last minute holiday emails graphic

Creating Urgency and Anticipation with Last-Minute Holiday Emails

Most eCommerce email marketing teams had their holiday promotional plans gift-wrapped and ready to ship months ago. So, is it too late to develop some last-minute holiday emails in order to maximize the channel’s impact this shopping season?

2020 has been a tumultuous year, mostly because of COVID-19’s effect on the economy and consumer behavior. Thanks to all the uncertainty, sales forecasts are mixed.

Forrester is predicting a 2.5% decline in overall retail sales by the end of the year. Deloitte’s research is more optimistic, expecting a 1% to 1.5% rise in holiday spending. The National Retail Federation (NRF) delayed its annual holiday forecast because it’s still crunching the numbers.

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz says he’s cautiously optimistic, but there are still too many unknown factors:

“We are waiting for new data and are still assembling puzzle pieces for the 2020 holiday season … The test is whether consumer spending will be sustained amid wildcard puzzle pieces including policy surprises, the election and a resurgent virus.”

One thing does seem certain — online shopping will be bigger than ever. As many people remain hesitant to venture out to stores and shopping malls, they’ll rely on eCommerce to deliver everything from holiday gifts and goodies to everyday household essentials.

That’s why Forrester predicts 2020 online retail sales growth of 18.5%, and Deloitte says online holiday sales this year grow anywhere from 25% to 35%. Meantime, a daVinci Payments survey found 71% of U.S. consumers plan to do more than half their holiday shopping online.

Eric from NiftyImages
Eric Elliot, NiftyImages

The email inbox will be important if retailers want to win the holiday season. Email offers a personalized way to provide a direct connection to eCommerce websites. So, how can online retailers stand out in the midst of all the noise?

To get some insights into last-minute holiday emails we talked to Eric Elliot from NiftyImages about creative ways to enhance your email strategy as the holidays draw near.

Q: With all the digital advertising and marketing options, why is email still such a crucial channel for online retailers?

Email allows online retailers to humanize the approach to how they communicate with their subscribers. Unlike other forms of marketing (which can come across as invasive) this creates trust between consumer and brand.

By leveraging consumer data and tracking customer interactions, retailers can make communication seem individualized and tailored at scale. Delivering dynamic personalized content based on real-time data illustrates that retailers “hear” their consumers. 

Q: What would you say to email marketers who are worried there isn’t enough time to adjust their strategies or add last-minute holiday emails? Is it really too late?

This can be a stressful time of year for email marketers. I’ve seen it for the last 15 years. I would tell them not to worry. There is time. 

The key is to make small adjustments that create a positive impact. Adding simple countdown timers to create urgency or changing content based on past purchase behavior or user interactions is a good start. It’s essential that email marketers use data they already have to personalize their approach

Q: What kinds of enhancements should eCommerce organizations consider adding to last-minute holiday emails and how do they help?

Here are four suggestions based on features we offer through NiftyImages:

1. Countdown timers: 

Timers can be used to show how much time is left until a certain date or end of a sale.  Timers can also be used to remind subscribers when they'll need to purchase by in order to get their gifts on time.

countdown timer for email

2. Live shipping status:

Gives subscribers a live view of their order status, each time the email is viewed.  This removes the need for the subscriber to click out of the email to see their tracking information.

3. Changing images in real-time:

Depending on things such as inventory levels, limited-time pricing, or shipping dates to get your package in time – changing the content or images even after a campaign has been sent increases engagement and relevancy.

live pricing update for email

4. Personalized images:

Using personalized images, each recipient gets their own personalized image that demands attention. Who doesn’t like to see their name in the lights!?

personalized email image

Q: What role is personalization playing in eCommerce emails and how is that changing as we head into the holiday season?

Personalization is now a priority as brands interact with their customers to remain relevant. It used to be that companies would define the email journey of their subscribers. Those days are gone. Consumers have made it clear they want brands to treat them in a personal manner. To survive this new landscape, brands must humanize the digital experience. 

It’s no surprise that this time of year, consumers will receive an onslaught of promotional-holiday emails. In order to stand out, brands must leverage the knowledge and data available to make each email personalized and tailored to each user. 

Showing relevant products related to open time weather, real-time work-out summaries following an exercise class, or displaying a chart to show the user’s weekly activities are all great ways to strengthen a relationship between brand and consumer.

Q: Besides attention-grabbing graphics, interactivity, and personalization, what are other ways email marketers can improve the customer experience during the holidays?

Email marketers should speak to their subscribers the same way they would speak to their family and friends. Empathetically and emotionally drive home the human connection between your brand and the subscriber. This holiday season is going to be a little different than most.  Make sure to keep that in mind when using email to interact with those that will buy from you. 

Q: In your opinion, how important are pre-send testing and quality assurance for these last-minute holiday emails?

Very important for a large variety of reasons from rendering to placement, but perhaps most importantly to catch mistakes before your valuable subscribers can. It’s equally important to make sure your email stands out in a good way as it is to make sure that it doesn’t have a negative impact. Mistakes in emails can be frustrating for an already overwhelmed recipient increasing the likelihood they unsubscribe or worse (mark as spam!?). 

When you invest in creating better emails with tools such as NiftyImages, you'll want to protect that investment with an email testing platform like Email on Acid.

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More About NiftyImages

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The NiftyImages platform allows marketers to quickly and easily create personalized content the moment a subscriber opens their email.  With no integration or custom coding needed, we help marketers leverage their existing data and known characteristics to deliver personalized and tailored messages to their subscribers at scale to drive engagement and revenue. 

NiftyImages will work in any ESP, CRM, or Automation Solution.  NiftyImages works with 1,000+ amazing brands worldwide such as; CampingWorld, Ryanair, Babbel, Samsung, CareerBuilder, Adidas, ShoeDazzle, and the PGA.

Contact NiftyImages to set up a demo and learn more or email Eric Elliot directly at

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