need of your products and services. Provide a special and exclusive set of offers for them, and use subject lines that speak to their inactivity so they’ll open it and see your offer. If you can add personalization, that’s even better. 

It’s about quality, not just quantity when it comes to your email list. ISPs use engagement metrics as part of their process for identifying spammers. That’s why you should be proactively purging inactive users (people who have not opened or clicked in at least five months) from your list. This will improve your click rates and deliverability.

Cart abandonment strategy 

The average shopping cart abandonment rate is over 70%. That means you better have a cart abandonment email trigger in place, and a lucrative incentive to draw shoppers back in.

BigCommerce reports that some businesses with effective cart abandonment emails have seen a recovery rate of up to 36%. Not too shabby.

And our survey report reveals that in 2020, abandoned cart emails earned a 38.5% open rate and a 20% conversion rate. We also found that only 18% of companies are using abandoned cart email automation — that’s a lot of money that companies are just letting slip away.

26% of the most successful marketers are using this strategy. If you don’t have holiday abandoned cart emails in place, this may be your top priority.

Holiday email templates

Getting noticed is partly about repetition. If every holiday email you send looks different at first glance, your subscribers may not realize that they’re all from the same company.

A consistent, attention-getting, branded holiday email template solves this problem.

But creating your own email templates entails a fair amount of work. There’s nothing wrong with using existing templates and adjusting them to fit your brand, as needed. Here are a few advanced holiday email template tips that touch on styling, personalization, and deliverability. Check out some newly-designed holiday email marketing templates from our friends at Mailjet! All of them are responsive, which is important because lots of holiday shopping happens on mobile devices.

Holiday transactional and shipping emails

Transactional emails, while not always as exciting as marketing emails, are still an extremely important component of your holiday email marketing strategy. Transactional emails can get four to eight times more opens and clicks than bulk marketing emails. Plus, transactional emails can make your first impression on new buyers this holiday season, so you need to make them count.

For starters, you need to make sure they show up on time. 41% of consumers wait no more than a minute for a transactional email to show up before losing patience. This is customer service, and you need to win at it with every transactional email. Real-time monitoring can help you stay on top of your holiday transactional email deliverability. 

Also, here are three ways to optimize your shipment confirmation emails using dynamic content to improve the subscriber experience. 

Holiday email personalization

According to MarTech.org, personalized emails see up to a 600% lift in transaction rates and revenue compared to non-personalized emails. You can start by addressing the subscriber by their first name using merge tags. But that’s just the beginning. 

If you really want to take the email’s relevance to the next level, use dynamic content to personalize based on things like subscriber location, weather, expiring promotions, low inventory on favorite products, and more. 

One of the most effective forms of personalization is product recommendations. Tell people about products they’re more likely to want, based on what you know about them demographically, as well as prior behaviors like clicks, likes, and past purchases.

This will lead to more purchases and a longer consumer lifetime value (LTV). 

Our survey found that 45% of the most successful email marketers used personalized product recommendations and dynamic content in their email campaigns. That means 61% aren’t using these powerful segmentation strategies. Are you?

Interactive holiday emails

Our survey also found that 34% of B2C email marketers across verticals were using interactive email design in holiday emails.

Interactivity might mean allowing a shopper to preview different colors or styles of a product from within their email. It could also mean using animations and videos, even though that’s not the textbook definition of ‘interactive.’

The more ways you can get subscribers to engage with your email, the more you’ll convert. This truth goes back to direct mail pieces that made you cut things out, paste them on order forms, and do all sorts of silly and technically unnecessary steps. Why? Because interacting with it makes you more invested in the outcome.

Holiday email deliverability

Avoid deliverability disasters this holiday season. Emails that get blocked or land in spam won’t do you any good at all.

Suddenly surging your email volume from a trickle to a deluge can trigger problems with spam filters. There’s a bit of an art to increasing your email frequency while remaining in their good graces and not sacrificing holiday email deliverability.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid and helpful tips to keep your holiday email deliverability rates sparkling.

Use holiday email marketing for good

This year, consider adding some cause marketing into your holiday email marketing campaigns. Consumers are drawn to businesses that actively seek to make a positive impact in the world. 

By devoting a portion of proceeds from a sale to a specific charity, you’re giving customers not just another reason to shop from you, but also to spend more, because the more they spend, the more they help someone else. Employees also appreciate working for a company that gives something back to people and places in need — mentioning this in marketing helps remind them of the company’s efforts. 

Here are some examples and strategies for doing good through your business using email marketing. 

Also, you don’t have to make this all about sales. Here you’ll find a Macy’s email that asks people to write a letter to Santa and bring it to a store, leading to up to $1 million in donations to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. 

Test holiday emails to stay off the naughty list!

Now that you have this guide to preparing your holiday email campaigns, you’re ready to send, right? Well, not quite. Even if you perfectly segment your emails and your holiday offers resonate, none of it matters if your email shows up looking like a tangled mess of holiday lights in the inbox.

Your readers won’t trust your product or brand if your emails don’t render properly, aren’t accessible, or have tons of silly mistakes. 

That’s why you need to test every email you send this season across dozens of email clients and devices — so you can know you’re sending a polished email to everyone.

Good luck out there this holiday season, and may your holiday email campaign results have you feeling like Clark W. Griswold here:

This article was updated in November 2021. It was also updated in October 2019 and originally published in October 2016.

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Pathwire report graphic for Black Friday email survey

Download free, original research revealing how B2C email marketers approach the Black Friday and Cyber Monday season. Get your copy of Pathwire’s report, Email is the New Black [Friday].

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Author: The Email on Acid Team

The Email on Acid content team is made up of digital marketers, content creators, and straight-up email geeks.

Connect with us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook, and tweet at @EmailonAcid on Twitter for more sweet stuff and great convos on email marketing.

Author: The Email on Acid Team

The Email on Acid content team is made up of digital marketers, content creators, and straight-up email geeks.

Connect with us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook, and tweet at @EmailonAcid on Twitter for more sweet stuff and great convos on email marketing.

4 thoughts on “2021 Holiday Email Marketing Strategy and Optimization”

  1. Thank you for these examples and how to actually implement them! I am going to try and use it with my lead and contact management software to see how much better engagement I get.

  2. Nice read! Thanks for the article!
    I would add that holiday time is the right time to maybe play around just slightly and try something new like GIFs in emails. (Just as you did very nicely with this article! It made the read more entertaining!). So I have to share this great article that inspired me to include GIFs in my emails: https://www.mailerlite.com/blog/gif-images-in-newsletter . May our emails get merrier and receive lots of love from subscribers! Cheers!

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